Naturalist Perspectives Challenge: Wrap-Up

To finish off the Naturalist Perspectives portion of our course, see if you can discuss at least 5 of the topics we’ve covered this semester in terms of what you’ve encountered during the time you’ve spent outdoors. For example, how can you explain an aspect of cell biology to someone by talking about an organism in Site Alpha or elsewhere?

Feel free to draw upon the assignments and challenges you’ve worked through to complete this challenge.

If you’d like to work on this challenge as one of your four required for the Naturalist Perspective part of the course, you may submit the blog post for it by the end of the day on Dec. 6th.

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Naturalist Perspectives Challenge: Evolution in the Landscape

12862_2013_article_2375_fig2_htmlFor this challenge, you can utilize observations you’ve made in the past or go outdoors again. If you’d like to work on this challenge as one of your four required for the Naturalist Perspective part of the course, you may submit the blog post for it by the end of the day on Dec. 6th.

  1. Pick an organism that you’ve seen at Site Alpha, Beta or Gamma.
  2. Perform some informational research to see if you can find out the evolutionary history of this organism. Try to answer these questions in the course of your research:
    • How old is this species or its family, evolutionarily speaking? Apidae family of bees, for example, arose about 87 million years ago, while it’s thought that the honey bee we know today came into being around 2-3 million years ago; contrast that with the Deep Look video below, which tells us that sea otters as a species are only about 1.6 million years old.
    • What species are this organism most closely related to? What characteristics do these species have in common?
    • What kind of common ancestor gave rise to all these species? This might be a challenging question to answer.
    • When did that common ancestor arise? The common ancestor of all bees, for example, appeared 135 million years ago.
  3. Write a blog post summarizing what you’ve been able to find out.

Naturalist Perspectives Challenge: How Much Has Changed?

img_5194Now that it’s been a good while since you first visited sites Alpha, Beta and Gamma, this is a good time to see how much they’ve changed as we head toward winter.

  1. Visit sites Alpha, Beta and Gamma and take some time to observe.
  2. Conduct an observation transect at each site, noting anything new or different along the transect.
  3. Record all your observations in your notebook, as always including with Date & Time, Location and Weather Conditions.
  4. At home, compare the transects you’ve just performed to the transects you’ve performed at sites Alpha, Beta and Gamma in the past. What similarities and differences can you find among your observations across places and times?
  5. Determine a way you can effectively summarize these similarities and differences. Can you set up a table or timeline or some other kind of chart to consider how these locations have changed or remained constant over time and how they compare to each other?
  6. Write a blog post that shares what you’ve found in step 5.

Naturalist Perspectives Challenge: Genetics in the Landscape

red-tailed_hawk_buteo_jamaicensis_full_body_1880pxNow that we’ve begun to discuss genetics, this challenge will apply some of the concepts in this part of the course to the places you’ve been visiting. To work on this challenge, please follow these directions:

  1. Visit your Site Alpha, Beta or Gamma, then pick and observe an organism. Any organism will do.
  2. Identify (ID) the species as best you can using a field guide; book, app, website, etc. are all fine, but be sure mention what field guide you used when you write your blog post in step 4.
  3. Now that you know the specific species you’ve been looking at, do a little research about its genetic makeup and find out…
    • How many chromosomes does it have? How many sets of chromosomes does it have? Is it diploid like us?
    • Is there a gene that is responsible for a particular trait? For example, does a single gene impact the color of an individual of this species?
    • If possible, go a little further and find out if specific alleles of a gene are known to produce a certain phenotype. For example, within a single species of bird (such as red-tailed hawks), there may be some some individuals who appear darker (called dark morphs), and this is due to the melanic gene allele these individuals have.
  4. Summarize your work for steps 2 and 3 in a blog post.

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.