Ranger Steve’s Nature Niche
By Ranger Steve Mueller
Solve the mystery nature program March 18 at CS United Methodist
Mysteries offer intrigue and challenge us to use reasoning abilities. This is part of the daily life of scientific work. Some mysteries are easy to solve and some linger unsolved for centuries. During the past few decades’ mystery, solution has formally been included in “citizen science” projects that help make it easier for scientists to attain meaningful data for solving mysteries.
The Cedar Spring Post has encouraged community members to participate in citizen science activities such as the Backyard Bird Survey in February. The data collected aids scientists with information about the species present at various locations throughout North America and how many of each species are in a given locality during a few day period across the continent. Scientists then work with the grueling task of making sense of the data to determine if there is any relationship to things such food availability for wildlife, impacts of urbanization, loss of habitat, climate change, and migration route disruptions. The data is also posted on the Internet so people can see where birds are at that time of year.
Sometimes the mysteries may have limited clues. When I was 12, I saw a partially exposed bone in a bog. I pulled it up and realized it was a leg bone. My brother and I thought it was a deer femur and started reaching into the muck to gather more clues as evidence. We pulled up vertebrae, rib bones, and more. It was not long before we had the skull. The additional clues we gathered from the bog indicated the size of the animal and that it was mammal. When we had the skull in hand, we knew for sure it was a deer. Mysteries remained as to how it died, how did it end up in the bog, and how many decades had it been there in an environment that greatly slows decay. I still have the skull and various bones collected that day 50 years ago.
I continue to collect skulls and other artifacts when exploring the natural world. The Howard Christensen Nature Center (HCNC) hosts three different mystery animal programs. The audience gets to solve the mystery. Come to an HCNC sponsored community program on Monday March 18, at 6:30 p.m., to practice your mystery solving skills. The program will be held in the fellowship hall at the United Methodist Church (UMC) in Cedar Springs (corner of Main and Church Streets). UMC is co-sponsoring HCNC’s program. Bring the family to piece together clues starting with the animal’s skull. A series of clues will be examined and after the species identity is determined, a slide presentation about the animal’s natural history will be shown. Details of the animal’s role in its nature niche will illustrate the life of the animal in the wild.
If Monday evening does not work for your family, the program will be repeated at 10 a.m. on Saturday, March 23, at the Howard Christensen Nature Center. Join HCNC’s outreach activity for fun, entertainment, and to learn more about nature and the nature center’s community offerings. The Mystery program is free but donations are encouraged to help HCNC offer educational programs.
Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at the firstname.lastname@example.org Ody Brook, 13010 Northland Dr, Cedar Springs, MI 49319-8433.