Hi! My name is Ms. Lombardi. Please travel with me to New Orleans to study Climate Change and Caterpillars!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Last Two Days in N'Awlins

I was lucky to be in New Orleans during one of its biggest festivals- Jazz Fest. As I wrote earlier, New Orleans is known for its music. You can hear a variety of instruments being played on almost every street corner! We spent Sunday afternoon at Jazz Fest- listening to a variety of jazz music from different musicians and also eating a lot of Louisianan food. I had a Po’Boy- which is like a sub. I also tried a bit of “fried gator”. It tasted a bit fishy. I hope El Guapo doesn’t find out. He will NOT be happy!

On Monday and Tuesday, I spent the day touring the city of New Orleans. I walked down to the Mississippi River- the 3rd largest river in the world- and walked along its levees. Levees are “manmade walls of either dirt or cement” that protect a city from a river that might flood. During Hurricane Katrina, some levees broke, ruining a portion of the city. I also took a walking tour to learn the history behind this interesting city. This city was founded by the French, so a lot of the architecture resembles that of the French and street names are named after French saints. Many restaurants and houses also have flags of the Fleur de Lis. It was once the emblem for an ancient French dynasty. Now it is a symbol that represents support for the city of New Orleans. This part of the city is called the French Quarter, since mostly French lived here before the US bought Louisiana during the Louisiana Purchase. After the tour, I had lunch at an old inn called Napoleon’s Café. ( This café was named after the famous French leader Napolean Bonaparte) I tried a famous sandwich- the muffeletta ( a very thick sandwich with different meats, a lot of cheese and a delicious olive spread)Yes, I also returned to Café Du Monde for a few more beignets.

I am now at the airport waiting to fly back to DC. I am excited to share my scientific studies as well as the history that I learned about New Orleans with other teachers as well as my students. Goodbye Fleur de Lis, Goodbye beignets and good bye caterpillars!

Last Day of Research in New Orleans

Yesterday was our last day of research. We went to the ecology lab at Tulane University to unload our caterpillar collection. We fed the caterpillars and recorded any life changes. Unfortunately, some of the caterpillars did not make it due to parasitoids. However, others are starting to pupate. This means they are building a cocoon to either turn into a moth or butterfly. It was neat being in the lab- there were much more space and research tools than the bunkhouse! It was also interesting to see other scientists research different things in their own labs. Check out the pictures.

Over the next few weeks, Scientist Mark and Scientist Rebecca will continue to record the life changes of the caterpillars to see if more die from parasitoids due to climate change. They will compare this data to the caterpillars they collected in the fall with a different teacher group. It will be interesting to find out the results. Do more caterpillars get parasitoids than ever before? We will have to stay in contact with them to find out some results.


1.) What is your hypothesis on this project? Do you think climate change is affecting the plant/caterpillar/parasitoid food web? How- more plants, more caterpillars or more parasioids? Remember an hypothesis is a prediction based on knowledge and research. Currently, since we are still collecting and analyzing data we are not sure of the results.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Day 5: Recording, Cleaning and Packing!

The sky is gray, so instead of doing field work, we decided to finish up analyzing and recording our data from yesterday. We also had to take care of our "caterpillar zoo" by cleaning their bags and feeding them. For the rest of the afternoon, we need to clean the bunkhouse and pack since we will be heading back to New Orleans tomorrow morning. It will take awhile to pack since this time we will have close to one thousand caterpillars to take back with us! It should be an interesting ride home. Hopefully, they will not get loose!

1.) Last night, the director of this research project- Dr. Lee Dyer joined us for dinner to further explain his research. He has researchers in Louisiana, Nevada and Arizona but also in Canada, Ecuador and Costa Rica. He continuously stated that it is important to observe the interactions of species, and not just focus on one species in relation to climate change. For example, we shouldn't just focus on caterpillars, but how they interact with parasitoids and plants. The more we study these interactions the more we can learn how climate change is effecting our environment. Can you make a list of other interactions or food webs that scientists could study to learn more about our environment?
2.) Before I leave, do you have any questions for Scientist Rebecca or Scientist Mark? Send me any questions and I will post their answers.

Friday, April 23, 2010

DAY 4: Kayaking, Collecting, Analyzing and Raining!

There was a call for rain today so we decided to collect from plots in the morning. We split into two teams- terrestrial and water. I was part of the kayak team. We paddled through the bayou- this time AWAY from El Guapo. It was a little more difficult kayaking today, since we had to paddle through trees and logs in the bayou. I felt like I was in a giant maze! We marked our plot and found a ton of Tent Caterpillars. One part of our collecting process is beating the trees to get caterpillars that are above our heads. Check out the picture of me holding the beating sheet above my head! It was literally raining caterpillars. As you can see, I was not enjoying it too much.

Since it started to thunderstorm and downpour in the afternoon, we decided to analyze and record the data we collected from yesterday and today. We had to use caterpillar and plant field guides to identify some of the data we found. I was amazed at how many species the scientists knew without looking at the guides! We found some unique caterpillars once again, besides the many tent caterpillars from the bayou plot. Even though recording data is tedious, it was fun to do it as a team. We listened to music, ate some cookies and told jokes while we analyzed the data. Besides the experiments and adventures that science can bring, even recording data can be fun!

Since you have learned a lot about caterpillars this past week, write 6-8 sentences or more on why you think entomologists are important scientists. Would you find it interesting to study insects? Why or why not?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Day 3: Caterpillar Zoo!

Happy Earth Day! We spent most of our Earth day working with our "caterpillar zoo". We entered data about the caterpillars we collected yesterday into our database. Take a look at Scientist Mark entering the data! We also cared for the caterpillars we collected by cleaning out their "frass" ( or caterpillar poop) from the bags and also added more plants to their bag for them to eat. We looked at some of the caterpillars that we could not identify under a microscope to observe of their physical features. Scientists give them a "morphospecies name" (morpho means shape) related to their shape and physical features, until they can identify their scientific name. It was fun creating morphospecies for some of the caterpillars we found yesterday. Over the next few days, we will follow the stages of these caterpillars, hoping they do not get parasitoids (baby wasps that feed off of the caterpillar) which will kill them and not allow them to turn into moths or butterflies. The scientists want to see if climate change has caused caterpillars to get more parasitoids.
We ventured out to the field to gather data from a new plot. We saw a lot of fallen trees, but gathered only a few caterpillars. Tomorrow we will continue to gather more data, analyze the data we collected today and possibly kayak.
It was nice Skyping with my students and their buddies today. They asked some great questions. It has been fun taking them on this giant science experiment with me! I am excited to see them next week and hope they are working hard while I am away. I hope I can give them some more compliments for their compliment chart when I return :)

1.) Pretend you found the following caterpillars on your field study. It is to difficult to identify them by a scientific name. If you had to create a "morphospecies name" for the following caterpillars, what would you call them? Why? Remember to base your name on the caterpillar's shape and physical features.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Day 2: Kayaking on the West Pearl River

Today we went kayaking on the West Pearl River. It was a lot of fun, but it was an all day event. We paddled upstream to find plots to gather more caterpillar specimens. For our daily procedure, we mark off a 10 meter by 10 meter plot with string and look for caterpillars only in that plot. When we are collecting we need to identify all of the plants in our plot and even estimate the number of leaves on each plant! Try estimating the number of leaves on the tree in our courtyard. It is quite difficult! Once we find a caterpillar, we put it in a bag, label it and carry it back to our "caterpillar zoo" where we further study it. Today we found a lot of Tent Caterpillars, Tussock Moths and Leaf Rollers. We had a relaxing lunch in our kayaks and floated downstream in the river. After lunch, we scoped out another plot to gather more specimens. We found a few more specimens and quite a lot of poison ivy! Our journey back to the bunkhouse was pretty exciting. I saw two water snakes, the "White House" and the biggest alligator ever! Check out my pictures. Tomorrow we will be analyzing our specimens, recording our data and Skyping!
1.) Ms. Larson and I were starving and decided to race back to the shore for lunch. The shore was 50 feet away. I was paddling 5 feet per minute and Ms. Larson was paddling 4 feet per minute. I definitely was faster, but how long did it take me? How long did it take Ms. Larson?2.) By studying near the river today, we saw a lot of fallen trees and damaged plants due to Hurricane Katrina. This change in habitat has effected a variety of nature's food webs. The one that we are studying is the plant/caterpillar/parasitoid food web. A parasitoid is a living thing that lives off and feeds off of another living thing and kills it. How might this change in habitat due to the hurricane effect this food web? How do you think the hurricane effect the plants, caterpillars and parasitoids?
3.) Take a look at the alligator that I saw today. The locals call him "El Guapo". What does this mean in Spanish? What would you name him and why?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Catepillar Camp!

Here are some pictures of my bunkhouse in Slidell, LA. I am on a top bunk in the corner. We are sharing one big room, but it hasn't been bad. There is a bathroom, kitchen and even a TV. We make our own lunches, but make a community dinner. We have had stuffed shells, stir-fry and rice and beans. Homemade pizza night is tomorrow! I have also had my share of chocolate!

Science Research Day 1

Today was not as exciting as yesterday. We focused on analyzing the data that we collected yesterday. Analyzing is one of the post IMPORTANT steps of the scientific method. Do you remember the steps of the scientific method? We had to label our specimans or caterpillars from yesterday by looking at field guides to identify them. We also had to identify the type of plant they were on. Remember when we studied classification? It is the key scientists use when analyzing living things. The scientific names can get really confusing! For example, the species name for Tent Caterpillar is Malacosoma disstria. I was in charge of entering all of the data into a spreadsheet. I had to make sure I included the place where we found the caterpillar, its scientific name, the plant it was found on as well as the scientific name of the plant. Each caterpillar was assigned a number that the entomologist uses to further study the caterpillars over the next few days. After inputting all of the data, we discovered that 98 caterpillars were collected yesterday. The entomologist's database now has over 12,000 caterpillars! We will soon be heading out into the field to collect more caterpillars and will learn how to scientifically plot out the land.

What are the five kingdoms? Scientists continue to classify living things after kingdoms. Kings Play Chess On Fine Green Sheets is a good sentence to help you remember the other categories. Kings= Kingdoms, Play=Phylum, Chess=Class, On=Order, Fine=Family, Green=Genus, Sheets=Species. What kingdom do you think caterpillars are in? Can you research the Phylum and the Order for caterpillars? As you could see, today we focused on the Family, Genus and Speciesin our research.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Our First Trip to the Bayou- Honey Island Swamp

Today was our first hunt for caterpillars in the Bayou. We hiked around Honey Island Swamp in search of caterpillars. We worked with entomologists. In Latin, this word means: someone who studies that which is segmented or divided". What do you think they study? The entomologists taught us how to search for caterpillars on various plants, and also how to avoid poison ivy. I found four caterpillars. Look at the picture of my first find! We collected the caterpillars and plants for them to eat in plastic bags. We had to mark the bags with important information- the date, the place where we found it, the type of plant and the type of caterpillar so that we can further study it tomorrow. During our adventure in Honey Island Swamp, we came across some other very interesting finds.

1.) Look at the footprints below that we found in the bayou. What animal do you think this footprint belongs to?

2.) I found four "tent caterpillars" today. Click on the caterpillars to see what they look like. The scientists called them Malacosoma Disstria. They were my favorite color blue! Take a look at the following website to create your own caterpillar.

3.) As we were searching for caterpillars, Ms. Lee and I found some strange artifacts in the bayou that definitely didn't belong there. Look at the picture of the artifact we found. It looked like a rock with a carving of an S. Use your imagination to create a story about how this artifact was used by an ancient civilization that used to live in the swamp lands of Slidell, Louisiana.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

New Orleans and Beignets

I have been exploring New Orleans today. I took a long run through New Orleans' famous Audubon Park and also ran along the Mississippi River. Afterward, my new teacher friends- Ms. Larson and Ms. Lee-and I took a Street Car to the city center. The street car is very different than the metro! It runs REALLY slow. We walked around the New Orleans famous downtown known as the French Quarter. We heard a lot of jazz music , saw a lot of street art and ate the famous beignets ( or french doughnuts!) at Cafe DuMonde. Here is a math problem for you. There were six beignets. Ms Larson and I had the same amount and Ms. Lee had a different amount. How many beignets did I have? ( Hint: They can easily be cut in half.)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Louisiana's Bayous

Only two more days until I am in the Bayous of Louisiana. What is a bayou? You will need to understand the environment where our scientific investigation is going to take place. Using a dictionary, find the definition of a bayou. Look at the picture of a Louisiana bayou. In 6-8 sentences, write a paragraph describing the various characteristics that create a bayou.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

What do you know about caterpillars?

Before I head on my expedition to Louisiana to study caterpillars, I brainstormed a list of everything I already know about caterpillars. It is a pretty short list! By working with scientists and other teachers in the Mississippi Delta, I am excited to expand my knowledge about these creatures. Since we will be doing this scientific study together, let's see how much you already know about these crawlers. With a partner, make a list of all the things you think of when you hear the word CATERPILLAR. Go! You have 3 minutes. It will be interesting to see how long our list will grow over the next week, as we explore and investigate together Louisiana's caterpillars. Click on CATERPILLARS to see the ones we will encounter in the bayous of Lousiana.