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

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.