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Displaying items by tag: Research
Wednesday, 23 July 2014 00:00

Research Highlight: Much Ado About Mothing

Did you know that there are roughly 10,000 species of moths in North America? Moths are under-studied yet important pollinators of certain plants, and their populations may be impacted by human activity such as urbanization and pollution. Studying moths allows us to gain a better understanding of how this group of pollinators may change over time, especially in an urbanized setting, and even allow us to monitor or infer the impacts of other organisms.

Many of the Urban Ecology Center staff, volunteers and community members love taking photographs of the wildlife and vegetation in our parks. Who can discount the natural beauty of an unfurling fiddlehead or the pure white flower of the bloodroot? Many photographers find the natural world a source of limitless inspiration for their art. Others take photographs to record phenological observations. Phenology is the study of the timing of natural events, such as the first bud break, the first appearance of a migratory animal, the making and breaking of ice on lakes and more. The first appearance of the nodding head of the yellow trout lily is not only photogenic, but it is also a harbinger of spring. The date of bloom is a phenological record and here at the Center, we like to record these observations. In fact, there is a long standing—and fierce—competition to observe the first chipmunk of the year.

Spring migration is one of the Research and Community Science Team's favorite times of year. For the fourth year in a row, we are hosting our Green Birding Challenge (GBC), the Team's signature annual fundraiser! Do you enjoy spending time outdoors hiking or biking, or just sitting and listening to the sounds of nature? If so, this year's GBC, held on Saturday, May 10th, is the event for you! Get out your walking shoes, dust off your lawnchair or pump up your bike tires and participate in a little competitive birding. Register a team for one of our four challenges: stationary birding, birding on foot, birding by bike, or a mini-challenge. Your participation will help us celebrate International Migratory Bird Day and help raise money for bird conservation and community science!

Monday, 03 March 2014 16:50

Research Highlight: GIS and Mapping

A recent NPR segment on All Things Considered reported some sad news - but brought the acronym “GIS” to light. The father of GIS (geographic information systems), Roger Tomlinson, passed away in early February. He was the first person to devise a computer software to overlay different types of map layers on top of one another, thereby efficiently revealing physical and biological patterns in a landscape or area and streamlining analyses of these patterns. Using current GIS software, the Urban Ecology Center has been able to map a variety of data about our branches and parks.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014 10:22

Native Animal of the Month - The Ant Lion

During our recent bout of sub-zero weather, I noted the shortage of wildlife in my backyard. I knew that woodchucks were hibernating in cozy burrows, birds had insulating feathers, and turtles used anti-freeze in their blood to get through the winter, but then I considered our spineless friends. Surely all of Earth's 1.3 million invertebrate species couldn't move inside for the winter. But, where did they go? This question made me think about one bug in particular; one that I commonly associate with the warm weather. The antlion. What was my old buddy Mr. Ant Lion up to this time of year?

 

Wednesday, 13 November 2013 14:39

Native Animal of the Month - Aerial Yellowjacket

As the seasons change from autumn to winter, my field work tapers off and I spend most of time behind a computer, analyzing data and determining what can be accomplished the following field season. During this period our bird walks become my favorite time of the week. The walks give me some personal time to identify with nature be outside. However it isn’t the birds I enjoy the most, it’s the other discoveries. I like finding the overlooked, under-appreciated things that just seem beautiful and you can't really explain why. This week, my favorite find came while I was on a bird walk in the Menomonee Valley.

Thursday, 03 October 2013 09:24

Research and Citizen Science: Gear Shift

October marks a bittersweet time in the annual cycle for the Research & Community Science crew. Summer is over, and along with it, go the warm temperatures, lush vegetation, and abundant wildlife. Many animals are starting to head south for the winter or are making their way toward hibernation areas. Additionally, we have come to the end of our 3-year Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) research and restoration grant from the EPA that helped create the Milwaukee Rotary Centennial Arboretum. On the bright side, it's now the time to process the variety of data we have collected over the past three field seasons and start looking for trends or changes!

One of my favorite parts of summer is the unique sounds of insects and in particular the song of the mole cricket. Many people confuse the mole cricket’s song with that of a frog, however, its staccato repeated chirps undeniably belong to an insect. The song’s frequency is very low for a bug and is known to be the lowest of all of the crickets.

We know there are bats in Riverside Park. Hike a trail at dusk and you may see a Big Brown Bat fly overhead or even hear a few chirps if a bat is closing in on its prey. Because of their nocturnal aerial habits, bats make very difficult study subjects. But recent technological advances are allowing us more detailed glimpses into the habits and distribution of Wisconsin’s bats, including those in Riverside Park.

Lichens are the ultimate example of collaboration in the natural world. If you're not familiar with this group of organisms, perhaps this joke will clue you in: Why did the fungus and the algae get married? Answer: They took a lichen to each other! If you've heard this joke before, you're probably groaning and rolling your eyes. If you haven't, I hope you're intrigued.

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