Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Happy Buzz Aldrin Day!

Thanks to Twitter, I learned that today is Buzz Aldrin Day in Los Angeles in honor of the retired astronaut, who was the second man to walk on the moon. Aldrin will speak about his experiences and sign his new autobiography, Magnificent Desolation, on the front lawn of L.A.'s Griffith Observatory from 6:00-9:45 p.m. This event is free and open to the public and there will be telescopes available to view the moon during this time.

Congrats, Buzz! (I wonder if he'll get a key to the city?)

Photo of Lunar module pilot Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin credit: NASA

Monday, August 24, 2009

Join the fun at One Million Giraffes!

Join thousands of people across the globe as we try to help Norway's Ola Helland win a bet with his friend Jørgen: Can he convince people to post one million handmade giraffes on his website, One Million Giraffes, within a year's time?

My friend Tanja pointed me toward this project, which has gone viral on the web through Twitter and Facebook. Helland is even starting to pick up round-the-world media coverage with groups throwing giraffe-drawing parties! What touched me about this idea, though, are the actual drawings. People from over 80 countries have submitted more than 100,000 photos of their giraffe creations since the project started 74 days ago. Helland showcases some of the most unique creations in his blog, including a giraffe made out of cake and one made out of human hair! But most of the giraffes are simple drawings, created by people from all stripes of life, revealing their connections with this iconic zoo animal.

How do you take a simple idea and make it better? According to the, Helland is currently looking for a corporate sponsor to donate money per drawing to World Wildlife Fund to aid in giraffe conservation.

Want to join in the fun? Read the official rules and upload your creation! Here's a clip to inspire you:

Monday, August 17, 2009

Way to go, Kerm!

**insert parental brag warning here**

I just had to give a shout out for my oldest. Kerm, age eight, won three ribbons at the county fair for his photography! :)

Photography is a great way to help kids relate to and "see" the world in a new way. Kerm received an inexpensive digital camera for his birthday from Nana, and now he's snapping away at everything in sight. It's fun to see the world through his eyes and I love that he's building up his observational skills.

That said, it's a little intimidating to watch my child easily surpass me with photography. (My lack of ribbons at the county fair only heightens this awareness.) But I am excited that he shows such promise with nature photography. While I might write a poem or draft an essay about my experiences with nature, Kerm is more likely to conduct an experiment or take a picture. And that's okay. We're still sharing the experience together.

Photo credit: Kerm

Friday, August 7, 2009

Website of the Week: FrogWatch USA™

Do you like frogs? Enjoy studying wildlife? Then join FrogWatch USA™, "a Citizen Science Monitoring Program" currently hosted through the National Wildlife Federation but soon to be part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

Frogwatching season generally runs February through August. Once you learn how to frogwatch and register your study site (hey, I'm thinking maybe I could register my backyard next year!), you gather your frogwatching materials, record your data (weather conditions and frog calls) and submit it on a regular basis to FrogWatch USA™.

You will be helping scientists to figure out why amphibian populations are declining. After scientists identify some of the problems facing frogs, they can work on solutions to help save them. At the same time, you will get more in touch with nature through your study site. And you will learn to identify frogs from their calls.

I had no idea that frog calls were so diverse! eNature has a great page with frog and toad calls. I couldn't help myself - I started hitting all of the "listen" buttons at once. Soon, a whole symphony of voices filled my living room. It is amazing how the calls are so different. I can understand why it might be easier to identify a frog by sound than by sight.

If you are not in the United States, you still should be able to join a frogwatch in your area. For example, FrogWatch Saskatchewan is looking for volunteers, and check out Frog Atlas Australia.

Happy frogwatching!

Photo credit: Topato through a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Monday, August 3, 2009

S-s-s-s-something else in our backyard

Last week, during our frog-finding expedition in the backyard, Kerm and I spotted this:

and this, which is actually part of the same thing:

Do you know what it is? Yep, a snake skin. Some snake was likely hunting the little frogs that live in our backyard and, while slithering between our green garden hose and the heating & cooling unit, it shed its skin.

I took a rake and carefully peeked under all of the foliage in our backyard, but I saw no sign of the snake. Most snakes are rather shy, so that's not surprising. But I wanted to find out what kind of snake the skin came from. Was a venomous snake prowling around in my backyard?

Probably not. I gathered up all of the skin that I could find, about 18 to 24 inches of it, and put it in a box. It was all in a single piece, but it was so fragile that it tore when I picked it up.

One thing I do know: this didn't come from a venomous snake. I researched snakes and found that there are only two venomous snakes near where I live. Both of these snakes have highly patterned markings on their skins. You can tell that this snake does not, although it might have lateral stripes. See how the skin is darker along the sides?

I'd like to take this snake skin to a nature center near where I live and see if they can tell me more about its former owner. Do you know what kind of snake has been living in my backyard?

Photo credits: Mama Joules