Posts

Fossil Hunt! 

Image
During our stay at the Solon Dixon center, students got to explore firsthand evidence of Alabama’s geological history. The crystal-clear, sand-bottomed spring on SDFEC’s grounds is the perfect spot to look for remnants from the ancient sea that used to cover this area.Jimmy Stiles taught us to gently sift the water through a colander to find fossilized shark teeth, sand dollars, barracuda teeth and other sea creatures that don’t occur this far inland anymore.The students loved the spring so much that they begged us to take them back during their free time before dinner. We let them swim and relax in the cool water, which stays in the mid 60s year round. This is a side of Alabama that most of the students had not seen, and several commented that it felt like a different country. Thanks to AMV RC&D and Dekko for supporting this learning experience. 

Ardmore Students Study Carnivorous Plants in Conecuh National Forest

Image
Alabama is number 1 in biodiversity of carnivorous plants, and the bogs in the southern part of the state are the best place to see them. We put on our waterproof boots and trekked out to see the pitcher plants, sundews and bladderworts. We also saw two types of wild orchid. This was especially exciting for one of our students, who is doing her yearlong project on the carnivorous plants of Alabama. Thanks for AMV RC&D and The Dekko Foundation for contributing to this opportunity!

Hands-on Reptile and Amphibian Study at the Solon Dixon Forestry Education Center

Image
Alabama is a global treasure in multiple areas related to nature, but one thing it really excels in is reptiles and amphibians. Our field study site, the Solon Dixon Forestry Education center, is in the middle of a global hotspot. On the nearly 6,000 acres that the center sits on, there are more salamanders than the continents of Africa and Australia and all of the tropical rain forests put together. Herpetologist Jimmy Stiles (who also led us on our night time frogging adventure), taught us all about the reptiles and amphibians of Alabama... and let us hold them! We got to handle a gopher tortoise, a federally endangered indigo snake, a two toed amphiuma, a marbled salamander, a mole salamander and an eastern glass lizard, among others. We didn’t touch the venemous specimens, like the copperhead!Who knew we had so many cool things right here in Alabama? So many Alabamians don’t know the rare world treasure in our backyards, but these kids do, and they are the ones who will determine …

Night Adventure in Conecuh National Forest: Frog Study with Herpetologist Jimmy Stiles

Image
If you’re interested in learning to identify frogs by their calls, there is no better way to do it than a night hike out into the global amphibian hotspot of Conecuh National Forest. For Ardmore’s Naturalist Studies program, this was on our list. We grabbed minnow nets and flashlights and followed Herpetologist Jimmy Stiles through a maze of longleaf out to a pond a few miles from the Solon Dixon Center. We were in a remote location, but the sound was deafening. It seemed impossible that we would ever learn to pick out individual calls in all that racket. Jimmy took out a high-beam light and shined it out over the pond. "See those glowing dots reflecting back at us? Those are gators. Ten... eleven...twelve."We aren’t used to alligators in North Alabama, but they stayed on the opposite side of the pond, just like Jimmy said they would. He waded into the water and one by one, pulled different species of frogs and newts from the pond. Jimmy helped us learn their sounds and iden…

Ardmore Students Paddle America’s Amazon

Image
Alabama’s champion cypress is a sight to see. The monster tree rules the Mobile-Tensaw Delta, overseeing an area so rich in biodiversity that it is nicknamed "America’s Amazon." The cypress dwarfs its surroundings, measuring about 28 feet around its base. This area has more turtles, more lizards, more mussels, more crayfish, more fish and more species of oak than any other comparable area in the country. That’s why paddling out to the champion cypress was the perfect culminating activity for a group who has been studying the biodiversity of Alabama all year. It’s more difficult than one might think to get access to the tree. There aren’t many people willing to share its whereabouts, but we finally found WildNative Tours, who provided kayaks and guides to lead us there.We started our trip in Rice Creek and paddled our way out to Briar Lake. From there, we crossed the Tensaw and navigated a maze of vegetation out to the cypress. We kept our eye out for alligators and saw some …