CalNat Class Week 6, 03-15-19

Our naturalist graduate and volunteer, Roxanne, was at class today and brought some homemade banana bread to share with the class. While my co-instructors Bill and Nate were setting up the classroom, Roxanne and I were writing a list of the species we’d seen at Lake Solano Park on Wednesday on the dry-erase board in the front of the room. We filled the entire board! Students who hadn’t gone on that outing were stunned by what we’d been able to record, and were really getting excited about going out to the park tomorrow.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

Our guest speaker was Robert “Robyn” Aston from the River Otter Ecology Project. He’s on the board of directors there and travels all over doing presentation as part of his commitment to the organization. The Ecology Project is spearheading a citizen science project called “Otter Spotters” and is collecting data from all over the state to see where the river otters are showing up, moving out, visiting, etc. Robyn had lots of video snippets of otters and explained the behavior we were seeing, told us about otter community life, etc. He also brought things for the students to see and touch like a pelt and the skulls of a river otter and a sea otter so we could see how different they were in size. Sea otters can weigh up to 100 pounds (I didn’t know that!) but River Otters usually max out at about 35 pounds; think of them as something like a Labrador versus a Corgi.

Robyn talked for about an hour and answered questions, then the class took a break and he stayed in the room to continue to interact with the students which they loved.

After the break, one of the students, Eric N., presented his capstone project: he’s helping to revamp some of the trails and habitat restoration areas along Putah Creek. He also set up “predator detractor” thingies below some of the nest boxes set up along the creek. The thingies are like buckets hung upside down on the poles under the boxes and they’re set up to tilt wildly if a raccoon or fox or something tries to climb over them to get to the birds.  Eric did a great job with his presentation but ran a tiny bit long. I had to remind everyone that they’re only going to get 5 MINUTES to speak, so they have to be concise and quick with their presentations.

The students were in awe of the Polyphemus Moth and took all sorts of photos.  Another student said his wife was captivated by the cyanotype prints we’d done and wanted to be able to create a quilt out of images like those, so I told him where he could get the fabric, and also gave him the few extra samples we had left. He was very appreciative. I told him I want to see the quilt when it’s done.

The class went along very well and very quickly. I’m astounded sometimes by how fast those four hours go by! #CalNat