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Distance Learning Young Naturalists Club

How to Build a Shelter

The first time I slept in a shelter I built myself, I was camping out with many other families. Everyone else had tents. But I was determined to try something new. 

The shelter I slept in that night looked a lot like this.

I found a solid tree to support a stick frame. I covered the sticks with thick, thick layers of leaves. Luckily, the kids helped carry big armfuls of leaves for the roof and the ground. It went much faster with many hands! I only barely fit inside the small lean-to.

As evening fell, the sky grew dark. Gulp…it was going to rain.

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Distance Learning Young Naturalists Club

Virtual Field Trip: Shelters, Animal and Human

What shelters do animals build? What can we learn from them for building our own survival shelters? If you’re a kid who loves building forts or dreams of surviving in the woods, this is for you!

I spent the night in this debris hut I built with kids at a summer camp. It was one of my favorite camp-out experiences ever!

Join us via Zoom this Friday! We’ll tour some animal homes, and go over how to build your own shelters.

Even if you can’t join for the Zoom event, we’ll be sharing more shelter-building activities this week on the blog.

This free event is for youth, adults, and families. It’s led by Rural Action’s Environmental Education staff.
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Friday, May 15 at 1:30pm
Please register at this link:

https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZEqcuqoqjksE9wZMo2PvUgVXRDkk80RzaKM

Stay updated in our Facebook Group

We are sharing every new activity in the Southeast Ohio Young Naturalists Club facebook group. Join our group for conversation with other nature-exploring families, and to always know what environmental education activities are happening.

Brush up on your survival skills before the virtual field trip

Get started with Nate’s basic survival skills introduction. Tomorrow, Dani will share an fun activity to test some shelter-building materials.

Categories
Distance Learning Young Naturalists Club

Fixing Acid Mine Drainage

This week, you learned about pH and how coal mining has acidified local streams. A lot of wildlife cannot live in or around streams with acid mine drainage. Luckily, we can do a lot to help streams recover! What ideas do you have for how to make these creeks healthy again?

In this lesson, we’ll cover:

Lydia shows us a creek that has been affected by Acid Mine Drainage.

If you need a review of what acid mine drainage is, watch these short videos of Pine Run (Perry County, Ohio).

Lydia reviews what AMD is.


The easiest and best way for us to fix AMD is to not let it happen in the first place. We can’t undo the mining that already happened. So how can we stop AMD from happening?

Stopping AMD before it’s made

Do you remember the three things that make AMD?

  • iron pyrite (in the coal)
  • water
  • air.

If we stop these things from mixing, then no AMD will form. This is called Source Control.

The best way to stop AMD from forming? Keep water from touching and mixing with the pyrite.

Sometimes this means covering big piles of leftover coal waste, also known as gob piles, with impermeable soil. Impermeable means no liquid can pass through. The impermeable soil stops water from reaching any iron pyrite in the first place.

Another way we prevent water from mixing with iron pyrite is preventing stream capture. How and why do you think we could capture a stream?

Sometimes, above old mines, the ground collapses. It falls into the empty space where the coal had been removed. This is a sinkhole. If there is a stream above it, the stream flows down through the sinkhole into the old coal mine (Ahhhh! exactly the opposite of what we want to happen!). Now the stream is “captured” by the mine. Eventually, water fills up the mine and spills out into nearby streams with acid mine drainage.

To prevent this, we fill the collapsing sinkhole with impermeable soil. Then we change the stream’s path to go around it. Now the stream water never mixes with old mines, and never makes AMD!

Treating AMD

Sometimes, we just cannot prevent AMD from forming. I think of it as the stream getting sick. We try our hardest to prevent the stream from getting sick (AMD) but sometimes it happens. So we have to give it ‘medicine’ to treat it.

There are two different ways we do this: passive treatment and active treatment. To remember the differences of these two words, I think of my lazy or “passive” kitty taking a nap and then my other crazy “active” kitty chasing his toys around the house!

When we passively treat AMD, we build something that treats the water, then leave it be! Once it is built, it doesn’t need much maintenance or work. One example is a wetland.

Passive Treatment: Wetlands
One of our wetland treatment sites.

Wetlands are amazing ecosystems. As well as helping treat AMD, they provide habitat for native birds and other wildlife. They also hold water during floods. Wetlands can help treat AMD by making water slowwww downnnn.

When the water slows down, oxygen and tiny bacteria have more time to work their magic. The iron forms here instead of downstream, creating this gunky orange wetland! So how does this help our fish? Well, by controlling where our iron forms (orange gunk), we keep it from washing into rest of the stream, where it will affect all the critters living there.

Here is water slowing down in wetland at one of our treatment sites. It leaves all that gunky iron here, instead of in the rest of the creek.

But iron is only half of the problem. Our pH is still too low. This water is still acidic. To fix this, we must add something with a high pH to raise the pH of the water to a healthy level.

A passive way to do this is to add limestone gravel, just like the kind in your driveway! We reroute our stream, making it flow through layers of limestone. Some of the limestone will dissolve just like sugar in water, raising the pH of the water to a healthy, neutral level.

Neither the wetland nor the limestone gravel need maintenance every year. They can be left alone for long periods of time and still work. This is a cheaper and easier solution in the long run, if you have enough space for a wetland.

Active treatment: Lime dosers

Finally, our last resort for treating AMD is called a “doser,” which is a form of active treatment. Active treatment means people have to keep taking care of the doser, or it won’t work.

The silo of a lime doser. This active treatment method needs to be refilled with more powdered lime frequently.

Dosers are tall silos, full of activated, powdered lime (it’s made from limestone, not the fruit!!). This lime has a very high pH (it’s basic). The silo pours little doses of basic lime into the acidic water, raising the pH.

The doser uses gravity to work. Water fills up one side of a two-sided bucket. When the water gets heavy, it tips the bucket to the side. This knocks the bar in the middle and a ‘dose’ of limestone is added to the water.

We have to refill the dosers with more powdered lime often. If the doser runs out of lime, the treatment immediately stops working and the stream returns to being too acidic almost immediately. So these dosers require a lot of attention!

Downstream of these dosers, fish have come back to creeks that had been empty for years.

There’s no one right choice

To sum up, there are a ton of different things that water quality specialists and environmentalists must think about before we can treat AMD. No two Acid Mine Discharge sites are the same. In many places, we use a variety of the techniques from above to fix the streams as best we can. Here is a handy little chart to help you compare:

A summary of the different ways we can treat acid mine drainage.

Activity: “Dose” your own AMD

In Monday’s lesson, we learned how to test the pH of a liquid.

Today, we’ll explore how to change the pH of a liquid. That’s what we do when we treat acid mine drainage. Watch what happens when an ultra-basic material (our lime powder, which has a pH of 14+) meets an acidic material (acid mine drainage):

Lydia shows us the reaction between the lime we use to treat our streams and the AMD in the stream.

Woah! The basic lime and acidic mine drainage react. This reaction releases energy as heat. Did you see steam from the reaction and the cup melting? It is very hot!

This happens when we add a little bit of AMD to a LOT of powdered lime. This causes the reaction to happen very fast, so we can see it. The doser adds only a little lime to a lot of water and AMD. So the reaction happens much more slowly in the stream, and is not so dangerous.

We can create a similar reaction at home mixing two common items: vinegar (acidic, or low pH) and baking soda (basic, or high pH).

Materials needed:

  • Vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • Measuring spoons
  • Large bowl
  • Notebook/pencil
  • Your thinking cap!

To create the reaction:

  1. Measure out ½ cup of vinegar into a large bowl.
  2. Add a tablespoon of baking soda to the vinegar. Observe what happens. What is similar or different from my video above?
  3. Imagine your vinegar is a stream we are trying to fix. Could you make the vinegar neutral? How?
  4. Continue to experiment slowly with adding more or less baking soda. If the reaction stops, the pH is probably close to neutral.

Congrats–you just changed the pH!

To be sure whether it worked, you can check the pH of your treated vinegar with the cabbage indicator or pH strips.

Summary

  1. We treat acid mine drainage either by stopping it from forming, or by fixing the pH.
  2. To fix the pH, we can use passive treatments (wetlands) or active treatments (lime dosers).
  3. Try changing pH yourself at home with the baking soda and vinegar experiment. You are doing the same basic thing we do to make our creek liveable for fish!
Categories
Distance Learning Young Naturalists Club

Virtual Field Trip to the Creek: This Friday

Kylee shows what she found in the creek. We might see some similar creatures on the field trip.

Creeking is one of our favorite outdoor activities! On this zoom field trip we will:

  • Visit two different creeks
  • Learn about fish, insects, and other animals we can find in the creek
  • Learn about microhabitats in the creek
  • Learn how to tell if a creek is healthy or dealing with pollution
  • Visit an acid mine drainage seep, and show how pollution can be helped

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Friday, May 8 at 1:30pm
Please register at this link:
https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZEtfumhrjwtGtLpEBNwQ5FnTz5cFx2L8HSC

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You can also follow the facebook event.

Have a creek question or request for the field trip? Leave a comment!

Stay updated in our Facebook Group

We are sharing every new activity in the Southeast Ohio Young Naturalists Club facebook group. Join our group for conversation with other nature-exploring families, and to always know what environmental education activities are happening.

Brush up on your creek knowledge before the trip

“What’s a Watershed?” activity from last Monday

Our watershed team has been posting great activities about creeks for the last two weeks!

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Uncategorized

Nest Watch: Virtual Field Trip

tree swallow nest in a birdbox

Did you go looking for birds nests after Joe wrote about them last week? We are going to looking for nests live tomorrow!

Join us via Zoom at 1:30pm on Friday, May 1. We’ll check on bird boxes in several wetlands and forests, to see what the birds are up to. Spring is breeding season, and birds are everywhere!

We will send information about what they find to Nest Watch, a research project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
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Friday, May 1 at 1:30pm
Please register at this link:
https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZMlduusqzksH9BAad9YoG9gLFrW7XAp_Ini

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You can also follow the facebook event.

Have a bird question or request for the field trip? Leave a comment!

Stay updated in our Facebook Group

We are sharing every new activity in the Southeast Ohio Young Naturalists Club facebook group. Join our group for conversation with other nature-exploring families, and to always know what environmental education activities are happening.

Categories
Distance Learning

Survival Skills Virtual Field Trip: This Friday!

This Friday, we’re taking another Zoom-based field trip. Join us for a crash course in survival skills!

Environmental educator Joe Brehm and Madison Donohue will teach us about some of the most basic survival skills like fire building, rope making, and even brewing wild tea. This event is for youth, adults, and families.

Friday, April 24th at 1:30pm
Please register at this link to attend: https://zoom.us/meeting/register/tJwsdemppj0iGNRQB-Rxrq6gdBoIm4sIjj26

You can also see the Facebook event.

Using a tinder bundle to coax a coal to life. This is part of starting fire with friction (i.e., rubbing sticks together).

We’ll explore these skills:
Starting and tending to a fire
Foraging for food
Using natural materials to create tools.

Stay tuned for some activities you can practice to prepare!

Have survival questions or something else you’d like to see in a field trip? Leave a comment!

Stay updated in our Facebook Group

We are sharing every new activity in the Southeast Ohio Young Naturalists Club facebook group. Join our group for conversation with other nature-exploring families, and to always know what environmental education activities are happening.

Categories
Distance Learning Young Naturalists Club

Virtual Vernal Pool Trips

We’ve heard about a few of your vernal pool trips this week!

Some of you joined us virtually for a Zoom field trip today. We livestreamed from the vernal pool on the Cucumbertree trail in Athens. We saw:

We share some of what we learned below. Like: how some frogs breathe through their skins, but some insects breathe through their butts.

Other people took their own trips. Take a short video trip with our friends, Juni and Maggi!

Juni and Maggi showed us how they find living organisms in their pond, and how they used iNaturalist to identify them.

What species did they find? How does it fit into the food web of the pond? If you like, do a little research and tell us what you figure out.

You can also explore more Ohio wetlands through these 360 photos here.

Questions to ponder from the field…

People asked a lot of great questions on our virtual field trip today. Here are few things we talked about!

Categories
Distance Learning Young Naturalists Club

Week 2 and 3: Edible Plants and Amphibians

Blink and you’ll miss them!

April in southeast Ohio brings some special things that are only around for short time: frogs calling and laying eggs, delicious wild plants, mushrooms, and wildflowers. This week and next, we will show you how to find them before they’re gone.

Here’s what to expect:

Monday, April 6: Vernal Pools, Part 1

Wednesday, April 8: Foraging for Ramps

Friday, April 10: Ecosystems in a jar

Downy yellow violet blooming in leaf litter.
Downy Yellow Violet

Monday, April 13: Vernal Pools, Part 2

Wednesday, April 15: Eating Garlic Mustard to Save the Planet

Friday, April 17: TBD

Click on a link or keep scrolling through the blog to start.

Categories
Distance Learning Young Naturalists Club

Signs of Spring!

The change from winter to spring is one of our favorite times of year! As nature lovers, we have missed seeing the plants and the critters moving around.

Tiny details can be a clue that spring is coming — even if it’s still cold!

Maple buds beginning to swell and open.
Tree buds swell (get bigger) in spring, getting ready to send out leaves. Left: Closed red maple bud. Right: Swollen maple bud. Photo: USA-NPN
Categories
Distance Learning Young Naturalists Club

Week 1 of the Young Naturalists Club

Juni shared this unusual horsetail plant in “Signs of Spring.”

Finding cool things in nature, noticing details, wondering — these are some of the most important skills for becoming a neighborhood naturalist! 

This week, we are going to practice making observations. We’ll need to use all 5 of our senses to notice as much as possible! We’ll even send some of our observations to scientists to add to their data. 

Here’s what to expect:
Monday: Signs of Spring
Wednesday: Observing with iNaturalist
Friday: Week 1 Round-Up (plus dandelions!)

Head on to one of those activities to get started!