Hello my name is Ms. Heard. Please join me as I travel to Nova Scotia to study small mammal populations!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

I had fun skyping with the 7th grade today.  If you have more questions, you can comment here and I'll try to answer them (or I will get one of the scientists to answer them).

I learned another cool poop fact from this evening's lecture:  rodents have stomachs that can only process some of the nutrients in their food.  So what they do is eat the food, process it partially, poop it out, (this is not really poop. It is called cecum, and it still has nutritional value) eat that poop, process it again and then finally poop it out as real poop.  So if rodent poop looks green, then it is probably cecum.  If it looks black, it is probably just poop.  Isn't it weird how animals' bodies work so differently from ours?

Since I was left at home to do the skyping, I did not do any field work today.  Insetead researched some information for the scientists.  So no fun photos to post today.  My team returned to report that the traps held only one red-backed vole and one mouse.  The counts are supposed to be low at this time of year, but this year they are even lower due to the low temperatures this week and last week.

Tomorrow will be my last day out with the traps and counting deer droppings.  I hope we catch some more animals or some new species.  Thursday morning I'll skype with the rest of you, while the team collects the traps for the last time, and then Thursday afternoon and Friday we have some different activities.  If all goes well, I should get to see some larger animals.  Stay tuned to see if that happens...


  1. Ms. Heard!

    I've just started reading your blog, but it sounds like a great trip. What has been your biggest surprise about field research? What animal has been the most interesting for you? (As a wildlife nerd, I have my favorites, but am constantly fascinated by their adaptations.).

    I'm so looking forward to reading more!


  2. Hi Amy,
    I have not seen as many animals as I had hoped, but I have learned how to see SIGNS of animals much more than I ever could before. Realizing how many clues are lying all over the place has been a big lesson for me. The porcupines are probably the most interesting animals in this habitat. They are just so specific and unique. I mean, mice and vole and lemmings all share a lot of attributes and behaviors and needs. The different predators have some commonalities. But nothing is like a porcupine. It just lives differently - it is not scared of anything, so it does not run away (not that we've seen any because of the cold), it can climb trees and sleep up there, but it also likes to sleep in dens under old trees. It makes its own toilet area instead of pooping all over. No one wants to handle one, so they don't get researched through trapping procedures. I mean, seriously, there's just nothing like a porcupine.

    Now, in concert with that, the fisher is the most interesting predator because it specializes in porcupines. Nature really has relationships figured out!

    Ms. Heard