Wednesday, March 31, 2010

10 - OCVN Week 5

Today we met at the Grant Nature Nook on McEwen Road in Centerville. The most dangerous part of the day was navigating the traffic and orange barrels on I-75 north between Rt 129 and Rt 63. But I survived the construction and make the drive in about an hour from Fairfield. (Another problem was Google directions - they told me to turn right on McEwen from Rt. 725 but the correct turn was left. Luckily I called the Centerville PD last week to confirm the directions. So I knew the correct way to go.)

Grant Nature Nook is the most beautiful building we have met in thus far. There are skylights and picture windows around three sides of the room. While Kristen Marks presented her Powerpoint show on Program Planning, we could watch the birds outside at the bird feeder. In the corners of the room, the top shelves contained a coyote, blue heron, young red-tailed hawk, and numerous other animals that had been stuffed and preserved by a taxidermist. A huge 65 pound beaver occupied the corner near the door. Looking up, four colorful banners, prints of Charlie Harper art work, hung from the ceiling around the center of the room. Beautiful and inspiring!

Kristen's presentation was informative. But the best part - we went outside and hiked on the nature trail near the creek. We heard a rattle, then saw a kingfisher.
We also observed the leaves and buds of many wildflowers - sensile trillium, trout lily, spring beauty, salt and pepper (harbinger of spring), toothwart, bloodroot, ramp (wild onion).

The dense leaf matter in the woods provided a rich growing environment for these precious little flowers. Unfortunately we also saw garlic mustard, winged euonymous and bush honeysuckle. After the hike we ate lunch outside, sitting on benches and basking in the sun.

Stan Gerht from OSU presented the afternoon program - a powerpoint show on mammals. After giving us an overview of the history of the earth's creatures, he focused on mammals of Ohio. His specialty is bats and we learned quite a bit about these guys. He passed around skins of the red and grey fox as well as skulls of squirrel, mice, rabbitts, vole, beaver, raccoon, coyotes, otter, weasel -to name a few.

We learned many interesting facts today. Take this little quiz to see how much you already know. When did mammals first appear on earth? What is the biggest mammal? What animal makes up 50% of all mammals? What mammal lays eggs? What bat is the largest?

Answers: 300 million years; blue whale; rodents; platypus; hoary. If you got all these correct, you are smarter than me. Maybe you should be in the OCVN program.

At 4:10 pm I got in my car and merged into rush hour traffic going south on I-75 from Dayton. I survived the speeders, cell phone users, narrow lanes, tired cranky drivers, and other road hazards. I feel relieved to be home. Come back for week six of 10.

Monday, March 22, 2010

10 - OCVN Week 4

Week 4 we met at Buck Creek State Park in Springfield - nice name but we didn't really get to see much of the park. For the classroom part of the day Marne Titchenell from OSU presented a powerpoint show with color pictures on The Wonderful World of Relationships. We learned what "ecology" means, and the difference between abiotic,biotic, and symbiotic relationships. Ha! Who ever knew there were so many "otics." I enjoyed learning about the food chain and seeing the nice pictures of animals.

Joe Bonnell presented a powerpoint show on Ecosystems and Ecoregions. His pictures didn't have the nice color that Marne's show had. But he did have good content- covering ecosystem interactions, factors affecting the distribution of plants and animals, unique ecosystems in Ohio, ecoregions, and ecosystem services.

After lunch Melissa Moser, ODNR ecologist, talked to us about Stewardship - another interesting powerpoint presentation. What would we do without computers?

At the end of the day we drove to a fen, which was a mile away. What is a fen you ask? I asked the same thing. The dictionary says a bog/marsh. However, I learned that the difference is that a fen has running water whereas a marsh has stagnant water. The McClarren fen we visited has underground aquifers feeding it. We were also told that Massasauga rattlesnakes lived in the area. (I wasn't about to look under any rocks or step off the wood plank trail.) The snake is one of two rattlers in Ohio, the other being the timber rattlesnake. We didn't really see much growing at the fen except for skunk cabbage.
But, it gave us an opportunity to get out of the classroom and into the world of nature.

10 - OCVN Week 3

This is week three of my 10 week adventure with the Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalist program. We met at the Greene County Extension office in Xenia at the Fairgrounds. Pat Migliozzi, ODNR urban forester, started off the day with a powerpoint show about forest soils. We learned about the characteristics of Ohio's various soils by region. He also taught us about soil textures and Ph levels. Very interesting stuff. Then we ate lunch on the bleachers outside and watched a man exercise two horses around the fairgrounds track.

After lunch Kathy Smith, OSU extension program director - Forestry, spoke on forests and trees. She was the best speaker so far, in my opinion. She gave us handouts of her powerpoint presentation which made it easy to take notes relating to each slide. We learned a history of Ohio's forests (I'm glad I wasn't here when the lions still roamed in Ohio). Then Kathy covered invasive species. Next we talked about the secrets of tree ID and learned an acronym for trees with branches opposite - MAD Buck (maple, ash, dogwood and buckeye.) Finally we got into the oaks - there are too many oaks if you ask me.

We still haven't gone on a hike. But next week Barb M. told me she would take us to the lake at Buck Creek State Park. These extension offices don't lend themselves to hiking. I guess that's for us to do in our spare time.

Naturalist Kat Kitts over and out.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

10 - OCVN Week 2

Our second class met at the old Bellbrook Ski Lodge now owned by the Bellbrook-Sugarcreek Park District on Washington Mill Road in Bellbrook, OH. It brought back memories of my college days trying to learn to ski. The room was large and could hold all of us just fine. Ann Baird, from the OSU Extension Department who has a degree in biology, spoke to us on Watersheds. Ann presented a powerpoint show. Besides learning the definition of a watershed we learned that the unique geological formations in the western part of Ohio lend themselves to the creation of limestone, sand and gravel aquifers. (My drinking water comes from an aquifer in Butler County.) But Ann's main message was "It's All About the People." She is big into education and believes in reaching people by using examples that relate to their lives.

Ann gave us some handouts with pictures and labels of aquatic macroinvertebrate (creatures that live in streams like riffle beetle, mayfly, sowbug, crayfish, etc.) Then she distributed pictures but no labels and we had to identify the aquatic life. It was a bit challenging for me to identify some of the worms and snails. They all looked alike! But at least now I have the answers. We also learned what makes streams healthy and unhealthy and were given a handout called Water Canaries and another called Stream Study: Sample Record and Assessment. Now, by gathering water and looking at the life in it, I'll be able to determine if the water quality is excellent, good, or poor.

We ate lunch and some people went outside to the picnic tables. After lunch Betty Wingerter, the OSU County Director and 4H Educator, spoke on how to do a Hands-On Presentation. Then we divided into pairs and worked on presenting a brief two-minute presentation to the class. Several groups actually gave their presentations and the class critiqued them. Betty also gave us two handouts: Back To Nature, with several games and learning activites as well as web links, and Sharing Nature Activities for Families and Youth Groups. All good stuff for future volunteer naturalists. And we did go outside and play one of the games - Blind Eagle.

Near the end of the day, we dropped our names into a fishbowl. Betty drew names in pairs to see who would partner up for our fifteen minute presentation which is required for all OCVNs the last day of class - Week 12. My partner is Julia and I couldn't be happier. She is working on a M.Sc. degree at Wright State University. How lucky is that - I'm old, she's young, my brain is deteriorating, hers hasn't peaked yet. We were given time to meet, discuss a topic for presentation, determine an age group, what format/props we want to use, etc. Then class was over. Another day during the set of 10 - so far no casualties.

Friday, March 5, 2010

10 - OCVN Week 1

Like the hit show '24', I am calling my ten weeks of Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalist's (OCVN) training - 10. However, unlike '24', there is no violence, chase scenes, or international terrorism plots on 10 - at least not yet. Nature can be violent so you never know what will happen. Maybe I'll be dive-bombed by a red-winged black bird if I get too close to her nest. But so far there has just been fun, learning, and making new friends.

Thirty-two of us gathered in a room at the Warren County Extension office in Lebanon, OH(one person was absent). We are a diverse group of 28 females and 5 males - of varying ages, shapes and sizes.

We were each given a training manual divided into the following sections: Interpretation, Ecological concepts, Water, Aquatic Life, Stewardship, Geology, Soils, Plants, Forests, Entolmology, Herpetology, Ornithology, and Mammals. In addition we received two books: Leaf Identification: Key to Eighty-Eight Ohio Trees by the Ohio State Extension, and Nature Smart- A Family Guide to Nature by Stan Tekiela and Karen Shanberg. It looks like we'll be learning A LOT.

The day started with coffee, cookies, apples and a welcome from Barb Mills.
Then two naturalists, Erin and Aaron, from the Caesar Creek Nature Center, played some icebreaker games with us. In one game we formed a circle with our chairs and placed one chair in the center of the room. Erin sat in the center and stated her name, then she gave us a word that rhymed with Erin to help us remember her name. (Guess what, I can't remember the word. This game has some flaws, Erin. Or maybe I'm flawed. But I do remember when Kelley took the seat in the center, she became 'Jelly Kelley.') After Erin told us something interesting about herself, she stated something she had never done - e.g. "I've never eaten mushrooms." When she made her statement, anybody in the circle who had eaten mushrooms had to get up and run to an empty chair, while the person in the middle also grabbed a chair. After all the chair grabbing ended, the person left standing had to take the middle chair and start the game over again.

We learned a lot of revealing trivia, that's for sure, and it was a fun activity - something to remember to do if I ever get a group of antsy second graders and I run out of things to say.

We ate lunch from 12:30 to 1:00 pm. We were supposed to hike at Hisey Park in the afternnon, but due to icey conditions the hike was cancelled. In its place Dave Woerf, a OCVN from the class of 2009, showed us some slides of the park (near Lebanon) and told us about his experiences with the OCVN program. (The only suggestion I have for Dave is that he spent too much time on each slide. I saw several classmates nodding off in the audience.)

Several Warren County park board members visited our classroom and a door prize was awarded (a cute squirrel named C. Warren Parks-clever, eh!) Class ended a little early around 3:45 pm.

The clock is ticking. Come back next week to view Week 2 of 10.