Science Center Objects

Whether you’re interested in ways to make neighborhood nature walks more engaging, or on the hunt for science material to help your students stay focused, we’re here to help. USGS WARC scientists conduct research on aquatic and wetland ecosystems, the plants and animals that rely on those habitats, and the stressors threatening these systems and species. To help home-based students learn more about these important habitats, the biodiversity they host, and the issues threatening them, we’ve pulled together a list of related educational resources.

Also, we have scientists from a wide range of disciplines who are happy to answer any questions from teachers, parents-who-are-now-teachers or home-based students (of all ages). 

Contact our outreach coordinator, Kaitlin Kovacs at kkovacs@usgs.gov with questions, comments, or your stories and photos you’d like us to share!

If you have social media, you can send questions to either one of our twitter accounts - @USGSAquaticLife and @USGSWetlands. Stay tuned to those accounts as we share more educational resources!

Head outdoors for neighborhood nature walks and backyard adventures! 

 

Frog Calls

An American bullfrog.

Are bullfrogs found in your state? 

Frogs are amphibians. What in the world is an amphibian – and why are they important? https://armi.usgs.gov/importance-of-amphibians.php

Once you know all about amphibians, see which frog species are found in your state: https://www.pwrc.usgs.gov/Frogquiz/index.cfm?fuseaction=main.lookup

Study up on your frog calls and then test your memory: https://www.pwrc.usgs.gov/frogquiz/.

Learn how USGS scientists use calls to study frog populations: https://www.usgs.gov/media/audio/outstanding-field-ep-4-amphibian-surveys-call-frog

Tie it all together – Head outside: Can you hear any frog calls in your backyard or while on nature walks? Which frogs do you hear?

Cuban treefrogs’ call is distinctive. Biologist Paul Moler of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission recorded them in South Florida. Credit: Paul Moler, used with permission.

 

Bird Calls

Yellow-headed Blackbird

Yellow-headed Blackbird. Credit: Mikey Lutmerding, USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center.

Frogs aren’t the only animals that make vocalizations. If you go stand outside for a few minutes, close your eyes, and listen, odds are you’ll likely hear a bird. But if you can’t see the bird, how do you know what species it is?

Bird calls are one way we can identify bird species, especially when we can’t see them. Brush up on your bird calls by reviewing the recordings here: https://www.mbr-pwrc.usgs.gov/id/songlist.html. Then, when you’re on walks or exploring your yard, listen carefully and count and/or list the different bird species you can hear.

Do you see a bird but you’re not sure what species it is? The USGS Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter can help. Photographs, songs, videos, identification tips, maps, and life history information for North American birds can be found here: http://www.mbr-pwrc.usgs.gov/infocenter.html

If you can’t find the information you are looking for or need help identifying a bird, send a question or photo our way , and we’ll help identify it for you!

If you are interested in keeping track of the birds you see and hear, your states’ Audubon Society or Ornithological Society can provide a checklist of birds found in your state. (Louisiana’s  checklist can be found here: http://losbird.org/checklist.pdf and Florida’s checklist can be found here: https://fl.audubon.org/sites/default/files/birds_checklist.pdf). Also, be sure to check out eBird for more resources and citizen scientist opportunities!

Learn how the USGS is using radar data to identify important stopover habitats along the Gulf of Mexico for migrating birds.

 

Plants

A WEB Based Searchable Plant Database and Photo Gallery of the Plants of Louisiana

Check out the USGS's Plants of Louisiana database and photo gallery to help identify what plantss you might be seeing in your backyard!

For our students and families in Louisiana, check out the WARC app, Plants of Louisiana: https://warcapps.usgs.gov/PlantID. If you’re in your backyard or taking a walk around the neighborhood, stop to examine some of the plants you see. Use your observational skills and take notes on what the plant looks like. Consider: What color are the flowers? How many leaves do they have? How are the leaves arranged? With this information in hand, head to our plant guide to see if you can figure out what plant you might be looking at.

Bonus: Even for those who aren’t in Louisiana, the application is a great place to increase your plant knowledge. Grow your plant vocabulary by researching what plant words mean! Then, see if you can identify the features you’ve learned on the plants in your backyard and neighborhood.

Did you know that plants can be invasive and cause harm to ecosystems and the economy as well? Learn more about problematic aquatic plants that USGS tracks via the Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database. https://nas.er.usgs.gov/taxgroup/Plants/default.aspx.

 

 

 

Explore the natural world from the comfort of your home with these virtual science resources!

 

Non-Native and Invasive Species

Reported lionfish sightings: Animated Map (1985 - January 8, 2020)

This animated map demonstrates the increase in reported lionfish sightings between the first known sighting in1985 through January 8, 2020.

Data source: U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database 

What is the difference between a "non-native" and an "invasive" species? Why are invasive species an issue? Learn all this and more here: https://www.usgs.gov/faqs/what-invasive-species-and-why-are-they-a-problem?qt-news_science_products=0#qt-news_science_products

Visit the USGS Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database to see which non-native/invasive aquatic species have been found in your state: https://nas.er.usgs.gov/

Pick an animal (like the snakehead or the zebra mussel!) and learn more about its biology, native range, and how it found its way to the U.S.: https://nas.er.usgs.gov/taxgroup/default.aspx

Learn how USGS studies invasive species like the Burmese python and lionfish: https://www.usgs.gov/centers/wetland-and-aquatic-research-center-warc/science-topics/invasive-species

Tie it all together - If you think you see a non-native/invasive aquatic plant or animal in your backyard or neighborhood, let USGS know! Our scientists check every entry submitted by citizen scientists and your contribution will help us track the presence and spread of these species. Submit your sighting via our website or via other citizen scientist apps (e.g., iNaturalist).

 

 

Sea Turtles

sea turtle crawling to the ocean

Tagged female loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta) returning to the sea, East Key, Dry Tortugas National Park, May 2009. 

Can you name every species of sea turtle found in U.S. waters? Here's a hint: there are six! Pick one species of sea turtle to learn more about their biology, their native range, and where/when they nest: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/sea-turtles

Learn about the different tools and technologies USGS scientists use to study sea turtles in the Gulf of Mexico, the Florida Keys, and the Caribbean: https://www.usgs.gov/centers/wetland-and-aquatic-research-center-warc/science-topics/sea-turtles

Tie it all together – track a sea turtle! Select a sea turtle tagged by USGS scientists and follow its movement (http://seaturtle.org/tracking/). Where did your sea turtle start its journey? Where did it spend most of its time? Did it travel far or stay close to a certain area? Draw a picture and/or write a story about the adventures of your sea turtle and share with us and we’ll put some of the best ones on our Twitter account (@USGSAquaticLife)!

 

 

The Deep Sea

A deep-sea coral garden in Madison-Swanson Marine Reserve off the west coast of Florida, protected in 2000

A deep-sea coral garden in Madison-Swanson Marine Reserve off the west coast of Florida, protected in 2000.

(Credit: NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, NOAA. Public domain.)

What do you think is on the bottom of the ocean (draw a picture or write a story)? Then, check out videos and images (and a ton of other educational resources) from one of our partners, NOAA’s Office of Ocean Exploration and Research to see what scientists have discovered in the deep-sea: https://oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/edu/welcome.html

Did you know that there are corals in the deep sea? How are shallow-water and deep-water corals different? https://ocean.si.edu/ecosystems/coral-reefs/deep-sea-corals

Learn how USGS studies this cold, dark, and hard-to-reach ecosystem. The DISCOVRE (DIversity, Systematics and COnnectivity of Vulnerable Reef Ecosystems) is an integrated, multidisciplinary, international effort investigating the unique and fragile deep-sea coral environments from the microscopic level to the ecosystem level. https://www.usgs.gov/centers/wetland-and-aquatic-research-center-warc/science/discovre-diversity-systematics-and?qt-science_center_objects=0#qt-science_center_objects

Tie it all together – draw or write another story, this time incorporating all of the super cool animals and geological features we’ve discovered at the bottom of the ocean. Send it our way and we’ll feature them on our Twitter account (@USGSAquaticLife)!

 

Wetlands

Wetlands play an important role in the global carbon cycle

Wetlands are an important ecosystem for the plants and animals that rely on them and for humans, too!

What is a wetland? Wetlands are an incredibly important habitat for plants and animals, and healthy wetlands benefit us, too. These ecosystems help protect coastlines from storms and flooding, prevent shoreline erosion, improve water quality, provide shelter and nurseries for commercially and recreationally important species, and offer opportunities for jobs and eco-tourism. Wetlands play an important role ecologically and economically, but they also serve an important cultural role, especially in places like coastal Louisiana where generations of families have made their livelihoods. https://lacoast.gov/new/Ed/Articles/FragileFringe.aspx

Do you have wetlands near you? Check out U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Wetlands Mapper to zoom into your hometown and/or neighborhood to see where the nearest wetland is: https://www.fws.gov/wetlands/data/mapper.html

Check out one of our partner’s amazing wetlands curriculum that ties these important habitats to art, economics, and even social studies: https://www.lacoast.gov/new/Ed/Curriculum.aspx

For our younger students, learn about wetlands while practicing your reading AND playing games using these activity books: https://www.lacoast.gov/new/Ed/ActivityBooks/Default.aspx

Then read up on what USGS is doing to study these important ecosystems: https://www.usgs.gov/centers/wetland-and-aquatic-research-center-warc/science-topics/wetlands

 

Ask a Scientist

Burmese Python

USGS researchers handle a Burmese python in the Everglades.

We have scientists from a wide range of disciplines who are happy to answer any questions from teachers, parents-who-are-now-teachers or home-based students (of all ages). 

Contact our outreach coordinator, Kaitlin Kovacs with questions, comments, or your stories and photos you’d like us to share!

If you have social media, you can send questions to either one of our twitter accounts - @USGSAquaticLife and @USGSWetlands. Stay tuned to those accounts as we share more educational activities and information.