Hi! My name is Ms. Ziemke. Please join me as I travel to New Orleans to study climate change. Check my website at www.tinyurl.com/burley106

Friday, April 30, 2010

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Monday, November 2, 2009

What an adventure!



To learn more or to view my photos, visit my classroom website by clicking here.

My time in the swamp has ended and what an adventure! On Friday, October 30th we left the swamp and headed back to Tulane University.



At Tulane we worked to input our findings into a database. First we recorded the GPS location of our plot into the database. Next we added information telling the species and number of trees we identified in the plot, the types of caterpillars we located in the plot and the amount of damage we observed to the leaves.

Next, we identified any unknown caterpillars or leaves we found in the field. We were able to identify all of our unknowns by matching leaf samples we took from the field to photos or pictures in books and on the internet.

Finally, we organized the zoo and added new food to the caterpillar habitats and removed all the frass. We also recorded any changes we observed, such as if the caterpillar gained new parasitoids or pupated.


After a long day on Friday, it was time to explore New Orleans! On Saturday I attended the LSU vs. Tulane football game. Our family friend is one of the coaches at Tulane and he got us tickets. It was a great experience visiting LSU and watching a game at "Death Valley." Unfortunately, Tulane lost. Thank you very much for inviting me, Doug! Good luck at your next game!






I learned so much on my Earthwatch Fellowship! Thank you to Earthwatch, HSBC, Rebecca, Mark and Mike, my colleagues at Burley School, and the Caterpillar and Climate Change teacher team--Kirk, Lynda, Ashley, Kelsey, Cassie and Ashley!

My team was AWESOME and I learned so much from my colleagues. It was amazing to collaborate with teachers of varying grades from across the US. We shared practices, thinking, problems and successes. We planned for future teaching and further professional development. Being a part of Earthwatch introduced me to 6 fantastic teachers that I would be proud to work with in the future. I am grateful to all of you and feel so blessed that we got to share our learning and our time. Thanks!


























Stay tuned in to my blog for more information! I am working to develop a community project about climate change and environmental awareness for my students and my school. I will continue to post information about our project here.

To all my teacher friends--learn more about Earthwatch! It is a great way to bring science into your classroom and your teaching practice. I also encourage all my former students and families to check out the "family expeditions" available to family teams with children age ten and older.

Thank you to Leyla, Madi and her family for your comments! Here a few answers to your questions:
* The hypothesis is that caterpillar prey and parasitoids are decreasing; therefore, caterpillar populations are increasing. As caterpillar populations increase, we observe an increase in herbivory, or damage to plants. The research team continues to analyze these findings and will look at longitudinal data to determine the specific cause of these increases.
* Some theories about why this is happening include an increase of carbon in the atmosphere, a change in the global temperature, and a decrease in natural habitats. For example, in Louisiana, land continues to be developed for real estate, golf courses and farm land. The development of this land decreases the number of marshes and swamps. Historically, many of the undeveloped marsh lands absorbed the force of hurricane winds and waves and decreased the intensity by slowing the water movement (as wind and water passed over swamp grasses, mud lowlands, and forests the force decreased). However, when Hurricane Katrina hit, many of these natural diffusers were no longer available as swamps had been turned into housing developments. As a result, the wind and water hit the Louisiana coast with unprecedented force and caused a level of destruction unlike any previous hurricane. We can help by advocating for the protection of our wetlands. To learn more about wetland protection, click here.
*Luckily, no one got hurt by the machetes we used in the swamp! Before we were allowed to chop our way through the forest, we had to undergo special training on how to use a machete. We also had to follow safety precautions like wearing orange vests so that we were easy to see and we had to walk several feet behind the leader, who was the only person using a machete. The machetes were dull and would only cut through vines and small branches.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

I finally saw an alligator!





Hi Friends! For more info and to view my photos, visit my website by clicking here.

I finally saw an alligator! Yippee!! As we were going into the field today we saw an alligator sunning in the swamp. I was so excited since it was our last expedition into the field and my last chance to see an alligator! Now I can cross that off my list...

This morning I spent time identifying leaves and caterpillars and entering the information into a data table. This project has collected over 12,000 caterpillars in Louisiana! It is so educational and gratifying to work as a scientist and be part of the team. Thank you to HSBC, Earthwatch, Rebecca, Mark and Mike for including me in this experience!

Today I Skyped with 106 and our "Big Buddies" in Room 302! It was great to sharing my learning with you! I am so proud of all the 106 scientists! You are learning so much. Thank you for your thoughtful questions. I can not wait to see you on Monday.
This evening we collected at Honey Island Swamp. We got a late start and ended up counting leaves in 6 inches of water for the whole plot. There were so many mosquitos I had to wear a bandana over my face to reduce the number of bites I got! Then it got dark very quickly. We had to hike out in the dark--it was exciting!

My favorite caterpillar, the Saddleback, pupated today. Here is my new favorite, the Saturniidae.

Do you like him?

Thank you to Roni and Room 302 for all your comments! Here are some answers to a few of your questions...

*Yes I have seen many "little" frogs. There was one in the shower this morning. I have not seen any four-leaf clovers, but I have seen water lilies, swamp oak, palmetto and holly.
*Putting the caterpillars in Ziploc bags is not harmful because we clean the bags and give them fresh air and food everyday. This is how we keep them healthy.
*We capture the caterpillars by inspecting the top and bottom of leaves and the stem. We then use clippers to cut off a small part of the plant to put inside the bag for the caterpillar to eat.
*I chose this area of study because I am very interested in climate change and how plants and animals are impacted by the environment.
*We sleep and eat in the Pearl River Management bunkhouse. I will try to post a video of it on my website.
*The most common type of caterpillar we are finding is the Fall Webworm. It is very prevalent now because it lives in the fall!
*The most poisonous caterpillar we have found is the Saddleback. One of the teachers got stung by it today and it hurt! She said it felt like a bee sting.
*We did use fractional geometry for the herbivory counts--good question!
*I am not afraid of the poisonous caterpillars, I am just careful around them. They will not make you sick, but they will give you an allergic reaction.
*My favorite part of my study is all the new information that I am learning! It is great to learn new things and stretch my brain. I also LOVED kayaking through the swamp.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Ms. ZF skypes into 106 and kayaks the swamp




Hi Friends! To view more photos and info visit my website by clicking here.

It was so great to see and hear the Friends of 106 today! I miss you guys! I hope you liked learning about my caterpillars. I was VERY impressed with all your questions. You are really learning a lot about climate change and Louisiana. Thanks Mr. Strother!

If you didn't get a chance to ask me your question, please sent me a comment on the blog or save your question for tomorrow. I will try to call Room 106 again. I can not wait to see you all on Monday!

Today I did a lot of work in the lab. This morning I looked at leaf samples we collected in Ziploc bags. We didn't know the names of many of the plants, so I had to look for a matching photo on the internet to learn the name. Then I labeled each bag with the name and entered it into a data table for future reference.

Want to act like a scientist? Find a tree near your home and collect a sample of 10 leaves. Look at the "area" those leaves cover. Then look at the whole tree and use your sample to make an estimate, or "best guest" for the total number of leaves on the tree. This is what we do in the field every day!

Next, I cleaned the "zoo." The "zoo" is what we call the racks of caterpillars we have collected. So far we have collected about 140 caterpillars. Here is a picture of the zoo.




Every day we need to add new leaves for the caterpillars to eat. In order to do this, we need to go "grocery shopping" for the caterpillars. This consists of us walking around a field site and gathering plants. The caterpillars only eat specific plants, so it is like each caterpillar has a "special order." We also have to dispose of the frass. Frass is the technical term for caterpillar poop.

This afternoon we got to go kayaking in the Pearl River Management Area. It was awesome! I felt like such an adventurer. Kayaking through the swamp is unlike anything I have ever done in the Midwest. I feel so lucky that I got to experience it!



We counted an entire plot of leaves, but found no caterpillars :(.

Thank you Phil, Katie, Meaghan, Jeff, Mr. Kovacs, and the Jungels family for your comments!
To answer a few of your questions...

*There is a chance that outside factors, like seasonality and invasive species, may impact the changes we are seeing in the New Orleans ecosystem. As the team analyzes the data we have gathered they will reveal more information about this question!
*Yes! Some of the caterpillars we have collected are Monarch butterflies that are migrating to Mexico. Isn't it exciting to think that some of the caterpillars we raised in our classroom might have stopped in New Orleans on their way south? I have goosebumps thinking about it...
*I do not have too many mosquito bites, but I have been wearing bug spray when I go into the swamp. Yesterday it rained and after the storm the mosquitos were BAD! I am keeping my fingers crossed for no bad bug bites...
*At night we work on our websites, do more research and play Cranium. It is so fun! I have not had this much fun WITHOUT TV for years! It is great!
*Today 3 teachers and 1 scientist saw an alligator while they were collecting caterpillars. I have not seen an alligator yet so I feel a little jealous.

Have a great night! I will post more info tomorrow!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


















Hi Friends!

Happy Tuesday! Please check my classroom website for more photos and info by clicking here. I am feeling much better and I had a great time in the swamp today!

We did research in the Honey Island Swamp and collected a lot of data. First we measured out our plot. Then we looked all over for caterpillars. We found a caterpillar called the Varigated Midget. It was very cute. We collected caterpillars in large Ziploc bags (like the ones we use in 106) and labeled the bag with the name of the tree we found the caterpillar on and the location of the tree in the plot. We also found several large caterpillars including the IO and the Saddleback.
Can you tell why this caterpillar is called a Saddleback? Do you think this caterpillar is poisonous? Why or why not?


Next we counted plant species and the number of leaves on each plant. I observed many leaves that were eaten by caterpillars. It was surprising to see how much of the leaves a caterpillar could eat! All the caterpillars left behind was the "skeleton" of the leaf.


How do you think a caterpillar's eating habits impact trees in the forest?

Check out this Hyphantria! It has undergone a metamorphosis and has molted into a larger caterpillar. After it molts it eats its exoskeleton because a caterpillar needs to eat all the food it can get. It does not want to waste anything.


Can you see her legs holding on to the branch?

Thank you for all your comments! It was great to hear from Emil, Rachel and Room 104!
Here are the answers to a few of your questions:
*Yes! Some of the caterpillars we have found are poisonous. Both photos on this page show caterpillars that will cause your body to have a reaction.
*I have only been in shallow parts of the swamp. All of the water I walked in was only about 1 foot deep. However, there are deep parts of the swamp and later this week we will kayak through the swamp.
*I have seen lots of spiders, frogs, turtles, and TONS of bugs. There are larger animals like deer, alligators and wild hogs, but I have not seen those yet.

I miss you guys and look forward to Skyping with 106 tomorrow. Check back for new photos and info on Wednesday!

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Monday, October 26, 2009

My First Day in the Swamp


Hi Friends! Please check my website for more photos and info by clicking here.
Think about the questions in bold. I will answer them when I Skype 106 on Wednesday.

Often in nature there is a delicate balance between living things. Animals work together to build communities, find food and reproduce. They interact each day and act as predators or prey. As scientists study the change in climate, many people worry that significant weather events, like hurricanes, may effect the delicate balance between living things. The purpose of this Earthwatch research is to identify if climate change, specifically Hurricane Katrina, impacted the caterpillar population in the Louisiana bayou.

Can you think of an animal that depends on another animal?
Scientists have hypothesized, or made a "best guess," that Hurricane Katrina has reduced the number of caterpillar predators, or parasitoids. As a result, there are less animals or diseases killing caterpillars and the number of caterpillars are increasing.

Do you think an increase in caterpillars is good or bad? Why?


Today I engaged in research for the first time! I traveled to the Honey Island Swamp with the research team (7 teachers and 3 scientists). We hiked through the swamp and plotted out a section of land that is 10 meters by 10 meters, or about the same size as our classroom. We used bright orange tape to mark the plot section and then identified all the trees in the plot.
Next, we counted the leaves on the bottom branches of the trees to determine an "estimate" of the total number of leaves in the plot. Guess what? We counted by 5's and 10's just like we do in 106! Finally, we examined the leaves to check for caterpillars.

Today I saw many caterpillars, spiders and mosquitos. I have not seen an alligator yet, but I hope to see one soon!

Griffin, Cameron, Dylan, Alex, Elizabeth and 208 thank you for all your questions and comments! To answer a few of them quickly...

*The swamp is so cool! It is very different from Chicago. There is water everywhere, lots of bugs and Spanish moss hanging from all the trees.
*There was a big hurricane here called Hurricane Katrina in 2005. I will try to post a link tomorrow that teaches you more about the hurricane.
*The other teachers are very nice; 1 boy and 6 girls.

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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Ms.ZF Takes a trip to the ER!

Hi Friends,

Well my first few days have been exciting...

Shortly after I arrived Thursday, I started feeling really sick. I checked my temperature and had a fever, so I decided to go the emergency room and figure out what was going on. I arrived at the Tulane University emergency room on Thursday afternoon and was admitted around 8 PM. After many, many tests I was diagnosed with bronchitis.

I had to sleep over at the hospital, but since the hospital was full, I had to spend the whole night on a cot in the emergency room! It was awful. After about 36 hours I was discharged and checked in to a hotel to rest and recuperate for a few days. I feel much better now.

Tonight I plan to rejoin the group at the research station in the bayou. I am excited to get started on my research. I am keeping my fingers crossed that the rest of the trip goes smoothly and that I continue to feel better.

Although being sick was not fun, it was a good lesson for me to remember that when your body talks to you, or tells you that it is not feeling good, it is important to listen. I am glad that I took care of myself and I look forward to healthy days in the future.

On with the adventure!