Naturalist Perspective Challenge: Visit a Conservation or Ecological Restoration Site

img_3213If we have time later in the semester, we’ll talk about preserving biodiversity and ecosystem services along with ecological restoration. But before temperatures drop further and days get even shorter, try to take the time to visit a place that has been deliberately set aside for nature. There are some really close by, like the Alewife Reservation and the Cambridge Stormwater Wetland; you can also get recommendations from Prof. Mertl and Prof. Morimoto.

Here are the instructions for this challenge:  Continue reading Naturalist Perspective Challenge: Visit a Conservation or Ecological Restoration Site


Naturalist Perspectives Assignments: Cells in the Landscape

cells-8761b176b36ff6c5fbd973ba451f3049ff0372fc-s700-c85Now that we’re covering the topic of cell biology, this assignment (due Nov. 4th) asks you to consider life at a cellular level.

  1. Identify then visit a place you feel will be enjoyable and connect you to nature. This could be a location you’ve visited before for these assignments (e.g. Sites Alpha, Beta or Gamma) or a different location.
  2. Take some time to experience this place with your senses. Record your observations in your notebook, especially those that may pertain to the instructions below.
  3. Consider what kind of cells are present in the environment around you. Make note of them.
  4. Consider what cells in your body are responding to the environment and how they might be doing so.
  5. Conduct some informational research on one of the cells you noted in step 3. Find out what makes these cells unique. Are there specific proteins present in these cells that allow them to do specific jobs in the organism they are a part of? Hint: consider using these resources to get ideas and develop your thoughts:
  6. Conduct some informational research on one of the cells you noted in step 4. Find out what makes these cells in you unique. Do they use specific proteins that allow them to do specific jobs in the organs or tissues they are a part of? Hint: take a look at this Japan Times article on forest therapy or this Greater Good Science Center article.
  7. Share your observations of the place you visited and the information you found in steps 6 and 7 in a blog post.
  8. Comment on one of a classmate’s blog post for any assignment or challenge.

Naturalist Perspectives Assignment: Comparisons

untitledTime to see how Site Alpha compares to Sites Alpha, Beta and Gamma. Your blog post for this assignment is due on Oct. 28th.

  1. Return to Site Alpha and record your general observations of the area. If you’d like to take photos to post on your blog, that would be great.
  2. Perform an observation transect, if possible along the same path you conducted your initial Site Alpha observation transect.
  3. Repeat steps 1 & 2 for Sites Beta and Gamma; since you have not been previously asked to perform an observation transect at Sites Beta and Gamma, chose whatever path makes sense in these locations for an observation transect. Try to conduct the three transects for this assignment as close in time as possible.
  4. Compare the latest Site Alpha transect to the previous one you conducted. Identify what has changed and what has stayed the same and respond to the following questions:
    • What is the largest change?
    • Are any of the changes a result of human activity?
    • What might these tell you about what’s happening in Site Alpha?
  5. Compare the observation transects of Sites Alpha, Beta and Gamma you performed for steps 1 – 3 above. Identify what they have in common and how they differ, then respond to the following questions:
    • Can you create a chart or table that organizes this information?
    • What do you think are the key differences and similarities among these sites?
    • What do those key difference and similarities reflect about the sites?
  6. Summarize your work for steps 1 – 5 in a blog post.

Naturalist Perspectives Assignment: Identify Your Site Gamma

img_4008To continue branching out to new places for the Naturalist Perspectives component of the course, this week, you’ll identify a third location you can visit and observe: Site Gamma. A blog post based on the instructions below is due on Oct. 18th.

  1. Pick a location that grants you some degree of contact with nature to be your Site Gamma. Ideally, this should be a place within walking distance of your Site Alpha or Beta. Once again, be sure to choose a location that is safe and permits comfortable observation.
  2. Take some time to get to know and enjoy your Site Gamma.
  3. Make some general observations and record them in your notebook, as usual starting your notes with Time, Location and Weather Conditions.
  4. If you can, take a picture that provides a sense of the area.
  5. Of the macromolecules we’ve discussed, which is the most prevalent one in your Site Gamma, based on your observations? Why is it so abundant? If you’re in an area with human-made structures, what is the predominant material in Site Gamma? Is it an ionic compound or a molecule? Is it a polymer?
  6. Summarize your responses to 3 – 5 in a blog post.
  7. Read and comment on a classmate’s blog post; any post on any blog will do.

Naturalist Perspectives Assignment: Identify Your Site Beta

img_0479 It’s time to branch out and look at a new area. For Oct. 11th, find and enjoy your Site Beta by following the steps below.

  1. Listen to the recent TED Radio Hour segment “How Do We Embrace All Kinds Of Nature?” Use the perspectives in the discussion between host Guy Raz and writer Emma Marris to help you (a) pick your Site Beta and/or (b) better understand your Site Beta.
  2. Pick your Site Beta: find a second location, ideally within walking distance of Site Alpha, where you safely and comfortably make observations for a short period of time.
  3. Just enjoy Site Beta.
  4. In your notebook, record your observations, once again starting with Time, Location and Weather Conditions.
  5. On your blog, post a summary of your observations and any reflections upon them. Also include in this blog post connections between your Site Beta and the TED Radio Hour segment you listened to; how did Emma Marris’ perspectives on nature and urban ecology inform your experience of Site Beta?

Naturalist Perspectives Challenge: Elements and Chemicals in the Landscape

You have two options for this challenge.

A. We haven’t talked about the movement of elements in ecosystems (e.g. the carbon cycle), but try to develop a sense for how non-carbon elements move through and change forms in your Site Alpha or another location. Pick at least 2 non-carbon elements and infer how they might be moving from one organism to another, or one place to another.

img_2945B. Find a place where you can safely identify the presence of a specific molecule; do not visit any areas that will pose health hazards. Determine why is this chemical there, what is the purpose of this chemical and what are its consequences. An example is shown here; while Spy Pond is a nice recreational area (with a playground, walking path, etc.), DDT is present in the water.

As usual, post a summary of your observations, information you’ve collected (from the internet or other resources) and your thoughts on the blog.

Naturalist Perspectives Assignment: Water in the Landscape

Since our discussion of chemistry has a strong emphasis on the properties of water, it’s time to find these properties of water at work. This assignment and all previous assignments are due in the form of blog posts by October 4th.

  1. img_5444Choose and visit a body of water such as a pond, lake, stream, etc. A puddle is not a body of water.
  2. Just enjoy it for a while.
  3. In your notebook, record your general observations by first noting the following:
    • Date & Time
    • Location
    • Weather Conditions
  4. Conduct and observation transect in the area. If your transect goes away from the water’s edge, what do you observe as you get further from the water? If your transect goes along the water’s edge, what do you notice along the boundary between water and land?
  5. Note the temperature: is it warmer or cooler by the water’s edge? If it is safe to do so, try to take the temperature of the water with a thermometer or simply my immersing your hand (again, only if it is safe to do so) and comparing the feeling of your immersed hand to the feeling of your other hand held in the air.
  6. pH_paperUse the pH paper you received in class to measure the pH of the water. What pH value do you get? Does this body of water have more of fewer hydrogen ions than pure water? How many times more or less?
  7. Record your observations in your notebook as well as your interpretation as to why the water’s temperature is higher, lower or the same as the surroundings; which property or properties of water accounts for this?
  8. Post a summary of your responses to 2 – 7 on your blog.