Adventures in Ethics and Science

Dr. Free-Ride: So, you went on a field trip today to a lagoon.

Younger offspring: Yeah, I went to [Name redacted] Creek and [Name redacted] Lagoon.

Dr. Free-Ride: You know, I’m going to redact the names to protect your privacy. Tell me what you saw on your field trip that was interesting.


Younger offspring: I saw a lot of things on the field trip. Some I didn’t know what they were called. I saw caterpillars, dandelions, cattails, and I have in my pocket some cattail leaves and some tules.

Dr. Free-Ride: So you do.

Younger offspring: (consulting notes made during the field trip in a photocopied “Creek Guide”) Also, I saw poison oak, blackberries, cattails, tules –

Dr. Free-Ride: I think you mentioned those already.

Younger offspring: — other –

Dr. Free-Ride: Other? What “other” did you see?

Younger offspring: Well, I forgot exactly what I saw, but it wasn’t on this list.

Dr. Free-Ride: That’s a good reason to check “other”.

Younger offspring: I also saw a willow tree with a lot of poison oak in it, a cottonwood tree, and eucalyptus, and Himalayan blackberry.

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Dr. Free-Ride: I notice on that page that they have different categories of plants.

Younger offspring: The different categories are native creek trees, non-native trees, native creek plants, and non-native plants.

Dr. Free-Ride: Did you talk about those categories?

Younger offspring: Well, we talked about what native and non-native mean. Non-native is not from this state, country, or continent.

Dr. Free-Ride: At least not originally.

Younger offspring: Yes.

Dr. Free-Ride: But once it gets here, sometimes it does very well, huh?

Younger offspring: Uh huh.

Dr. Free-Ride: Sometimes it has very little competition in the new niche.

Younger offspring: Uh huh.

Dr. Free-Ride: Do you know what a niche is?

Younger offspring: No.

Dr. Free-Ride: It’s sort of like a set of conditions in the environment, a set of conditions that let an organism get what it needs to grow and reproduce.

Younger offspring: I also saw mushrooms, and doves. I heard woodpecker calls and also a turkey call. We also learned how to make the … nut-something woodpecker call.

Dr. Free-Ride: Hmm. Not nuthatch?

Younger offspring: I don’t think so. But it sounded like this. (Does “horse-lips” three times.) Only with more of a whistle.

Dr. Free-Ride: Interesting.

Younger offspring: We also saw a ladybug, an alligator lizard, and a crawdad.

Dr. Free-Ride: Cool!

Younger offspring: And tadpoles.

Dr. Free-Ride: What stage of tadpole-y-ness were they? Were they starting to sprout legs?

Younger offspring: No, they were still fully tadpole.

Dr. Free-Ride: I see.

Younger offspring: And, once we got into their classroom, we got drops of water and put them under a microscope. What I saw in mine was a dead ostracod, some sediment, duckweed, and an Alderfly nymph.

Dr. Free-Ride: Oh, was the nymph alive?

Younger offspring: Yes.

Dr. Free-Ride: Awesome! But that was the only thing alive in your drop of water, as far as you could tell?

Younger offspring: As far as I could tell.

Dr. Free-Ride: Did other people see different things in their drops of water?

Younger offspring: Yes.

Dr. Free-Ride: What were some of the other things they saw?

Younger offspring: I don’t know what they’re called, but they’re other types of critters. Also, the dead ostracod wasn’t really small, it was big.

Dr. Free-Ride: What is an ostracod?

Younger offspring: Ostracod, I think, means “big”. [Wikipedia disagrees].

Dr. Free-Ride: So, is it like a bug?

Younger offspring: Here’s a picture.

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Dr. Free-Ride: I see.

Younger offspring: You can only see it big under a microscope.

Dr. Free-Ride: So it’s relatively big. It’s bigger than the Alderfly nymph.

Younger offspring: Uh huh.

Dr. Free-Ride: And duckweed — is that a plant?

Younger offspring: Yes.

Dr. Free-Ride: What was the main thing you learned from this visit to the lagoon and the creek?

Younger offspring: We learned about the watershed, and I made a promise. (Reading from the booklet:) “I promise to keep our creeks and watersheds clean and healthy. I promise not to litter. I promise to protect wildlife and the environment. I promise to teach and encourage others to do the same. I will remember our motto, only rain down the storm drain!

Dr. Free-Ride: Wow.

Younger offspring: And now it’s official, I have my badge.

Dr. Free-Ride: So you do. Any other interesting things you saw or learned?

Younger offspring: I saw poo, I saw mosquitos, and I learned that mosquitos lay eggs in the water. And they grow into mosquito larvae, and then they grow into mosquitos and fly away from the water.

Dr. Free-Ride: Did you learn about any critters that eat the mosquito eggs or larvae?

Younger offspring: I think maybe fish do.

Dr. Free-Ride: So, if we got rid of all the mosquito eggs, some fish might end up very hungry.

Comments

  1. #1 LO
    April 16, 2010

    Love that ostracod and ostracize have the same root! Sounds like a pretty cool critter. Is YO old enough for Kids Day this year (if they have it, there were rumblings last year that it was in danger)? EO’s first Kids Day included looking at pond water though she probably remembers the kiwi and strawberry DNA extraction or the 3D molecule visualization part of that workshop better.

  2. #2 Shaun
    April 17, 2010

    I remember hiking to a lake as a kid on a camping trip with my dad and the mosquitoes were a bit on the thick side. You could see them hovering over the lake and I was thinking “We should go on a campaign to eradicate mosquitoes entirely! They’re good for nothing.” Then I saw fish jumping out of the water and it suddenly dawned on me that fish were probably feeding on them and the eggs and that eradicating them would do more harm than good. While it was exciting to make that connection, I have to admit I was rather sad to see that mosquitoes did serve a purpose. Stupid web of life!

  3. #3 David L.
    April 19, 2010

    I’m with Shaun on the mosquito thing. I have long wished they could be eradicated, as being more pest than anything else.

    I know this almost never works out, but can’t we replace mosquitoes in the food chain with something else water-born that isn’t a blood sucking, itch causing, disease spreading pest? Surely there has to be some less annoying insect that can serve as a global stand-in for the mosquito.

    Ideas?

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