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|Posted on March 24, 2020 at 2:55 PM||comments (0)|
It’s a force that carves valleys, forms caves, and washes away nutrients in our soil. It also helps distribute crucial minerals and nutrients into the food chain and form majestic streams and rivers. Erosion is a natural force unlike no other, and must be considered for so many areas in our everyday lives. Erosion must be accounted for when building roads, bridges, and buildings. It plays a major role in field planning and daily operations of farms. It destroys while simultaneously creating. Erosions mighty power can kill, but is relied on by organisms on all levels of the food chain to survive and thrive.
There are ways of managing erosion, whether it’s preventing it or directing it, though. The most preferred method is ground cover. Cover in the form of plant life or decaying matter (mulches, leaf litter, etc.) lessens the impact of falling rain on soil. It also helps to spread out and slow down water runoff, making the force of the water less damaging to the soil. These types of materials are often referred to as biomass.
Biomass is any living organism or material generated by those organisms decomposing in the soil. A proper balance of biomass helps create healthy soils that are more resistant to erosion. Not only that, but healthy soils mean healthier waterways. Many types of biomass help filter and clean water as it passes through the soil. It can also help the soil retain more water, making plant growth easier and taking some stress off of our watershed systems.
Believe it or not, there’s actually a really easy way to see the effects of erosion with a tabletop experiment. Let’s check it out!
Tabletop Erosion Model
What you will need:
- 3 1qt cartons, clean
- Scissors or a craft knife
- Potting Soil
- A Stapler
- Grass seed, or some other plant
- Mulch or leaf litter
- 3 clear containers, all the same size
- Craft Paper
First, place all of your cartons side-by-side. Make sure they are all facing the same direction, and that the spout is pointed down. Cut the long side (the one that’s facing up) out on all three cartons, and staple them together. Fill all three with potting soil. Leave the first carton filled with nothing but dirt. In the middle carton, cover the top of the dirt with your mulch or leaf litter. In the last container, plant your grass seed.
Water all three cartons regularly, and allow time for your plants to grow. After a week or two, when the plants have grown a strong root system, it will be time to finish the project. Place your cartons on something tall enough to fit your clear containers under the spout. Take the lids off of each of the spouts, and place your clear containers underneath them to collect the water. Finally, pour the same amount of water into each carton (I used 2 cups for each).
Over the next couple of minutes, the excess water will drain out of the spouts and into the containers. You will likely notice that the carton of bare soil released a lot of dirty water. This is the carton that represents bare, unmanaged soil. The mulch or leaf litter carton likely released less water, and was probably cleaner than the bare soil water. The planted carton should have released the cleanest water in the smallest amount. The difference in the water coming out of these containers should show the effects erosion has on soil, and how a healthy balance of biomass and properly managed soils can help prevent erosion.
Sustainability is key. I’ve seen this project done with 2-litre bottles, but I chose the cartons to help mitigate my usage of plastics. Since most of these cartons are biodegradable, I can just bury the whole thing in the ground and let it provide food to the plants as it breaks down.
If you’d like, glue some craft paper to the cartons to label or decorate them. Neat, organized labels usually make life easier.
I chose to use grass seed as it grows quickly, but you’re free to plant whatever you’d like in your project! Beans, flowers, and lettuce are just a few other options that may grow quickly and be useful for when you’re done with this project.
How’d your project turn out? Did the biomass help prevent the dirt from washing away? Share your projects and results with us in the comments here, or on our social media pages (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram). We love to see how they turn out!
CJ w/ Children of Terra-NEO
Check out parts one and two of this three part soil science series here:
Determining Soil Type:
- Earth Eclipse: Causes, Effects and Types of Erosion
- Queensland Government: Preventing and managing erosion
- Science Direct: Soil Biomass
|Posted on February 6, 2020 at 6:30 PM||comments (0)|
Quite a few of us northerners woke up to a perfect glaze of ice over everything outside this morning. Trees, roads, windows, grass, and just about anything else exposed to the elements was encased in ice overnight. It didn’t snow, it didn’t hail, but everything was iced. This is the result of a weather phenomenon known as freezing rain. It takes just the right combination of conditions for this to happen. But before we get into that, let’s touch on a little basic weather science and refresh on the water cycle.
Let’s start with the water cycle. When it’s warm enough, water will evaporate and rise into the atmosphere. The further the water vapor gets from the ground, the colder it gets. Eventually, water droplets will get cold enough to start attaching to particles in the air and forming clouds, which is called condensation. These condensed droplets will grow larger and larger, freezing more and more water vapor to them. Once they get large enough, the force of gravity pulls them back down to earth. This is called precipitation.
Depending on the conditions, the precipitated water may become rain, freezing rain, sleet, or snow. Rain occurs when the frozen water droplets, as precipitation, falls through a thick layer of warm air. As they warm up, they turn back into a liquid form. Freezing rain works basically the same way, but with one major difference. When a thin layer of freezing cold air sits underneath the thick layer of warm air, precipitation will fall through it too quickly to freeze again. However, since the ground is cold enough in this layer, the water will freeze on contact with the ground or other surfaces. Sleet occurs with a thicker layer of cold air, and snow occurs when the layer of warm air is too thin to ever melt the precipitation. You might get a better idea of how it works by looking at the diagram below.
There you have it! Hopefully now you have a better understanding of this beautiful and uncommon weather event.
Have you ever experienced freezing rain? If so, what were your thoughts on it? If not, do you think you’d want to check it out sometime in the future? Let us know in the comments below! And don’t forget, you can always share your pictures of the effects of freezing rain with us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
CJ w/ Children of Terra-NEO
|Posted on January 27, 2020 at 5:35 PM||comments (0)|
I had a friend growing up that, like most kids, was fond of collecting things. Unlike the other kids, who were collecting the hottest trading cards or newest video games, he liked to collect bugs. Any time he found a dead bug, he’d take it home and add it to his collection. Of course, some of the other kids in our group would make fun of him. I loved going on a bug hunt with him, though. Every trip we took, I’d learn something new from him. Until I met him, I had no idea of the diversity of invertebrates we had in Ohio. Sometimes it would be mind-boggling!
His collection methods often varied, depending on what he found. Some he would take home and pin on a special board that was kept under glass. Others he would save in a vial full of strong alcohol. His reasons for collecting often varied, as well. Sometimes they were for a display he planned to donate or sell. Sometimes they were for his own private collection. Now, almost twenty years later, he’s an entomologist (a scientist that studies insects). He still has his collection, and some of his childhood specimens have actually helped him in his studies on how climate change is affecting local insect populations. And again, almost twenty years later, he’s still teaching me new things.
Some of the soft-bodied insects he had preserved in alcohol got damaged over the years. Legs or antennae would fall off, body parts would get broken, and specimens would get destroyed simply by moving the vial they were in. They moved around too much in the alcohol solutions and would bump into the glass. Eventually he came across a solution to this issue, and after he shared it with me, I HAD to share it with everyone else. The incredibly simple yet rather genius solution was to use a gel hand sanitizer. The gel is thick enough that it acts as a suspension, locking the specimen into place within it. Keep reading to learn how to do it yourself!
What you’ll need:
- A glass container with a tightly fitting lid (vials or heat/foodsafe jars work well)
- Thick Hand Sanitizer Gel
- A specimen (dead bug)
- A small pot
- A stove or hotplate
A quick word on materials and safety:
When I say thick sanitizer gel, I mean THICK. If there’s bubbles locked into the gel in the bottle it comes in, it should be thick enough. Using the thinner gels seems to result in the specimen degrading within a few weeks. Still, the thicker the gel, the better. Also, keep an eye on alcohol content. Any sanitizer that uses less than 72% alcohol will likely result in your specimen degrading. The higher alcohol percentages seem to work best.
Also in regards to the sanitizer gel, keep in mind that you are using flammable materials and heat. Be sure to exercise extreme caution and to take any necessary precautions ahead of time, such as safety clothing or preparing a fire extinguisher nearby.
What to do:
Fill your jar/vial just over ¾ of the way. Gently submerge your specimen into the gel. Don’t worry about exact placement in the gel yet, as it will be much easier to pose them later on. Next, place your jar in a pot and will with enough water to come about halfway up the jar. Place the pot on medium heat and allow it to come to a simmer. DO NOT close the jar. As the gel starts to boil, pressure will build, which can make the jar explode if it’s sealed.
Let the gel fully simmer for about 10-15 minutes. I’ve found that twelve minutes seems to be the sweet spot. Carefully remove the container from the boiling water and set it aside to cool. As it’s cooling, use the tweezers to position the specimen where and how you’d like it in the container. Once the gel is cool enough-not runny or watery anymore, but still warm-top of the container with more gel. If you do this while it’s too hot, the fresh gel on the top will develop a lot of bubbles. If you do it while it’s too cool, the fresh gel will not lose the bubbles already in it.
Once you’ve filled the container to the brim will gel, seal it as tightly as possible. Some gel will likely run out as you’re doing this, but this method will help prevent an air bubble from developing in the top of the jar that can later work its way into the gel. Clean off the outside of the container, let it finish cooling, and done! If you’re keeping a specimen for a collection, you may want to add a label to the container with the species name, time and place of collection, and any other relevant information you may have on it.
This method, though similar, is actually very different from standard alcohol preservation. Standard alcohol preservation uses weaker alcohol and a water dilution. This method, due to the lack of oxygen, actually works better undiluted and with stronger alcohol.
If your first couple of specimens don’t come out ok, don’t get upset! It will take a little practice to get the method down just right, and things may work a little differently depending on the materials you’re using. It may also take some experimentation to figure out what preserves the best. Hard-shelled beetles? May not work so well. Super-fragile crane flies? Works very well!
One last thing... for my preservations, I only use bugs that have died naturally and dried out on their own. Sometimes I'll find one in a light fixture, or in a windowsill, but I NEVER kill a bug for these preservations. There's a lot of debate over how ethical it is to kill bugs for preservation, whether it's done so humanely or not. These are tough and complex issues, and it's up to you to decide how you feel about them. We aren't here to judge, just to make science more interesting and easier to understand.
How did your gel preservations turn out? Share your results with us in the comments below! Or share your pictures with us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. We love seeing how your projects turn out, and your input may help someone else be more successful in their attempts!
CJ w/ Children of Terra-NEO
|Posted on December 21, 2019 at 12:00 AM||comments (0)|
- Dress appropriately for the weather and take a short hike today. Detail your excursion in your journal.
- Have you noticed any winter berries or dormant seeds still hanging onto wild plants? Detail your observations
- Have you seen any cool or interesting ice structures this season? Detail one in your journal.
- Easy day! Take some time to observe nature today. Whether you take a walk or just view the nearest tree from out of a window, be sure to detail your observations.
- We've done this one before, but it's deeper into winter now. Take some time to detail the weather at a few different times throughout the day, as well as any significant changes in it.
- Do you have a pond or lake nearby? If so, see if there are any winter waterfowl living around it. Waterfowl or not, be sure to detail your observations.
- Saturday stargazing! Dress appropriately for the weather, head outside after dark, and observe the night sky. Detail your observations in your journal.
|Posted on December 13, 2019 at 8:30 AM||comments (0)|
All of the major winter holidays are right around the corner! Preparations for Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Yule, and so many more are underway! Don't let the hustle and bustle of the holiday season get in the way of your nature journaling, though! Here's the prompts for this week, to help you stay motivated and inspired to keep journaling through the chaos.
- During the winter, some animals change color. Have you noticed any animals like this in your area? If so, detail your observations. If not, write about what animals you think may change color for the winter and why.
- Winter breeding season begins for many species of owls soon. Have you seen any owls, or heard their calls at night? Detail your experience in your journal.
- Is it snowing by you? Take some time to observe the snow. Use a magnifying glass to examine flakes in closer detail. Write about your observations. If it's not snowing, write about the last time it snowed OR what you think snow is like if you've never experienced it.
- Some animals have ways to naturally handle the winter months. Try to observe a few, and detail what features makes them more suited to the cold and snow.
- Many birds are living in their summer homes down south. Detail what kind of bird you miss the most, and what you miss about it.
- Icicles are a common feature of winter. Find a few that look interesting to you and detail them in your journal.
- What kind of holiday-related environmental issues have you noticed in your town? Is there issues with litter from holiday gifts? Or an higher levels of CO2 emissions from everyone holiday shopping? Detail any issues you notice, as well as ways to help solve them.
|Posted on November 30, 2019 at 8:30 AM||comments (0)|
It's officially December! Winter weather is starting to set in, plants and animals are starting to go into their hibernation states, days are short, and holiday season is in full swing. With everything going on, in can be difficult to find the motivation or inspiration to write in your nature journal each day. That's why we have these prompts! Use these on days when you can't think of something to write or draw in your nature journal.
- Take some time to observe the weather a few different times throughout the day. Detail your observations, then compare them at the end of the day.
- Many birds have migrated south for the winter. For some, the northern US is south from their summer homes. For others, there's no need to migrate. What birds do you notice more in your area during the winter? Detail them in your journal
- Take a trip to a nearby tree whose species you don't yet know. Make detailed observations of it that may help you ID it later on. Bark texture, bud shape and location, and branch structure are good things to start with. Compare your observations against a field guide (physical book or online guide) and try to ID the tree.
- Just as with the animal world, not all plants go dormant for the winter. Find an wild winter plant, detail your observations, and try to ID it if you don't already know what kind of plant it is.
- December 5th is International Soil Day. Take some time to think about the soil in your town. Why is the soil important to your area? What can be done to improve the quality and health of the soil? What kind of soil do you have in your yard or neighborhood? To learn how to determine soil type, visit this link: https://www.childrenofterra.org/apps/blog/show/44766238-learning-about-soil-part-1-of-3
- Try to locate some animal tracks in the snow or mod in your town. Detail your observations, as well as what you think the tracks tell you about what the animal was doing when the tracks were left. Be sure to try drawing the tracks, as well!
- Saturday stargazing! If not for the cold, studying the stars can actually be easier during the winter for a number of reasons. Take advantage of the season, dress warm, head outside after dark, and spend some time observing the sky and detailing your observations.
|Posted on November 25, 2019 at 11:15 AM||comments (0)|
- Turkey season is in full swing! Have you ever seen a wild turkey? If not, how about a farmed turkey? Detail your observations in your journal. If you have seen both wild and farmed, you may want to detail the differences you noticed between the two.
- It's rutting season for many North American deer. Have you noticed any deer exhibiting courting behaviors? Have you noticed any bark rubbed off of trees at deer height? Detail your experiences and observations in your journal
- Preparations are underway for the coming holiday meal. Is there a dish in your family or group of friends that uses native or local ingredients? See if that person is willing to share the recipe with you. Detail the recipe and what you know about the local ingredients in your journal.
- Today has a lot of fun, stress, chaos, and joy in store. Even if you pick just one thing to observe and detail today, don't forget to spend some time with nature during this hectic holiday.
- Triptophan and melatonin are two natural compounds found in the food from yesterday that made you feel sleepy. Detail what you know about these chemicals. If you don't know much, take this opportunity to research them and detail the most interesting facts about them.
- As you well know by now, 'tis the season for eating! Many animals are bulking up to stay warm during the winter months, or to enter a state of hibernation. What animals have you noticed making preparations in your area? Have you noticed any animals looking heftier than they do in the warmer times of the year?
|Posted on November 19, 2019 at 10:20 PM||comments (0)|
They have been worshipped as the homes of the gods. They have been studied by a wide range of scientific minds, from geologists to microbiologists. They can destroy and create. Volcanoes are extreme features on our landscapes, and the though the processes that control them are relatively well understood, there’s still so much we don’t know about them. Even less is known about oceanic volcanoes, due to the difficulty of studying them in extreme underwater environments. One thing that is known, however, is how they commonly form.
Terrestrial, or land-based, volcanoes usually form at or near an area where tectonic plates meet. These plates, which make up the crust of the earth that we live on, kind of float and slide on a layer of molten magma. As these plates pull apart, it allows enough space for some of this magma to reach the surface. As this magma slowly cools, it forms rock, and continues building into a large mass. That mass is the volcano. Under the ocean, though, there isn’t much to support the weight of the ocean floor when the plates come apart like there is with land. When this happens, the sea floor caves into a chasm and allows a crazy amount of water to rush in and start cooling magma. As the magma rises from under the plates and meets the cool water, it hardens into rock and grows into a volcano that way.
If this all seems a bit complicated, that’s because it is. Geology, plate tectonics, and volcanology can all be very complex subjects. Don’t fret, though! There’s an easy way to understand this concept, and you probably have all the materials to do so at home. Let’s make an underwater volcano!
What you will need:
- 2 glass containers (one smaller than the other)
- A candle
- Candle Wax
- Something heat-proof to suspend one container over another (we just used two long nails)
What to do:
In the smaller container, you’re going to need two layers. In the bottom, place a layer of candle wax. Shredded or chunked wax works best. This wax will represent your magma. The next layer will be sand. This sand represents the sea floor, and helps to hold your buoyant candle wax down at the bottom. Fill the rest of the container with room temperature water. In the larger container, place a lit candle, which will represent the heat from the deep earth. Suspend the smaller container over the flame in the larger container, and wait.
Over time, you will notice the wax start to melt and work its way through the sand. Eventually, part of the sand should collapse and the “magma” should shoot up into the water, cooling almost instantly and forming “rock”. If you need to speed things up a bit, you can carefully poke a hole down through the sand with a pencil. Be sure to record your observations throughout the process.
Safety first! Keep in mind, you’re working with open flame, hot wax, and possibly violent eruptions. Be sure to take the appropriate precautions and wear proper safety gear.
While pretty much any candle wax will work (or even crayons), we happened to have some extra red wax. This helped create a nice visual, magma like effect.
How did your volcano turn out? How long did it take to erupt? Tell us about your project in the comments, or on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.
CJ w/ Children of Terra-NEO
Sciencing-How underwater volcanoes work
Science Struck-How underwater volcanoes are formed
Geology-Types of Volcanic Eruptions
|Posted on November 18, 2019 at 10:50 PM||comments (0)|
Proteins are essential for life as we know it. They are the building blocks of muscle and are essential to healthy brain function. Every animal we know of need protein in some form. What is this super important thing though? Well first off, protein isn’t a singular thing. They do all have an amino acid structure in common though-that is, they are made of organic compounds. These compounds usually consist of things like carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, sulfur, and other elements.
Some of these elements form bonds with each other, leaving the protein structure looking sort of like a hair scrunchy that went through the washer. But that’s ok! It’s this scrunched up structure that helps the protein function properly and protect important parts inside. When a protein denatures, or when it loses its natural structure, it unravels and stops working. Generally, when a protein denatures, it means those bonds that hold it together were broken.
Let’s learn more about this concept by actually denaturing some proteins!
What you’ll need:
- 4 Test Tubes (or other glass, heat safe containers)
- Rubbing Alcohol
- Room temperature water
- Boiling Water
- Egg Whites
- Clear Tape
- Medicine Syringe (or other measuring device)
First, use the clear tape and marker to label each tube. One will be the control, one will be room temperature water, one will be boiling water, and one will be rubbing alcohol. In the control tube, add 12ml egg whites. This tube will show you what unchanged egg whites will look like, and will be used to compare against the other tubes.
Next, add 12ml each of the other fluids to their corresponding tubes. Using a clean syringe, add 4ml of egg white to all four tubes. You should notice an immediate reaction in at least one of your tubes. Record your observations over the next five minutes or so. Let your experiment continue on its own for about half an hour. Come back and record any new changes you can observe.
Most of the proteins in egg whites are held together through hydrogen bonds. When exposed to the heat of boiling water, those bonds break pretty quickly and the protein denatures. This method of denaturing the egg white proteins is the same method we use to cook them!
Rubbing alcohol breaks those same bonds, but it will take longer to fully denature the proteins in the egg white. Unlike heat, alcohol needs time to work its way through the egg whites and react with the proteins.
You may notice a little bit of denaturing happen in the room temperature water, which is likely due to the proteins being a bit too close to their denaturing temperature.
A small volume of boiling water may cool too quickly to properly denature the proteins. You may want to keep a larger container of boiling water to soak your boiling water tube in, exposing more of the egg whites to the heat.
I would strongly recommend a stronger rubbing alcohol (such as 91% isopropyl). The stronger the alcohol, the stronger the reaction will be.
If you are having trouble getting any of your solutions to react with the egg whites, don’t be afraid to swirl the tubes around or even stir them up. Just be sure to use a separate utensil for each tube to stir, or to wash your utensil between containers.
How did your experiment turn out? What did you learn about proteins? Let us know in the comments below, or find us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram and share your results!
CJ w/ Children of Terra-NEO
LiveScience: What is a protein
The Free Dictionary: Scientific Control
Worthington Biochem: Ovalbumin
Chemistry Views: Proteins Present in Egg Whites
|Posted on November 17, 2019 at 12:00 AM||comments (0)|
The prompts for this week will take you from the ground, to the sky, and beyond! These prompts are here to help you stay inspired while keeping a nature journal, because sometimes the motivation can be hard to find.
- Find a tree that hasn't lost it's leaves for the fall, whether it be decidous or evergreen. Examine the tree and detail your observations.
- Do you have any indoor plants? If so, pick one to examine and detail your observations in your journal. If you don't have any indoor plants, detail what kind of plant you'd like to get, and make plans to do so.
- What cultures are native to your area? How do you think the ancestors of these cultures survived living off of the land?
- Do you think where you grew up had an effect on your view of nature? Why or why not? Detail your thoughts in your journal.
- If you could go on a eco-tourist vacation, where would you go and why? Imagine you had no restrictions on where it could be, and cost was not a concern.
- Try to find a decidous tree that has lost all of its leaves. Examine the tree and detail your observations.
- Saturday stargazing! Take a trip outside after the sun has set and turn your eyes to the sky. What stars can you see? What artificial features can you see (planes, sattelites, etc.)? What phase is the moon in? Detail your observations.