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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Like a Chick in a Maze

Animal Behavior Continues Working with Chicks

Guest Post by Carley Kukk ’19

During our last week with the chicks, we focused on teaching them how to get through a maze using associative learning. We constructed a simple Y maze with leftover shoeboxes and placed a small pile of food at the end.

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The food acted as a positive reinforcement if the chicks successfully completed the maze. Hopefully, they would later associate the correct end of the maze with the food.

In our experiment, we used 2 chicks to strengthen our data. Each chick surprisingly ran their fastest time through the maze on their first try. This was probably a fluke as later proved in the data where the chicks always explored the other end of the maze before completing it.

Eventually it took around 30 seconds each to complete the maze. There were in total around 7 trials for each chick. They finally began to associate the ending with food and ultimately learned through operate conditioning the correct way to complete our y-maze.

Welcome Back!

Another Year, Another Great Set of Blog Posts!

Welcome back to Andover! I am sure for a lot of you, it has been a great summer, but it is time to get back into the swing of things!

We have a lot of great things planned for you this year! Be sure to check out one (or more!) of our amazing Science classes this year!

If you are enjoying your Science class or have a Science-related independent project and would like to write one (or more!) blog post – let Ms. Andersen know at randersen@andover.edu! It can even count as your work duty… (!!!!!)

Have a great year!

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!

Blue Moon

An introduction to Andover’s new STEM-based Magazine

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The Phillips Academy students have published a new STEM Magazine – Blue Moon – a magazine of student-written research papers and articles.

Blue Moon was created as a platform for STEM research, as a means by which students can exercise the final step of the scientific method: communication. It aims to foster curiosity and cooperation in both its writers and its readers. Bi-annual print publications are made possible by a grant from the Abbot Academy Association, continuing Abbot’s tradition of boldness, innovation, and caring. Issue I of Blue Moon spotlights the diversity of student interest within the sciences, topics ranging from immunotherapy to gender discrimination to prosthetics. (*from the inside cover of Issue I)

We spoke with Amanda Li, ’18 who pioneered this project, which has been about two years in the making, thus far. During her freshman spring, she began to look for a place on campus to share a paper she had written. When she could not find an outlet on campus, she began to formulate the idea of a student scientific publication. 

“Seeing as there wasn’t any such thing yet, I reached out to students from different grades and backgrounds to see if they were interested in a STEM journal. The overwhelming response was yes, so I decided to take some action and hopefully allow other students to share their research and ideas. It also allows new students to start exploring various STEM areas, by allowing them to read about the interests that their peers hold.” -Amanda Li, ’18

img_6869She applied for an Abbot Grant in her lower fall to fund the publication of bi-annual issues. She received full funding and got to work! She gathered editors, graphic designers, and potential writers during her lower spring and summer. They officially started Blue Moon last fall and they have received over 30 articles so far!

“I’m really grateful for the AAA’s support, otherwise I doubt this would be possible. I’m looking forward to start the process of making the next issue!”  -Amanda Li, ’18

If you are interested in learning more or reading the many articles submitted, visit bluemoonjournal.com. They are always looking for submissions and feedback!

Learning at the Fish School

Animal Behavior Students Observe Schooling in Fish

In Mr. Tom Cone’s Animal Behavior classes last week, students participated in an interesting lab about determining the schooling ability of certain fish.

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According to Tom Cone, the significance of schooling in fish is that of safety, but also companionship. When fish are good at schooling (gathering in large groups), it helps them look bigger to other fish which is a great anti-predator mechanism. It also helps with procreation, as a fish to mate with is never far away. In addition, studies have shown that schooling fish live longer in groups, which indicates schooling is also a social behavior.

Mr. Cone set up multiple fish tanks with different species of fish inside. Students divided into groups and chose a type of fish to observe. The experiment is set up where one fish is in the large tank and the others are in an adjacent smaller tank. The large tank is separated into four equal quadrants.

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Students then began to observe the single fish in the large tank – for 10 minutes they record the location (which quadrant) of the fish. They repeat the recordings with the small tank on the other side of the large tank.

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The students then tried to make observations to determine what attracts the one fish to the others (the releaser or stimuli) – is it their color? their size? their markings? They then repeated the entire experiment, but instead of using the small jar of fish, they created their own model of a fish using paper and markers to see if the fish behave the same way.

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Students then took the data they gathered and used it to determine if their species of fish is a “schooling” fish. Some students found significant data that their species of fish is great at schooling – their fish stayed mostly in the quadrant adjacent to the other fish. Other students found that their fish may not be great at schooling as they swam all around the tank.