Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Spreading your seeds

Have you built your terrarium yet for the Seeds of Life activity?

Most plants start life as seeds.  Seeds are produced by plants for reproduction!  These seeds help produce the next generation of plants, but in order to do that they need to disperse to new areas. After all, if plants just dropped their seeds right below themselves, the parent plant would compete for resources (water, sun, and space).

Dispersion is the relocation of seeds to a new location in order for them to find the resources necessary for growing.  Depending on the species of plant, they might use different forms of dispersal.  Lets take a look at these forms and see if you can spot any of them while you are on the hunt for seeds!

Wind: Some plants use wind to disperse their seeds! These seeds are usually smaller and lighter, making it easy to be carried by the wind.  They often have special structures to help them travel in the air such as fluff (like on milkweed or dandelions) or wings (like maple keys).

Water: Plants that grow beside water will often use water as a means to disperse their seeds!  Some of these seeds will have fluff to increase their ability to float, but all of them will be waterproof.

Fire:  These seeds will often be found in cones. These cones are "sealed" with a "glue" produced by the parent tree.  This glue then needs to be melted in order for it to come out of dormancy and sprout! The way to melt the glue?  Fire of course!

Fire is a very unique method of dispersing plants because it destroys the living plant material, making room for these new seeds to grow.  Because of this, seeds that use fire do not need to disperse, instead they grow right where they were created!  Seeds that use fire will have other special features about them.  For one, they have the ability to remain dormant for long periods of time (so instead of sprouting right away, they might lay on the forest floor for months, even years!) while waiting for a fire event.

Ballistic: Ka-BOOM!  Some seeds use an explosion to disperse!  These seeds will reside in pods and once these pods dry out they will burst, throwing seeds in every direction!

Animals: One of the most common dispersal strategies you may have noticed around your home is through animals!  Have you ever noticed an animal:

1) carrying a bur on its fur? Some seeds have latches or hooks on them that will get caught in an animals fur.  This will then be carried to a new location where it will then drop to the ground after the animal removes it from its fur.

2) cash (or hide) away food for the winter?  Many species, like squirrels, will often cash away seeds during the fall and throughout the winter, when food sources are low, eat these stored seeds.  However, they don't always remember where they were hidden!  So any seed that isn't found again has the chance to become a new plant!

3) eating fruit or a berry?  Well what goes in, must come out!  When animals eat fruit and berries, they will also eat seeds of that fruit! Many of these seeds are eaten whole and then when an animal later defecates (poops) these seeds will be dropped in a new location!

What seeds have you started to see on your outdoor adventures?  We are very excited to hear about how your activities are going!

Three cheers for dispersing seeds and buzzing bees! 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Spidey Senses

Do you ever see spiders and think "ew"?

 I used to too, but that was before I realized how cool spiders are!

Since many spiders don't have the best eyesight, they often use their "spidey senses" to locate their prey!  What are these "spidey senses"? They are vibrations that spiders can feel through the strands in their web.  

Credit: 2014 OSG
Spiders have different types of webs depending on how they catch their prey!  The most common that we see are the circular webs.  These are very sticky and capture insects instantly when they touch the web. Once the insect lands on the web, their movements pull on the strands of web alerting the spider to where the insect is!

If the insect is large, or if something else hits it such as a bird, the web can become damaged.  Some spiders will repair the web, while others will create an entire new one overnight!

While walking through a meadow for forest you may have seen a sheet-like web.  This web is spun horizontally across the ground with a few strands of web being vertical. The more vertical lines are not sticky and meant to knock insects downwards onto the more sticky ground web.  The spider then will be able to "feel" its way towards the trapped insect.

Credit: Tilman Piesk
A third type of web is called a funnel web. Just like a funnel you'd have in your kitchen, these webs are wider at the top and narrower as they go down.  Once a spider feels that an insect is on the top of the web, through the vibrations in the strands, it will pop out of its narrow hiding place and capture the pray on the web.

Credit: theschoolrun.com
Unlike Spiderman, spiders don't shoot out webbing out of their arms, nor do spriders swing from building to building using webbing. Instead, this webbing is used for web-making and for wrapping their prey.  Once an insect is caught, a spider will wrap its catch in silk (similar to their webbing). They will then injecting their prey with venom to paralyze it and then eat it!  

Spiders help to keep our yards and homes free from insects that we might consider to be pests. Take a look around your cottage or home right now, do you see a friendly neighbourhood spider? Has it caught any insects today?  Watch a insect fly into its web and see how the spider reacts, it's pretty cool!  Make sure when you see an insect in a spider web to check it off your 2017 Great Scavenger Hunt list! 

Three cheers for friendly spiders and bright birds!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

How Does a Woodpecker Eat?

Have you ever seen a woodpecker foraging on a tree and think "Ouch!  That must hurt the woodpecker!".

Woodpeckers hammer into trees to search for food (insects and sap) and to excavate a cavity for nesting! But...how do they reach deep into these cavities and crevices to reach their food?
Pileated Woodpecker
Well... they have very special adaptations for this! An adaptation is how an animal has developed over time to gain special traits or features that it needs to survive.

One of these adaptations is a woodpeckers tongue!  Woodpeckers have incredibly long tongues in order to reach deep into the holes that they dig into tree trunks. Sticky saliva on their tongue then captures insects and is retracted back into their mouth!  With some species of woodpecker these tongues also reach in to grab sap!

As a human, our tongues are about the same length as our mouth. Woodpeckers have tongues several times longer than their bills!  WOAH!  So where do they keep it?

Woodpeckers have adapted to be able to store their long tongue around the back of their skull where it will then connect to either their right nostril or near their eyeball. How cool is that?

Can you name all the woodpeckers that we have here in Georgian Bay? Take a photo of one and send it in to us, we'd love to see your photos!

Three cheers for tall trees and honey bees! 

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Everyone can be a citizen scientist!

Have you ever gone outside and counted the birds at your bird feeder?  How about counted monarch butterflies? Perhaps you’ve gone to a local pond to see what different frogs you can catch?  Well, you are on the way to becoming a citizen scientist!!

Citizen science is the collection of environmental data by members of the public (you!).  The information is normally part of a partnership with professional scientists.

The awesome part about citizen science is that you don't need internet! You can collect information throughout the summer and then submit it once you have internet access.  So get out your nature notebooks and let's be a citizen scientist!  Let's look at some projects you can help with and click the project name for more info!

If you love amphibians then this is the perfect project for you to help with!  Contact Adopt-A-pond to receive a FrogWatch package. You can submit observations randomly, as you see them (Level 1), or you can submit on a more routine schedule (Level 2).


If you love butterflies or have a pollinator garden, than you may be interested in getting some hands-on experience with them!  MonarchWatch is the perfect citizen science activity that you can do with the help of an adult.  Order your Monarch tags online and once they arrive in the mail you can catch monarchs you see in your yard and place little sticker tags on their wings.  If this butterfly is seen again, this tag will identify it!  Visit their website to learn more about the Monarch, how to properly handle them, and purchase some tags!

Part of this year's Great Scavenger Hunt is to report a sighting of this butterfly! 

Yellow Warbler

There are many citizen science programs that involve birds!  Two of the easiest include eBird and NestWatch! Both programs require you to create a profile, but data can always be submitted on a later date. Take out those notebooks and count the number and species of birds wherever you are to submit to eBird or find a nearby nest and help track the survival of the young!  If you want to keep going into the winter, another great project to be part of is Project FeederWatch

Blandings Turtle - Scott Gillingwater
Georgian Bay Biosphere has a citizen science page! Here you can support a variety of citizen science projects, however species at risk is one of them!  If you spot anything from a Monarch Butterfly, to a Foxsnake or Blanding's Turtle, to a Canada Warbler, submit information about them to us!  Submitting a report to us about a Monarch will even get you a point for your scavenger hunt!

There are so many projects that you can get involved with, visit our website to find even more: http://www.gbbr.ca/our-environment/species-at-risk/how-you-can-help/

Three cheers for butterflies and a beautiful sunrise!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

We're Batty for Bats!

Have you started the "Bugs in the Belly" activity yet?  At the GBBR, we think bats are awesome, but but many people are confused by the myths surrounding bats.

Myths are widely held beliefs that often explain something in the natural world. Another word for myth is: tale, legend, folklore or story. Let's take a look at some bat myths and see which are true and which are false.

Myth #1: Blind as a bat!   (False)

Have you ever heard the phrase "you're as blind as a bat"?  It's a funny because bats are not blind!  In fact, that can "see" better than humans can due to the fact that they use both their eyes and a highly developed sense called echolocation. Echolocation is a series of extremely high frequency chips, produced by the bat and emitted as sound waves, that bounce off objects and prey (insects).  When bounced, these sound waves then return to the bat, helping it navigate and hunt.

Myth #2: Ew! Bats can get caught up in my hair! (False)

Bats sometimes will swoop around your head as they are hunting for insects to eat.  Don't worry though, their use of echolocation will prevent them from actually landing on your head.  Think of them as protecting you from biting insects!

Myth #3:  Bats can fly, just like birds!  (False-ish)

While bats do indeed fly, but unlike birds, most bats cannot fly straight from the ground. Bats instead need to be off the ground in order gain enough momentum to fly.  So if you find a bat indoors, what should you do? If it is on the floor, the best thing is to find a towel and allow the bat to slowly climb onto it.  Most objects in our homes are smooth and so it is difficult for bats to maneuver on them, but a towel is textured.  Once it is on, carefully walk the towel outside and place it near a tree for the bat to climb up.

Myth #4:  I can contract lung disease from bat guano  (True)

Guano, is another word bat scat, droppings or poop!  Histoplasmosis is a fungal disease that can be contracted if you are in an area where you may breathe in fungal spores found in areas with these bat droppings. If you are working in an area where bats are roosting (like an attic) you will want to wear a suitable respirator mask.

Myth #5:  I can contract rabies from bats (True)

Rabies is a disease that is spread through coming in contact with the saliva of an infected animal, usually in the form of a bite. Luckily, less than 1% of bats have rabies, but it is still important to protect yourself. If you come in contact with a bat (for example to remove it from your home) there are a few things you can do: wear leather gloves; wear a long sleeved shirt; take the bat outside using a towel or container that you can leave at the base of the tree for it to climb.

Myth #6:  Bats are mean (False!!)

Have you been watching vampire movies?  Bats are wonderful creatures and, in some parts of the world, have been known to share food with other bats! The biggest enemies to a bat is habitat loss and white-nosed syndrome.  There are many things you can do to help bats:
  • Garden with plants that bloom day and night to attract pollinating insects. You’ll boost habitat, and may bring hungry bats swooping by. Try fireweed, snowberry, goldenrod, cardinal flower.
  • Trade outdoor anti-bug lights for a regular light to attract insects for bats to munch on.
  • Educate your friends and family about how important bats are!

Three cheers for flying bats and purring cats!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Lighting up the Backyard

On warm summer nights you may have noticed fireflies blinking light on and off. It's hard to imagine what a firefly looks like without catching one and seeing it up close! With the "Insects in the Night" activity, we want to make sure that the firefly is safe when you capture it! So, let's see how you can catch these amazing insects without harm.
Photo by: stevendavidjohnson.com
Where should you look? 

Fireflies are most often found near bodies of water such as marshy areas and shorelines of ponds, lakes, and rivers. You will still often see fireflies even if you are not in a wet area, such as your yard, a field, forest, or vegetable garden!

Turn out the lights

If you are having trouble finding fireflies, turn off outdoor light!  Exterior house lights might be confusing nearby fireflies making them less likely to send out their light signals to other fireflies.

Safe capture

Catch your fireflies using a net!  Follow these steps to ensure safe capture:
- Find fireflies by watching your yard for their flashing lights.
- Walk to where firefly was nearby and capture using a insect/butterfly net.
- Tighten the top of the net with your hand so that the firefly cannot escape. Make sure when you do this that the firefly is at the bottom of the net, out of the way of your hands.
- Turn your net over, on top of your bug jar, and carefully let the firefly leave the net and go into the jar.
-Once it is in the jar, place a lid on top.

Fireflies are fragile, so be sure to have another set of helping hands nearby!

If you are planning to keep your firefly for longer than a few minutes, think about adding a small piece of moistened paper towel inside the jar to keep the air humid.

Letting them go:

Fireflies cannot survive in your jar, so be sure to release them after maximum 10 minutes.  Always  release them at night, when they are most active and able to avoid predators.

Have fun catching these awesome bugs in the dark!

Three cheers for fireflies and clear blue skies!

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Don't get tongue tied!

Have you ever noticed that snakes flick their tongues? Did you notice their tongue is forked (split into two)?  Some people think this is strange... but the reason why is so cool!

Snakes have nostrils like we do, these are only to breathe.  When a snake needs to smell, it uses it's tongue!  Flicking their tongue allows them to pick up tiny particles, or "a scent", that are left behind by other snakes or animals.  These particles are transferred into the snakes mouth to a small organ on the roof of their mouth called the vomeronasal organ or the "Jacobson's organ".  This organ analyzes the scent and allows the snake to determine if what they are smelling is prey!

DeKay's Brown Snake - https://www.flickr.com/photos/pcoin/2307912302
Now why is their tongue forked?? It gives snakes almost a 3D smelling experience! Instead of capturing a general smell, their sense of smell is now directional! This is the perfect tool to help them track prey or potential mates!

This forked tongue can capture scents from the left and right side of their head. If a "scent" is stronger on the right, the snake will know to move right.  If the "scent" is equally strong on both sides, it will know to continue forward.  How cool is that?!

Eastern Hognose

So next time you see a snake flicking it's tongue, he's just giving you a sniff!  =)

Three cheers for scaly snakes and swimming in lakes!

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

The Sky is the Limit!

Weather is amazing!  It gives us warm sunny days, cool breezes, refreshing rain, and awesome thunderstorms.  Weather is the word we use to describe what happens in the Earth’s atmosphere that creates clouds, rain, and other forms of precipitation (like snow, sleet, freezing rain, rain or hail). 

The science behind studying the atmosphere, especially weather and weather forecasting, is called meteorology (me-tee-o-ROL-o-gee). Meteorologists develop weather forecasts based on a variety of things like humidity (amount of water vapour in the air), types of clouds, wind direction, and weather in other areas of the continent.  With our Wonderful Weather activities, you can be a meteorologist too!

Let’s go over some of the clouds you may see in your weather window:

Cirrus:  These clouds are high in the atmosphere and are formed from ice crystals. They create thin, wispy strands in the sky.  Often, these clouds can indicate a change in the weather, such as when a new “front” (the boundary between two air masses, often one mass being warm and one being cold) passes through. 

Cirrostratus: These clouds are also high in the sky, created when cirrus clouds are spread out extensively across the sky.  Sometimes they can even create the appearance of a halo around the sun!  Watch for these clouds if you have plans, they often indicate that precipitation will likely follow in the next 12 hours!

Photo by: Matthew Clark

Cirrocumulus: Similar to the past two cloud forms, these are also high. Meaning wispy heap or wispy accumulation, these are formed when Cirrus clouds are warmed from below making them into fluffy-looking, billowy heaps like other cumulus clouds. They tend to also appear as little cloudlets across the sky. While they may indicate rain on the way, these clouds make sure beautiful sunsets!

Altocumulus: These mid-level clouds are usually white or gray in colour and billowy looking.  Often times they are in patches or groups!  These clouds are often seen before temperatures cool down or on a warm summer day before a thunderstorm!

Altostratus: These clouds are also mid-level but instead of being billowy, they are more spread out across the sky. These clouds indicate a weather change since they form when a new "front" causes the air to condense and rise.  Get ready to be wet, they bring precipitation to wide-spread areas!

Cumulus: These clouds are low laying and are seen as fluffy heaps or accumulations. They appear when warm air rises from the ground.  They are often called "fair weather clouds" as they indicate enjoyable weather conditions. 

Stratocumulus: These low clouds are seen as large, round masses in dark groups or lines across the sky. While they are often seen before or after severe weather (like a storm) they can also bring light rain or snow.

Stratus: These gray clouds appear as low horizontal layers that blanket the sky.  Instead of appearing as a layer of smaller clouds (like we saw with stratocumulus clouds), they appear as one large blanket. If they form low enough to the ground, this is when we experience fog!

Nimbostratus: These clouds never take one particular form, so the best way to identify them is with what they all have in common...they are gray and spread out to block the sun.

Cumulonimbus: These clouds can be incredibly tall!  they may appear to be flat on the bottom and them climb into fluffy tall sides and then a flat top. This flatter top is caused by winds in the upper atmosphere. Air rising causes these clouds to grow vertically.  Seeing these clouds often means that precipitation is on the way, and usually leads to thunderstorms with a lot of thunder and lightning!  

Three cheers for sunny skies and apple pies!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Welcome to Kids in the Biosphere 2017!

Are you ready to have an awesome summer this year in the Georgian Bay Biosphere?  There are always amazing things to do and explore in Georgian Bay, and we are so excited that your summer plans include us!


  • Check out the Kids in the Biosphere webpage for new activities.
  • Visit back here every Friday for a new blog post!

Now it is that time again... to find a name for our resident spotted turtle! Our little friend and the options for a name, then cast your vote to kids@gbbr.ca


Canada Day Celebration, July 1st, 4pm at 5 Tamarack Drive in Skerryvore 

Explore Our Shores, July 1st 1pm at Wreck Island, Township of Archipelago

Family Fun Day, July 8nd, 9am at Desmasdon's Boatworks in Pointe au Baril

Explore Our Shores, July 22th 10:00am - 12:00 pm at 30 Blue Heron Trail, Pointe au Baril

Explore Our Shores, August 19th, 10:00am at Kapikog Lake Boat Launch, Little Kapikog Lake Rd. 

Snapping turtle laying eggs!

The photo collection on the kids webpage is ready for your pictures! If you took a scavenger hunt picture, or have an awesome nature picture, share it here with GBBR and other Kids in the Biosphere participants: www.gbbr.ca/education/kids/ 

We love hearing about your great nature finds, mystery species, and adventure stories!  So keep sending them into us all summer long and we might feature one in a blog! 

Three cheers for budding leaves and a warm breeze!