Dinosaur Snowflakes

DinoSnow

Want to make your own Dinosaur Snowflakes? (Ok, one is a trilobite, not a dinosaur. But trilobites are just as cool.) Patterns are available online – they’re free!  Enjoy!

I created these patterns for Darwin Day fun at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences. What a great way to celebrate Darwin’s Birthday!

Is Your Favorite Animal a WUG?

AnimDiversity_RNG

Think of your favorite animal. Is it warm and fuzzy? Or fine and feathered?

Many people think of “animals” as mammals, birds, or reptiles. Occasionally a fish, crustacean, or insect will creep in there. But, let’s face it, our view of animals is limited.

Children reflect this discrepancy when asked to draw a picture of a habitat. For instance, Snaddon et al. (2008) found that children drew ~75% mammals, birds, and reptiles in their portrayals of a rainforest. In reality, rainforest animals are 90% insects.

The rainforest isn’t unique. Most animals are insects (beetles, to be specific). It makes the Victorian hobby of beetle-collecting seem a little more understandable now.

And the Nematodes! Nematodes (roundworms) make up a surprisingly high percentage of animal species. Scoop up a trowel-full of soil from your yard, and you’re likely to have thousands upon thousands of nematodes in there.

If we can get children to understand that ecosystems, like rainforests, contain more animals than just vertebrates (and plants too!), the consequences include a better understanding of ecosystem functions and conservation issues.

So introduce yourself and your children to insects and worms (sometimes called “wugs” – worms and bugs). Attend insect-related events at a museum, make insect-face masks for play, visit natural environments, sow insect-promoting native plants (and keep careful track of all the worms in the ground), or tend an insect or worm as a pet for a couple days.

Maybe your new favorite animal won’t have fur or feathers.

 

Snaddon JL, Turner EC, Foster WA (2008) Children’s Perceptions of Rainforest Biodiversity: Which Animals Have the Lion’s Share of Environmental Awareness? PLoS ONE 3(7): e2579. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0002579

Spring has SPRUNG!

daffodilDaffodils (Narcissus poeticus) bring true joy to the winter-weary world.
But after a few moments of appreciation, what does a biologist do? Dissect it!

The showy parts of the plant consist of tepals (the petal-like structures) and a corona (the trumpet-shaped form that defines a daffodil). Growing from the center of the flower are the stamen with pollen-laden anthers and the style, leading down to the ovary.

If you decide to dissect your own daffodils, wash your hands afterward. The plants contain a mildly toxic substance – mostly to fend off herbivores like deer or insects. And if you just want to admire cut daffodils on your coffee table, keep them in their own vase. That toxin can harm other flowers too.

That daffodil is no pansy!

Mushroom Mania

mushroomsFound all these mushrooms on a recent walk through Umstead Park.

Did you know that mushrooms aren’t the actual “body” of the fungus? They’re the fungus’ reproductive structure. The real “body” grows through the soil or logs in bazillions of microscopic filaments.

If you want to how many spores each mushroom releases, put a mushroom cap on a piece of paper and let it dry. The spores will fall out and make a “spore print”. Prepare to be amazed!!!