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Friday, October 7, 2011

CON 236: Wetland Mammals FLCC

On October 18th, my Wetland Mammals class will be presenting the results of their field studies (in C231 @ 1230 sharp for those of you that are local... pizza! soda! great presentations!). Consider this a preview post of things to come....

CON 236: Wetland Mammals is structured around the use of our Muller Field Station south of Honeoye Lake. The class meets for a three-hour introductory session the first Friday evening of the semester. Activities run from the mundane (planning a menu, explaining the logistics of overnights at the field station, etc) to the academic (basic tracks and trails lecture, defining a wetland, assigning journal readings). Our next meeting is a very full weekend at the Muller Field Station (MFS). After Friday's dinner, we meet in the great room for a review of the weekend's schedule and our first lecture. The course focuses on four wetland mammals: beaver, muskrat, river otter and mink. We have all four species at the station and in the surrounding State land.

On Saturday morning, we are out the door before dawn. We car pool to the parking area South of the station and walk the channel trail back. This gives us a chance to look for wetland mammals and their sign. Of course, we stop for other things as well. This year's hike yielded wood ducks, fresh bear scat and a nice deer carcass. We found two active beaver dams as well as many other signs. Students are given a checklist of the four wetland mammals and their associated sign. By the end of the hike we had tallied such highlights as muskrat feeding sign, river otter scat, beaver scent mound, and the elusive mink itself!

After breakfast, Sasha conducts a short canoe safety and use lesson and we are off to explore the area North of the station. We bring Cuddeback cameras with us and students try their hand at setting camera traps. The cameras will only remain until the following morning. Saturday rounds off with river otter scat dissection, a beaver natural history lecture, the basics of the scientific method, an evening canoe (beaver tail slapping!), journal article sharing and the creation of groups. Each group of three is charged with brainstorming a field study question they would like to explore. Each group is given two Cuddeback Capture cameras, use of the canoes, a variety of scents and lures and two weeks to collect data.

(Richmond, NY 9/2011)
On Sunday, we collect the cameras during our early paddle. We get some interesting results including this beaver and a raccoon imitating a muskrat :) . The rest of the day is much of a repeat of Saturday with lecture, field work and students working in groups. By the middle of the afternoon, we are ready to meet at the pond and have each group present their ideas for a field study. The ideas are great and we approve all projects with only minor suggestions. By 4pm, the cameras are deployed and the station is clean. Ten cameras are now our eyes in the swamp for the next 12 days.

(Richmond, NY 9/2011)

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