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Education activities review: August 13 – 17

August 17, 2012

Science collaborative project

Last Saturday’s community monitoring day in Sadie Cove was a stunningly beautiful day. In addition to successfully completing our vegetation plots under first foggy and then clear blue skies, we saw as a group several black bears (on the beach as we approached the marsh and a family up on a mountainside) , a Merlin family skirting the marsh, and lots of fish – spawning pink salmon and huge schools of sticklebacks – in the marsh.

Here are some snapshots from our day in Sadie:

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Education staff will be in Fox River Flats tomorrow setting up the vegetation monitoring plots and again on Saturday with the 6 teams comprised of community monitoring volunteers and staff.

Science outreach

As an update to last week’s report on what we’re learning about the reddish-orange coloration seen and reported on the water around Kachemak Bay…we now know what is causing this – spores from the Spruce-Labrador Tea Needle Rust Fungus. According to the Cooperative Extension office in Soldotna, this parasitic fungus thrives in high moisture at temperatures below 60°F. With the cold summer we have had, it’s perhaps no wonder we’re seeing lots of this. The Cooperative Extension office has received many calls from further north on the Kenai Peninsula, with the spores being seen on freshwater lakes and with concern from folks about the spruce trees. The fungus is a natural and harmless plant disease; the trees do not die from the fungus.

You can see the fungus on spruce trees at a distance as a yellowish or orangish color on the outer branches. Upon closer inspection, there is a crusty substance on the needles and small branches. This coloration becomes more apparent when the weather warms and the “blisters” of spores burst open, releasing the spores to be carried by the wind.

Last year during this same week in August, Catie took a photo of the same spores from a sample in Eldred passage. This is also the same fungus that was the cause of the “orange goo” in the village of Kivalina last year – a hot news item for several weeks.

Here is additional information on the Spruce Needle Rust – it has an interesting life history:

  1. Spruce Needle Rust” from the US Forest
  2. Mystery of Alaskan “Goo” Rust Solved at Last” from Scientific American

And here are some microscopic images of the rust fungal spores taken by Catie in our lab this week:

Top view of Lutz spruce needle blister with spores inside – Homer

Rust spores from Lutz spruce needle – Homer

Rust spore – from Seldovia water

Pre-K through 12th grade coastal science education

Our annual BookingBlitz for teachers happened yesterday here at the Reserve. We got calls from 24 teachers (from Homer, Kenai, and Soldotna), who booked 23 of our 24 available Discovery Lab programs for next February, April, and May. These teachers also booked 7 Estuary Hikes with us for next spring. 2013 will be a very exciting year for Discovery Lab education at the Research Reserve, with 3 new labs/topics being offered: 1) Surveying Southcentral Alaska’s Seabirds and Marine Mammals, 2) Our Landscape Over Time: Sea Level Rise and Earth Movement, and 3) Glaciers on the Move.

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