KABT on facebook

Hey all!

One of the things that we talked about around the campfire on our field trip to Marshall Co. (AWESOME trip, Noah!), was finding a way to spread the word to new and potential members around our state.  While I am either overstepping my bounds here, or, worse still, getting myself volunteered for something, I realized that there was a social media vacuum where KABT is concerned.  I am a devoted member of the Twitterati, as are some of you, but most people seem really tied to facebook, so I decided to start there.  If we do have a media officer/point person (Kessler?), I will gladly turn over admin rights to you, but I started the facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/groups/KSBioTeachers/)  hoping to drum up new members in time to get people fired up for our upcoming Fall meeting in Lawrence, KS (9/22).  From here, we can expand to Twitter, Google+, and other sites and use sites like Reddit or Evernote to help us compile news stories and articles that can be used in our classes to enrich and supplement this website.

Hope everyone is having a great summer, and are getting ready to teach students about Biology in a month(!).  Can’t wait to see you all soon, whether online, or at the Fall meeting. http://www.facebook.com/groups/KSBioTeachers/

Drew Ising (@Mr_Ising)

Pictoral Review of the KABT Spring Field Trip

Marshall County, KS 2012

As you are about to see, Noah Busch organized quite a series of events for us to experience during this year’s field trip, which included:

  • Camping out in Stella’s Meadow at Alcove Springs
  • Teaching us how to construct and use common materials in capturing the tracks of  small mammals
  • Showing us the new downtown exhibit on Geologic Time in the Glaciated Region in Blue Rapids, and famous Black Squirrels of Marysville
  • Checking turtle traps along Spring Creek, and being witnessing to a rare herpetological event (see the Kansas Herpetology Facebook for details)
  • Spending time at his family’s organic farm where we were treated to organic hot dogs and such, learned about organic farming from Noah’s mother Nancy Vogelsberg-Busch, took a bird watching tour with Dr. John Quinn from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, and stopped to eat some berries, look for some russian thistle weevils, and do a bit of bee handling…

Thanks again, Noah!

By the way, it looks like someone started a KABT Facebook Page.  Like it and share your links, etc…  I think we need to start a Facebook Group though so that I can post images to an ablum.  It appears that I can only upload a single image to a page.

Blue Morph

Who’s got the full story on this blue bullfrog?  Is it genetic or environmental?  A former Tonganoxie student located this blue morph in his pond.  After it was caught, I took it to Prairie Park Nature Center(Lawrence,Ks). 

“What the Robin Knows”–a resource for teachers–and an idea.



A couple of months ago I managed to get a copy of Jon Young’s, “What the Robin Knows”.  At the time I was a bit intrigued and a bit skeptical at the same time.  The sub-title:  “How birds reveal the secrets of the natural world” seemed a bit overblown to my way of thinking.  Despite my misgivings I purchased the book and was very pleasantly surprised.  In fact, this book may be a game changer when it comes to trying to encourage the next generation to get more involved with the natural world–to meet the challenges outlined in Richard Loev’s books:  Last Child in the Woods and The Nature Principle  The book certainly has changed my focus and attention when I’m outside.
American Robin:

from Photofarmer: http://www.flickr.com/photos/photofarmer/


The basic premise of the book is that by concentrating on the variety of calls from just a few strategically chosen common birds anyone can learn to listen to the language of birds in a way that allows for a greater awareness of all the goings on in a particular environment.   Birds are constantly communicating with each other (even between species).  We can listen in and interpret just what all the fuss is about.  Alarm calls in particular provide a rich source of information.  Young makes the claim that by taking time to regularly sit and listen in one spot over multiple days and times one can gradually develop an understanding of the meaning of various calls and behaviors that are part of everyday bird life.

House Wren:

from David-Mitchel: http://www.flickr.com/photos/firstmac/

To help jump start the process he provides a structure for categorizing various calls and call types as well as behaviors.  Over the years I have had ample time to assimilate these calls and they were all familiar but I had never thought to consider the different levels of alarm that each bird issues depending on the predator observed and location.  These categories help to focus your observations and field notes as you spend your time at your sit spot.  Young also makes shorthand suggestions to facilitate your note taking.  I can tell you that I cannot sit on my deck now without hearing the chickadee’s, the robin’s, the catbird’s and wren’s alarm calls and their “all things” are fine calls.


from cdbtx: http://www.flickr.com/photos/31513597@N02/


Map:  http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7071/7160684633_8953719c08_o.jpg

Young provides a web site that supports his book including the calls of several common birds.




Robin Alarm call from the Bird Language site

Lang Elliott is an acoustic birder from Ithaca.  He spends a great deal of time recording natural sounds.  He recently wrote a blog post about his experience following a neighbor’s cat around the yard and recorded the alarm calls of the birds the cat encountered.  This will give you a good idea of how this might work.  Lang Elliott’s blog post

To test out how attractive learning this kind of skill might be for a youngster, I convinced my eldest grand daughter to sit with me for about 30-45 minutes on the front porch up in upstate New York to listen for birds back in the middle of May.  I had already been keeping track of 3 different Robin pairs and other neighborhood birds when Emma joined me.


from Benimoto: http://www.flickr.com/photos/benimoto/

Benimoto:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/benimoto/

As she sat down, I heard a catbird alarm call across the street, brought her attention to it and suggested we keep an eye in that direction.  Just then the neighbor’s cat strolled out from the thicket.  Emma recognized the cat immediately and called it by name.  Now she knew that the neighborhood birds also knew this cat.  In that short 30-45 minutes  Emma was able to establish the approximate boundaries of the nesting territory of a pair of robins that appeared to be nesting in the yard.  I asked her to keep track of the different calls of the Robins and then asked her if she could tell the difference between the different Robins in the neighborhood.  Could she be certain that her pair were always the same?  Could she tell the male from the female? She was pretty sure she could but couldn’t tell me why except that they behaved differently.  Just then the female, who had been feeding next to the male, took flight and appeared to fly to a tree around the corner–a crab apple.  I told Emma that, in my experience, crab apples are often chosen for Robin nest trees.  She then ran into the house, went to a second story window where she could look down into the tree.  That was quickly followed by a “I’ve found it.  Grandpa.  The nest is in the top of the tree and she is on it.”  Powerful stuff for a young naturalist.

Robin Territory–Upstate New York


At this point one of her classmates who lives across the street asked if she could come over and play on the sack swing.  She went over to play while I kept on watching.  After about 15 minutes, a Blue Jay got a little too close, landing near the nest tree.  Both Robins, immediately, attacked the jay who went over, across the street where the kids were playing.  Emma, who I thought was more attentive to the play immediately came back over to make sure I’d seen all the action and wanted to know why the Robins were so agressive to the Jay.  After talking a bit about nest predation by Jays, I had some time to think just how deeply this little exercise had already benefited my grand daughter’s skills.

Learning bird language really opens new vistas to understanding the natural world.  Get a copy of Young’s book and share the ideas with your own students.  I’m sure that many of you can come up with all kinds of activities for students to do where this approach will be very valuable.


from Todd Ryburn: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tryburn/

Todd Ryburn: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tryburn/



Johnson County Science Cafe

Making Science Public: Challenges and Opportunities

Speakers: Alex Smith, Senior Leverhulme Research Fellow in Sociology at Warwick University in the UK

Date: July 10, 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.

Alex Smith conducts sociological research on politics, religion and science in the UK and the USA. He will talk about the $2.5 million, Leverhulme Trust-funded research program “Making Science Public: Challenges and Opportunities”, an interdisciplinary, five-year collaboration between the UK Universities of Nottingham, Sheffield and Warwick. One of the program’s Project Leaders, Alex is directing a four-year project on science, religion and the making of public opinion in the UK and US. Alex has visited Kansas extensively over the last few years studying this subject. Alex will discuss the relationship between recent debates over religion and science in both countries. Visit the website, www.nottingham.ac.uk/sociology/research/projects/making-science-public/index.aspx, and find out more about this research.

Alex Smith is a Senior Leverhulme Research Fellow in Sociology at Warwick University in the UK. He is also Adjunct Assistant Professor in Sociology at Kansas University and holds an Honorary Lectureship in the Institute of Science and Society at Nottingham University. A Garrison Keillor Fellow in the Eccles Centre for North American Studies at the British Library in London, Alex is the author of ‘Devolution and the Scottish Conservatives: banal activism, electioneering and the politics of irrelevance’ (2011, Manchester: Manchester University Press). He has a PhD in Social Anthropology from Edinburgh University and edits the ‘New Ethnographies’ book series for Manchester University Press.

For more information: biologycctrack@hotmail.com