Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Birding with Kids

Bird watching is a great way for kids to become aware of birds. Birds can be found anywhere, all year round. Gather the basic gear—a field notebook, a field guide, and binoculars, if you have them—and go outside.

Bird behavior is fascinating to children and adults. Different species have definite and recognizable behaviors. Some bird behaviors are so species-specific that one can identify a bird on location and behavior description alone.

Weekly migration forecasts are available from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s  BirdCast project to help you know what to look for and which days to go out. Have kids observe and record what they see in several different habitats and make comparisons.

Wildlife professionals inventory wildlife populations to gather information about the number and kinds of wildlife in a given area. Use Project WILD’s “Bird Song Survey” to give your students experience inventory a local bird population.
Apps for Birding with Kids
Because of the simple, user-friendly interface, birding becomes both easy and fun. To identify a bird, Merlin first asks five questions – when, where, size, color, and activity of the bird observed. Using eBird data, Merlin then gives the most common species around you who fit the criteria provided. It also provides 1,000+ photo resources, tips from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s expert birders, and bird sounds from the Cornell Lab’s Macaulay Library. Cost: Free for iOS and Android users.
BirdsEye Bird Finding Guide*
Information and population statistics on 1,000+  birds across North America. View seasonal populations, current lists of birds reported near your location and notifications of when rare birds are observed in your area. Open up the “Browse by Location tab in the app to view checklists that were recently submitted in nearby areas. Cost: Free for iOS and Android users.
Useful Websites

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Join the Iowa DNR at the 2016 Iowa State Fair

Stop by the Iowa DNR building to see the Iowa fish in the historic aquarium, have your questions answered, and take in a presentation in the beautiful courtyard.

Check out these presentations (the whole courtyard schedule is available at iowadnr.gov/IowaStateFair):

Thursday, August 11
Get Active, Get Healthy, Get Outdoors!

We’re kicking off our the fair at the DNR Building with a Q&A session with DNR Director Chuck Gipp in the morning, followed by several other events throughout the day. In the afternoon, bring the kids to the DNR courtyard to craft tools for your aspiring nature detectives.

Friday, August 12
Bring Nature to your Backyard

What’s all the buzz about pollinators? Join us on Friday to find out. Whether you’re listening to State Forester Paul Tauke field questions, or making seed bombs to attract pollinators to your backyard, be prepared to learn about Iowa’s little wonders.

Saturday, August 13
Come Fish with Us

Fishing Day in the courtyard begins with a question and answer session with Fisheries Bureau Chief Joe Larscheid, followed by an instructional presentation for kids who want to learn to fish. In the afternoon, you can get the scoop on primitive fish or get a close up look at real Iowa turtles.

Sunday, August 14
Wild in Iowa

With appearances from live trumpeter swans and Iowa’s reptiles and amphibians, Sunday will be a wild day in the courtyard. At noon, join us for an activity teaching kids the best and safest ways to bring wildlife to your backyard.

Monday, August 15
Taking to the Field

Monday is the day of the hunt. Come by the courtyard to pick up information and expertise on a variety of hunting topics. Whether you’re training a new hunting dog, looking for the perfect hunting spot, or hoping to cook wild game of your own, find what you’re looking for here on Monday.

Tuesday, August 16
Iowa’s Habitat Heroes

We have a responsibility to respect and protect our natural habitats. Visit the DNR building for information on the newest and brightest ways of looking after Iowa’s natural wonders.  Celebrate Iowa’s tradition of responsibly managing our resources and hear about the next steps we can take as community to continue this cause.

Wednesday, August 17
Conservation Leaders Past and Present

With a highlight on the Civilian Conservation Corps, Wednesday will honor the accomplishments of Iowa’s great conservationists. At noon, enjoy the presentation of Eagle Scout projects in our courtyard, followed by a presentation on Ding Darling, famed Iowa cartoonist and conservation leader.

Thursday, August 18
Spend S’more Time in State Parks

Pick up some tips and tricks to getting the most from your local state park all day. Starting off with a Q&A from State Park Chief Todd Coffelt, Thursday is for everyone from State Park enthusiasts to future visitors. Don’t miss a dialogue about natural ways of warding off pesky mosquitoes at 1 p.m.

Friday, August 19
Come Fish with Us

The art of fishing is as intricate it is enticing, so come by on Friday for a second helping of fishing guidance and encouragement. Fisheries Bureau Chief Joe Larscheid returns for another discussion in the morning, and be sure to check out the live turtles native to Iowa in the afternoon. Kids are encouraged to join us at 11 a.m. for more fishing basics.

Saturday, August 20

Junk becomes art! In the morning, take part in a Q&A with Land Quality Bureau Chief Alex Moon. Give old stuff a breath of new life with crafty activities that upcycle junk to treasure for both kids and adults all day until 4 in the DNR courtyard.

Sunday, August 21
EXTREME Outdoors

Our final day will consist of educating the public on the extreme outdoors. Come by at noon to begin your quest to become a citizen scientist for Iowa’s resources. Join us anytime between 11-3 to take part in the adventure of building beautiful birdhouses.

Monday, August 08, 2016

Teaching Environmental Sustainability-Model My Watershed Workshop

The Teaching Environmental Sustainability: Model My Watershed (TES-MMW) project, funded by the National Science Foundation, teaches a systems approach to problem solving through modeling and hands-on activities based on local watershed data and issues. Middle and high school students will act in their communities while engaging in solving problems they find interesting.

Participants and their students will use free portal-based activities that employ maps and models to study their own school’s watershed; teachers will participate in a face-to-face teacher workshop, two online courses for teachers and a 2-3 week unit of study with their students during the 2016-17 academic year, and follow-up 1 day teacher workshop in summer 2017. TES-MMW activities support NGSS and Math Common Core.  Teachers will receive a $1000 stipend for participating. 

This program is for Iowa  middle and high school science teachers whose curriculum includes watershed studies, and who are willing and available to participate in all TES-MMW workshop and online activities that include:

·      2 -1 1/2 day workshop (3 day equivalent) at Heartland AEA in Johnston Friday evening Sept. 23 , Saturday Sept. 24,  the evening of Nov. 4 and Saturday Nov. 5 (travel costs reimbursed by grant, total of 32 hours of work).

·    2016-17 academic year: 2 online courses for teachers (15 hours of time for each course); and a 2-3 week unit of study (9-15 class periods of activities) with your students.

·    1 day of follow-up activities in summer 2017 (date TBD). 
·    Completion of all research activities required for NSF funding
Applications are due Sept. 9, 2016. For more information contact Rob Kleinow at rkleinow@heartlandaea.org.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Becoming Wildlife Scientists

Wildlife scientists study wildlife to learn how they live and interact with the environment. These scientists may focus on one wildlife species or a group of species during their studies. They record observations made with their senses and other tools.

Help your kids become wildlife scientists. Lead our students on a walk in the neighborhood around your school or building or a nearby park to look for wildlife. Encourage students that to use their eyes and ears to watch and listen for any signs of animal life (animal movement, calls, tracks, tunnels, droppings, etc.).

Ask students record their observations.
Where do you see wild animals?
What are the animals doing?
How do the animals react?
What signs of animals do you see?

Encourage students to pretend they are trying to observe wildlife in different habitats like wildlife scientists do.
  • crawl through a small cave to observe a bat
  • wade through a marsh to get closer to a beaver’s dam
  • hike through woods thick with trees and vines looking for a woodpecker

Helpful Websites

Famous Wildlife Biologists
Iowa Public Television: The Fisheries Biologist

Missouri Department of Conservation - Conservation Career: Wildlife Biologist
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks: State Wildlife Biologist
PBS Kids - Real Scientists: Wildlife Biologist
Wildlife Biologist Profile

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Exploring Iowa’s Natural Resources On-line Course (K-12 Educators)

September 18, 2016 – January 15, 2017
The goal of this course is to help you utilize a STEM-based approach that incorporates local natural resources as unifying themes to implement Iowa Core concepts in your curriculum. You will work in small groups and individually to create a network of contacts and resources to teach natural resource concepts. Group and individual assignments will build on each other throughout the course.

Participants will build a project-based learning unit for their personal teaching situation, so you can immediately incorporate the course resources and tactics into your teaching.

Registration deadline is September 11, 2016  - you must register electronically (Activity #: 22007499991701). Registration fee: $175 (3 license renewal credits); $395.00 (3 Drake graduate credits). This course is being offered by AEA PD Online, a joint initiative by all of Iowa's Area Education Agencies. This course therefore uses AEA PD Online's alternative fee schedule for license renewal and graduate credit. Transcripts and credit will be issued by AEA PD Online instead of Heartland AEA.
For more information, contact: Barb.Gigar@dnr.iowa.gov; 515-494-3891.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Celebrating Iowa Catfish

Celebrate National Catfish Day (June 25) by learning more about Iowa’s most abundant and widely distributed sport fish.
Catfish are opportunistic bottom feeders that are active at night. They eat all types of living or dead animal and plant material and are most often attracted to odoriferous or "smelly" morsels of food. They depend heavily on their sense of smell and taste to locate food.
Their characteristic barbels are highly sensitive to touch and contain taste buds as well. Catfish have taste receptors all over their bodies. It has been estimated that an adult bullhead has perhaps 100,000 nerve sensory sites on its body.

Iowa Catfish
channel catfish: abundant in most Iowa rivers and have been stocked in nearly all lakes and reservoirs; spawn in the late spring and summer in secluded, often enclosed, places along the bank or bottom – the male guards the eggs until they hatch; eat at all times, but are most aggressive night; an important part of the commercial fishery catch in the Mississippi River

flathead catfish: one of the largest catfish- commonly reach twenty pounds; a "big-water" fish found mainly in the border rivers and large interior rivers; usually in deep pools with mud bottoms; spawn in secluded hides during June and July – build nests and guard the eggs and young; feed mostly at night; an important part of the commercial fishery catch in the Mississippi River

blue catfish: primarily a “big river” fish; spawn in June and early July – construct nests similar to those of channel catfish; omnivorous and eat everything that is available; adults weighing up to 20 or 25 pounds are common

black bullhead: most common of the three bullhead species; abundant in most natural lakes and some man-made lakes; spawns in May or early June usually in weedy or muddy shallow areas; strictly omnivorous – eating nearly every conceivable thing in the water

yellow bullhead: found in clear streams, rivers, overflow pools, lakes and reservoirs; prefers streams with permanent flow, but avoids strong currents; spawns in May and early June in water from 1 1/2 to 4 feet in depth - nests are constructed by the male and the female deposits 2,000 to 7,000 eggs

brown bullhead: found in swamps, ponds, inland pools, lakes, reservoirs, impoundments, and the backwaters and tributaries of larger rivers; prefers clear, cool, well-vegetated waters with bottoms of sand, gravel or dark muck; spawns early in the spring, usually late April or May - male fish fan out a saucer-shaped nest in the mud or nests in natural cavities where the female deposits eggs; feed eagerly on nearly anything available, either living or dead - travel in schools and feed on or near the bottom; seem to be hungry at all times of the day and night

tadpole madtom: found in large interior rivers and the Mississippi River; females usually mate several times during the June through July breeding period; most active at night – eats insects and occasionally algae and other aquatic plants; have a poison gland at the base of the pectoral fin that secretes a mild but painful venom when danger is threatened

slender madtom: found in major tributary streams of the Mississippi River; live entirely in riffle areas of small or medium size streams

stone cat: largest of the madtoms; found in swift-flowing streams; spawns in the spring in areas of darkness, such as under rocks or in bank hides - builds a nest and guards the eggs and young; prefer stream riffle habitats, but are also found under rocks or weedy shorelines of lakes and ponds

freckled madtom:  an endangered species - added to Iowa’s species list in 1984; prefers medium-sized creeks to large rivers of low to moderate gradient with clear to moderate turbidity and silty-gravel or sand-gravel substrates; often found in riffles and pools where organic debris such as leaves or twigs tend to accumulate

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Trees For Kids Grant Available For Fall

Trees For Kids grant applications are now available for the fall 2016 grant cycle. The Trees For Kids grant program is designed to provide hands-on educational opportunities for Iowa youth by planting trees on school grounds and other public places. 

Iowa DNR forestry staff are currently setting up site visits with schools and communities interested in applying for the grant, which pays up to $5,000 in tree and mulch cost, and provides educational tree planting demonstrations to participating adults and youth.

This past spring, 20 schools and/or communities received more than $62,000 in Trees For Kids grants to plant more than 900 trees around the state. Over the life of these trees, they will save more than 310,000 kilowatt hours of electricity by shading buildings and more than 68,000 therms, by slowing winds and reducing building heat loss. 

During their lifespan, the 900 trees planted this spring will help reduce flooding by intercepting more than 39.8 million gallons of storm water, and will reduce more than 5.3 million pounds of atmospheric carbon dioxide through CO2 sequestration and decreased energy production needs and emissions. 

Trees planted around schools and in neighborhoods have also shown to give youth increased levels of concentration, lower levels of aggression, lower levels of obesity and fewer symptoms of ADHD.  Communities are made more livable by having a healthy, diverse tree canopy. 

To download the grant application, go to:  http://www.iowadnr.gov/Environment/Forestry/UrbanForestry.aspx

For more information, contact Laura Wagner, Iowa Department of Natural Resources Forestry Bureau, at 515-725-8456.