The Herring Are Coming!

Bio100 Visits the Shawsheen River

This year’s Bio100 class had the unique opportunity to visit the Shawsheen River last week and learn a bit about habitat change. Each period piled into a bus and drove down to near Whole Foods in Andover to a bridge overlooking the Shawsheen River.

There, they met Jon Honea, a professor at Emerson College in Boston whose research involves making computer models to see how habitat change effects different communities. In this particular spot, two dams that were built approximately 200 years ago were taken down to allow the migratory fish to return to the area. He is now monitoring the return of the fish that used to be native to this area, namely the River Herring. These fish are silver in color and about a foot long. Mr. Honea and his team are watching the river for about 10 minutes at a time to see how many of these fish are spotted. This data will help to estimate the fish’s spawning population time.

Mr. Honea talked to them a bit about why it is so important for us to repopulate the river with this Herring. They play an important role in the ecosystem as food for many animals. They spawn in fresh water rivers and then move to the ocean to grow up. Mr. Mundra also talked a bit about the two dams that were removed from the area. These dams were preventing the fish from coming back to spawn in the river. These dams were built approximately 200 years ago as a source of energy for the Powder Mills in the area. Mr. Honea also said that the downstream dam was purely ornamental – the owner of the Mills wanted a gurgling sound for his administrative staff to feel comfortable working in the building.

The class then helped Mr. Honea to count the fish in the river. They took some basic data down, the weather and temperature of the air and water, and began to look for the fish. We are looking for the stray fish who are now able to make it upstream, to see how many make it up now that the dams are gone. Unfortunately, in the 10 minutes that we were there, no one saw a fish, but the hope is that within the next three or four years the population will be thriving!

Cherry Tree Cookie Day 2017

Biology Faculty Tom Cone welcomes Spring and calls attention to one of the natural beauties of campus with cookies at the Cherry Tree

It is time again for a great tradition of Phillips Academy Andover, cookies at the Cherry Tree. For his last time, Tom Cone, put out cookies between under the nearly 65 year old Cherry Tree between Sam Phil and Morse Hall to commemorate Spring and to celebrate one of the natural treasures of the campus. Tom Cone is retiring (after 51 years of teaching!) at the end of this school year, so this is his last trip to the Cherry Tree. The Biology Department is committed to keeping this tradition alive for years to come!

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Keeping with tradition, the first period Bio100 classes helped make the trays and bring them out to the table set up under the tree.

And the crowds quickly followed! Mr. Cone reminds everyone who takes a cookie to look at the tree and marvel in its beauty.

This nearly 65-year-old cherry tree has a rich history on the campus – it has been around for decades and was almost cut down – twice! The first time was in the early 1970’s, when the old Evans Hall Science Building still stood. Some in the school thought that the cherry tree blocked the view of the building from the west side of campus and planned to cut the tree down. Students and faculty heard this and many people literally “hugged” the tree the day the cutters came so they could not cut the tree down. They did not come back.

Later, after the Gelb Science Center was built in 2004, some in the school again thought that the tree blocked the view of the building from the Foxcroft area. Members of the PA community fought to keep the tree and when the architects of Gelb agreed with the community, the result was an agreement to keep the tree.

If you look closely at the tree, you can see it is held together by wires! The tree would probably fall right over if they had not brought in an expert to repair the tree and keep it standing. Thank goodness they did, because this is certainly one of the most amazingly beautiful trees on campus. It only blooms for a few days – as you can see, the petals were already starting to fall off! So, enjoy this natural beauty while it lasts!

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!

Birds of Prey Visit Andover

The Ornithology Classes Get a Visit from Wingmasters, a Bird Education and Rescue Program

Guest Post by Peyton McGovern ’16

Hello Blog Readers,

This week was super exciting for Bio 421! After 4 weeks of studying local and national birds, we had visitors from Wingmasters, a program that works to rehabilitate injured birds. It was so fascinating to see the birds we have been learning about in class so close.

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For me personally, I was most captivated by the owls. Both the barred owl and horned owl were incredible but my favorite was the saw-whet owl. I never knew that owls could be of that miniature size.

Another incredible bird we observed was the Peregrine Falcon, the fastest animal in the world. This bird can fly up to 200 miles per hour and spots its prey from the top of skyscrapers.

Aside from the fascination of this program, it was also quite educational. The woman who worked for Wingmasters, Julie, talked a lot about the environmental effects of pesticides and other chemicals on the health of birds. Throughout their time, Wingmasters has seen a decline in some species of birds because the birds prey, rodents and insects, often eat food that is sprayed by pesticides. The pesticides kill the insects and rodents and often has deadly effects for the birds as well. However, Julie and her partner, Jim, also mentioned many projects that attempt to revive dwindling bird populations. Overall, this was a super exciting and educational opportunity for our class.

Ms. Andersen put together the video below of some clips from the presentation:

Jane Goodall Visits Andover

Dr. Jane Goodall, beloved researcher and conservationist, visited Andover on Friday, April 8th to give an inspiring talk about protecting our natural world.

My Bio 100 students attended the lecture and wrote reflective responses. They were inspired, even transfixed and calling the presentation “magical,” commenting on Jane Goodall as a person and a mind. They remarked on her determination to follow her childhood dreams in spite of lack of resources, her empathy with animals and connection to nature, her rejection of authority and stodgy scientific biases and conventions, her passionate and tireless work, her humanity, and her invocation of a global community made up of responsible beings concerned with common good. As the students’ teacher I felt pretty inspired by not just Goodall but by these students. I also feel determined to spend more time outside in Bio 100! ~ Anna Milkowski, Biology Instructor

This talk meant a lot to Tom Cone, Biology Instructor and part of the Campus Beautification Committee, who has fought to protect so many things in “our” natural world – including the Cherry Tree between Morse and Sam Phil.

Below is a recording of her full presentation.