Oct. 16, 2014

#ObserveEverything: Staff Picks, Week #3

by Ariel Zych

Click to enlarge images
During the third week of the ObserveEverything project, folks went above and beyond simple picture-taking, conducting their observations underwater, watching fruit decompose, and looking closely at oddities in satellite images. With your unique approaches came something even more exciting—questions! Are there special wood ants in Yosemite National Park? Is there treasure beneath a Peruvian lake? How long does it take for the leaves to fall off a maple tree? You can see some of the highlights from week #3 below, but don't forget to check out all of the outstanding submissions in the Science Club gallery.
Mystery Lake
Becky from Lansing, Michigan noticed this odd-looking lake in a GoogleEarth image of Vilcabamba, Peru. She writes: "Looks like there is a city in the water. At first I thought it was just digitaiization of a satellite photo, but other lakes don't look like that on Google Earth...An ancient quarry? Lost Inca gold?"
Class Compost Experiment
Students in Vanessa Ford's class in Washington, D.C. conducted a compost experiment to see which fruits decomposed in the shortest period of time. You can watch one of her students explain their observations here
Leaf Variation, Three Ways
Serena observed American chestnut and red maple trees in her area. She tweets, "Why does leaf change vary so much? Soil? Light? Temp? Each tree seems as individual as each human's grey hairs." 
In-Depth Ant Observation 
While backpacking in Yosemite National Park, something caught Jayne Kestler's eye. She wrote us with a detailed account of her observation, excerpted here: 
        "Gazing down at my feet I noticed some movement—very purposeful movement. A large black ant was working very hard rolling what was for him a head-sized boulder. On and on across a little ridge he labored to push the piece of granite to an old western juniper tree root with a small hole in it. Leaving the rock to the side of the hole he went in, and some seconds later pushed out a slightly smaller rock, then moved the large one in. (This is interesting.  I’ll just sit here in the sun and see if he comes out. I don’t have anything better to do since I am so comfortable.) After awhile, maybe five minutes, out he came with what looked like the same rock he had just rolled in. Moving this to the side below his hole, he left it. Then up he climbed along the same ridge he had found the previous rock. A larger stone was chosen this time, but after much rolling and muscling around, it seemed beyond the ant’s ability to maneuver. Selecting a different stone, more to scale, the same journey back was made including guiding it into the hole, which I had now decided was possibly his home. I kept watching the hole." 
        Though her deep observation lasted a little over an hour and left her with many questions, she recommends taking time out, writing, "I have never observed anything at length before. The whole experience was really fun!"
About Ariel Zych

Ariel is Science Friday's education manager. She is a former teacher and scientist who spends her free time making food, watching arthropods, and being outside. You can follow her @arieloquent

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Science Friday.
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