Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Summertime Science Roundup!

We're back from our travels and so are lots of our friends. So many of you found amazing science as you roamed! Including:

Photo by Amy Sirot

Alex and Ben, who went to Vancouver, BC with their parents earlier in August and found this Pacific Banana Slug. Banana Slugs can grow up to 10 inches long! And believe it or not, they are mollusks. That means they are related to such sea creatures as oysters and clams. And it also means that they like it wet; when temperatures get hot, they hibernate. Some people think Banana Slugs are gross. But like everything that lives, they play an important role in life on Earth. They help decompose dead plant matter, and they also disperse seeds from the plants they eat.

Photo by Laura Sainz

In July, Lea and her mom found lots of beautiful mushrooms on a hike they took along the Long Pond Trail of the Willowemoc Wild Forest in Upstate New York. Including the one in the picture above. This is a bracket fungus—meaning, it grows like a shelf on dead or dying trees, helping to decompose them. This one might be a Chicken of the Woods, or Sulfur Shelf, which is very common in the Northeast of the US. But as with all mushrooms, it is impossible to identify it just from a photograph. Even experts use many methods for identification, including its color, where the mushroom is growing, and the color of its spores.

Photo by Monica Gutierrez-Kirwan

Cian and his mom found this enormous (and sadly, dying) dragonfly in Brooklyn. It is probably a kind of Darner—among the largest dragonflies around, with wingspans measuring almost 5 inches! These enormous insects were all over the city this summer, startling pedestrians as they zipped and zoomed over sidewalks and through traffic and often becoming trapped inside stores and apartments. Darners can fly extremely high in the air. They are also considered predatory; they eat termites and ants. 

Finally, Ada and I saw hundreds of these butterflies at her grandfather's house in Putnam County, NY. Oddly, they are both Eastern Tiger Swallowtails, even though their colors are reversed. You can find them all over the Northeastern US from Spring to Fall. They lay 3 separate broods in this time. Like bees, they are pollinators. Here they are drinking nectar from a butterfly bush, and pollinating it at the same time. My favorite fun fact about butterflies is that their coloring actually comes from thousands of tiny scales that line the surface of their wings!

Did you find any cool science on your adventures this summer? Write in and let me know!

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