By Kyla Wilson- Biodiversity
Yellow Tape and Yellow-Rumped Warblers
From our successful mock trials (all mistakes were a learning opportunity) at data collection we refined our methodology for flora and fauna measurements. Since the 10ft perimeter for flora seemed too small we chose to expand the ground plant (shrubs, flowers, vines) perimeter to 20ft and create a tree perimeter of 100ft since most of the birds we were observing were in tall tree perches varying distances from our center point. As you might imagine, measuring a 100ft perimeter has it’s challenges, especially in areas of varying degrees of wildness and human foot traffic… So last week our team paired off to make a fool of ourselves traipsing through the bushes with long pieces of yellow ribbon and photographing plants. The somewhat harder step to obtaining our flora data will be identifying every plant we photographed but we’ve already tackled much of that hurdle with our mock flora trials.
One thing we learned for our mock bird surveys was that every member of our team is going to need a pair of binoculars if we want to increase our likelihood of accurate bird identifications and evenly distribute the burden of crack-of-dawn observations. Our team got a great deal from Eagle Optics so we are all now fully decked out in Shrike 8x24 binoculars and slowly becoming the ultimate birders. Thanks to day-light savings, sunrise was around 7am this week (as opposed to 6am) and teams of two went equipped with the handy list of 33 bird species we observed during our mock trials with Richard Hedley, the California Bird Species King, and our mostly-awake, sharp eyes. Below are a couple of the birds we’ve been spotting regularly on campus including our team favorite, the Yellow-rumped Warbler. I think I speak for all of our members when I say there are way more tiny colorful birds on campus than I ever would have imagined! At our most recent meeting by The Bomb Shelter, I couldn’t help but be distracted every time I saw something that maybe a bird moving in my periphery. We took a short break mid-meeting to make sure everyone spotted the dark-eyed junco in the tree above our table. The birding is slowly consuming us.
(In order for left to right: Anna’s Hummingbird, Spotted Towhee, Yellow-rumped Warbler. All photographs from the Cornell Ornithology Lab Guide)
Spring is around the corner and for us that means its bug season. The Malaise traps are in the mail and on their way to UCLA. These giant netted tents will be placed around campus and they will placed in pairs of manicured and non manicured areas for a period of 1 week. Cully Nordby has been very helpful and identified possible funding for more Malaise traps that will actually allow us to survey all the areas at the same time, multiple times! This will help strengthen our data pool and help in creating a statistical analysis with minimal mathematical error. The foreboding part is the actual insect identification. The Natural History Museum has been discovering new species in their traps and we’re barely the entomologists. We are also planning on storing some species for further genetic analysis by the grand challenges team. This will definitely help with identifying which regions serve best for secondary consumers and decomposers as this is very indicative of the environmental health and water quality of a region. We are very excited to finally try various ground insect collection methods once the Grand Challenges team start flipping their boards the Saturday before spring.
The Biodiversity team really enjoyed sharing our work this quarter and hearing about all of the other amazing projects at the mid-project presentations on Monday. We’ve all had our challenges but we are all ready for the next phase of the project to begin when we get back from Spring Break. The Biodiversity team will continue to collect bird data at the beginning of spring quarter and we would love to have some company on our surveys if you are interested in seeing some early-morning birds. We will be out at a different area almost every morning so feel free to contact our head of Communications, Yen-Mai at firstname.lastname@example.org at if you want to join us!