This educational collaboration between Washington University's Tyson Research Center and the Missouri Botanical Garden's Shaw Nature Reserve is designed to engage St. Louis area high school students in scientifically-based exploration of the natural world. Linked programs of field training (SIFT) and field research (TERF) provide teenagers with experiences that realistically reflect research in environmental biology. Participating teens learn a variety of field investigation skills and then have the opportunity to put those new skills to work assisting career scientists with real research projects.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

SIFT Session 2 Day 5

The final day of SIFT Session 2 was a bit different than the final day of SIFT Session 1. The weather cooperated this time and we were actually able to get into the field for the ant behavior experiment.

But first, the day started with breakfast in the Assembly Building.

And then each group shared their data from the terrestrial ecosystems investigations of the previous day.

It was very rewarding seeing the SIFTers come to their own definitions of prairies, glades, and woodlands based on actual scientific data!

The SIFTers had heard all week about Dr. James Trager being an expert on ants, and now they got a chance to see him in action. They were introduced to the fascinating world of ants with a NOVA program hosted by E.O. Wilson and then became familiar with the common ants of Missouri.

The ant behavior experiment involved baiting specific spots on the ground with bits of pecan sandies cookies or tuna, and then making observations of ant interactions as they arrived on the scene.

The final field challenge of the week was a hunt for the afternoon snack. Three groups of SIFTers each headed out with a different starting clue. If they successfully followed their set of clues then they eventually found toppings for ice cream sundaes. Unfortunately, the clues were not as easy as we thought and we had to guide the last group in so that we could start eating!

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