Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Bird Sleuth

I teach ecology programs in a rural village in central Haiti, and at an elementary school.  This week we used the BirdSleuth scavenger hunt and Bird Spy Bingo produced by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.  The games are printed on slick cards on which dry erase markers can be erased.  I only have the English version of the games since I am waiting for the French to be reprinted.  The scavenger hunt has basic and more advanced levels of finding objects in natures such as a spider web, rock, leaf, etc., and is mostly text, so I had the kids find the objects that were pictured on the cards.  Bird bingo has birds doing various things, such as sitting on a branch or singing, and the kids were able to follow the illustrations.  The 6th graders were able to read some of the English descriptions of the birds.  There aren’t many trees in the village and the kids are noisy, but a kestrel did pose on a tree for us, and the kids found a feather and bird droppings.  We saw a few more birds near the elementary school.  Binoculars aren’t needed for the scavenger hunt, but make the bingo more fun.  Both games draw attention to animals and objects found in nature.  My assistant Louiders wants me to thank everyone who donates binoculars and funds for this!  He says you are helping Haiti!

Searching for birds along the village path.
Bird Bingo in the village.

Louiders helping the 6th graders.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Stream Survey – Bohoc Haiti

Tilapia pond in UCCC gardens
On 14 Nov. 2016 we performed a brief survey of two rivers and a spring in Bohoc Haiti, near the market along National Route 3.  Bohoc is 8 miles east of Pignon.  We collected water samples to measure nitrate, phosphate, DO, and pH with LaMotte® Water TesTab® Kits and determine fecal coliform counts with 3M petrifilm.  We also used a 500 micron D net to sweep the substrate and overhanging vegetation for macroinvertebrates that we identified to lowest taxon possible in the field.  In the Université de la Communauté Chrétienne de Caïman (UCCC) gardens to the south of Rt. 3 we sampled two hand-dug tilapia ponds, the Bohoc River which is downhill of the ponds and gardens, and an irrigation canal that flows through the gardens and feeds the tilapia pond.  We also sampled the Sous Chaude (hot spring) and receiving river located downhill behind the Bohoc Market, to the north of Rt. 3.  We returned to the spring 17 Nov. to measure water temperature.  All sites were high in phosphate (4 mg/l), and fecal coliform (>7 colonies) except for the Sous Chaude which had no coliform bacteria and had lower phosphate (1 -2 mg/l).  At all sites dissolved oxygen was <4 mg/l, nitrate-N was 1.03 mg/l (5 mg/l nitrate-NO3), and pH was 7 to 8.

The Lamotte kits measure water chemistry parameters in discrete categories determined by color change.  All coordinates were taken with handheld GPS except for sites 2 and 6 which were estimated from Google Earth.

Bohoc River downhill from UCCC tilapia pond, looking up from Site 3 pool

Bohoc River downhill from UCCC tilapia pond, Site 3 pool

Chara? from site 4 irrigation canal in UCCC garden.

Site 4 irrigation canal in UCCC garden.

Bohoc River fall in site 5 (upstream of path that crosses)

Crab found on fall at site 5 Bohoc River

Site 6 Sous Chaude behind Bohoc Market

Site 7 Sous Chaude outflow on left, site 8 river upstream on right.

3M petrifilm plates, with E. coli colonies in blue.

Haitian Studies Association Conference – Cap Haitien

Dr. Huggins and I presented our 2015 lake study (KBS Report181) at the 28th Annual Haitian Studies Association Conference (10 – 12 Nov. 2016) in Cap Haitien on the north coast of Haiti.  The theme of this year’s conference was Haiti’s Ecosystems: Focus on Environmental Realities and Hopes.  A plenary session was about water quality and a related book of aquatic research was provided.  Other topics ranged from the portrayal of the environment in Haitian literature, to citizen perception of environmental issues, to caves and archeology.  The conference began Thursday with an emerging scholars session at Université Publique du Nord au Cap Haitien south of Cap.  Most of the presentations and activities were at the hotel Auberge Villa Cana on National Rt. 1.  Saturday’s talks were presented at the Campus Henri Christophe de l'UEH a Limonade, about 40 minutes east of Cap.  Cap was flooded from a heavy rain that fell four days before the conference, and every evening it rained, flooding parts of Rt. 1.  We stayed in the Hotel Imperial which sat far enough back from the road to avoid flooding. Two of my ecology students from UCCC joined us.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Lake Péligre

Lake Péligre, Haiti’s 2nd largest lake, is formed by a dam on the Artibonite River.  The dam was built for hydroelectric power.  The lake can be seen on National Route 3 between Hinche and Mirebalais.  You can compare lake heights in the photos below which I take every time I go past the lake.  Information on the internet suggests the lake is filling in with silt, and the turbines are not functioning at top efficiency.  As someone who receives electricity from this dam, I can tell you we have electricity a couple hours in the morning and a couple in the evening.

Peligre Lak, 2yèm pi gwo lak Ayiti a, ki te fòme pa yon baraj sou larivyè Lefrat la Latibonit. te baraj la bati pou pouvwa idwolik. ka Lak la ka wè sou Nasyonal Route 3 ant Hinche ak Mibalè. Ou ka konpare wotè lak nan foto yo anba a ki mwen pran chak fwa mwen ale sot pase lak la. Enfòmasyon sou entènèt la sijere lak la se ranpli nan ak limon, ak turbin yo pa fonksyone nan efikasite tèt. Kòm yon moun ki resevwa elektrisite sa a soti nan baraj, mwen ka di ou nou gen elektrisite yon èdtan koup nan maten an ak yon koup nan aswè an.
View 1 Oct. 2014

View 1 Dec. 2015 after a dry fall.
View 1 Oct. 2016
View 2 Oct. 2014

View 2 Dec. 2015 - note the exposed silt upstream between the hills.
View 2 Oct. 2016 the valley is full again, but shore line is still exposed.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

BirdSleuth in French - Zwazo Detektif nan Franse

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has many birding resources, from educational materials to the eBird on-line database.  In a tropical rain forest class in the Amazon, I had a chance to try out some of their BirdSleuth materials for K-12 grade.  There is a bingo game and a scavenger hunt to get kids outside looking for birds.  You can download the French version of the materials at BirdsCaribbean.

Laboratwa a Cornell nan ornitoloji gen anpil resous gade zwazo, ki soti nan materyèl edikasyonèl nan baz done a eBird sou entènèt. Nan yon klas forè twopikal nan Amazon a, mwen te gen yon chans eseye soti kèk nan materyèl BirdSleuth (K-12). Gen se yon jwèt bengo ak yon lachas trezor yo ka resevwa timoun deyò kap chèche zwazo yo. Ou ka telechaje vèsyon an franse nan materyèl yo nan BirdsCaribbean.
Student in Peru using BirdSleuth Scavenger Hunt.
The BirdSleuth Scavenger Hunt in Spanish.
Using BirdSleuth materials in Peru during the Educator Academy in the Amazon.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Warblers of Haiti

Warblers are known for both migrating and being difficult to identify.  We both spend our winters in Haiti, so I get to see many of these beautiful little birds.  There’s 3 pages of small yellow birds in the Haiti field guide.  But none of the illustrations show the most common view – the underside of the bird – as seen in these photos of a prairie warbler right outside my house in Caiman (central plateau).  The Warbler Guide (2013 Princeton Univ.) has solved that problem, with many views of the birds, comparison photos, and sonograms.  It’s also available in Kindle and as an app.  

Monday, February 1, 2016

House sparrows in Caiman

Yesterday (31 Jan. 2016) was the first time I noticed house sparrows Passer domesticus in Caiman in Haiti’s central plateau (8 miles east of Pignon).  Here are photos of their nest on the campus of UCCC.  One male and 2 females or perhaps immature males.  The Birds of the DR and Haiti book says their first recorded appearance on the island was in 1976 in the DR.

Male and the 2 females or immatures next to their nest.

Female or immature?

They are in a tree near this sign.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Eco-201 Bioassesment of Bassin Zim

On 16 January 2016 I took the Université Chrétienne de la Communauté de Caïman 1st year agronomy students in my ecology 201 class to Bassin Zim near Hinche to evaluate the water quality.  We used Lamotte water chemistry kits purchased from Carolina Biological Supply and E. coli kits purchased from Bob Metcalf who developed a portable microbiologylab (PML) to use in areas that have no electricity for incubating bacteria cultures.  The chemistry tests do not give a precise number, but are meant for use in environmental education to detect the difference between water quality extremes.  The PML does reveal if there is E.coli in the water, which means there’s fecal contamination and possibly other bacteria and viruses spread through human feces. 

We practiced all the methods in class, then at Bassin Zim used the kits to compare a stream coming from a cave about midway up the falls to the river below the falls.  We also looked at land and water use, and quality of the riparian vegetation.  The upstream site to the right of the falls is surrounded by large dense trees, perhaps reminiscent of what Haiti used to look like.  The hillside to the left and next to the river below the falls looks to be deforested, with scrubby growth that has replaced the original forest.  Our hypothesis was that the upstream site would have better water quality than the downstream site, since I assumed human activity appears to be less above the falls then at the base of the falls where people picnic, wash clothes, swim, and bring livestock.

Both sites had approximately the same chemistry, but we found E. coli in the upstream site.  Perhaps this is from the bats that roost in the cave above the site?  Unfortunately at the upstream site, a goat and chickens were drinking from the stream, and since I had visited in Nov. 2014 a tilapia pond had been installed between the stream and the falls!  There was also charcoal production right next to the forest.  That set off a lecture about needing to protect the remaining pristine places of Haiti.  I can only hope that my students will look at rivers in a new way and notice how human activities impact them, and perhaps start to make changes to restore Haiti’s natural resources.
Cave above the upstream sampling site.
Charcoal production.
The stream to the left, and unfortunate tilapia pond to the right.
Scrubby vegetation to the left, lush forest to the right.
Women washing clothes downstream of the falls.