During Anna’s naturalist training, she learned of an awesome Fort Collins project: unmanned wildlife cameras. These cameras are mounted to trees. Whenever they sense motion and heat, they snap a photo. Unmanned cameras let us peek into what’s happening in the middle of the night, during a snowstorm, or after we round the bend out of view.
Below are a few of our favorite images from these cameras. Big exciting wildlife like bears, bobcats, fox, coyote, and mountain lions are out there, they just prefer to hide when loud humans come walking down the trail. Note the time stamp on each photo. It’s cool to see when these animals are out and doing their thing – whether it’s hunting or playing.
Anna recently completed her Master Naturalist training! The classroom training was extensive and covered subjects from the ecology of the prairie to the geology of the Rocky Mountains.
One of her favorite topics during the training ended up being prairie dogs. They are fascinating creatures, and a true keystone species, with about 160 other species benefiting from their presence. Prairie dogs turn the soil as they dig their complex tunnel systems, inadvertently aerating and fertilizing the soil. They are a great food source for larger animals like eagles, hawks, and ferrets. Plus, their abandoned burrows serve as homes for other animals, like burrowing owls and rabbits.
Master Naturalist training requires not just absorbing information, but also teaching it. In mid-April, each trainee had to create and present a lesson plan on a topic of their choice. Anna decided to give a talk about the water cycle and water conservation, geared towards 3rd graders. Her water cycle drawing connected with people, but the real hit was her Lego dioramas depicting the river and various ways humans use its water. She filled the river container with water, then poured the water into other containers representing a variety of city and agricultural uses. This demonstration visually showed that our water supply is limited, and that we need to conserve and share the water with wildlife.
Earlier this month, Anna was very excited to learn she’d been accepted into the Fort Collins Master Naturalist Program! The program provides 60 hours of ecological and interpretive training. After completing the training and giving two trial presentations, she’ll become a certified Master Naturalist. Anna will then volunteer to lead field trips and informative nature walks in the Natural Areas around Fort Collins.
Training began this week with classes in the ecology of the Rocky Mountains, taxonomy, life zones, aquatic invertebrates, and the shape and speed of rivers. The teachers and other trainees are awesome. Everyone is passionate about the natural world and each participant brings their own expertise. Anna will likely come away from the training with new friends in addition to new knowledge.
Yesterday’s class took place in the middle of the Poudre River, where she practiced dip netting and identification of aquatic invertebrates. So much fun!
Anna will learn much more in the coming month of classes, including:
Geology of the Front Range
Plant Ecology of the Shortgrass Prairie
Mammals of the Rockies
Riparian Native Trees and Shrubs
Night Sky and Nocturnal Animals
Birds of Fort Collins
Interpretation and Outreach Techniques for Different Age Groups
Though we won’t write about all the classes here, we’ll make sure to include pieces of Anna’s newfound knowledge in our future hiking posts.