Friday, July 25, 2008

Summer Camp Day 5

Friday was the last day of field biology camp and we had the best demonstrations of the week. Amy, a graduate student from Portland State, met us at Springbrook Park in Lake Oswego. She and her assistant Adam shared their methods for researching survival of juvenile spotted towhees.

First, Amy used a mounted towhee specimen named Gus to show us how they band adults.

We then took a short hike to look at a previously fledged nest on the forest floor.

The nesting season is pretty much over, but Amy showed us videos of nestlings banded earlier in the season.

We also viewed videos of mammalian predators filmed with remote cameras. Amy had secretly filmed the campers while they hiked to the nest, then uploaded the video to the computer, and showed us the result.

These tools made my own thesis research feel somewhat stoneaged, but that's probably the natural progression of things.

Adam attached a radio transmitter to Gus, hid him in the forest, then gave the kids a receiver and antenna. They quickly learned how to track down the bird., showing their future research assistant potential.

For the last demonstration, Amy and Adam strung up a mist net, attached Gus to a shrub, and played towhee songs with an iPod and speakers. A pair was drawn close to the net, but they failed to get caught. Instead, the kids took turns throwing Gus into the net, so no one was disappointed.

We finished the day in Forest Park searching for salamanders in Balch Creek. My high school helper Severin showed the campers how to find the slippery creatures under rocks at the water's edge.

Most were Dun's salamanders, but we also found Pacific giant salamanders and a rough-skinned newt.

Other than a few discipline problems, it was a great week. I am happy that I helped the kids spend a week outside learning about science and that I had a much needed break from thinking about my Forest Service work. It will be nice, however, not worrying about the behavior and safety of twelve children while working at home next week. Andie the dog will also be glad to have things back to normal.

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