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Saving Hellbenders with the Wilds: Virtual Field Trip, Oct. 23rd

The hellbender salamander, also called the ‘snot otter,’ is on the decline in Ohio. The Wilds, near Zanesville, Ohio, is trying to change that. Photo: Andrew Hoffman, licensed CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

A smile I simply cannot resist! Hellbenders are North America’s largest salamander. They can grow up to approximately two feet in length (twenty-nine inches). Nicknames include:

  • Snot otter
  • lasagna lizard
  • mud devil
  • devil dog
  • ground puppy
  • (Do you have another one?)

These impressive creatures have been around for more than 150 million years, but are in danger. On this week’s virtual field trip, biologists at the Wilds will give us a tour of their hellbender recovery project.

CHOOSE AN ACTIVITY TO LEARN ABOUT HELLBENDERS:

Join the virtual field trip, Friday, October 23 at 10:30 a.m. Details below!

On your own, inside: Read about hellbenders below. Then make lasagna to honor lasagna lizards!

On your own, outside: take a stream selfie and clean up litter.

Hellbenders at the Wilds: Virtual Field Trip

Friday, October 23, 10:30am

Every Friday from 10:30 to 11:00am, we hold a Zoom call live from the woods. This week, the conservation biologists at the Wilds will give us a tour of their hellbender salamander lab!

They’ll show us baby and adult hellbenders. They’ll share how the Wilds is helping the hellbender population grow–and how you can help this endangered species too! You’ll also learn about what it’s like to be a conservation biologist.

The Wilds is a safari-style ‘zoo’ in Cumberland, Ohio. They have turned damaged, strip-mined land into a center for threatened animal recovery.

If you haven’t registered for our fall field trips yet, go here: https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZUpcu6qqTsoHNKDfYwskjOqiSjAU_4HxFma. You’ll receive the link to the call in your email.

~~We’ll post the recording of the field trip here the following Monday~~

Tips for finding this salamander

Hellbenders are a fully aquatic species of salamander! Clean, fast-moving river water is an ideal habitat. The water must be cool, so shady trees help. Look for large rocks with accessible crevices and places where this salamander can hide.

They are very sensitive to pollution and sediment (bits of dirt and dust) in the water. That is why it is so rare to see one. But we keep hoping we will one day!

Worth Pugh measuring a hellbender
Scientists measure a wild hellbender salamander. Photo: USFWS/Southeast/license CC BY 2.0

WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE

They have a flat head, wrinkly body, and paddle-shaped tail. Usually these salamanders are dark grey or brown in color with dark spots along the back.

They breathe through their skin! So the wrinklier their skin is, the more oxygen they get from the water.

WHAT IT EATS

These salamanders feast on crawdads, smalls fish, snails, and worms. Hellbenders are also known to be cannibalistic. That means a bigger salamander may see a smaller salamander as an opportunistic meal! Gulp!

WHERE IT LIVES

Rivers in the eastern United States, including the Appalachian region.

Hellbender
 An adult hellbender salamander. Photo: U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service – Northeast Region, licensed CC PDM 1.0

What’s your favorite nickname for the hellbender? I personally love snot otter. Post your answer in the comments and tell us why!

On your own: Make Lasagna!

In honor of their nickname, lasagna lizards, bake some lasagna for your next meal! This activity may require adult supervision. Benders have flaps of skin on their sides, which provide extra surface area to help them breathe through their skin, but it also kind of makes them look like lasagna, which is where the nickname comes from.

Smiley woman cooking in the kitchen Free Vector

Traditional lasagna recipe

Vegetarian lasagna recipe

Own your own: Snap a selfie!

More cheese, please! Cheese, as in smile, that is! Participate in Stream Selfie. This is a citizen science project that was designed to help monitor waterways (and healthy waterways are crucial for hellbenders).

Take a picture of yourself in or by a waterway, tell us your location and the condition of the stream. Some things to pay attention to might be:

  • how big is the waterway?
  • is the water clean?
  • are there fish living in there?
  • what other species of animals do you see?
    • learn more about using insects/fish to tell if a stream is healthy in this post.
  • what might make this good or bad habitat for a hellbender?

Post your selfie in the comments!

Rock creek park Free Photo
Promising hellbender habitat.

While you’re there, take some time to pick up any litter around the stream. Hellbenders and other species are very sensitive to pollution. By keeping the creek clean, you help the animals that live there.

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Virtual Field Trip: Bees

Join us on Friday, July 17th from 1:30-2:30pm for another virtual field trip via Zoom. We will tour local bee expert Ed Newman’s hives, and also examine flowers and their insect visitors on the Wayne National Forest and in Joe’s garden. Register here!

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Distance Learning Uncategorized Young Naturalists Club

Pollinators Part 2

Last week Madison taught us about pollination. Besides insects, one important mammal can also assist in plant pollination: BATS! Today we will learn about bat pollination and what plants you can grow around your home to attract pollinators.

BATS AS POLLINATORS

Nectarivorous bat flying to a flower to drink nectar © Preston Sheaks.

In tropical and desert biomes, bats play an important role in pollinating flowers on fruit trees and cacti.

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Virtual Field Trip: Baby Animals

At your request, Rural Action is hosting a virtual field trip where we will focus entirely on some of nature’s cutest organisms, baby animals! As spring turns to summer, eggs are hatching, babies are trading their downy fluff for their summer coats, and little wings are making their first flaps.

“Mouths to Feed” – CaptPiper

Join us this Friday via Zoom to discuss and learn about animal parenting tactics and offspring adaptations (and to see some cute critters).

This free event is for youth, adults, and families. It’s led by Rural Action’s Environmental Education staff.

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Friday, June 5 at 1:30pm
Please register at this link:

 https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZcsdu2pqT8uHtG7wb_m06pcsLh0TuaipkVG

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.

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Virtual Field Trip: Athens-Hocking Recycling Center

Wondering where all of your waste is going? This week on our virtual field trip, we’re exploring what happens to your recyclables once they arrive at the recycling center. You’ll see some cool machines, and finally learn WHY you can recycle plastic bottles but not a plastic bag.

Look at all of those recyclables!

Join us via Zoom this Friday! We’ll teach you all about the basics of recycling, show off some cool machinery, and give you lots of tips and tricks you can use to make your household greener!

This free event is for youth, adults, and families. It’s led by Rural Action’s Environmental Education and Zero Waste staff.

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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.