Here is that lubber I told you about yesterday.
Today our job was to identify, photograph, and enter info about the caterpillars we collected yesterday into an Excel spreadsheet (much like our class did with the plants from the biodiversity study we did before I left). Another task was to identify the plants that we found the caterpillars on. This was quite complicated, and I was glad I had practiced with my fifth and sixth graders before I headed to Louisiana. The research team used many of the same skills that you all used when we identified native and non-native species last week and the week before in our classroom. We used Field Guides, the internet, and dichotomous keys. It was very challenging work that takes time and practice to learn. I think I'll be much better at it by the time the week is over. By the way, I recognized a couple of the plants from my experience at school last week. Does anyone remember what the common name for plants from the species Ilex is? We found some caterpillars on Ilex decidua in the Honey Island Swamp site yesterday.
When we collected each caterpillar, we also collected some of the plant that it was found on so that the caterpillar would have food. We also collected the plants because knowing what the caterpillars are eating is an important part of the research being done by the scientists at Tulane University (and in similar studies around the world). I'll tell you a bit more about that later in the week.
Today's pictures and video will show you the scientific process in action. Think about the observation and data collection part of the scientific process as you look at the pictures and think about what was being done. When scientists collect data and make observations, they must be very careful to be specific and as accurate as possible. It took us all day to identify, label, photograph, and enter data about the 62 caterpillars we collected yesterday, and there were 8 of us working on it! It was challenging, interesting, and I learned a lot!
I can't wait to tell you about the parisitoids that are part of the study. They are a bit like aliens that take over and use the caterpillars for food and as a habitat. They are secondary consumers. Unfortunately, for the caterpillars these creatures kill them, but it is all a part of the natural cycle. The parisitoids have a niche that keeps things in balance, but the details on this will have to wait until tomorrow.
I'm looking forward to answering your questions and showing you some caterpillars when we have our video conference on Wednesday. Get your questions ready. I'll see you then!