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Review of Deep Look: PBS examines the mysteries of nature

Reviewed by Laura Anderko

We can all relate to the majesty of a mountain or the expansiveness of the ocean. And while many Fairfax Master Naturalists engage in activities that require an “eye for detail” such as counting caddisflies during stream monitoring, it is not always possible to capture the splendor of the life of a caddisfly.

Now in its fourth season, PBS Digital Studies and KQED San Francisco offer a series of nature videos entitled Deep Look. These 3- to 5-minute videos cover a wide range of topics, such as how the caddisfly builds a protective home of pebbles using a waterproof “tape”. The photography is stunning, using macrophotography and microscopy (in 4K resolution) providing detailed views of nature that are often overlooked or invisible to us. Decidedly better than our bug boxes with magnifying lid! 

But these videos offer more than the inside scoop on insects. Birds, sea life, plant life, animals, and how climate change impacts wildlife are also explored. Examples of topics include: 

Feathers and the owl’s quiet flight

Sea otter’s fur and the secret to staying warm

Life of sand

Death cap mushrooms in disguise 

Coral provides clues about weather 500 years ago

Episodes offer a topic of interest for everyone. New episodes are offered twice a month (complete watch list). For educators (elementary, high school and beyond), PBS Learning media provides a platform for students using the Deep Look videos. As a professor in public health, I found the episode on ticks fascinating with its images of how it uses its hooks to extract blood and ultimately, spread disease. I will be using it in the course I teach this fall. 

I encourage you to take a few minutes to observe nature “up close and personal” to gain a deeper appreciation of our natural world and the complexity of lives of even the smallest of creatures. And how our work as Master Naturalists helps in safeguarding nature, no matter how “small”. 

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Become part of Nature’s Notebook, a platform from the National Phenology Network

Are you looking for a meaningful project? Does becoming a citizen scientist intrigue you? Want to learn a 21st-century tool that connects naturalists?

Nature’s Notebook is the National Phenology Network’s (USA NPN) online program and platform through which amateur and professional naturalists regularly record observations of plants and animals to generate long-term data sets used for scientific discovery and decision-making. As a citizen scientist, you can become a part of the community of observers by downloading the app (IOS or Android) and signing up for a campaign, such as Flowers for Bats, Shady Invaders, and others relevant to naturalist work in Virginia.

You can also start your own project and become certified!

If you just want to get your feet wet, or find materials for your classroom, NPN offers free, sharable resources.

Take a systems view and broaden your understanding of the network effect

As naturalists, we know that phenology (the study of periodic plant and animal lifecycle events and how they are influenced by seasonal variations in climate and habitat factors) is nature’s calendar—when dogwood trees bloom, when an eagle builds its nest, and when leaves turn color in the fall.

Phenologists take a systems view of the natural world. According to the National Phenology Network (USA NPN): “Many birds time their nesting so that eggs hatch when insects are available to feed nestlings. Likewise, insect emergence is often synchronized with leaf out in host plants. For people, earlier flowering means earlier allergies. Farmers and gardeners need to know the schedule of plant and insect development to decide when to apply fertilizers and pesticides and when to plant to avoid frosts. Phenology influences the abundance and distribution of organisms, ecosystem services, food webs, and global cycles of water and carbon. In turn, phenology may be altered by changes in temperature and precipitation.”

Learn more

FrogWatch USA looking for volunteers to monitor calls this summer. Training in March

FrogWatch USA at the National Zoo is in its sixth season. To date, they have monitored 75 sites in DC, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, and Maine and have submitted 1,650 frog call observations.

Tracking frog populations throughout the United States, FrogWatch invites participants to choose a monitoring site that is easily accessible and close to where they live or work to listen to frogs that are calling throughout the warmer months.

Three indoor trainings will help orient people to the frogs that are in the DC-metro area and their calls. Content is the same, so choose one training that fits your schedule. If you are interested please contact Matt Neff: neffm@si.edu

Trainings:

Sat., March 3rd, 3:00-6:00pm @ NZP – Rock Creek Campus

Thur., March 8th, 6:00-9:00pm @ Huntley Meadows Park, Alexandria, VA

Sat., March 17th, 3:00-6:00pm @ NZP – Rock Creek Campus

 

Review of Crash Course, by Hank Green and John Green

Reviewed by Marilyn Kupetz

Let’s suppose that you are a master naturalist charged with setting up classes in ecology, biology, evolution, and genetics. A clever person, you are opting for flipped classes so that participants can can do the fact-based parts of the learning beforehand, while you use class time for hands-on collaboration.

Where do you go for high-quality content?

Crash Course at your service.

The Green brothers, both polymaths, have built a repository of user-friendly lessons on YouTube. Their hilarious 10- to 15-minute bursts are scientifically sound, relevant to what naturalists do, and lots easier to absorb than a long book or classroom lecture.

The Ecology playlist, for example, features Hank’s 12 lessons on the history of life, population ecology, human population growth, predators, succession, ecosystem ecology, hydrologic and carbon cycles, nitrogen and phosphorous cycles, pollution, conservation and restoration—solid stuff, but designed for easy digestion.

Biology offers 40 lessons. Among them, “That’s Why Carbon is a Tramp,” “Animal Development: We’re Just Tubes,” and “Fungi: Death Becomes Them” remind you that humor is an awesome learning lubricant when what needs to go down are bits of covalent bonds and mycorrhizae.

Are these snacks the same as a full-length college course? Of course not, but for concepts, conversation, and test prep, they are delicious and filling.

Want to review a resource? We’d love to hear from you. Instructions for submission await your click and commitment.