Monthly Archives: March 2013

Algae and Berkshire BioBlitz

bioblitz algae samplesDuring last year’s Berkshire BioBlitz we were lucky to have two phycologists, scientists who study algae, John Hall, from the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University in Pennsylvania and Karolina Fucikova from the University of Connecticut, because we held the 3rd annual Berkshire BioBlitz at Onota Lake.

We don’t think about algae often. They are usually small, we don’t usually see them without a microscope, but algae are very important plants. They are primary producers in aquatic ecosystems. Most algae are eukaryotic, an organism whose cells contain complex structures enclosed within membranes, and are photosynthetic organisms, this means they make energy from the sun. They are distinguished from the higher plants by a lack of true roots, stems or leaves. Many species are single-celled and microscopic (including phytoplankton and other microalgae) but many others are multicellular growing to large size like seaweeds such as kelp and Sargassum. And still yet, some are microscopic, and occur as symbionts in lichens and corals.

John sent me some of these photos he took through his microscope during bioblitz. Yup, these things are in our lake. How cool is that?

algae 2 bioblitz 13

Penium margaritaceum

Here are some fun facts about algae:

Algae and Evolution: Algae…

  • live almost everywhere on Earth
  • are among the most ancient living organisms
  • gave rise to all the plants you see and eat (even flowers)
  • some are extremophiles, liking it either really hot, or really cold


Algae and People: Algae…

  • produce half the oxygen in the air you breathe
  • are used to make medicines, toothpaste and ice cream
  • can become fuel for cars

Pediastrum simplex

Algae and Biodiversity: Algae…

  • build coral reefs and kelp forests
  • are food for fish and even some whales
  • are every color of the rainbow!

For some interesting educational resources about algae click here.

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Posted by on March 28, 2013 in Uncategorized


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Crosby Water Procession!

These 10 kids had a great time with us in the Dr. Augie’s Brain Booster After-school program! They learned all about the water system here in Berkshire County. Ask them some questions, they will love to tell you what they learned, especially about how we are lucky to have the water treatment plants that clean our water.

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Here are some poems they wrote about water:

Over the rainbow.
Under the flag.
“The water is gone!”
“The water is gone!”
The salamander cried.
And heaved a great sigh.
To which the ladybug said,
“Then we must find the critter who drank all our water or else find a river
To get our water delivered!”

Everyone shivered, the baby, the fox, the fish and the eagle.
Just to think of the horror of life without water.

Did the moon sip the stream ’til the drip ran dry?
Did the rainbow make a spout that the water poured out?!

They all went marching to find some water.
It was in the clouds they all decided.
So they danced in a circle and shouted out loud,
“Oh sky give us water, rain on our parade if you would!”
And the water cycle started again and everything was good.
-Chante, Emma, Sandi, Ashley, Aiyanna and Lisa

The days are calm like the wind.
The shy is blue like my friends eyes.
Everyone loves to watch the beautiful sunrise over the water.
-Chante and Lisa

Dr. Augie sends a special thanks to Ms. Driscoll and Ms. Sandi for making this session fun and educational!

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Posted by on March 28, 2013 in Uncategorized


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Wedding Pinata!

One of my wonderful customers sent some photos of the wedding pinata she ordered from my Etsy shop NatureCurios.
How fun!Kleiner pinata wedding

Kleiner wedding pinata 2

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Posted by on March 22, 2013 in Art, Nature Curios, Pinatas, Uncategorized


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“The Tides” by Aiyanna

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Posted by on March 22, 2013 in Uncategorized


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Recording in the Studio on Zebra Mussels

Soon to be aired on PCTV the student version of the science show. Here is Ian, looking and sounding like a young David Attenborough. ian recording

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Posted by on March 21, 2013 in Children's Art & Science Classes


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The Aliens are here, and they are GREEN!

emerald ash borer

The adult emerald ash borer. Photo provided by Department of Natural Resources.

emerald ash borer larva

Emerald Ash Borer larva in different stages of development.

As of March 2013 the state of Massachusetts announced a quarantine will be established in Berkshire County, in order to stop the spread of the invasive insect species: Emerald Ash Borer, Agrilus planipennis.

This tiny, shiny green exotic beetle hails from Asia and is rather pretty.

EAB was first detected in Massachusetts in Dalton in August of 2012.

Massachusetts is the
eighteenth state discovered to have EAB within its borders.

The adult beetles nibble on ash foliage but cause little harm there. The damage is done by the larvae (the immature stage) feeding on the inner bark of ash trees, that disrupts the tree’s ability to transport water and nutrients and eventually kills the trees.

This beetle brings a very serious threat to the ash trees in our area, for this reason the officials at the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) decided a county-wide quarantine is the best chance of slowing the spread of this destructive insect.

After the a regional survey was completed around the Dalton/Pittsfield area, five trees were
found to have EAB larvae present. These trees are located within a 1.5 mile radius of the trap
where the first EAB beetle was detected in August 2012.
emerald ash borer wingsThe quarantine order means that certain products will be regulated from moving outside the
regulated area, including all hardwood firewood (any piece of wood smaller than 48”), all ash
nursery stock, and any ash lumber that has not been treated. Proper wood treatments include
the removal of bark and half an inch of wood, dry kiln sterilization, fumigation, and heat treatments.

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Posted by on March 21, 2013 in Camps, Children's Art & Science Classes, Nature Curios, Uncategorized


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Science in the Parks 2013

aquatic collectingDr. Augie’s will be in the Westside parks this summer teaching about water, where it comes from, where it is going and what is living in and around this water.

This is part of a grant from the Berkshire Taconic Foundation with support from the Berkshire Environmental Action Team.

We will be testing the pH of the water, identifying plants, aquatic insects, frogs and turtles. We will be counting snails and working in the community gardens.

Come on out and play with us and learn some new stuff at the same time.

Dates will be announced soon.

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Posted by on March 17, 2013 in Camps, Children's Art & Science Classes


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