One of the most exciting things about working with kids on science is that suddenly you have a dozen curious and eager eyes, much sharper than yours and much closer to the ground, who are alert to things that older eyes might have missed.  This summer, while we're teaching at the Trinity River Audubon Society, I am taking the opportunity to use these sharp eyes and bright minds to help me investigate patterns of biodiversity at TRAC.

Trinity River Audubon Center is built on the old Deepwoods Lanfill, a notorious spot in Dallas that was a major source of pollution through the 80's and 90's.  It was declared a brownfield remediation site and was cleaned up and Audubon TRAC took over about 4 years ago.

We've planted a lot of grass, trees were planted, and bird surveys have been done but other areas of biodiversity haven't been investigated.  There's no baseline for "what should be here."  We have checklists of birds and we know what plants were planted here.

So, I'll set up a specific data stream that I wanted to collect, but there were interesting datapoints that are already beginning to emerge even after just two days' walk with kids.  For now I'm doing field notes and will start to structure them within a few weeks.  Patterns will emerge as more data is collected.  In the mean time, I think it is more engaging for kids to help a scientist do science rather than "hey, let's go take a walk and look at cool things."  We're looking at cool things, but we're kind of on a treasure hunt, too.


* There's an optimal time of day to see turtles.  They love to bask, but it is beginning to appear as though the water in the ponds is too warm for them to consider basking by the time we go out to hike.  We see them poking their noses out of the water but in smaller numbers as it gets closer to noon.
* We spotted two turtle nests.  In one, the eggs appear to have hatched successfully but the other one appears to have been raided by a raccoon.  The locations will be marked on my GPS files so that we can check them later to see if they are used again.  The hatchings occurred within the past 2 weeks, so this is an opportune time to locate nesting area.
* Ladybugs are scarcer now.  Earlier in the year they were plentiful enough that you would find a dozen within the space of six square inches.  Now they're much harder to find.
* There's an interesting diversity in our grasshopper population.
* There's an uncommon dragonfly on our property.  We haven't identified it yet, so I'm stalking it with a camera.  The kids and I saw it today -- we just need a clear photo.
* We saw paper wasps building a nest on Grindelia papposa (saw leaf daisy) -- I've seen them on buildings and on trees but it was unexpected to see one on a tall flowering plant.
* Butterfly diversity was lower than I expected today.  I'm planning on taking the kids in different directions depending on which day I'm there (Wednesday, for instance, we'll go look at the east side of Trailhead pond)
* Our spectacular Great White Egrets find the ponds a good spot to "hang out."  We saw a grouping of five on Great Blue Heron pond.
* I haven't heard a dickcissil this week.  They were singing loudly all over the property a month ago.  I wonder if they're nesting or if they've moved on.  Our phoebes are faithful, though, and the cardinals as well.