Category Archives: WOSK

Human Beings or Human Beavers…

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Trees don’t always follow specific rules. They seek nutrients and sunshine and grow accordingly. I have seen fallen trees in the woods that still branch out trying to stay alive. This lovely tree caught my eye due to the graceful branching from the trunk; an interesting display for passersby.

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This photo is (in my humble opinion) eye candy for the nature lover. The beautiful green in the foreground and the messy natural settings with dead leaves, brambles and a creek in the background reminds me that pretty is not always symmetrical and tidy.

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Beavers, like humans can drastically change a landscape. Beavers dam up rivers to build homes and ensure availability of food supply. Humans change water flow for similar reasons such as this business park built within the wetlands of North Creek in Bothell, Washington near the UW Bothell campus. Beaver Solutions is an organization that works to resolve human/heaver conflicts. They report “The dams, canals and lodges beaver builds have gained them the reputation as “Nature’s Engineers”. No other animal with the exception of man so significantly alters its habitat to suit its own needs and desires. Native Americans revered the beaver and referred to them as “Little People” for this reason.” [http://www.beaversolutions.com/about_beaver_biology.asp]

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This is the flooding caused by the stoppage of natural water flow from building the business park within the North Creek wetlands.

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This nature trail that is a useful byproduct of a dike built to keep the office complex built in the North Creek wetlands from becoming floating offices.

Human beings – like beavers – alter their environment to suit their needs. What makes the human “footprint” more or less harmful than that of a beaver? One might argue that the main difference is that beavers use what is available in nature to alter their surroundings. Humans bring in asphalt, gas and electric lines, concrete and other unnatural objects and materials into a natural environment.

Beavers are interesting creatures. I had the opportunity to live on the Chena River Slough in Fairbanks, Alaska where I observed how quickly a beaver can take down a cottonwood tree. It is amazing to watch these animals work.

Read more here: http://www.landscouncil.org/beaversolution/facts_on_beavers.asp

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Please don’t feed the ducks!

As a student, I love it when I learn things that are worth sharing with others. Ducks are lots more fun than algorithms (well – unless you are a geek). When my kids were young we enjoyed buying bread from the local sandwich shop in Lowell, Michigan and wandering down to the river’s edge to feed the ducks and swans. Many people do this and with good intention. It is fun to watch the ducks dive for bits of bread, and to see the little ducklings swim in dutiful lines behind mom and dad. It would seem that feeding ducks is a harmless way to connect with nature. After reading about the pollution problems in North Creek and some of the causes, such as pet waste, car washing, and duck droppings, I now know that feeding ducks can cause problems. I was skeptical about just the droppings because I assumed that this was matter found in nature. This is true however, people feeding wild ducks human food such as bread or even duck food is not natural. Wild ducks eat bugs and grass that is found naturally in wetlands. Ducks Unlimited warns that feeding wild ducks human or even duck food can disrupt their natural migration patterns and put them at risk for abuse by becoming too comfortable around humans and settling in areas that can’t sustain them or cause them to become a nuisance.

For more information Check out:

Ducks Unlimited Conservation FAQs http://www.ducks.org/about-du/frequently-asked-questions/conservation-faqs

U.S. Geological Survey What should I Feed the Ducks and Ducklings on My Lake http://www.npwrc.usgs.gov/about/faqs/birds/feeding.htm

 

First week of Wetlands…

UW Bothell's wetlands

UW Bothell’s wetlands

Science begins with curiosity… in my opinion. Many times people are bogged down by scientific terms when they think about science and they forget about this essential element. If we have no curiosity or desire to find out why… bears hibernate in the winter, our blood is red, colds produce sniffles, etc….. we would not have science. I do not fashion myself a scientist because when I think of science – I think of equations and periodic tables. However, what I do have is curiosity. This is the beauty of an Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences (IAS) program like the ones offered at UWB. IAS programs approach a student’s educational journey through many different lenses. [And the bonus in this class is that we get to go for nature walks as part of our curriculum!]

The UW Bothell campus is built on what used to be the Truly Ranch and hosts 62 acres of protected wetlands. You can read more about the UWB Wetlands and restoration here: http://www.uwb.edu/wetlands/restoration. This facilitates the teaching of the course Wetlands and Our Watershed and yet, it also offers a conundrum because we are learning about restoration while attending school in an area that perhaps, ideologically – should not have been utilized for a college campus. But that is a longer conversation. This post will focus on foam; and not the kind you find in a tasty beverage, but rather that which is found in a stream.

I mentioned that curiosity fuels the “art of science.” With so much information at our fingertips, curiosity is quickly fed. Hopefully this does not mean people will stop searching for their own answers since it is so easy to Google information. For our first Saturday class we went for a walk in the UW Bothell wetlands. I saw a two forked creek with foam gathering in a spot near some lodged branches. My first thought was that foam was related to pollution. However, since I saw this occurrence in a protected area – the UW Bothell North Creek Wetlands, and because I have seen foam in other remote locations, I wondered if this was a natural phenomenon and what caused it. I did a quick Google search and found that foam is often a natural occurrence in streams. According to Davis (2014) foam is created when plants break then mix with water and rise to the surface creating surfactants. When surfactants meet wind by being propelled against a log jam or at the base of a waterfall, foam is created. Davis also mentions that surfactants also provide convenient transport for bugs in a stream [which in turn, may attract and feed fish]. For more information, check out the ARRI website here.

Jeffrey C. Davis, Aquatic Ecologist of The Aquatic Restoration and Research Institute. http://www.arrialaska.org/foam-in-streams.html