River

Field Expedition Itinerary

 

Day 1

On Day 1, we load up the charter bus and head to the Harrison Lewis Coastal Discovery Centre, saying goodbye to parents. Today we focus on getting to know each other through introductory games. We will familiarize our students with their field station and natural surroundings by going on an exploratory nature scavenger hunt.


Before dark, we will flip rocks and check our minnow traps in a pond to look at amphibians!

We will end the evening with a campfire and marshmallows.

Day 2

On Day 2, we begin the day with a Coastal Ecology workshop, where students will learn about the biology of Nova Scotia's coasts and shallow waters.

After lunch, we will commence with a Flora of Nova Scotia workshop, where students will work with a botanist to learn about and ID various types of plants.

We finish off the evening by diving into Scientific Illustration and Nature Movie Night!

Day 3

On Day 3, our morning activity will be an Ornithology and Bird ID workshop. Students will have the opportunity to learn about bird identification through sight and song. 

In the afternoon, we will look closely at Tiny Weird Critters, a workshop where students will examine the diversity of microbes in their coastal environment.

We finish the evening with an interactive discussion about sustainability and the environment.

Day 4

Before heading home on the bus, we take an opportunity to enjoy nature on a hike in the nearby Thomas Raddal Provincial Park, where students can use their newly developed ID skills to examine the birds, plants, bugs, and amphibians around us.

 

Coastal Ecosystems

This workshop will introduce students to coastal ecosystems, led by marine biologist Suchinta Arif. We will start by exploring a neighbouring sandy beach ecosystem. These ecosystems are constantly being altered by the forces of the wind and the sea and can change drastically over the course of the season. We will notice several shorebirds run back and forth between the breaking waves on the beach in search of food, as well as the marram grass on the dunes, holding the sand in place with its dense network of roots. Students will learn about how these plants and animals have adapted to sandy beach ecosystems, as well as their interactions with other organisms and their physical environment.


Next, we will walk to a nearby coastal cove ecosystem. Here, students will discover how the calmer waters of the cove attract a higher diversity of fish, birds, and marine plants. Specifically, the intertidal zone is an important habitat for many species as well as the region where nutrients are exchanged between the land and sea. In groups, our students conduct an experiment to determine which part of the intertidal zone is the most diverse and why.

We will finish our workshop by highlighting why coastal ecosystems are important and list the many ecosystem services they prodive to humans. We will also highlight some of the conservation challenges facing sandy beaches, coves, and other coastal ecosystems throughout NS.

Flora of Nova Scotia

This workshop will introduce students to the flora (plants) of Nova Scotia and will be led by plant biologist Georgia Denbigh. Together, we will learn about different types of plants, including ferns, mosses, gymnosperms and flowering plants. We will also highlight the distribution, habitat, ecology and value of key native plant species, some of which can only be found here in Nova Scotia! 


Once students become familiarized with the flora around them, they will develop their plant ID skills by using a dichotomous plant key to identify plants by species. A dichotomous plant key is an important tool used by ecologists to identify plants. It lets the user answer a series of questions (each having two options) about the plant they are trying to identify. Students will also be given their own plant ID guide to help them with their identifications.


We hope that this workshop will build appreciation for the beauty and intricacy of the plants around us and empower students to discover them in their own neighbourhoods (using their very own plant ID guide)!

Ornithology and Bird ID

Led by Melanie Massey, students will walk through trails on-site and learn to identify birds by song and sight. We will provide binoculars and bird ID guides, and walk students through using guides to identify birds, and discuss how different behaviours, habitats, and flight patterns can also help with bird identification. We'll also talk about bird markings, and use our field notebooks to scribble down observations about birds to help with identification later. We'll finish with a group scavenger hunt where students try to find one bird from each major taxonomic category in Nova Scotia!

Tiny Weird Critters

This workshop will introduce our students to the wonderful world of microbes, led by local expert Yana Eglit. Invisible to the unarmed eye, microbes are all around us, and ultimately run the show. Luckily, the vast majority are completely harmless. When a plant or animal dies, its body — already host to a variety of microbes when alive — becomes a complex metropolis of microbial activity. Dig down on a silty beach and you will soon hit black mud — teeming with microbes eating tiny pieces of organic matter that fall to the bottom, in a micro-world with very little oxygen. Above them is sand, which is rich in microbial organisms adapted to the ever-changing world of constantly shifting sand grains. The ocean water itself is likewise far from sterile. Among the waves live a bewildering variety of microbes -- some of them quite big for a single cell.


In this session, we will set up a series of laboratory experiments to flush out and look closely at the microbes inhabiting the black mud, sand, and ocean water around us! We will examine these unusual critters under a microscope while learning about their ecology and evolutionary adaptations. Altogether, we hope to offer you a peek into this marvellous invisible world all around us and underscore the importance of microbes in ecology as well as everyday life. This exercise will also familiarize our students with lab and microscopy work.

 
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