Tag Archives: environment

Mammals Team: 17 days!

We only have 17 days until we leave for Costa Rica, so we’ve been reading some tips from past Mammal teams on what it’s like down there. We have gathered the following helpful hints!

  • Build a sturdy observation cage
  • The best bait is soap, chocolate, sunflower seeds, and meat
  • Bring enough anesthesia
  • Bring correct size synergies
  • Wake up early enough to net bats in the morning
  • Put a net checking bag together with tape measure, scissors, Fiona Reed Book, frisk mater, and dissecting kit
  • Take lots of pictures!
  • Have fun 🙂

Chytrid Fungus

Chytrid fungus, Phylum Chytridiomycota, are aquatic, algae like fungi that have flagellated zoospores. They usually live in aquatic environments, but some species live on land particularly in the soil or other moist habitats. Chytridiomycota are dependent on water to survive, however, they can be found dwelling within host organisms. They existed roughly 500 million years ago and are, usually, unicellular. Some chytrids are saprobes, or decomposers, while others may be harmful parasites. The chytrid Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis is what causes the infectious disease to amphibians known as Chytridiomycosis. The fungus is capable of causing sporadic deaths in some amphibian populations and even extinctions of whole species.
There have been many amphibian die-offs around the world. Many of them appear to be caused by a newly discovered fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd). Bd is a member of group of fungi called chytrids, which are usually found underwater growing on dead plant or animal matter. Bd is the only chytrid fungus known to feed on living vertebrates. It primarily affects the skin of amphibians, causing the disease known as amphibian chytridiomycosis.
Amphibians breathe and take up water through their skin. Chytridiomycosis interferes with these essential processes. Infected frogs may become lethargic, they are often unable to right themselves if turned upside down, and they may jump or swim in circles. They may rest with their legs outstretched, or sit with their rear end raised up. Sometimes their skin appears bloodshot or sloughs off excessively. They may also sit out in the hot sun, when healthy amphibians would seek shelter in shade or water.
In most places, almost as soon as Bd is detected at a new site, the frogs begin dying off. In a period of a few months, frog populations can go from abundant to nearly nonexistent. Most mass die-offs occur soon after frogs transform from tadpoles into frogs, leaving pond or stream shorelines littered with dead frogs. But in some places frogs may be infected even though die-offs are not observed

Bird Team of 2014-2015

The 2014-2015 Bird Team is Tori Juster and Will Spangler. We will be studying and cataloging the avian population as well as neotropical migration. Our purpose is to see what species are in the reserve as well as if the new migrant birds are having an impact on the already established bird population. We will set nets in the study area and all the trapped birds will be cataloged – all the nonnative species will be banded and set on their way. Since birds are such a huge part of any environment the study and cataloging is crucial to trying to maintain and continued conservation of the environment. Some of the species of birds that we will be interacting with are Hummingbirds Toucans and Scarlet Tanagers. We hope that our partnership with Cornell University will continue to be fruitful.

Spider Silk 2014 Methods and Materials


A. Method of assembling the extractor.

The Silk Extractor, one of the 2 U.S. Patented devices under the Forman School’s Rainforest Project, is key to the process of the silk extraction. This highly effective device scratch-built by Forman Students, has only three main parts consisting of the box, crank and the “wheel”  This portable and compact piece of equipment is very easy to assemble. To start the assembly of the Silk Extract the handle (window crank) is attached to the rear of the box by screwing it in place. Once secure, the “wheel” consisting of eight cut arrow shaft’s placed in a circle (25.4cm).   Once both crank and “wheel” is secure, the Silk Extractor is now ready for the extraction process.

B.  Method for extraction

The method for the extraction of the Nephila Clavipes spider is also under the same protection of the US Patent of the Silk Extractor.  Before the extraction process begins, the three members of the Spider Silk team are given each individual jobs which are vital to the operation. Such jobs include, the handler which has the role of transporting the spider to and  from its web, and uses the “Hand-over-Hand” method to give the spider the sensation of falling; The Crank operator, which is responsible for counting the number of rotations used to silk each individual spider, and the operation of the Silk Extractor; the final job is the Computer Operator, who is responsible for keeping track of all the data throughout the expedition.
To start the extraction, the Spider Handler must carefully remove the Golden Orb Weaver spider from its web. Once the spider is situated on the arrow shafts, the spider  should lay its sticky disc. In order to extract the silk from the spider, the Crank Operator and the Spider Handler must coordinate strongly together because each spider behaves differently. The spider goes into the handlers hand. Then, the handler uses the “hand-over-hand” method to silk the spider. (This method is when the handler places their hands in a tilted down position in order to simulate the sensation of falling for the spider. The silk that is being extracted is the dragline silk. The silk comes out of the Major Ampullate gland. If executed properly the spider should produce silk.) At the same time, the Crank Operator begins the process of spinning with one hand, while the Computer Operator records the data being received.

Once the spider has finished silking, the Spider Handler returns the spider back to its web. After each spider, the following data is recorded; Number of rotations, length of silk, Color of silk, number of strands, Time of extraction, and Weather variables.

C. Methods for feeding

To ensure that variables are close to accurate as possible, the Spider Silk team has developed a method for feeding the spiders. This is vital the silk extracting process and shows that farming these spiders is easy so that a local farmer can perform the extraction technique.  In order to attract these insect, a black light is placed inside of a mesh laundry hamper. Once the light is in place, a dog collar is then positioned over the opening. When fully assembled, the Feeding Ring is hung low to the ground. Within 30 minutes the Feeding Ring is remove from the tree. With the insects caught, feed spiders with insects.  We mostly feed them moths. take insects and throw them into webs.     

D. Method for Logger Pro

In order to use the Logger Pro application. The application is opened. To start the data graph, the recorder types the strength and the elasticity of the silk. X is going to be strength and elasticity is going to by Y. based upon our field results, the recorder types in the data, into Logger Pro and makes a graph.

Duration of session
# spider
Amount of silk
Barametric Pressure
Wind Speed
Wind Direction
Due Point  

E. Method for Employing Local Families.
Employing 2 local families to test what quantity of silk they can get.

F: Method for Light Meter

Going to be using a light meter to look at the amount of lumens that are hitting hte web and going to be measuring by Klux. this will be used to keep track of lumens hitting each web, and coordinating color of silk.

Thank You Glacier Computer

Spider silk has received a new computer from Glacier Computer. Glacier lent us their T510K for when we trek down to the rainforest. This bad boy is loaded with Microsoft Windows Xp, can withstand temperatures from -4 to 113 fahrenheit and its shock absorption up to 40 G. We will be using the computer to input our data and will really help us when we are down in Costa Rica. A Big thank you to Glacier Computer! Much Appreciated!

Bird Team Introduction

Recently we have been working on our paper, and learning to set up and take down the nets. It’s not as easy as it looks!!! We are also working hard to memorize the 25 most common birds that we usually catch while down in the Costa Rica. We are also working to memorize the Hummingbirds for the project that was created last year with them. In this project we set up about six bird feeders all with different percentages of sugar in the water. We then sit and watch for birds and calculate how many males and females go to which feeders to figure out which consistency of sugar the Hummingbirds like the best. We have meet with our team leader Frank Gallo, and he has been teaching us the methods we need to use while down in the rainforest. He says it get cold down there! Can you believe that! The rainforest in Costa Rica gets cold at night! We are hoping, because it is dry season, that we won’t be rained out like last year. Wendy Welshans has also been working hard to get us prepared for the big trip, meeting every other day in class and also on tuesday nights. In some of the lectures we are learning about some of the tropical plants and arthropods and their secondary defense, so if you touch them or eat them, they could really harm you. It’s really scary, but it helps us be alert down there, so we are more careful about what we touch. We will keep keep our blog updated so don’t forget to keep checking in, and feel free to leave us comments about questions you have and to wish us luck!
Jenny, Melissa, and Allie!
2014 Bird Team

Methods and Materials 2014

As our departure day nears, project BT (Bioacoustics and Telemetry) is working every day to finalize our methods and materials.  We have come up with multiple new ways of recording that we will be trying at the Forman School base which will give us new measurable variables for our research. Our team leader, Shawn Mullen, has bought multiple crickets from a pet store which are staying in an animal cracker jar. We have ordered corrugated plastic which we will use to make different environments for the crickets. The new parabolic mic that our wonderful Wendy Welshans was able to get us will be used to get stronger recordings from Orthoptera.  We may even be able to get a recording of a bullet ant’s call. After recordings are taken, they will be processed into Raven Software on a Glacier computer.  Thanks to the computer, we will be able to process recordings in the field without risk of loss to our data. The team has ordered multiple new field guides for identification. The telemetry equipment we will be using is mostly the same as it was last year, but we did add a very small collar so we can track more species.


Save the Rainforest

The 2013- 2014 Bird Team

This year’s Bird Team, Melissa, Allie, and Jenny, have been working diligently to help further the research that has already been done on the Bird Team in previous years. Birds are an essential part of the ecosystem. We focus on three main types of birds: migratory, local, and hummingbirds. We look at the population size of the migratory birds in Costa Rica because the consequences of deforestation not only affect the birds in Costa Rica, but also in the United States. By banding birds, we are able to see the migration patterns over the years. The local birds in Costa Rica are heavily affected by deforestation. Since they are not migratory, if their habitats are destroyed, they will have no place to live. The 2014 Bird Team will also be continuing on with the research from the Hummingbird Project that was started last year. This year we will be working alongside the Bioacoustics Team to help identify and record new bird calls that will be added into the Macaulay Library that is produced by Cornell University, with whom we have a partnership.

2013-2014 Bird Team (Jenny Marcus, Melissa Lipset, Allie Meeker)

2013-2014 Bird Team (Jenny Marcus, Melissa Lipset, Allie Meeker)

Spider Silk Team

The silk from the Nephila clavipes spider is groundbreaking in many ways but nothing is more impressive than its strength; it isthe strongest natural fiber in the world. Its possible uses range from medical sutures to bulletproof vests. Most importantly, it’s a sustainable source of income for the people of Costa Rica as opposed to cattleranching, which will only last for a matter of years. The three of us along with our fearless leader Wendy Welshans plan to confirm our research concerning the connections between different environmental factors that would help us find the strongest silk possible.Spider Silk Team