Paleo Lands Institute :: Field Trip

What a fabulous day! We departed home at 7 a.m. for the drive to Fossil. Despite a few setbacks, we arrived safe and sound just after 10 a.m. where we met with Will Boettner, the Executive Director of the Oregon Paleo Lands Institute. After introductions and a stop in the necessary or lu, we drove the short distance to Wheeler High School whereby we listened to a volunteer as she explained a little about the geology of the area and what we could expect to find.

The fossil beds were formed 30 million years ago when volcanic ash fell during the formation of the present day Western Cascade Range. The ash was washed into the lake basin along with leaves and other plant material, level after level piling up. The ash preserved the leaves long enough for impressions to form under the pressure of the overlying layers.
paleo lands instituteAbout 35 species of plants, most of them belonging to genera that are no longer native to the Pacific Northwest, are found there. The most common plants are alder, maple, beech, dawn redwood and pine in what appears to represent a deciduous hardwood forest. This implies, according to Will Boettner, that the climate at that time was much more moist and more temperate than is presently the case in the shrub steppe and savannah of today.

We spent about an hour ‘excavating’ in the shale behind the high school. Everyone was successful in finding fossils. I was delighted with how intrigued the kiddos were as they diligently picked up piece after piece of shale in hopes of finding a little treasure preserved between the layers. Prior to departing, we were able to browse the many fossil samples that have been found previously, including several amphibians and fish species.

We took a break for lunch … whereby Will shared more about his experiences, the geology of the John Day Basin, and about the community of Fossil. We then proceeded southwest to the Clarno Unit of the John Day Fossil Beds for a guided nature walk through a canyon.

It was a delightful walk. Everyone was entranced by one thing or another. We all had an opportunity to ask questions and explore the region more closely. We saw first hand how the layers of sediment had built up over millions of years and how the rocks formations had changed over time due to weathering. We talked about the impact man has had on the water table in just the past 150 years or so… changing the once temperate, deciduous forest to the dry scrub land of today (mostly Juniper and Sagebrush). Everyone walked away with a new awareness and appreciation of the natural history of our region.

Thank you to Will Boettner of Oregon Paleo Lands Institute for providing such a wonderful learning opportunity for us all.

“Do what you can
with what you have,
where you are.”

~ Theodore Roosevelt

Hoaloha ‘aina Weed Pull ~ Volunteering on Vacation

Ever since the kiddos and I participated in the Let’s Pull Together Community Weed Pull in June they have been asking, “When can we do the weed pull again?” When DH hears them he always replies, “Right now! There are weeds that need pulling in our backyard!” The kiddos do that regularly in the warmer months but it isn’t the same as working together with others to make a difference for the environment.When we decided to spend 2 weeks in Maui, I started a quest to find as many educational opportunities as I could. The Pacific Whale Foundation is a phenomenal resource and with a variety of activities for all ages. One of the links I explored was their Volunteer on Vacation site which provides listings of all the projects that we can take advantage of while on vacation.

There were several that were of interest but we settled on the Hoaloha ‘aina Weed Pull on the Monday before we departed. We met the team at the Kamaole II Beach Park in Kihei and were provided volunteer vests (they didn’t have enough for everyone so I opted to not wear one). There were two distinct areas to choose from… one on shore that involved using power tools to remove an invasive woody shrub that had taken over the bluff.

We opted for the other area… one uphill from the adults in an area that had been roped off and thereby kept Buddy contained within a manageable area.We worked for two hours pulling invasive weeds. In doing so, we of corse encountered many insects. We took a few minutes to observe them closely but unfortunately I didn’t have the camera so no pictures. DH took these photos shortly after we got started – he thereafter departed to do some work at the condo – Yes! He worked on vacation!

Just as everyone was finishing up, an adult discovered the nest of a young Wedge-tail Shearwater (ua’u kani). It was presummed that all of the fledglings had left for open water by this time. We all got a chance to observe the fledgling closely before returning him to his nest, recovering it with vegetation, and closing off the area again. Admin note: Please follow this link – it is a very interesting bird!
When DH returned, we immediately took him over to the area where the nesting burrows are located and told him of our discoveries. The kids were delighted. The next day, we received our Volunteering on Vacation t-shirts as a thank you from the Pacific Whale Foundation. The smallest size is an adult small – so of course, they are huge on the petite 6 year old and a 3 year old – but the are so proud of their shirts!

 

Becoming a Junior Ranger at Haleakala National Park

While we were in Maui, Sweetie completed several activities at the Haleakala National Park to become a Junior Ranger. When we arrived, the ranger at the counter gave her a booklet and explained that for her age, she would need to complete 4 booklet activities (as there were no talks scheduled for the time we were there). The activities we selected were:

#1 What is Wilderness?
Whereby she learned about what activities are permitted in the wilderness area.

#2 Who is Native to Hawai’i?
Whereby she learned about the species that are native to Hawai’i and those that are not.

#3 What Animals Live Here?
Whereby she learned about habitats.

#4 Where is the Volcano?
Whereby she learned about volcanic rocks.

#5 Ancient Ways and Words for Today
Whereby she learned two Hawaiian words: malama ‘aina (to respect and care for the land) and alu like mai (pull together, work together)

Upon completion of the activities, Sweetie sat down with a ranger and was interviewed about what she had learned. I videotaped the interview and hope to post it here as soon as I can figure out how to download it off the video camera. During the interview, Sweetie described to her what she had learned about invasive species before our arrival. “I want to go to a luau so that I can eat bad pig!” (We didn’t explain to her that the kahlua pig isn’t likely the wild pig that is destroying the forests.)

Sweetie also told her about a snail that she had helped get across a trail so that it wouldn’t get stepped on. The ranger asked us to describe the snail and in doing so, we learned that based upon it’s size and color, it was likely the invasive African Cannibalistic Snail. “The native tree snails are found higher in elevation.” Sweetie was distraught, “Oh no! I should have stepped on it then!” The ranger got a chuckle out of that.

Most National Park Service sites that have a Junior Ranger program award participants a plastic badge for completing the program. Some award a patch; a few award a lapel pin. Some do both. Haleakala awarded a badge. However, they had patches available for purchase so we bought one as they are our preference. As she completes future Junior Ranger programs, I’ll make a banner for her to display her badges & patches.

Click here for more information about the National Parks Junior Ranger program. Another very informative site was created by a teen… Sam Maslow’s Junior Ranger Site.

Lions Tigers & Bears, Oh My! Our Wildlife Safari Field Trip

I have very fond memories of visiting the Wildlife Safari when I was a little girl. I was thereby very excited to share the experience with my own children. We arrived Friday just before 11 a.m. and proceeded to drive through the park. Immediately, animals were visible all around us. Though we were able to see all the animals relatively well, most were not very active due to the heat.

Preceeding our visit, I attempted to contact the education department to inquire about possible pre-visit activities and field booklets they may provide for school children. Unfortunately, no one returned my calls. I thereby had to create our own activity books. Sweetie was focused and worked diligently on completing the pages – she even collected observation data to help us to answer the question, “How often do elephants interact?”

Buddy, on the other hand, was focused on another objective, “When we go to Grandma and Papa’s? I’m ready to go now. How much longer? It’s been a long time.” He makes me laugh! Whenever we go anywhere, he is very anxious and filled with excitement and anticipation. No sooner do we arrive and he is ready to depart for the next adventure.

Throughout the park, they allow you to have your windows rolled down to take photographs. The only area that this is restricted is in the bear habitat. They even have a guy on patrol watching for would be violators! As I am taking photos from the passenger window, DH rationalizes that it must be okay to roll the windows down since the bears are playing with one another some distance away.

As he does so, the patrol guy announces over the loud speaker,”Keep your windows rolled up in the bear habitat!” Busted! I think DH felt a little silly for breaking the rules… we quickly moved on to the next area.

Sweetie enjoyed the safari as much as I predicted she would. She spent most of the evening drawing pictures of the animals that she had observed. I was a little disappointed with the facilities. The park was opened in 1973 and it is very obvious that the buildings and structures are dated.

I was surprised that there were limited number of ‘Ranger Talks’ and opportunities to learn more. We basically observed the animals from a distance, nothing more. No signage. No talks. No docents or volunteers anywhere!

It is unfortunate that the region doesn’t have a stronger economic base with which to support their endeavors with fund raising and private donations. Gives me things to mull over and discuss with my Roots & Shoots group in the near future.

 

On a related note, we are going to be focusing on vertebrate animals in our science studies over the next couple of months. I generally start with inverts… but since we had an opportunity to go on safari, I figured it was a good kick-off.