Well its been nearly 2 months since I last posted. Apparently teaching a class in addition to a full time job, while starting a large research project, takes up quite a bit of time. Also it being winter it has been a bit hard finding biodiversity, so here are some pics of traces of biodiversity. I know critters are around, they are just harder to see and come by.
The top pic is of some white-tail deer poop and the bottom pic is of some squirrel poop. I was actually pretty excited to see the squirrel poop, for all the years that my bird feeders have become squirrel feeders, I never really came across squirrel poop, until last month!
A lot can be learned from scat, the scientific word for poop. Most interestingly for me is the ability to extract DNA from scat , so that conservation geneticists can learn about a species they are studying. Plus, as we found in some of our work the amount of DNA released by fish, that can be picked up by environmental DNA (eDNA) methods , varies with how much the eat....and thus....poop.
This weeks Backyard Biodiversity post is...no not me...and not my dog, whose nose you can see....., it is something you cannot see....its the cold virus. Don't let my smile fool you. I feel crappy! Thanks cold #virus! Viruses, are they a life form or not? That's the big debate. They have #DNA or other genetic material and can reproduce, but they do not have a cellular structure and have no metabolism, instead they take over MY cells and use MY cells' metabolism to create more of themselves, disgusting but genius. Meanwhile I feel crappy and my dog wonders why I am not out playing with her. I'd write more about them, but I don't feel much up to it, maybe when I get over this cold.
Again, I have surprised myself in finding winter biodiversity....or at least that which I can take a relatively decent camera phone picture of. This weeks post is the American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos, a highly social and adaptable bird found throughout most of the U.S., with the exception of the desert southwest. During the winter crows will get together in large communal roosts, however, they continue to defend their territory where they spend the rest of the year. Family groups are common, with young crows helping their parent raise the young of that year. Crows are crafty and intelligent, making and using tools to get food. Check out the Cornell Lab of Ornithology for more bird facts and information. For more info on bird intelligence check out: https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2018/03/year-of-the-bird-brains-intelligence-smarts.
I though it might be a bit tough to come up with a #backyardbiodiversity post for each week during the winter. But look what the cat dragged in....not literally. There has been a mouse in our house for the past month, and live traps did not get him. My cat Marm is more interested in the chase rather than the capture, but she is a good mouse tracker, I could always tell when the mouse was out and about. Well on Monday the mouse ran out from underneath the oven and into one of our small bedrooms and Marm followed. After securing the facilities, I was able to trick the mouse into running into a cardboard box and quickly covered the top. I then released him into the woods out behind our house, and I've been leaving a pile of sunflower seeds near the release site, hoping he decides to stay outside.
I ID'd him as a deermouse with the help of iNaturalist, it was either a deermouse (Peromyscus maniculatus) or a white-footed mouse (P. leucopus). The pics were not good enough to discern the coloration on the tail for a better ID. Both species are common and found throughout North America. According to the internet (sorry not my best lit search skills today) there are either 56 subspecies or 56 species of deermice in North America, either way that's a lot of variation.
How do scientist determine a subspecies versus a species? Ha ha, that discussion is for another post.
As a side note, my pics for this backyard biodiversity series are supposed to be mostly from my phone camera. I aim to get as good of a picture as I can which can be quite tricky not using a regular camera. The close up pics of this mouse are OK, but not as in focus as I would like. And the subjects are any species that I find during my usual wanderings (either at home or in town).
I've been moving all my old laptop computer files to a new desktop, including my old iphoto libraries. Moving from a mac to a pc. Now I am going through all my photos from > 10 years ago to present....yowsers the memories....most of them good :)
It also give me an excuse because I'm trying to look for a good photo of myself in the field, doing fieldy things b/c I am teaching a class this semester and wanted to share.
I haven't found one yet, but here is a super adorable pic of my cat marmalade with a ruffle on, looking like the lion she is, and George Schaller's lions (see book behind her).