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Amazing Arachnids

This week’s blog was written by Paige F., a Bass alumni. She shares some fascinating facts about arachnids.

With fangs, eight legs, and numerous sets of eyes, spiders are one of the most feared creatures, and while some of this fear is deserved, much of it is misplaced. Spiders are arachnids, sharing the category with mites, scorpions, and ticks, they all have two body segments and eight legs. Spiders have many amazing adaptations as well, namely their silk-spinning glands. While it is quite well known that spiders use their silk to spin webs to catch prey, they can use it for many other purposes such as wrapping up prey for later, creating egg cases, and even traveling. If a strand of spider silk was made to be as thick as a rope, then it would be even stronger than steel, yet still flexible. The impressive qualities of spider silk are why many scientists work to create it artificially.

A spider sits on its web, waiting for an unsuspecting insect.

They have a set of fangs known as chelicerae that they use to inject venom and a pair of arm-like appendages known as pedipalps. The pedipalps can be used to hold prey while the spiders eat. The hairs on some species act as a way of hearing, by sensing vibrations, and a defense that can deter predators. In the case of very few, the hairs can be ejected as another defensive attack. Spiders are one of the best when it comes to keeping pests to a minimum. Their webs catch a menu of the insects that may otherwise eat crops or plants in gardens. Once a spider catches an insect, they inject it with digestive fluids or enzymes to break it down into a liquid that they can drink. Rather than just sitting and waiting on a web, some spiders will chase down their prey and inject them with a venom when caught. This venom will paralyze the prey and is also the reason that spider bites will swell or have adverse effects. Most people fear the bites of these spiders, the fear is deserved when it comes to some sources with deadly bites, but for the majority, there isn’t anything to fear. Almost every spider would rather run than fight and when they do bite it’s out of self-defense. Only three species out of the 37 found in Pennsylvania are dangerous and may cause severe reactions.

This is not a spider and is actually a one of the species of harvestmen, also know as daddy long legs.

In the end, it’s a much better idea to allow spiders the ability to build their webs, especially if they are in a place that’s rarely visited. The spiders are very beneficial with their pest control and have amazing adaptations.

The photos used in this blog belong to the author.

Exploring Hawk Mountain

This week’s blog was written by Jocelyn G., a Drummers alumni. She shared what she learned on her visit to Hawk Mountain.

Hawk Mountain is a global leader in raptor conservation science. They have educational programs and there are many amazing hiking trails. Recently I went hiking there, it was a great experience, and I wanted to share what I learned about Hawk Mountain.

This is a picture of one of the trail maps along one of the hiking trails.

Hawk Mountain was founded in 1943 to stop the excessive hunting of raptors passing through the Kittatinny Ridge. Each year 3,000-5,000 birds were killed. A woman named Rosalie Edge saw the impact of this and wanted to help conserve these raptors and keep them from going extinct.

Each lookout has a different name with a sign by the entrance.
You will find many different lookouts along the hiking trails.
Here is the view from one of the lookouts along the hiking trails.

Now at Hawk Mountain, they are doing many groundbreaking studies. Each day they have counters stationed at different points on the mountain, they keep track of the birds spotted and record the information. These counters come from all over the world to participate in the studies going on at Hawk Mountain. Hawk Mountain works with other organizations around the world to track many different types of raptors. For example, they are working with the Endangered Wildlife Trust in South Africa to study the migratory patterns of many different types of raptors. This is just one example of a collaboration going on at Hawk Mountain.

Here is the view from the North Lookout at Hawk Mountain.

In conclusion, if you’re ever out in Kempton PA I would strongly suggest visiting Hawk Mountain for a day. Who knows, maybe you will even spot a raptor at the North lookout!

The photos used in this blog belong to the author.

Wildlife in Your Own Backyard

This week’s blog was written by Francesca R., a Drummers alumni. She shares tips on how to create a wildlife-friendly backyard.

Taking care of wildlife may seem tough sometimes. One may even feel overwhelmed with the thought of all that needs to be done for the environment, but, luckily, there are many little ways we can change not only the welfare of nature around us but the way we look at helping out the natural world.

Actually, starting with simply your own backyard to create a wildlife-friendly environment and creating a peaceful environment for you and other species of plants and animals, according to many resources such as the US National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health, can greatly improve your health and stress levels.

Deer Enjoying the Backyard

Therefore, how does one make their backyard wildlife affable? The following are some ways to change your backyard and, essentially your way of living for the better:

1) Plant native annuals and perennial flowers, but avoid planting invasive species in your garden. Invasive species can be destructive to many different plants and animals in the area, so think about planting flowers and plants that wildlife in your area uses healthily. Also, many colorful plants attract butterflies and bees, which are incredibly good for the environment.

2)”BEE” nice to bees (see what I did there?). When you see a bee, do not try to shoo it away. Actually, bees will not be inclined to sting if it does not feel threatened, so, as long as you mind your own business, bees and humans could live together peacefully.

3)Try skipping the pesticides… seriously. Not only are these harmful for plants and bugs but for animals who are just looking for food. Try using organic lawn and garden treatments instead.

4) Get a birdbath. Believe it or not, they really do help birds, bats, and other animals. Clean water is extremely important to all living things, not just us.

5) Keep a couple of dead trees in your yard if you are able and it is safe. Dead trees and tree trunks act as homes for many animals like owls, wrens, and some insects. Much of wildlife use cover and shelter to take care of young and breed. Trees provide homes for many of these adorable creatures!

6) Includes rocks in your garden. Rocks help amphibians, snakes, and other little critters in finding a safe place to live. Rocks also look nice in a place where there a lot of colors because it creates a buffer instead of color clashing.

Most of all, find humane and kind solutions to any problems that may arise with animals. Being kind to and coexisting with the natural world not only makes us feel better mentally and physically, but it also helps the planet Earth in the long run.

The photo used in this blog belongs to the author.

The Importance of Field Work in Conservation

This week’s blog was written by Emma O., a Drummers alumni. She shares the wonderful opportunities that working with the Pennsylvania Governor’s Youth has brought her.

One of my favorite aspects of the Wildlife Leadership Academy–besides attending field school and completing Outreach–is taking advantage of the many opportunities that the organization provides for alumni. Last summer, for example, I applied to the Pennsylvania Governor’s Youth Council for Hunting, Fishing, and Conservation. I had first heard mention of the organization in one of the Wildlife Leadership Academy’s monthly Outreach Observer emails; upon researching it further, I knew I wanted to become a member. By the end of the summer, this dream came true!

The Pennsylvania Governor’s Youth Council for Hunting, Fishing, and Conservation’s goals include developing strategies to engage and educate youth across the Commonwealth in the conservation of Pennsylvania’s natural resources, as well as to convey related recommendations to the Governor and the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ secretary.

Here is a “family photo” of the Youth Council!

One of the main reasons why I wanted to be appointed to the Youth Council was because I am highly interested in environmental policy and legislation, and I wanted to gain more experience in this field through working with various governmental departments. Although I have certainly attained experience in this area throughout the several months that I have been an appointee, I have learned more about another area of conservation that I did not expect to–fieldwork.

I was so excited that we were able to handle the snakes that Dr. Delis caught!

At our most recent meeting in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, the Youth Council completed about the same amount of fieldwork as we did environmental policy work. After meeting with both the Adult and Youth Councils to discuss our goals for the year, we ventured outdoors to go on a “herpetology walk” with an experienced Shippensburg University professor named Dr. Pablo Delis. Throughout the afternoon and evening, we trekked around Letterkenny Army Depot’s grassy fields to see if Dr. Delis had caught any snakes with his traps. We were able to catch and observe both ring-necked snakes and black rat snakes! Additionally, Dr. Delis allowed us to take an active role in his research, as several Youth Council members actually recorded his observations for him. It was simply amazing to glean information from such an experienced herpetologist, and to actually be out in the field with him was “icing on the cake!”

One of our Youth Council members caught a five-pound bass! Fun, fun!

The next day, the Youth Council took a morning fishing and kayaking trip to a local lake. We had an excellent time paddling in the water, catching huge bass, and exchanging fishing tips. Later that afternoon, we had the experience of walking around the base with a Pennsylvania Game Commission officer to discuss habitat management for bobwhite quail. It was certainly an interesting experience for a Drummers Field School Alum like myself, as I was able to find marked similarities between the two species’ habitat needs!

Finally, we learned about bobwhite quail habitat management from a PA Game Commission representative.

Experiencing fieldwork through the Pennsylvania Governor’s Youth Council for Hunting, Fishing, and Conservation has allowed me to learn a very important lesson as a naturalist–that any role in conservation, whether it is an environmental policy or not, must be tied in with healthy knowledge of fieldwork. In order to make educated decisions on behalf of the environment, one must be able to back it up with a certain respect and understanding that only fieldwork can provide!

The photos used in this blog belong to the author.

March Student of the Month – Matthew Coulter

Our student of the month for March is Matthew Coulter, a Brookies alumni! Matthew has been working diligently to complete his work for this year as a Conservation Ambassador. Beginning over the summer, Matthew spread the word throughout his community about invasive species. Through the Delco Master Gardeners program, Matthew focused on the spotted lanternfly; explaining how detrimental it is to the environment, encouraged others to learn how to identify the insect and be aware of how easily it can be spread.

Matthew has also partnered with the Delco Manning chapter of Trout Unlimited to encourage his local legislators to support laws and policies that benefit the environment. He has been writing to his local politicians, explaining to them the importance of maintaining legislation that protects our environment. He has also given educational presentations about the Wildlife Leadership Academy, talking about his experience at the field school, as well as his experience at the Trout Unlimited Rivers conservation/fly fishing camp.

Matt isn’t just about educating the public, though – he also takes the time to educate himself! He recently completed his hunters safety course and was certified. He also worked with the Delco Master Gardener program to collect and identify insects for their collection. This collection is then used to educate members of the community about local insect life.

Matt also has a creative side – he shared a great photography collection, full of insects, landscapes, and animal life. Matthew is an engaging, creative, and outgoing individual – exactly what we love to see in our Conservation Ambassadors. Matt has been working hard, and is clearly passionate about the outdoors and making a difference in his community; we are so proud of all that he has accomplished!