Hello, my name is Ms. Hegarty. Join me as I travel to New Orleans to study Climate Change and Caterpillars!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Can you see me now?

Today was a beautiful, warm and sunny day. It was a perfect day to do some field plots. We set out early this morning and drove to Honey Island Swamp
(N30.39269,W 89.7049). You can find the location using Google Earth. Finding the GPS location is one of the first things done when setting up the site. The field note book has the date, GPS location, elevation, plot number, and the center tree species. We completed two plots today. This took about 5 hours and there were six people working.

The location we were at has quite a lot of visible damage from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Many branches covered the forest floor. After there has been damage to the trees, it open up the canopy, allowing light to reach the ground. This allows more ground level plants to grow like brambles, vines and shrubs. It was difficult to walk through at times so we used a machete to clear a path.

This chameleon was found walking out to the plot location. Initially, he was a light , brownish green. His colored changed after he was picked up. If he was in a tree, changing color would help him hide from predators. This is a defense mechanism called camouflage. Caterpillars use a variety of ways to protect themselves from predators. Some caterpillars use mimicry, where they pretend to be something else. Some look like bird poop on a leaf, others pretend to be twigs, some copy the look of other poisonous caterpillars, even though they are not. Some caterpillars are aposematic. This means that they have bright colors or distinctive features that warn predators that they really are poisonous.

Most of the caterpillars here are not dangerous. The ones that look hairy do sting. They do not actually have a stinger like a bee or a wasp though. Their hairs are like little needles that will prick the skin and leave behind an irritating toxin. I have been told that for most people this feels like stinging nettles. Fortunately, I have not been stung yet!

Answers to Questions:

* There are not too many dangers while working down here. I worry most about fire ants and poison ivy.

* It is definitely Cajun Country. There are alligator traps and crayfish traps set by locals on the river.

* There are many insects in the swamp and on the river. I have never seen so many dragonflies. They are swarming! The mosquitoes are no worse than on GI. They seem smaller than the ones we see. There are lots of spiders, beetles and grasshopper type things. Sadly, I have not seen any ladybugs. :(

* I really do enjoy the work I am doing here. I am learning so much everyday. I am very grateful to have been chosen for this project and excited to be able to contribute to the research that is being done.

Today's word: tritrophic

Warm Up: Draw a food web that includes caterpillars.



  1. plants --> catepillar --> sparrow --> red tailed hawk

  2. plants --> catepillar --> swallow --> alligator

    plants --> catepillar --> pheasant --> humans

    plants --> catepillar --> small bird --> snake --> hawk

  3. Soo cool - wish I was there!!! Your pictures are great. Now if only I had an infocus in my room....

  4. alligator<---ducks<----catepillars<---leafs

    From Sara: Did you read the Hungry Catepillar to your kids? Do any of the catepillar remind you of that book?

    From: Nate: How close were you to the alligators. Do they crawl up to where you are staying (Yikes!)

    From Michael: Difference between alligator and crocs?

  5. leafs<---catepillars<---birds<---bigger birds<---alligators
    Nicole: wants to know how long is your workday?
    Andrew Frisch: How many alligators have you seen?

    Scarlett: what other species of animals have you seen?

  6. Hi!

    We are having a wonderful week, but miss you lots. The video that Mark Gorton is making about your work in Louisiana should be very interesting. Skyping is the best! I think it is a wonderful tool, and lots of fun for the kids, too.

    See you soon. Have a safe trip home.