Friday, October 19, 2018

Nature Experienceship: Wild Edibles on BYU Campus


Here at the Bean Museum, we got to kick-off homecoming weekend in a delectable fashion. Tom Smith, a wildlife biologist at BYU, shared his knowledge of food in the wild. He started by treating us to some of his foraging stories, and then shared some of his culinary creations, which included: smoked salmon, a salmon dip, and syrups from several different kinds of trees. We then headed out to BYU’s campus to find out what was edible. Some of the unsuspecting foods Tom showed us were: acorns (which can be turned into a flour and used in baking), pine needles (a good source of vitamin C), Oregon grape, day lilies (a colorful decoration to any salad), pine nuts, yew berries (which, contrary to popular belief, are not poisonous!), and sage. Tom showed us how to collect these foods for later use.

After collecting, it was back to the kitchen to try out some of these wild edibles. The favorite was cookies that Tom made with acorn flour. Some other tasty creations included: acorn-flour bread, yew berry-topped cheesecake, Oregon Grape jam, and some more salmon (baked with some of the herbs Tom collected). Needless to say, everyone left both happy and full!

Tom led the way, showing us how tasty pine needles can be.

Pine cones hide a tasty treasure, pine nuts. The best time to harvest these in Utah is the first couple weeks of September.

Yew berries make a great topping for cheesecake!

Sage is a great seasoning for wild-caught salmon.

Oregon grapes make an incredible jelly! Each guest got to take home their own jar.

Guests had the opportunity to try their hand at foraging. Sorry grounds crew!


If you would like to learn more about wild edibles, Tom suggests the book “Stalking the Wild Asparagus.” Make sure to check out the museum’s website so you don’t miss out on any other exciting events!

Friday, September 28, 2018

Nature Experienceship: Insects in Provo Canyon

On Saturday, September 22nd, we had the fantastic opportunity to go and collect insects with Dr. Shawn Clark, the manager of the Bean Museum’s collection of arachnids and insects. While we waited for it to warm up enough to go collecting, Dr. Clark gave everyone a special look inside the museum’s research collections. Dr. Clark explained that the collecting started with one of BYU’s first research expeditions in the early 1900s.



We didn’t stay there too long before we were on our way to one of Dr. Clark’s favorite collection sites, up past Vivian Park in Provo Canyon. Dr. Clark freely shared his knowledge of insects. We learned that there are as many species of insects as there are all the other species of animals in the world combined!


Once we made it to the collection site, Dr. Clark demonstrated how to collect the bugs with nets, and then preserve them in alcohol.


The first catch of the day was a European Mantis. They aren’t native to Utah. As their name suggests, they made their way over here from Europe. Some other noteworthy catches included: Crab Spiders, Damsel Flies, Millipedes, a Plant Hopper, Paper Wasps, Water Skeeters and a Chrysomelid Beetle. The most interesting catch was a Blue Mud Wasp. When a patron discovered it in their net, Dr. Clark fearlessly reached in to pull it out. With the patron’s permission, Dr. Clark took it with him and the wasp is now a part of the museum’s research collection.





Insects aren’t the only thing we learned about while out in the field. Dr. Clark taught us about watercress, a plant that has sparked scientific debate. It is widely accepted to be native to Europe and Asia, but scientists aren’t sure if it is native or invasive in North America. Dr. Clark believes it is native, because there is a species of beetle, that is native to North America, that only lives in watercress. To Dr. Clark, it doesn’t make too much sense for a trait like that to have evolved in the short span of a couple of hundred years.



In total, we only saw a tiny fraction of the insect and arachnid collection that Dr. Clark manages. There are over 2 million specimens in the museum's collection, including the world’s largest collection of stoneflies! It takes a long time to grow a collection that big. We're grateful for Dr. Clark for managing the collection and for sharing his knowledge with us!




Friday, September 14, 2018

Nature Experienceship: Birding at Antelope Island

This past Saturday, 25 people had the fantastic opportunity to go birding with Merrill Webb. As part of our Nature Experienceship programs, we traveled to Antelope Island early in the morning. This is an excellent area to bird watch, as the brine shrimp and brine flies are a 
great source of food for many varieties of birds. The Great Salt Lake is home to many 
millions of shorebirds, waterfowl, and other migratory birds throughout the year.


We didn’t even make it over the long bridge to the island before we had to pull over and admire the conglomeration of birds along the water’s edge. And, of course, to listen to the 
fabulous Merrill Webb identify and tell us everything that we could possibly want to know 
about them. He is truly a joy to experience these birds with. It was obvious how much he 
knew about them and how much passion and love he felt for them. 


The fabulous Merrill Webb

It was a beautiful sight to see thousands of birds swimming, diving, and flying close to the water in the morning sun. There were so many different kinds, some in their own exclusive groups and some intermingling freely with one another as they all fed in the shallow water. We saw shovelers, grebes, ibis, coots, stilts, avocets, sandpipers, curlews, and gulls all gathered in the shallow water. We were lucky enough to spot a rare willet, a large shorebird with distinctive and striking black-and-white wings.

Birds through a scope


Later on, once we reached the island, we used spotting scopes to admire a family of burrowing owls. We even saw one keeping a watchful eye over the horizon. Finally, the day was capped by visiting a hay barn where a great horned owl was resting and hiding from the midday sun. It wasn’t until we drove away that we saw another sleepy-looking horned owl perched in the rafters on the other side of the barn, directly above where we were.

Great horned owl through a scope

We even spotted an American bison scratching itself on a signpost!

All-in-all, it a very productive and worthwhile day for everyone involved. I would absolutely go again, as I’m sure anyone else who was lucky enough to be a part of this trip would. If you’re interested in a nature experienceship like this, be sure to check out our calendar!

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Utah's National Parks

As summer comes to a close, many people are looking for a short, last minute vacation. Utah could not be a better place for getting outdoors! Utah boasts five reputable national parks- Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Capitol Reef National Park, Canyonlands National Park, and Arches National Park. Each park has something unique to bring to the table in terms of physical geography and biodiversity. If you are thinking of going to multiple national parks in a year, it is best to get an annual pass!

Here are some tips and tricks to enjoying Utah's national parks as much as possible.
-Summer is the busiest time for the parks, so be aware you will be sharing the parks with many people.
-Summer is also a very hot time to be in the parks. Mornings and evenings are a great chance to see some beautiful parts of the parks before the sun gets too high. In cases such as Zion National Park, there may even be hikes like The Narrows, that allows you to get your feet and legs wet during the hottest parts of the day.
-Make sure to take the essentials with you! Bring water, bug spray, snacks, sunscreen, and even a hat if your face burns easily. It is always helpful to take Aloe Vera with you, in case you do end up getting a sunburn. 
-Many parks have such popular hikes, you need to get a special permit in order to hike them. Check to see if any of the hikes you wish to go on are restricted by permits. The permits may be in place to help ease the amount of people trekking through a section of the park, or they may be in place because certain gear is required to experience the hike (i.e., ropes, harness, rappelling experience, etc.).
-Check to see the difficulty level and time it takes to finish hikes. That may help you weed out which hikes you do not want to do or are physically not able to do.

-Leave no trace. Always pick up your trash and anything you take with you into the parks. It is also important to never take anything naturally found in the parks. This includes: plants, animals, rocks, etc. While it may not seem like a big deal to take some natural mementos, it can damage the park. The gift shops at the parks are great places to find souvenirs to take home!
-Never feed or touch any wildlife you come into contact with! This is for the safety of you as well as the other animals. By feeding animals human food, they can develop gastrointestinal diseases, become obese, and act more aggressively to humans in want of your food. This also helps prevent you from obtaining a bite from animals that may have diseases that can pass onto you!
-If any of your hikes are in slot canyons, check the weather! Many hiking trails will close if there is even the slightest chance of a thunderstorm that day. This is because slot canyons are incredibly vulnerable to flash floods from even the smallest amount of rainfall. Flash floods are very deadly, so it is important to check with rangers the day you are planning a slot canyon hike, to see what the percentage of rainfall might be.
-Know your limits! Do not try to attempt a hike that seems out of your skill or energy level.
-If you are going on a full day hike, try to plan your time wisely in case you need to turn back. If you feel the day hike may take you longer, be prepared to have materials that will allow you to safely camp overnight in case you cannot finish the hike until morning.
-Bring your camera! The national parks of Utah are absolutely breathtaking and boast some incredible scenery.

-Wear shoes that you have already broken in. Many people purchase new shoes to hike the parks and develop serious blisters.
-Bring A LOT OF WATER. Yes, it was mentioned above, but it is so important to drink large amounts of water on any hike during the summer, that it should be given a few mentions. On days where you are hiking, you should be drinking more water than you do on a regular basis.
-If there are any restaurants nearby, check to see if you can grab a reservation. Some local joints are so popular, you will need to reserve a seat in advance.
-Most importantly, have fun!!! The national parks are true treasures to our nation. They host some of the best natural landscapes of our country and provide a great opportunity to spend time outdoors. The parks are always changing, so you will never know what you will find with each visit.


We hope some of our tips and tricks to the national parks will help you feel prepared to check them out before summer ends! Which national park is your favorite? Comment below!


Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Biology Boot Camp

The Bean Life Science Museum's summer camp programs ended with a blast as we rolled out our first ever Biology
Boot Camp! This camp ran Monday through Friday, from 10AM to 3PM. This summer we were able to provide
Biology Boot Camp for two weeks in July. The theme for the camp involved learning about the different types of
living organisms we have on Earth and how we can do our part to help protect them for future generations. This
was done through games, activities, lessons, and field trips. The main living things discussed included reptiles,
amphibians, birds, mammals, fish, plants, and insects.



On Monday, the theme for the day involved reptiles, amphibians and birds. First, the campers learned what makes
something a reptile, and the difference between reptiles and amphibians. The kids learned firsthand how heat
vision in snakes work, how reptiles and amphibians shed their skin, how to protect sea turtle eggs, and how these
animals use camouflage to blend  into their environment. They even got to meet a live snake, frog, and lizard! In
regard to birds, the campers learned how birds fly, what their feathers are used for, and how the differences in bird
beaks are adapted for the different foods they eat. We even had a huge presentation where live parrots, conures,
cockatoos, owls, hawks, and falcons came to visit the kids! Afterwards, they were able to have the unique
opportunity to dissect owl pellets, and take their bone findings home.






On Tuesday, the theme switched to mammals and fish. The campers learned what makes something a mammal,
and what the hair of a mammal is used for. They also learned about the blubber from marine mammals, echolocation
in dolphins and bats, the different groups of mammals, and how their teeth can showcase whether they are an
herbivore, omnivore, or carnivore. They also learned what makes something a fish, and were able to make their
own fish out of clay and craft items! They also learned about fish life cycles, how fish are able to float, and the
different ways they hunt and camouflage themselves. At the end, the campers split up into groups to learn about
a fun fish, put together a poster, and present to the class what they learned.


On Wednesday, the campers were treated to a lesson about plants. They learned what makes something a plant,
the different parts of the plant, why they need photosynthesis to survive, the variations in leaf types, and the need
plants have for pollination. The kids were able to see how xylem and phloem works through a fun experiment
involving flowers, food coloring, highlighters, and black lights. They found out that when a flower soaks up food
coloring or highlighter, it will absorb the color into their petals, and even glow! The kids also took their newfound
knowledge of plants and visited Ashton Gardens at Thanksgiving Point, to try to find as many plants as possible.







On Thursday, the theme involved insects. Not only did the campers learn what makes something an insect, they
were also able to see them up close and personal underneath microscopes! They learned what each part of an
insect's body is used for, what food they eat, and how they positively impact our world. The campers had the
opportunity to learn all about ant colonies, and the different jobs each ant has to ensure the survival of their
species. This was reinforced through a game where the campers had to communicate like an ant, and go on a
scavenger hunt to find the "food" they need to survive. Afterwards, they visited Bicentennial Park to catch and
identify as many insects as possible.









Lastly, on Friday, the campers were able to combine all of their knowledge from the previous days, and visit
Hogle Zoo. They had the opportunity to see lions and tigers and bears, oh my! All kidding aside, they were
able to see all of the animals and plants that we had discussed throughout the week up close and personal in
a fun and educational environment.Who knew learning could be so fun?!   








As an extra special treat, during the four days the campers learned about the different types of living things, they
were able to have the unique opportunity to gain V.I.P access to the museum's research collections. The kids
were able to visit with real scientists and researchers to learn why the museum has collections and why they are
important for conservation and protection of each species. All of the campers were able to leave the collections
with a greater understanding of the behind the scenes work the Bean Life Science Museum does on a daily basis.








All in all, Biology Boot Camp was a major success! The educators and the campers had so much fun learning
and interacting with one another. Don't be surprised if you see more Biology Boot Camps happening in future
summers! It looks like it may be a keeper! Thank you to everyone who supported us this year through all of our
camp programs. We enjoyed our time teaching all of your children about our wonderful Earth! If you would like to
be notified of future summer camp programs, sign up for our emailing list found on our website at mlbean.byu.edu.