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Monarchs to Mexico

This week’s blog was written by Jocelyn G., a Drummers alumni. She writes about her experience attending a Monarch Butterfly tagging session.

Recently I attended a Monarch Butterfly tagging session. It was tons of fun and I just wanted to share a little bit of what I learned about these truly amazing creatures!

Each year when it starts to get chilly the Monarchs begin their journey to Mexico. The Monarchs don’t do well in the cold weather so they head south for the winter. When the Monarchs take off for this 3,000 mile trip they jump right into the jet stream. They actually are able to sleep for most of the way there because they just float around in the jet stream as it carries them to Mexico. They do come down every once and a while to refuel but for the most part the Monarchs have a pretty nice trip down to Mexico.

This is a picture of me tagging a butterfly. The sticker is placed on the outside of the wing with tweezers. Then it is gently pressed down onto the wing.

Although over the years the Monarch population has gone down quite a bit. This is why Monarch tagging is important, it allows scientists to get an idea of how many Monarchs make it to Mexico. One of the major reasons that it has become more difficult for Monarchs to make it to Mexico is because of the decrease in Milkweed. This is the only food Monarch caterpillars eat and increasing carbon dioxide levels are making it too toxic for them to consume. So get out there and plant some Milkweed in your yard!

Here is a picture of the stickers we used to tag the Monarchs. They use the number on the sticker to track them.

Interested in learning more about the Monarchs and watching their migration? Check out monarchwatch.org!

The photos used in this blog belong to the author.


This week’s blog was written by Laura M., a Bass alumni. She writes about how her brother’s leaf collection project inspired her and her family to get out and enjoy the beautiful changing leaves this fall.

Recently, my brother was assigned a leaf collection project. He needed to collect a minimum of 25 leaves and “all leaves had to be green”. Given that it’s fall in Pennsylvania, there was no time to waste. Collecting of leaves began immediately. Like many school projects, this project became a fun, family activity as we traveled around identifying trees and collecting leaves. In the end, 40 leaves were identified, collected, pressed, labeled and neatly compiled in a photo album.

My brother was too short to reach the leaves, so he did some high climbing

As he awaits his grade, the leaves are beginning to change. The fire bush at my house has given way to some beautiful vibrant leaves. I encourage everyone to get out and enjoy one of nature’s greatest color displays where leaves change color to blazing reds, vibrant oranges, and sunny yellows.

My family’s fire bush starting to change color!

When is the best time to get out? The autumn tree leaf change is currently manifesting itself in living fall color; however, trying to determine exactly when Pennsylvania fall foliage will peak is like trying to control Mother Nature. I found a “Fall Foliage Prediction Map” that is a handy tool you can use to plan an excursion to see fall colors at their peak.

The interactive fall foliage map from smokymountains.com

There are conditions that are used to forecast peak viewing conditions. For example, since it’s been a warm, rainy summer, smokymountains.com believes leaf colors will be exceptionally beautiful in 2019. According to the map, peak fall foliage for much of Pennsylvania will occur around October 19.

According to visitpa.gov, the best places to see fall foliage in Pennsylvania include:

1. Pine Creek Gorge – https://pacanyon.com/

2. Allegheny National Forest – https://www.fs.usda.gov/allegheny

3. Big Pocono State Park – https://www.dcnr.pa.gov

4. Oil Heritage Region – http://nwpaheritage.org/

5. Presque Ilse State Park – https://www.dcnr.pa.gov

6. Great Allegheny Passage – https://gaptrail.org

7. Three Rivers Heritage Trail – https://friendsoftheriverfront.org

8. Rothrock State Forest – https://www.dcnr.pa.gov

9. Gettysburg National Military Park – https://www.nps.gov/gett/planyourvisit/basicinfo.htm

10. Washington Crossing Historic Park – https://www.washingtoncrossingpark.org/

Get out and enjoy the views!

One of the images in this blog was sourced from the internet! You can view the original by clicking here. The other two photos in this blog belong to the author.

November Student of the Month – Nathan J.

Our student of the month for November is Drummers alumni Nathan J. He has been engaging his community in a variety of ways since the field school this past summer – from creative arts projects to education, and more!

Nathan is currently working hard as a Conservation Ambassador in his community – he has taken community members hiking at a local State Park, as well as an environmental center right by his house – emphasizing how these resources are often almost literally right on our backyards! Nathan has also given educational presentations, sharing his experience at the Academy over the summer, and is working on ways he can help his Envirothon team be successful this year with the additional expertise he has gained from the field school.

Rock Coral

Nathan also has a creative side, always bringing his camera on hikes so that he can capture interesting photos of what he finds in nature. He went on a night hike to find a nice collection of wolf spiders and their webs, and is always taking photos of interesting insects, fungi, and anything else that catches his eye!

A selection of Nathan’s wolf spider web photos!

We love Nathan’s creativity and dedication to getting other community members out and about, discovering and enjoying the resources available to them in their area. It is exciting to see what Nathan has accomplished so far, and we can’t wait to see what other projects he works on!!

The Greatness Hidden in Nature

This week’s blog was written by Sinclaire O., a Bucktails alumni. She writes about the beautiful scenery and outdoor activities available all year round at the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon.

We sometimes forget to stop and think about the Earth around us. We tend to miss nature’s great creations. While traveling this summer I got to see one of Pennsylvania’s greatest natural landmarks. For those of you who love to hike, bike, or just spend time in nature, the Pine Creek Gorge is the place for you. Commonly known as the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon, it hosts a bountiful of nature’s creations. Anybody, whether it be an environmentalist or a picture artist, would fall in love with what nature has to offer there.

East Rim View of Canyon

With many hiking trails available at your leisure you are bound to see eagles’ nests up high to beaver dams down low. Any wildlife enthusiast would be thrilled to go and see what animal might be willing to peek its head out. Maybe you prefer plants over animals? Well In the summer there are many trees waiting to be identified and if you go back in the fall you will be astounded by the array of autumn colors. The many hiking trails available are not only for experienced hikers. While I was there I took my family, who does not have experience hiking, on an easy trail so they can see why I love the outdoors so much. Not only did they like it, my mom felt experienced enough to take the Turkey Path (3 hr round trip hardest trail at Leonard Harrison State Park). We decided not to take the Turkey Path but instead go on a wagon tour on the Pine Creek Rail Trail. We learned about the history of the area and what it has turned into today.

Panorama View of Canyon on East Rim

No matter what trail you take or what outlook you stand at, you are bound to be amazed by the beauty of the Canyon. While there you start to feel closer to nature even though you are 800 feet up looking down into the Gorge. Let us remember to take a break from our busy hectic lives and connect with the deeper meaning within us. Please take the chance to remember the beauty around you.

All photos in this blog belong to the author.

The Beautiful Leaves

This week’s blog was written by Laura M., a Bass alumni. She writes about the reasons why leaves change their colors during the fall season.

Autumn is a wonderful time of year. The leaves on trees change color and make everything outside look very beautiful. But why do leaves change colors in autumn and eventually fall from the trees?

In order to absorb light to create energy, pigments are produced in leaves. The primary pigment in these leaves is chlorophyll, and this pigment is what is responsible for the green color of leaves. Chlorophyll is produced and used quickly by trees in the growing season when it is warm out. As a result, the leaves of trees stay green. However, as temperatures drop, trees stop the production of chlorophyll since it requires too much energy to do so. As a result, other pigments in the leaves, such as carotenoids, become visible. This causes the leaves to look orange, yellow, and brown. In addition, red and purple pigments, called anthocyanins, are produced. These help to lower the freezing point of the liquid in leaves, allowing them to remain on the tree for a little while longer than they would without the pigment. Eventually, temperatures become too cold for the trees. They need to do everything they can to preserve energy. Leaves are too susceptible to the cold and would be damaged too easily. As a result, the trees lose their leaves. Once a tree senses that days are becoming too short (they sense light using chemical light receptors called phytochrome and cryptochrome), trees stop the flow of water to the leaves. Eventually, the leaves will completely dry out and fall to the ground.

Beautiful yellow leaves still on the tree.

While all of this is the case for deciduous trees, this is not the case for evergreen trees. Evergreen trees are able to keep their leaves due to two special properties. One property is a special wax coating that is on the outside of the leaves that insulates them from the cold. In addition, the cells of the leaves contain special anti-freeze chemicals that help them survive through the harsh cold.

A giant leaf pile my brother and I made when we were younger.

As fall approaches, take time to go outside and see the stunning colors. Go for a walk in the forest, or even just down the street. Kids love a leaf pile – start raking and have some fun.

All photos in this blog belong to the author