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Category Archives: Adult education

Berkshire Bioblitz 2017

 

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Its getting closer the 2017 Berkshire Bioblitz!

This year’s Berkshire Bioblitz will be held on on September 16-17, 2017 in Great Barrington, MA at Thomas & Palmer Brook as part of the 50 year celebration of the Berkshire Natural Resources Council.

Join us for 24 hours of biodiversity immersion! Starting at 12 noon on Saturday September 16th and running through until 12 noon Sunday September 17th.

There will be nature walks with over 20 specialist.

You can join us at any time for as long as you would like. Forest walks, meadow walks and pond exploration will be taking place throughout the day.

The Berkshire Environmental Action Team will be setting up an invasive plant species exhibit. And ask to see one of the biggest oak tree in the Berkshires!!

There will be live animals to meet up close and personal. At dark there will be a moth light experience, bring your camera if you want. We will be going on an “Owl Prowl” in the dark, bring your flashlight.

Follow the signs for parking.

 

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National Moth Week 2016, July 23-31

cecropita caterpillarThis Saturday starts National Moth Week!! And its also the week my bug loving niece (the girl that released earwigs in my bed that time because they were so cute) is coming to visit. Exciting, we are going to be doing some citizen science.

I’ll start the week off collecting caterpillars for her, since she doesn’t arrive until Sunday. She is from the west coast, she hasn’t seen the Eastern Tent caterpillar or the Forest Tent caterpillar. Beautiful creatures. Soft and wonderful to hold and let crawl up your arm. I’m also hoping to find some giant green spiky silk worm caterpillars.

photographing mothsMonday at dark we will be off to Mass Audubon Pleasant Valley to see the moth light demo set up by naturalist Jason Crockwell. This is a super fun time, I can’t tell you how much fun, so go for yourself and find out.

geometrid mothAfter that we will see what we can find on the screen doors. I know the mint green geometrids will be out since the inch worm caterpillars were abundant this spring.

We will record everything we see, either with pictures or just write the names down. Then we will upload the data to iNaturalist.

Its easy citizen science!
If you are thinking, yeah, but so what, what good is this data. It is important? Actually it is. There are several local moth collections from the mid 1900s in the Berkshire Museum database. Scientists could compare the abundance, species, lack of species, new species to this area. It can tell us if our environment is changing, is it cleaner? (I hope so) is it more conducive to wild life? I hope so.) Is the climate warmer? Colder? Hotter? and does this effect the lepidoptera species? All kinds of cool stuff can be figured out using these abundant little creatures. Just think of the classic Peppered Moth, so much was learned from that inconspicuous moth. And there is much more to be learned about liferight in our own backyards.

Do your part! Get out there and participate in Moth Week and make a difference!

 

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Field Entomology/Natural History of the Berkshires

The Field Entomology/Natural History of the Berkshires course starts Tuesday July 5th. Sign up is over BUT we will be night collecting at the Pittsfield State Forest on Wednesday July 6th. This is a free event and open to the public. Get there around dark and be ready to be WOWed! You can find us by following the light.moth collecting

night collecting

 

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Earwigs

earwigsMy 4 year old niece wanted to know why earwigs have to pinch. I told her they have those big ‘pinchers’ so they HAVE to use them. Right? But really evolution gave them those pincers, which are modified cerci, for catching prey and for fighting over females thus the males have bigger pincers. They are also used by the insects to fold their wings back under the elytra. Yes, wings. Earwigs are their own order made up of over 2,000 species, called Dermaptera. Loosely translated that means “skin-wings”. Their wings are not often seen, but are thin and resemble skin thus the name. These thin wings allow them to fly similar to a rove beetle or June bug. They are night fliers, so most people don’t see them flying. I remember when I was younger I saw a male earwig using its cerci to fold its wings under the hard fore-wings, it was a sight to see. Captivated me for the whole 60 minutes, all the tucking and folding, twisting and turning using those forcep-like cerci at the end of its abdomen.

earwig nestWhat makes earwigs one of my favorite insects, though, is how the mother takes care of the young. She makes a nest in a damp spot such as under a log or rock, and rolls and licks the eggs keeping them free from fungus. She also keeps them safe from predation by moving them if a predator is near. After the young are born they stay with the mother through the first 2 instars (first two molts) when she feeds them regurgitated food. It has been recorded that after these two molts, the mother dies or not, either way the offspring eat her*. This is called Matriphagy and is rare in the insect world. All in all, though, Agatha Christi was right, earwigs make good mothers. (If you don’t know what that means, read Agatha Christi’s books until you do. Then finish reading all the rest if you haven’t yet, then read them again in 10 years. I will do your brain good.)

As an added note, earwigs rarely pinch. You have to put your hand down on them or threaten them in a manner that they will retaliate with a small pinch, but overall they won’t go out of their way to pinch you. Nor do they have any venom or poison in that pinch, so the pain won’t last.

 

*Suzuki, S. Kitamura, M. Matsubayashi, K. (2005). “Matriphagy in the hump earwig, Anechura harmandi (Dermaptera: Forficulidae), increases the survival rates of the offspring”. Journal of Ethology 23 (2): 211–213.

 

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Natural History of the Berkshires-A Field Course for Teachers and Adults

natural history specimensIf you would like to learn about the natural history of Berkshire County, this is the course for you. We will be exploring the natural world of birds, bugs, mushrooms, lichens, reptiles, amphibians, algae and so much more. There will be experts and naturalists along the way to show us how we can tell if a bird has a nest of eggs or how a little beetle larva can devour a bull frog. And we will be checking out some specimens that are not natural to the Berkshires–the invasives.

yellow warblerSponsoring Organizations: MCLA, Cornell University, Dr. Augie’s Science Programs

Course Location: Pittsfield/Lanesborough

Schedule: July 5-8, 2016

Time: 8am to 5pm

Cost: $250 for 4 days, $125 for 2 days

Target Audience:
Youth and adults over the age of 16 and science educators who teach 6-12th grades or the general public.

You can participate for 4 days or 2 days. I promise all days will be fun and exciting learning experience.

Instructor: Lisa Provencher, M.S. Entomology. B.S. Environmental Science, co-instructors, Scott LaGreca Ph. D. Botany, John Wheeler, Berkshire Mycology Society.

aquaticsThroughout this course we will meet with scientists and local naturalists as we explore and learn about the natural world in which we live. The course will include several ways everyone can contribute to science including programs such as: Citizen Science, biodiversity days and the fast and furious bioblitz.

When given the opportunity to observe nature deeply, people of all ages often develop an in-depth understanding of the importance of environmental and ecological issues that impact their lives and the lives of those who will live on this earth after us. The purpose of this course is to cultivate a community of well informed, educated, and concerned teachers, who will foster within their students a passion for the natural world.

The curriculum will afford educators and all who attend the opportunity to learn about the natural history of local plants, animals, fungi, bacteria and archaea through inquiry and observation. These topics can also be integrated with math, history, language arts and social studies. Given the current concern with global climate change. We must recognize that all living things, not just humans, represent part of the existing biodiversity. It is crucial that we, as informed citizens of this planet, are able to recognize and identify living organisms and understand that they almost certainly hold solution to biodiversity loss and the key to global sustainability.

Natural History class application form

 
Comments Off on Natural History of the Berkshires-A Field Course for Teachers and Adults

Posted by on December 31, 2015 in Adult education, backyard science, Berkshire BioBlitz, events

 

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