Woodland Wildflowers

It seems with every passing day comes the realization that this winter is truly the winter that never was here in the central plains.  As I look out my window the redbuds are in full bloom as are the bradford pears and several trees are starting to leaf out.  Planted Magnolia’s are already past prime.  With several weeks of above average temperatures I have been watching several local woodland sites for spring wildflowers.  I thought there might even be a chance that the earliest plants might flower in February.  While False Rue-anemone was up in late February I didn’t actually find any flowering until March 12th after a rainy Sunday.

Yesterday, along with my wife, daughter and granddaughter I got a chance to check out the status of the spring bloom at the Overland Park Arboretum.  Wow,  things have really advanced over the week of high 70’s and low 80’s.  We soon found “carpets” of spring beauty’s and false rue-anemone’s.

Spring Beauty

Spring Beauty


False Rue-Anemone

False Rue-Anemone

Naturally, Cady and her mom decided to capture the ephemerals in photos.

Cady struck out on her own.

I like her style:

The blood roots were just getting started but won’t last long.

Blood Root

Blood Root

The Dutchman Breeches were almost to peak as were the Toothwort’s.

Dutchman's Breeches

Dutchman's Breeches




Like the Bloodwort’s the Erythroniums were just getting started but they won’t last long.




Last year I shared a post about spring wildflowers with most of these same flowers but the date was April 7th.  This year the flowers are much earlier.  In fact most will be past their prime by April 1.  If checking out woodland spring wildflowers is one of the signs of spring that you monitor each year, you’d best be getting out there.





Why Algae?

When students first entered the classroom this semester, they were greeted by this sight:  
Needless to say, there were some questions asked.  The 10-gallon tank in the background holds the stock algae that we will be using for our “algae” experiments over the course of this class. (Special thanks to Dr. Belinda Sturm, Environmental Engineering professor at KU for the algae).
Inside the tank are two types of microalgae: Ankistrodesmus and Chlorella. My students have asked, “Why algae?” enough that Miranda Gray, plant pathologist at Kansas State University, developed a module on model organisms (doc and ppt). From this module, my students were able to come up with the following reasons to use algae when studying Environmental Science:
  1. Algae are prevalent in basically all ecosystems on Earth
  2. It is easy to tell when the algae have grown (Built in color indicator!)
  3. Very small size makes it easy to use in a HS classroom.  Replicating trials is easier also!
  4. Algae are cheap (free if you acquire it from a natural source), and hardy. [Something I have learned: It is always good to use an organism that is difficult to kill when dealing with HS scientists].
  5. Algae = Plant = Producer.  Since producers occupy the “lowest” trophic level in any given ecosystem, it is easier to make predictions about the impact on the other members of the community.
  6. Algae = Plant = No permission is necessary from an ethics board to experiment on algae.

Throughout the course of the semester, my students will be designing and implementing experimental treatments that will aim to test how algal growth responds to a number of factors, including:

  • Changing climate conditions
  • Acid deposition
  • Fertilizer run-off/Eutrophication
  • Invasive Species
  • Population dynamics (addition of primary and secondary consumers)
  • Oil spills and other point pollutants

If you have any questions, comments, or desire to collaborate with my students please email me at andrewising@usd475.org

***This post appears on our class’s blog, along with a few experiments.  We are currently analyzing the data from our climate experiments, and I will post the experimental protocols/data/conclusions soon.  Follow @Mr_Ising to know about any new updates first.***

White Cotyledons on One Seedling

My AP students are growing fast plants, and one of them got this for one of her planters.  The seeds were taken from a random pool that has both purchased seeds and seeds cultivated from past classes.  I don’t have any information on the underlying cause of the lack of color in this plant.  So I pose her question to you all… “What’s the deal?”

Scholarship to KATS Kamp

Are you having trouble getting your district to help pay for KATS Kamp? Are you a teacher in your first few years of teaching? Have you never been to KATS Kamp? If any of these apply, request an application for a $100 scholarship by contacting Harry McDonald, biologycctrack@hotmail.com. Completed applications must be submitted by email by March 10. Scholarships sponsored by Kansas Citizens for Science

Johnson County Science Cafe

“Intelligent Machines: Past, Present, and Future”

Speaker: Reza Derakhshani, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering at UMKC’s School of Computing and Engineering

Date: March 6, 2012

Time: 6:30 pm

Location: Coaches Bar and Grill, 9089 W. 135th Street, one block west of 135th and Antioch, south side of 135th St.

What is intelligence? Can it be reverse engineered and built into a slab of silicon? Is the singularity near? These are some of the questions that we will entertain as we discuss current state of the art and the future of machine intelligence.

Dr. Derakhshani earned his Ph.D. and Master’s degrees in Computer Engineering and Electrical Engineering respectively from West Virginia University. Dr. Derakhshani’s research interests include computational intelligence paradigms, especially artificial neural networks, and their applications in biomedical signal analysis, biometrics (physical and psychophysiological), and physiological system identification. His interdisciplinary research has brought about close collaborations with researchers from different medical and engineering fields. Some of his recent research projects include noninvasive brain computer interfacing, a new patented biometric modality based on vasculature on white of the eye, neural network models of human joints, and non-obtrusive psychophysiological pattern recognition using postural and ocular dynamics. His work has been funded by various state and federal agencies, and has resulted in a number of peer-reviewed publications and a U.S. Patent. Please visit www1.sce.umkc.edu/~derakhshanir for more details.

For more information: biologycctrack@hotmail.com