Hi! My name is Ms. McCullagh. I will continue to post nature related photos and videos on this great outlet - thank you, Earthwatch! I traveled with Earthwatch to Maryland to study Climate Change and Fragmented Forests at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Sunset at St Marks National Wildlife Preserve FL

Six Bald Eagles, Great White Egrets, Great Blue Herons, Great/Lesser (?) Scaups, Mergansers, Osprey... Lovely day in the wildlife preserve...

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Saturday, December 19, 2009

Last Day Sunrise on Fox Point at SERC


It was another chilly day along the Rhode River as the sunrise took on several hues, grays giving way to bright golden. The geese called in the distance, the ducks ran across the still river, and I could hear hoof-falls of deer in the forest behind me. The final day at SERC was dawning and the many extraordinary experiences of the expedition remained at the forefront of my mind - forest trees, leaves, sunrises, the wildlife, the good friends met and made.

I highly recommend that all of my educator friends apply for a Live From the Field Expedition. The experience will make you a better teacher and give you opportunities to deepen your own appreciation and joy of nature.

Friday, December 18, 2009

One of the avian reasons I love living where I do! This anhinga has grown attached to my dock, and I am glad it has.

Friday, December 11, 2009

South Florida and rising sea level threat

South Florida and rising sea level threat - NPR broadcast on Friday, 11 December at http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=120498442

We in South Florida would feel the effects of rising sea levels. The newscast provides descriptions of what the Keys and South Florida would look like with a sea level rise of 2-5 feet... scary information!

You will also want to check out the Interactive "Rising Temperatures, Disappearing Coastlines" map at http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=121197147&ps=rs There goes my neighborhood!

After you listen to the newscast and examine the interactive map, what are your thoughts? Do you live in an area that would be under water? Are there actions you can take?

Thanks Gus O: “After listening to the audio on the rising sea levels, I have become more and more concerned about the state of Florida. It is difficult to imagine that in a few years the keys will be non-existent and Dade and Broward county will be under water. This causes a great amount of concern for me because my area would greatly be affected by this massive flood. Options to counter this mass flood are raising roads and counter global warming as a whole.”

Thanks Dan P: “It's a scary thought that in 100 years that a big part of Florida is going to be under water, if sea levels keep rising. It is a really big problem, Climate change is causing the sea levels to rise at a greater rate. It is a lot scarier when you live in the area that would be affected by rises in the sea level. I live right in the predicted area that would be under water. There are a few actions we all could take. The article mentioned driving hybrids, and being more aware of what we are doing to the environment. Global warming is causing the sea levels to go up at a faster rate, it is necessary that we do more things to help lower or emissions and try to slow the process of the sea levels rising.”

Thanks Nick P: “As scientists do further research, they have found that the sea level has been rising ever since the last ice age. Now the sea level is rising at a much greater rate. With global warming and the fact that we are a peninsula, rising sea level are posing a much greater threat. Politicians are even proposing legislation to prepare for the consequences of rising oceans. I live in the area that would be under water, as well as most if not all of the people that I know. Hypothetically, all of Miami would be under water. Leaders in the community have proposed plans to create building codes that would require higher foundations. As residents of the community we can focus on protecting our environment and doing whatever we can to prevent global warming which would raise sea levels.”

Thanks Cameron C:” If Greenland and Antarctica were to in fact melt, I would be under water. It's this type of information that we need to spread to people to let them know that Global Warming is NOT A MYTH. I can help the situation by organizing or taking part in beach cleanups, or any other activity that could help clean up the global warming mess we are in.”

Sunday, December 6, 2009


Friday, December 4, 2009

Sunrise on the final day at SERC

Seems that the video uploading has taken too long this morning...but here is a shot of today's beautiful sunrise. As you may imagine, I have many more!

This expedition has been a wonderful learning experience. Doing field work with scientists, meeting great teachers from other areas of the country, walking through leaves and listening to the wind in the trees, witnessing fantastic sunrises each day, and taking time to be...what a blessing this has been!

I am looking forward to seeing you next week. Thanks for following my adventure and taking on the challenges I have posed. Many of you participated and learned good information; I appreciate your efforts!

Moon through the forest trees

videoBeing able to see the full moon in the forest has been another great experience. Here is the moon at sunrise on the last day...lovely!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Thanks to Period 4 for these great questions!

Thanks to Period 4 for these great questions!
1.What has been the best part of your trip? Adriem

I have had a blast walking through the woods, listening to the leaves crunch underfoot, assisting the researchers with their data collection, watching the variations of colors in each sunrise, and making new friends.

2.How long are you out there each day? Patrick

Long after I awake to catch the sunrise, we meet the researchers at 8:45 am and are briefed on the day's activities. We gear up with appropriate tools, and head off. Due to the rain and wet conditions, we wore wellington boots two days in a row. We return for lunch, and head out for another round of research or a learning session. We also have had a few evening sessions, so long days are the norm...much longer than a day at CCHS!

3.In the tree mapping activity what was the most exotic or interesting tree you saw?

Ah, trees...No favorite, but I think the best part has been gaining tree, leaf and twig identification expertise. Too bad I can ID trees we don't have in South Florida...

4.Did you discover anything abnormal while measuring the tree and observing the wildlife in the area? Corey Z

In the logged areas, the invasive plants were a great nuisance - they had nettles and spines, and seemed to grow everywhere we needed to walk! We also saw a variety of fungi growing on the downed logs and tree stumps; some specimens were very odd and some were very beautiful fungi.

5.While in Maryland, have you had any single experience that will have a long-term effect, such as an inspirational experience? Carlos V

As I walked through the leaves in the forest, I was transported back to my childhood. When we lived in Pennsylvania, our house backed on a deep woods where my siblings and I played everyday. Walking through the leaf carpet reminded me of how much I loved (stil love) being in the woods. I guess I now realize how much I miss such "close to nature" times and how I need to find more tree-time when I return to South Florida.

6.What is your favorite type of tree and why? Mark M

I don't have a favorite tree, but I am partial to being in the part of the forest that had the greatest diversity of species. I also enjoyed being in the part of the forest where the individuals were varied - tall and not so tall, young and mature.

7.What is the daily routine of a SERC technician? Chris H

[Nancy Kahn with an out-sized specimen of a sycamore leaf]
The daily activities are varied, and the folks gave us several examples of their work day - diameter chest height measurements, leaf collection, tree mapping, coarse wood debris (every piece) measuring, transect debris measuring (just the wood that the tape transected), leaf sorting and identification, data entry...they have busy days!

How is the view from 120 feet up?

This is how one would look after trekking up 120 feet of steel tower to enjoy the view from the photo science platform. It was a bit unnerving to climb the stairway. The tower does "rock" a bit with the wind, as a result, I kept my eyes on a small area of view. I am happy to know I can manage such a tower-climb, but I wouldn't want to do so often!

At lunch, a few of us biked to the salt marsh part of the property. The sun was shining, and the view was lovely, but no birds to be found!

This afternoon, we had a great presentation on climate change and what such change will means for us and our environment and communities. Dr. Bert Drake's research focuses on the effects of increased C02 on plant efficiency and productivity. He was great, and I will try to get him to visit us in South Florida.

This is the view from over 120 feet above the ground. As you can see, we are well above the tree canopy. You can even see the Chesapeake Bay in the distance. The walk down was slow, until about halfway...then it was easier going.

Today's challenge = Calculate your carbon footprint and consider how you can reduce the impact. Try these links to gather more information to help you accomplish the challenge:


See you soon!

Thanks Mark! = "I calculated my carbon footprint and it is 15 while the United States has an average of 27. To reduce my carbon footprint. I can reduce it by using Energy Star appliances, and walking around town or riding a bike instead of driving, also eating more organic foods. :) "

Thanks Bryce: "My carbon footprint is 21, still under the United States average of 27. I can reduce my footprint by hopefully getting a new hybrid Tahoe for Christmas to replace my old gas guzzling one and by changing all the light bulbs in my house to more energy efficient ones."

Thanks Alex T.: "I used the three of the sites that you provided to research the information you asked for. I used https://mail.columbushs.com/owa/redir.aspx?C=a771062eda16447487f982014e54114f&URL=http%3a%2f%2fwww.nature.org%2finitiatives%2fclimatechange%2fcalculator%2f to find my total CO2 emissions in my home to be about 18 tons per year; this amount is far below the national average of about 27 tons of CO2. The site https://mail.columbushs.com/owa/redir.aspx?C=a771062eda16447487f982014e54114f&URL=http%3a%2f%2fwww.epa.gov%2fclimatechange%2fwycd%2fhome.html gave me many possible solutions to further reduce my emissions:for example, while I do use Energy Star light bulbs for most of my lights, I do not have Energy Star appliances such as refrigerators. Thanks for all the info! Hopefully we can all contribute to reducing climate change and its effects on our planet."

Thanks Alexander A: "I calculated my carbon footprint and it is 32 while the United States has an average of 27. To reduce my carbon footprint, I can reduce it by recycling and using recycled products, travel light (carpool), and use energy star appliances."

Thanks Danny: "I went to calculate my carbon footprint and I was pleasantly surprised. It was 19 tons of CO2 per year for some reason I always thought it was much higher. There are still many ways I can reduce my carbon footprint and help save the environment. Though in my house most of our appliances are Energy Star, I still do not unplug the appliances that are not in use. I could also carpool more with my friends on my way to tournaments and games."

Thanks Jose V: "The calculated carbon footprint for my household is 63,587 lbs. of CO2 per year while the average carbon footprint of a four person household is 83,000 lbs. My calculated carbon footprint is 16,147 lbs. I can reduce my carbon imprint by reducing the number of miles I drive my cars per week, performing regular maintenance on each car, or buying vehicles that get more miles per gallon."

Thanks Victor: "My estimated greenhouse gas emissions are 29 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent per year. To reduce my climate impact, there are many simple things I can change in my everyday behavior that will make a big difference in the fight to slow climate change:
carpooling, using energy-efficient bulbs, turning off lights and other electronic appliance while not in use, breathing less often (just kidding)."

Thanks Alejo P: “I used the website to calculate my carbon footprint and I found out that it is 23. I am glad to know that it is below the nation's average but lowering would be better for the environment. I can do this by using energy star appliances, not only my washer and drier, as well as carpooling with my friends to go to school and eating more organic foods. Also, I can consider changing my car to a hybrid one and I can recycle my trash and use more recycled goods.”

Thanks Pat W: “I calculated my carbon footprint to be 24 tons of CO2 each year. Compared to the U.S., I am 3 tons bellow the national average. Yet compared to the world (5.5) I am way over. This brings to mind that Americans, including me, need to save on energy and help the environment. To reduce my number (24) I can unplug appliances when I don't use them. I can also center my meals more towards organic foods rather than your regular meal. I can also remind my family members to do the same. This has helped a lot with my understanding of carbon emissions and the number of tons that affect our planet, the only place in which we live. This was a fun challenge as I also learned from it.”

Thanks Julian E: “I used the Carbon Footprint Calculator at nature.org to calculate my Carbon Footprint. According to the calculator, I use 11 tons of CO2 yearly which is 8% above the average. I can lower my Carbon Footprint by unplugging my phone and ipod chargers when they are not in use, and keep the lights and TV off when they are not needed. I can also purchase ENERGY STAR appliances and electronics to lower my carbon output. I could also keep my computer turned off when it is not in use.”

Thanks Dan RC: “My family's carbon footprint is 62. However, though it may be under the United States Average it's still quite higher than the world average and can be reduced using a more fuel efficient car, traveling on planes less, and using more energy efficient appliances.”

Thanks Gregory S: “I calculated my carbon to be 26. This is slightly below the U.S. average. I can reduce my carbon footprint by turning electronics off, eating more less meat, using more Energy Star appliances, and taking less long distance flights(took two to Russia with my dad this summer). Hopefully, especially if I remember to turn appliances off when they're not in use, I can reduce my imprint to well below the national average.”

Thanks Klaus B: “I choose the challenge that requires me to calculate my carbon foot print. I currently produce 69,303 pounds of CO2 per year. However, if I take specific steps to save up money, I can reduce the emissions I produce by 26,415 pounds of CO2 per year. My new emission production will be about 42,888 pounds of CO2 per year. I will also save about $3,895. The steps that I will take will be to save mileage in my car, reduce the amount of electricity I use in my house, turn my air conditioning low during the winter, and also by recycling plastic items. I will also wash my clothes with cold water instead of hot water, switch certain items in my home to the Energy Star brand, and enable the sleep feature in my computers. By taking these steps, I think that I can make a difference in the environment.”

Thanks Justin L: “My carbon footprint was 23, which is relatively high but still below the national average of 27. To reduce the amount of carbon emissions, I could drastically reduce the amount of miles I travel in a car daily by carpooling. Also, I can switch older household appliances to newer, high efficiency models designed to conserve energy.”

Thanks Michael F: “My carbon footprint is 20, while the average is 27. I can reduce this number by using more energy efficient products, like light bulbs. Although I already do, I can also recycle more.”

Thanks Nick R: “I currently emit 16 tons of CO2 each year. I am well below the national average, but I am a way above the world average. This is speaks volumes about how Americans treat the environment. In order to reduce my CO2 emission, i can eat more organic products. I can also join a carpool instead of driving to school everyday with my mid-sized vehicle.”

Thanks Christian O: “My estimated greenhouse gas emissions are 17 tons of carbon dioxide, which is below the national average of 27. In order to reduce it, I could install environmentally friendly electric bulbs because only half of my house’s electrical appliances have that, and I could definitely motivate myself to unplug electronic advices when they’re not in use.”

Thanks Eddy P: “I calculated my carbon footprint to be 15. I can reduce my carbon footprint by buying lights that are more efficient, eating more organic foods, and by getting a fuel efficient car.”

Thanks AG: “After using the Carbon Footprint Calculator on The Nature Conservancy website, I found my family carbon footprint to be 90 tons of CO2 a year, which while lower than the US average of 160 tons/year, is still well over the world average of 33 tons/year (for a 6 person house hold). To lower my carbon footprint, I should get EnergyStar rated appliances, and get a more fuel efficient vehicle.”

Good Morning day four!


I hope your week has been a productive one. We have been kept busy with research activities that have been varied and helpful to the scientists' progress with their experiments.

Yesterday, we sorted the leaves collected on Tuesday, organizing the leaves by species and sub-species. They will dry them, weigh them, and then use their formula to determine the amount of carbon held by the trees. I now can recognize a sycamore, sweet gum, beech, ironwood, hickory, and the variety of oaks with ease; too bad that we don't have trees like these in South Florida!

I have enjoyed walking in the forests with the scientists and becoming familiar with the research question and the chosen experimental design. The weather today is much warmer than previous days, and the view from the photo lab tower should be stunning!

I will post those photos later, maybe even some video of us on top of the tower... Have a great day, and keep the comments coming!

Congrats to Chris B. for the latitude-longitude challenge response!

Way to go Chris B. for calculating the latitude and longitude challenge!

"The distance between the two points is 930.0 miles. You would have to travel northeast as the latitude's number increases and the longitude's number decreases.

Once again, I used http://stevemorse.org/jcal/latlon.php for my calculations.

Christopher B"

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

This is a photo of the unit through which we conducted our video conference...need to write a grant to purchase one for CCHS...

We mapped trees in one of the areas under study. We had to measure the diameter of each tree in a 10m x 10m plot, marking its x and y coordinates, and registering its health and its relation to the other trees in the area. It was a cold morning and the ground was muddy. Thankfully, our plot did not include the creek that flowed nearby...

Live video conference between CCHS and SERC


The video conference was a success from our vantage point at SERC in Maryland. We had several great questions and we greatly appreciated the interest expressed by our students.

Nancy Kahn, research technician, was most helpful in answering the questions regarding the specifics of the research underway at SERC. I am very thankful that she was willing to spend time with our students. We discussed the various research activities with I have had a chance to participate - leaf litter collection, tree mapping, and coarse woody debris measurements.

We have more to accomplish tomorrow, and we hope for some dry weather to climb the photoscience lab tower. I cannot wait to see the view from over 120 feet up...and capture great photo possibilities!

Thanks again to Elena Alvarez at CCHS and Mark Haddon at SERC, and Vince at the Smithsonian Institution and the folks at New York Institute of Technology for their great efforts to make today's event such a success!

Your challenge = who recently has been a great help to you? Have you expressed your gratitude to them? Do so soon!

Thanks Ray S: "My dad has been a great help to me all of my life. He always reviews my essays with me and shows me my grammatical mistakes. He helps me with anything he can. I always show him my gratitude because I really am greatful."

Thanks Christopher B: "Recently, my mother has been a great help to me. She gets many of the household tasks done and assists me with paper editing, buying supplies, and pointing out how to manage my time better."

"I have expressed my gratitude by doing well in school and doing my household chores. Some of these chores include making by bed, taking out the trash, and keeping my room clean. Ever since I was very young, my mother constantly expressed to me, "Do well in school, that is your only job." Although I may have to do basic simple chores, my mother does the rest."

Thanks Jorge: "Mr. Linfors who recently reviewed my college essays and helped me fix them. He also wrote letters of recommendation for me and has been a great help for me. He also attended FIU so I was able to talk to him about how it was to stay here for college and about the college experience at FIU. He is also a great teacher who has helped me improve my writing. I have thanked him for all the help and I am truly grateful for his help."

Thanks Nick B: “I would like to thank the Columbus adviser Mrs. Kraitch. She has given me an opportunity to get caught up with community service, and has guided me in the proper direction on my college decisions. She helped me write my resume, which lead to me being accepted last week to FSU. I am very grateful for her help.”

Thanks JC V: “My mom is a great help to me, she is always giving me advice about my problems, and helping me with my homework, she is definitely a big factor in my life and she is the reason why I’m the person I am today. After I finished reading the challenge I went over to the kitchen and thanked her for all that she's helped me with over the years.”

Thanks Reice R: “"I would like to thank my step dad Clinton Weekes. He has helped me with almost everything during the past few weeks, from my college essays, to my video project. He is a person that I know will always be there to assist me and has something new to bring to the table. I can count on him to be completely honest with me to tell me what I need to hear and not what I want to hear.”
”I would also like to thank Dr. Dugard. This semester he has not only taught me about religion but life as well. From day one Doc has showed me that the world is not a place to be scared of but one that we should take in with open arms and embrace. He opened my eyes to a place of faith and opportunity that I will hold with me forever.”

Thanks Kevin R: “The person who recently helped me and has been helping me since my early childhood is my karate sensei. He has showed me what is right and wrong and guided me through many tough obstacles I had. He taught me how to defend myself and how to live the martial way. Ever since I was old enough to realize all the effort he put into me I have been expressing my gratitude towards him by being loyal and helping him teach the younger ones.”

Thanks Roberto F: “Someone who has been a great help to me would be my dad, because he's always checking on my grades and he always tries to help me with my math homework. I have expressed my gratitude by helping him out with chores any way I can. I also tell him "thanks" pretty frequently.”

Thanks Juan B: “As of late one person has had a massive impact in my life. He has stood by me in trying times with other friends and family, school work, and poor health. His friendship as of late has meant the world to me yet he has always been there thus this is in no way a new relationship. Joey Villena will always have my back, whether I'm being an idiot or just going through a rough patch in life. For this I am eternally grateful.”

Thanks Albert F: “Someone who has been a tremendous help to me recently and throughout my life has been my mom. My mom has always been there to help me with anything in my life. An example of her being a HUGE help was when I needed to set up my science fair board. She spent over two hours helping me cut out and paste all of my information onto my board. Without her help, I probably would have ended up finishing at around 2 in the morning instead of finishing when I did (which was at around 11:30 pm).””The way I try to show my gratitude for all she's done for me is to help her around the house by cleaning my room, doing the dishes, and taking out the trash. I love my mom so much, and I'm grateful for everything she's done for me. I'm so lucky to have a mom like her.”

Thanks Anthony C: “Recently, my grandfather has been a great help to me. He picks me up from school, takes care of me at his house, and purchases things that I need. Sometimes instead of bringing me to his house after school, he takes me to my house. He also assists my family in paying for vacation.”
“To express my gratitude, not only do I tell him, "Thank you," but help him around the house and go with him to buy needed supplies. When I can, I spend a lot of time with him, and this includes going to church with him. He tells me to keep up my grades, and I do so in a way to thank him. I enjoy showing my appreciation to him, just as he enjoys helping me.”

Thanks Austin D: “My Dad has been a great help to me recently, but not only recently he has also been a great help to me my whole life. He is always there for me no matter what and helps me through my everyday struggles. His biggest help is always being there to talk to. Lately every time I have had a problem I have been able to go to his and he has helped me. Every day I am extremely grateful to have him in my life. I show my gratitude to my father every day and at every moment that I possibly can. Whether it be by saying something as “Thank You”, or it be something more complex like going out of my way to watch my siblings so my father can have extra time to sleep. I try to do every little thing possible to make his life a little bit less stressful. I am truly grateful for him, without him I would not be where I am today. So I have to be grateful because most everything that I have been able to achieve in life is thanks to him.”

Thanks Nick H: “My mother has been both a recent and an all-time help to me and a constant influence in my life. My mom helps me with everything from checking to make sure there are no grammatical errors in my papers to taking me places and showing me how to solve problems that sometimes seem to hard to solve on my own. My mom is very helpful to me and she tries to assist me whenever she can, and she is always honest when she can't. I love my mom very much and am very grateful that I'm blessed to have her as my mother.”

Thanks Adriem O: “My Mom has been great help to me. She supports me through the late nights I stay up doing homework. She always leads me on the right path and she makes sacrifices for me all the time. I definitely have expressed my gratitude to her by helping her out around the house and showing her the results of her hard work through my academic achievements.”

Good Morning day three

As you see in the video, I awoke early again to see the sunrise. As I rode up the hill toward Fox Point, the sky was brilliant orange. It was a sight to see through the trees. I missed capturing that sky and tree combination with video or photo, but the stillness of Rhode River and the sunrise were wonderful.

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Tuesday, December 1, 2009


Can you identify this tree? Is it a tree that you can find in South Florida? What characteristics of this tree will help you determine its specie?

Walking on a leaf carpet


Dr. John Parker explains the purpose of measuring the coarse woody debris in the locations he has designated.

His research include four different plot arrangements: "deer and invasive plants excluded," deer excluded and invasives tolerated," one plot is "deer and invasives allowed," and another is "deer allowed but not invasives."

We measured the length and diameter of the coarse woody debris in the plots, and we also had to pull the invasive plants in the plots where they are excluded.

A lot of the invasives have spines and thorns...ouch!

Identify the trees - can you?

Here are four types of leaves from several trees in SERC forests.

Your challenge = Can you identify the trees from which these leaves fell?

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Getting my hands on leaf litter


Hello! We just returned from a morning of leaf litter collection. The red collection buckets we emptied are placed in the logged (managed) forest test areas. We gathered the leaves that had accumulated over the course of one month. The scientists are interested to see what trees and other plants are succeeding in the logged portions of the SERC property. We found lots of sprouting trees - sweet gum, tulip poplar, and lots of nettle-y vines! Ouch...

We are taking a lunch break, and I wanted to post the video of me collecting the accumulated the leaf litter. Trudging over the left-over tree debris through the thorny vines was a chore...Kept thinking "where's my machete?"...but we had a brilliantly clear and sunny morning to work.

Take care, and how are you managing all the challenges? I will post a few "what type of tree produced this leaf" questions and images later.

Good Morning, Day two

I braved the very chilly weather to bring you today's sunrise...enjoy!