Greenhouse Tour, Insect Collection and Hissing Cockroaches!

On our last Outdoor School trip, we visited the Bovey Greenhouse again, but we had a short guided tour from the greenhouse manager, Rodger. We took a look at the other greenhouses that were used for research and for growing plants that would be used for teaching. Then, we went back to the main area that housed extra plants that are just there for aesthetics and Rodger explained some of the plants to the class.

The highlight of the trip was getting to visit the University of Guelph’s very own insect collection, the oldest collection in Canada. We were shown many different species of insects that have been saved in the collection for generations and we all squeezed into this room that was basically a vault of dried insect corpses. Some of the displays showed insects that were terrifying and insanely large. I even heard someone say, “if I saw one of these in my house, I think I’d have to move,” which I would do as well. However, some of them were very beautiful like the butterfly collection and the bee collection. It was interesting to observe how the populations have changed over the years based on the collection as Morgan, our insect collection tour guide, showed us how the collection of rusty-patched bumble bees declined as years passed.

To end the trip, we got a chance to touch the hissing cockroaches that were promised in the course outline of our Outdoor School seminar. They were just the research students’ pets, so they were in a small box in the office and we were told that they fed off of leftover sandwiches from the professor. Most people got a chance to hold the cockroaches and they were actually kind of cute, even though they sparked some screams and squeals in the group.

Meeting Birds of Prey at Wild Ontario!

On November 15, 2016, our Outdoor School had the amazing opportunity to visit Wild Ontario, where animal ambassadors greeted us with many different species of birds of prey. We were able to look at many species of birds including: Gyrfalcon (Falco rusticolus), American Kestrel (Falco sparverius), Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus), Eastern Screech-Owl (Megascops asio),  Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura), and Broad-winged Hawk (Buteo platypterus). Some of these birds were human imprints, meaning someone illegally took the bird from the wild, thinking they would make a great pet, but they later released them back into the wild even though the bird had become accustomed to being nourished and cared for by humans. Other birds were actually injured like the hawk that was hit by a car and is resting after rehabilitation. This of course is the reason why Wild Ontario exists- in order to give these birds a home and make sure they can live the rest of their lives happily and safely here in Guelph.

Along with seeing the live birds, we were able to touch and feel different parts of birds, such as severed feet, which came in many different sizes, as well as wings that were full of soft and multi-coloured feathers. The reading given last week was great for connecting us to these birds of prey at Wild Ontario. Although they seemed tame and relaxed, their piercing eyes still gave me a bit of uneasiness as these are still wild predators that naturally could kill large species of animals like deer, and as Diane said, they had the look of MURDER. And again, with this Outdoor School trip that took us to see live birds that were much bigger than the tiny chickadees in our last excursion, I’ve found a new appreciation for avian rehabilitation and general studies on species of prey, so again I am becoming very open to expanding my knowledge on a different group of animals.

Dusk vs. Dawn

As a university student who has to work day and night on assignments and homework that takes up most of my time, I realized that there are times of day that I never get to experience. Due to the nature of my school schedule, I often wake up late in the morning (around 10AM) to go to class and will usually return home to my East Village townhouse by 5:30PM. This means that the majority of my time spent outside of my bedroom is in the afternoon; I don’t see the Sun rise and I don’t see the Sun set. This gave me an idea to try getting out of my comfort zone and experience life on campus during times that most people are not outside – at dawn and dusk. I walked the same 1km route at dusk and dawn (from residence to War Memorial Hall), but at dusk I walked back to my residence and at dawn I walked toward WMEM.

The easier kilometer walk that I did first was at dusk because I was already awake and decided to take a later class. I watched the Sun set over Johnston Green and took a timelapse of the changing sky colour until it was dusk. On my way back home, I definitely felt different walking in the darkness by myself without many people around me. It was quiet, I felt really cold and tired, and the only light that could guide me back home came from the fluorescent street lights and the lights from inside the buildings. I definitely became more cautious and observant during my walk because it was a new experience for me and I had never really walked alone in the dark before.

My next kilometer walk was just after dawn. I woke up at around 6:50 AM and walked toward WMEM through the same route I walked for the dusk walk. This walk had a very different aura to it compared to my dusk walk. Although there weren’t many people outside at dusk, after dawn, there was almost nobody. Not a single person walked behind me, but I did pass by a few construction workers and one or two students. The campus was very peaceful and for me, it was a special experience being alone in such a huge space because I knew I was the only one outside doing something while everyone else was asleep.

Of course, 30 minutes after I finished the walk, people started flooding in and the campus was full of life and noise again. However, there was a sense of freedom and excitement that I felt while walking just after dawn because it was only the start of my busy day and without anyone watching me, I could have done anything I wanted, such as using my giant camera to record the campus without people wondering what I was doing. It was surprising to see that our campus seemed more full of life when it was dark than when it was light; the library wasn’t even open, all the lights in the buildings were off and I must emphasize how strange it was to see the busiest part of the campus being so empty. The morning frost over Johnston Green made it a bit eerie once I arrived at my destination and similar to my walk at dusk, Johnston Hall had a magnificent gradient sky behind it, which I took a picture of to conclude my Kilometer Project.

During my walks, I took a few video clips so that people similar to me who don’t usually wake up so early or are outside when it’s dark can get a glimpse of campus life at dusk and dawn.


Mushroom Foray Day

Adding on to Diane’s post, here are some extra photos from the perspective of someone who has never participated in a mushroom foray! On October 15, our Outdoor School class spent the morning foraging for mushrooms in the UofG Arboretum. For most of us, it was the first time we went into a forest to search and collect fungi of various species. Although some of us had midterms, foraging for mushrooms and other fungi was a good way to relax and stay calm before the examinations. When we arrived at the Arboretum, we got our baskets and headed into the forest to see if we could find different specimens to bring back to show everyone.

Many of the fungi we found were mushrooms, but there were others such as, slime moulds, polypores, and jelly fungi. There was even a stinkhorn that gave off a horrendous smell that many of us would never forget as well as some poisonous species.

It was amazing to see the many different species of fungi that were collected during the foray. It really showed me how diverse the Arboretum ecosystem is and I honestly didn’t expect to find so many mushrooms all in one area. The puffball mushrooms were especially surprising as I’ve never seen a mushroom that huge and it also kind of resembles a human skull, which is something I will definitely remember. Overall, the foray was an excellent learning experience that raised my awareness and appreciation of species in the fungi kingdom!

Outdoor School: Honey Bees and Catching Insects

On September 20, 2016, our Outdoor School class visited the University of Guelph’s very own apiary and honey bee research centre. We put on our beekeeping hats and veils, and were shown the hives that contained thousands of busy honey bees. We were able to pet the bees, taste their fresh honey and eventually take home a bottle of honey that was extracted right from the apiary.

After visiting the bees, we walked through the Arboretum to the learning centre where we learned how to catch insects and identify them.

We saw and learned about many other insects such as jumping spiders, milkweed bugs, wasps, bees, moths and beetles. Overall, it was a very productive day that involved a lot of walking and getting up close and personal with different species from the largest group of animals!