Squirrels and Crayfish!

Animal Behavior Learns About Foraging and Territoriality

Guest Post by Carley Kukk ’19

The last two weeks of animal behavior have been pretty busy with learning about foraging behaviors and territoriality. To explore foraging behaviors, we utilized an abundant resource on campus: squirrels!

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We set up a station next to multiple trees around campus with 4 piles of peanuts. Two piles were 2m from the tree while the others were 6m. One pile at a certain distance had unshelled peanuts and the other shelled. During our double block, we observed squirrel activity. Although we weren’t so lucky in sighting any squirrels (weird, right?), we learned the typical trend for this activity. Unshelled peanuts closer to the tree are a more popular choice because unshelled peanuts require less handling time (aka: less energy) and they are closer to a tree where a squirrel is safe from predators.

In another experiment performed this previous week, we tested the theory that residents are more likely to dominate intruders in a battle over territory. We placed a crayfish (who is extremely territorial) in a tank overnight to establish it’s dominance over the territory.

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The next morning we added an intruder crayfish: one larger and one of the same size. The resident crayfish usually dominated an intruder of the same size, yet was defeated by an intruder of a larger size.

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Moviemaking on Campus!

Filming Has Begun on a Campus Documentary Featuring Tom Cone

The documentary is made possible, in part, by a grant from the Abbot Academy Association, continuing Abbot’s tradition of boldness, innovation, and caring.

Filmmaker Charlie Stuart ’62 brought a film crew last week to document Mr. Tom Cone’s 51st year (and last as he is retiring at the end of this year) of teaching and his knowledge of the natural history of this campus. Dr. Christine Marshall-Walker and I applied for an Abbot Academy Association Grant to fund a short film featuring Tom Cone. His deep understanding of nature and his passion for teaching are gifts to be archived and cherished for years to come.

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Along with his crew, John Baynard and Mike Tridenti, Charlie filmed Tom Cone with his Biology 100 class observing different types of trees.

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First, Mr. Cone took his class to see a red oak tree which was planted after the Gelb Science Center was built in 2004. He was pointing out the characteristics of the Red Oak Leaves and pointing out the acorns. Each oak has its own variety of acorn and leaves. The Red Oak Leaves have lots of little points at the end of the divisions.

Then, they went to a beautiful Red Maple Tree in full color. He spoke about the pigments and how they are made and how the weather effects the color production. The Maples in particular may produce a red pigment that many other types of trees don’t have.

Next, they looked at a Copper Beech Tree located near Newman House on the Salem Street side of Gelb. They were talking about how this tree, like the American Beech, is characterized by smooth bark. If it is found in parks, this is the tree that many people will carve their initials into it. It can potentially grow to be 300 years old. We used to have an American Beech near Gelb, but it was removed to build the Sykes Center, so the students could not see it today.

They weren’t the only Biology 100 out that day! Dr. Catherine Kemp’s class was also looking at the same trees and talking about characteristics of each tree.

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Charlie and his team will be on campus throughout the year, so keep an eye out for more filming stills and the final product in the spring!