KABT Summer Field Trip 2014

Save the date!Mussel survey

nwrs_blueThe Summer KABT Field Trip will be held in Linn county, Kansas from May 30 – June 1.

We have lots of potential activities in the works, a few include:
* camping Fri & Sat nights

* spending time at the Marais des Cygnes National Wildlife Refuge. They are the only place in KS where Swamp White Oak are known to occur. It has some state protected amphibians and reptiles including the central newt, broad-headed skink, and smooth earth snake. They are also restoring shrub land for migratory song birds like bell’s vireo and the yellow-breasted chat.Bottomland Hardwood

* could learn about the Refuge’s bottom land reforestation efforts with the “Go Zero” carbon sequestration program, management of forest resources and endemic and protected flora and fauna, their diverse mussel beds (31 different species!), upland glade habitats and pollinators, a heron rookery, etc…

* potentially seining for Notophthalamus viridescens newts, setting turtle traps, learning tips about taking students out herping

We hope to see you there!

Your hosts,  Eric Kessler, Chris Ollig and Kelley Tuel

Apply or Nominate for 2014 Kansas Outstanding Biology Teacher Award!

I am excited to announce that it’s that time again…

The new criteria for the 2014 Kansas Outstanding Biology Teacher Award is available!! If you would like to apply, please start working on the application (attached below). There is no need to let me know ahead of time that you are applying since we have always allowed self nominations.

If you would like to nominate someone else for this award, feel free to send me their name and I will contact them with the information.

Being either self-nominated or peer-nominated is not weighted differently in the committee evaluation process. All applications and letters of recommendation are due by FRIDAY, APRIL 25.  Click here for the application information: OBTA requirements_2014

Here’s a ditty from NABT about this fantastic award:
Every year, the Outstanding Biology Teacher Award (OBTA) program attempts to recognize an outstanding biology educator (grades 7-12 only) in each of the 50 states; Washington, DC; Canada; Puerto Rico; and overseas territories. Candidates for this award do not have to be NABT members, but they must have at least three years of public, private, or parochial school teaching experience. A major portion of the nominee’s career must have been devoted to the teaching of biology/life science, and candidates are judged on their teaching ability and experience, cooperativeness in the school and community, inventiveness, initiative, and student-teacher relationships. OBTA recipients are special guests at the Honors Luncheon held at the NABT Professional Development Conference, receive microscopes from Leica Microsystems, gift certificates from Carolina Biological Supply Company, and award certificates and complimentary one-year membership from NABT.

Please let me know if you have any questions!
Kelley Tuel

Red Hills Reflection: Summer 2013 Field Trip

Sighting Summary

Mammals:  Cave Myotis, Prairie Dogs, White-tailed Deer, Mule Deer (as we left), horses next to our campsite (the kids enjoyed petting) and cattle.  Lots of cattle.  Herps:  Common Kingsnake, Coachwhip, Prairie Rattler, Bullsnake (thanks for scouting it, Bailey!), Baby Snapping Turtle, Ornate Box Turtle, Horned Lizard, 5-Lined Race Runner.  Birds:  Mississippi Kites, Nighthawks, Chuck Will’s Widow, Cowbird egg in a Phoebe nest, flock of Cave Swallows under a bridge, Burrowing Owl, Great Horned Owl.  Invertebrates:  Crayfish, “Thing Nightmares are Made of Centipede” (I made that name up, but look at a picture of that thing!).


Friday Evening Highlights

  • Harry and Charlotte McDonald identified the sweet sounds of the Chuck Will’s Widow (bird).  Click here to listen:  http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Chuck-wills-widow/sounds
  • A young couple from the Merrill Ranch came down to start a campfire and bring us s’mores.  What hospitality!
  • We welcomed some new members to the KABT trip:  Marylee Ramsay from Goddard and Kelly Kluthe from Wyandotte (who did I forget?).
  • Kelly Kluthe followed Brad Williamson’s advice on where to put her tent.  Following Brad’s advice would prove to be a grave mistake.
  • Wow, that was one tenacious bird – the Chuck Will’s Widow kept up his call until the wee hours of the night.  Seriously, wasn’t he tired, too?  You’d better listen again to get the full effect:   http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Chuck-wills-widow/sounds


  • Stan Roth kept us on schedule with a historical overview of the area with insight from Ken Brunson and Dee & Phyllis Scherich.
  • First stop:  Big Gyp Cave where we scaled poison ivy to get to a breath-taking site.  This is where we found the baby common snapping turtle, Phoebe nest containing a Cowbird egg and our first indication of bats in the area: the bat mummy (modest exaggeration).  Stan showed us the primitive cave drawings which were the first (only?) cave drawings made with pigment found in Kansas.
  • Phyllis helped us identify wildflowers over a picnic lunch while Alexis Powell proved to have more determination than a coachwhip while posing it for a photo.
  • Second stop:   This cave held a gargantuan mountain of petrified bat guano (not an exaggeration).  We had to crawl over it to get into the depths of the cave.  I wasn’t sure if the “dirt” on my hands was soil or guano and just tried not to pick the fuzz off my teeth from forgetting to brush that morning.  Drew Ising ran a babysitting service for a while my cave-ophobic (speluncaphobic) daughter went darting out of the cave (thanks, Drew!).
  • Next cave:  It was decidedly the “Secret Garden of Poison Ivy” cave that was the most memorable for most of us on this trip.  The majority of the children on the trip crawled within the bowels of the cave (along with a few daring adults) while several of us sat just within the narrow mouth of the cave (less than 4 foot ceiling).  We felt a brush of air, then another and thought “no, that couldn’t have been a bat…?”  Then a few more wafts of wind and trained our flashlights to the cavity where we last saw our children.  Lasting several minutes, a few dozen bats flew past us to the outside, while others flew back in.  We heard exuberance from the depths of the cave and suddenly we were inundated with hundreds of bats flying past to either get in or out.  This lasted another 10-15 minutes.  As the kids finally began exiting the cave, they said it was the most amazing thing they had ever experienced.  I agree (although feeling a little guilty about the disruption our environmentally friendly group caused the bats).  Someone identified these as Cave Myotis.  Kylee Sharp got a great shot of a bat mid-flight among the trees.  Check out the KABT FB page for a link to Flickr…
  • Riding on that high, we explored the area to find a picturesque meandering stream at the foot of a Red Hill cliff.  We harassed the most chilling centipede that looked like it came from a horror movie. Scott Sharp found a timid Prairie Rattlesnake.
  • Heading to the next site, we spotted Cave Swallows and stopped on a bridge to watch them.  Bailey Busch showed she has eyes of an eagle when she spotted a bullsnake in a grassy area under the bridge.
  • At this stage in the trip, it is important to note that some members of our party must have some sort of sixth sense (great cell coverage) about weather because they were mysteriously absent from the trip from hence forward under the premise of previous engagements (Brad Williamson, Randy Dix, Noah Busch, Drew Isling and Harry & Charlotte McDonald) while the rest of us enjoyed the view of a distance thunderstorm across the hills (foreshadowing??).
  • Our last stop of the day was at a prairie dog town where we saw prairie dog frivolity.  The kids enjoyed a scavenger hunt of bones.  It would only be science parents to identify the bones and let the kids keep them instead of saying “gross, put that down before you get worms!”
  • With that beautiful distant thunderstorm getting closer (and Julie Schwarting’s mammoth tent not staked down), we decided to go back to camp.  Yep, it was raining pretty good by the time we got back.  Kelly Kluthe’s tent proved to be in the lowest spot of the entire camp area, maybe in the entire ranch.  It looked like it sat in the middle of a pond just a little bigger than the tent – moat if you will.  I wonder if Kelly will ever listen to Brad’s advice again?
  • We waited out the waves of rain in our vehicles…three rounds of rain.  And then it stopped.  The Chuck Will’s Widow sang with joy (again:  http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Chuck-wills-widow/sounds) while we figured out how to cook our “campfire” meals with wet wood.  Yeah for camp stoves and potluck dinners!  The children of the group played in the “chocolate milk lake” while the adults cooked.  Scott made a clothesline for the Schwartings sleeping bags.
  • After everyone squeegeed and ate, we enjoyed a campfire (found some dry wood!) with more s’mores, some campfire pies, steaming soggy socks on the edge of the fire, a tent chess tournament and the musical styling’s of Paul Schwarting and Scott Sharp on the guitars (with harmony from the coyotes in the distance).  …and the danged Chuck Will’s Widow.  As folks turned in for the night, I heard someone wish upon a star…for a BB gun to shoot that blasted bird.  Amen, sista.  Click the link to the sound again, but push play over and over if you think we were too harsh:  http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Chuck-wills-widow/sounds


  • Feeling pretty pooped (and still pruney), most of the group packed up camp while the kids held a Regatta of boats made from bark, twigs and leaves.  The race was down the crick (creek for you big city folks) with a photo finish.  Perfect end to the fun weekend while the damned bird sang his good-byes.  http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Chuck-wills-widow/sounds

Seeking 1-yr Long-Term Substitute Teacher

I am posting this on behalf of our newest KABT member and my new friend, Christopher Bryan.
Lawrence folks and those that work with student teachers, maybe you especially have some leads?

Bishop Seabury Academy, a 2A Independent School In Lawrence, KS is currently seeking a qualified teacher to serve as a long-term substitute in the sciences for the 2013-2014 school year.

The position would entail:
-2 sections of 7th grade earth science
-2 sections of 9th grade biology
-a fall elective: 12th grade field ecology
-a spring elective: 12th grade A&P

This would be an excellent opportunity for a recent graduate to gain experience, or a seasoned veteran to return to the classroom for one year. Our school emphasizes academic rigor and character development for students, and empowers teachers with great professional freedom – without the restrictions that accompany state testing and NCLB.

If you have any leads or suggestions of who I might contact with regard to teacher candidates, please contact: christopherbryan@seaburyacademy.org, or call the school directly: 785-832-1717.

KABT Spring Field Trip: Bats, Birds, Botany, Burgers…and maybe a porcupine

When I saw the dates for the annual KABT Spring Field trip (June 7-9, 2013), I was bummed that my family wouldn’t be able to go.  It was another schedule conflict that happens too often with kids and activities and life.  Since my class reunion only comes around once every decade, I decided that it should take precedence over an annual field trip.  But then…

Last weekend the KABT Executive Board met to plan the year.  I started listening to Stan Roth, longtime KABT member and Naturalist, describe what the field trip will entail.  We will be going to the Red Hills of SW Kansas.  If you aren’t familiar with the area, it is a beautiful and unexpected region of Kansas.  There are hills made of Gypsum layered with red sediment.  Because of the geology, the plant-life and animal habitat is slightly different than elsewhere in the state.

We will be primitive camping (there are outhouses for our enjoyment) near Evansville, KS in Comanche County.  Those that get there in time Friday evening can go to Sun City for burgers at Busters Saloon.  Saturday morning will have the KABT group caravan to various caves in the area to look for bats. We’ll talk about the natural history of the area and check out the local flora and fauna with a picnic lunch somewhere in between.  Dinner will be at twilight while we wait for the evening bat flight.  After dark, we’ll go road cruising for herps (snakes and lizards) as they come to warm themselves on the asphalt at night.  Sunday morning will be a driving tour east through the Red Hills and along the Scenic Drive before we all head home.

How can I pass up bats, birds, botany and burgers with the good folks of KABT?  Forget the class reunion (there will be another one in 10 years), I’m going to the field trip!  The camaraderie, sharing ideas and brainstorming when we get together is inspiring.

If you haven’t joined KABT or if you’ve never been on a field trip with us, come check it out!  Bring your family, bring your students, bring yourself.  We are a welcoming group that would love to have you!

If you still aren’t convinced, check out Eric Kessler’s video that demonstrates you never know what we might stumble upon on these trips!  …”On a winter bat survey trip in the caves of south central Kansas (February 2007), Stan Roth notices a pair of porcupines grazing next to the road. This video captures what happened next.  No harm was done to the porcupine, although upon reaching under the captured one’s body to hold it for display it was able to bite Stan on the hand.”  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EAl_E0miFWk&list=UUg6qJFft3vWtardzpKLkPBA&index=62  Thank you for sharing this, Eric.

Look for more field trip details about exactly where to meet, etc. as it gets closer.  But, in the meanwhile, I look forward to seeing you around the campfire!