Ecology, Featured, Zoology

Wild Observations

Everybody loves animals, whether it’s a dog, cat, or a rare species of spider only found in South America. Animals are great and actually very important for humans. The study of animals is zoology, now what all does studying animals entail? The most obvious is just observing them. Observation is the use of our five senses; hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting, and touching. Scientist use their observational skills to study different species behaviors. That could mean observing them either in the wild or captivity. We can go deeper than just observing their behavior though. Scientist will look at their habitat, diet, and the impact humans have on them.



What is a habitat? A habitat is the natural home or environment of an animal. Now let’s look more in depth at the home of an animal. Food, water, shelter, and space; these four things make up what we consider a habitat. Zoos do a good job at trying to recreate the habitats of animals that are not native to where zoos are located.



Just like humans, animals need food to survive! Scientist like to consider an animal’s diet to learn more about how they live. Animals can be put into three categories; carnivore, herbivore, and omnivore. A carnivore is an animal that only eats meat, an herbivore is an animal that only eats plants, and an omnivore is an animal that eats both plants and meat. Now when dealing with diets we can consider food chains.Food chains are diagrams that show what eats what. For example, a grasshopper eats grass, a mouse eats a grasshopper, a snake eats a mouse, and a hawk will eat a snake. Food chains are important in having a healthy ecosystem. An ecosystem is the interaction on organisms and their environment.




Humans have affected animals in many ways. We have helped lots of species but we have also lost lots of species. Let’s think first about the negative such as encroachment of cities on habitats. Our population and cities are growing whether we like it or not and with growth means people need to live somewhere. Los Angeles county alone is 4,751 square miles large! Think of how many species of animals were driven out due to the growth of this city. Many nocturnal (night time) animals use night vision or their hearing to catch prey and cities are bright and loud. Diurnal (day time) animals need camouflage to sneak up on their prey and most animals don’t have camo to match cities. This leaves the animals with three choices; move, adapt, or die. Let’s talk now on the positive side of humans.In the United States the federal government will protect species that have low populations. These animals are referred to as endangered species. Killing of these species will result in large fines and jail time. You might think that’s harsh for just killing an animal but some of these animals help keep an ecosystem in check. Also in the United States, hunters and fisherman must abide by restrictions set by each states wildlife and fisheries agency so that the population of each species are at healthy levels.


Zoology has a lot to offer for not only helping animals but also helping humans as well. We are not the only species living on this earth so we should do our part to help the environment and protect all organisms. “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” – Dr. Seuss from The Lorax.



Hot Sauce

Featured, Geology

Is It Your Fault or Mine?

Today we’re going to talk about various geological formations at Arrowhead Ranch and how they were formed! Below, in the first picture, you are able to see Mount Baldy, a mountain visible from Strawberry Peak. Mount Baldy is part of the San Bernardino mountain range but is in fact on the opposite side of the San Andreas fault. The San Andreas fault is where the Pacific and North American tectonic plates meet and create a transverse boundary. A transverse boundary is where two tectonic plates slide against each other. The motion of two plates sliding against each other can cause earthquakes, which is why California has so many.

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In the next picture you are able to see a variety of rocks and minerals that can be found at Arrowhead Ranch. The difference between a rock and a mineral is that rocks are made up of minerals which in turn are made up of elements. One of the most common rocks found at Arrowhead Ranch is granite, which is the most common intrusive igneous rock and also makes up the bulk of the continental crust. An intrusive igneous rock is a rock which cools beneath the earth’s surface. Because it cools beneath the earth’s surface, intrusive igneous rocks have larger crystals, which can often be seen. The granite seen around Arrowhead Ranch often contains three common minerals: mica, quartz, and feldspar. Mica is a flaky and black, quartz is a colorless mineral composed of silica, and feldspar is the one of the most common minerals in the world and can appear either white, pink, red, or even gray. In contrast to intrusive igneous rock such as granite, there are extrusive igneous rocks such as obsidian, a glassy black mineral often found in arrowheads, which cool quickly and hardens without crystals.


Featured, Meteorology

Water You Doing?

By: Mars


Vann, voda, vesi, aqua…water! No matter which way you flip it, turn it, roll it we need it! Water is the driving force behind many processes in this world, but where does it come from and where is it going…water, water are you doing?

Water moves in a cycle or a process that repeats itself. Basically, the water we see in the world is recycled. Let’s start with condensation. Condensation is the process where water vapor, like steam, is changed into liquid water, like we would drink out of a cup. When these water droplets combine with dust, salt, or other particles in the air they form clouds! As clouds continue to get larger and acquire more water droplets they could produce precipitation, the next phase in our cycle!

Precipitation is the means by which water falls from the sky! The water is not necessarily in liquid form. It could be in solid form too, like snow, sleet, or hail! Once the water reaches land it percolates. Percolation is the process by which the water makes its way through the ground. It seeps through the soil and makes its way to underground aquifers, big pools of water underground! Not all water has time to percolate. After water precipitates it can either land in a body of water, like a river or a creek, or makes it can make its way to a body of water through run off. Run off is when water rolls across the earth until it reaches a body of water. We have reached the next phase of the water cycle, transportation! Once all the water is together it is transported, or moved, to the ocean…eventually.

Once the water makes its way to the ocean, and sometimes even before, the water makes its way to the next phase of our cycle. Liquid water that is floating along in our streams water.pngand ocean can be changed into water vapor through a process called evaporation. This water vapor returns to the sky and eventually condenses into clouds, and just like that we are back at the beginning, right?! Not so fast, remember that water that was hanging out in our aquifer? Well that water can be transported and eventually makes its way into another body of water or plants can take it up through their roots! Plants need the water to help with processes like photosynthesis. Plants also give off water through their pores, this liquid water is changed into water vapor in a process called transpiration. The water vapor returns to the sky and eventually condenses into clouds, and just like that we are back at the beginning, for real this time!

The water we drink today could have rained down on the Earth millions of years ago, or maybe been a cloud just yesterday. The water we have is all the water we get! That is way it is really important that we take steps to protect our water from becoming contaminated with pollutants that hurt us and other organisms. Things like riparian buffers, construction and factory regulations can all help ensure that our water stays nice a clean! Clean water makes for happy and healthy organisms of all shapes and size, including humans. Let’s make sure we are doing our part! I have two challenges for you! Number 1: learn about a pollutant that may be affect water in your neighborhood. Number 2: make a lifestyle change or take an action that will help protect our water for future generations!           



Water Cycle-



Botany, Featured

So Many Trees…Oh Geez!

By: Mars


Here in the San Bernardino Mountains there are so many trees…sometimes it can be hard to tell them apart. But have no fear…I have your tree guide here!

First, let’s take a closer look at our tree and the parts that we can use to help with our identification. Trees have bark that cover and protect the outside of the tree. Bark can come in a variety of colors and textures so it can be a useful tool when identifying trees. The leaves on a tree can also be very telling. There shape, size, and color can help us decipher our trees. Finally, we can use the fruits or seeds the trees produce to identify them. Acorns, pine cones, and seeds oh my!

Let’s start with the leaves, the trees we have here on the mountain are going to have either broad leaves or needles. Broad leaves are most commonly found on deciduous trees, or trees that lose their leaves seasonally. While trees with needles are most commonly evergreen trees. Trees that lose their leaves throughout the year instead of all at once. Here on the mountain the majority of our trees are evergreen and we have quite a few so lets start out simple…with our deciduous trees.

We have two native deciduous trees here and we can easily tell them apart by taking a closer look at their leaves! The shape of the leaf can tell us what tree we are looking at. The broadleaf deciduous trees you will run into up here will either have hand shaped leaves or lobed leaves. Hand shaped leaves originate from our California Black Oaks, while the lobe shaped leaves originate from our Pacific Dogwoods. Our dogwoods produce a glorious show for us each spring as they flower! On the other hand our black oaks shine in the fall as they drop their golden leaves everywhere.

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Now onto the evergreens! First, let’s take a look at the needles and how they grow. Needles can grow in bundles of three or five. These bundles are also called fascicles. Trees with five needles are a part of the White Pine family. Here in our neck of the woods the only White Pines we have are Sugar Pines. Sugar Pine trees produce some of the longest pinecones I have ever seen! While trees with five needles are a part of the Yellow Pine family. We have three yellow pines in our forest. One that is easy to pick out is the Coulter Pine, because it has massive, heavy pinecones, the largest of any other pine tree! The Jeffrey Pine and Ponderosa Pine can be a little trickier to distinguish. They both have bark that looks very similar to puzzle pieces. Your best bet is to find a pinecone and roll it between your palms. If the pinecone is very prickly, it most likely came from a Ponderosa. However, if the pinecone is fairly gentle then it most likely came from a Jeffrey.      

Many of our trees have leaves that do not grow in fascicles, some even have needles that grow directly off the branch! These trees are fir trees, more specifically White Fir. White Fir needles can even provide a tasty little snack…the contain vitamin C, so if you chew one up it like your eating an orange! Additionally, some of the trees in our glorious forest have flat, scale like needles. These segmented and continually branching needles belong to an Incense Cedar Tree. Just as its name suggests, if you crumple up the leaves a bit you get a wonderful scent!

You are the only exception(not really)…here in the San Bernardino mountains we have a tree called a Canyon Live Oak, which is an evergreen tree with broad leaves. These can be found along steep slopes and regenerate very fast after forest fires! If we just use our brain we can identify all of these trees with not one bit of pain!          



Needles- from nat handbook


Featured, Geology

Ogres, Onions, and the Earth

Ogres, Onions, and the Earth

By: Mars

Ogres, onions, and the Earth are really all one in the same…if you think about it. Ogres and onions have layers just like this very Earth that we live on! You might think that you are standing on a giant pile of rocks, which is probably true, but the below all of those rocks there are even more layers to our magnificent planet.

layersNow let’s start with that pile of rocks we were talking about, geologists (scientists who study the Earth and its processes) call this outermost layer of the the Earth our crust. Just like a pizza, but probably not as tasty and definitely not as cheese! We have two different types of crusts here on Earth: oceanic and continental. Oceanic crust is the layer of rock that sits beneath our big beautiful oceans. This layer is made up of basalt, an igneous rock formed the cooling of lava. Basalt rock is composed mostly of silica, magnesium, and iron. This crust ranges from roughly 3 to 5 miles in thickness. Our continental crust CRUSTon the other hand, is made up mostly of granite, an igneous rock formed from the cooling of magma. Granite rock is composed mostly of silica, aluminum, potassium and calcium. This crust can is made up of valleys and mountains so it can reach thicknesses up to 25 miles! Much like how our pizza crust is broken into different slices, Earth’s crust is broken into pieces we call tectonic plates. We have seven major, large, plates and many minor, small, plates, that pieced together make up the crust of our Earth.

As we continue to peel back the layer of our Earth we make our way to the mantle. Unlike a mantle you might find in your house above your fireplace, this mantle is viscous, meaning it moves around like a thick liquid, maybe even a little jelloy! The viscosity, or jelloyness, of the mantle allows heat to travel in convection currents, just like an oven. Convection currents occur when hotter matter rises, pushing down cooler matter, which is heated and the process continues. Our tectonic plates which rest on top of our mantle move as these currents circulate. Our mantle is composed of silica, magnesium, and iron, similar to the rocks found in our crust. This layer is very important as it makes up 80% of Earth volume and is roughly 1,800 miles thick!

Next we have Earth’s core which, just like an apple core is located in the middle of our Earth. Our core is divided into two parts: the outer core and the inner core. The outer core is made of liquid iron and nickel and is about 1,400 miles thick. While the inner core is composed of solid iron and nickel and has a radius of about 760 miles. The iron in Earth’s core generates 90% of the Earth’s magnetism.

Just like ogres and onions beneath each layer is another one, containing new questions and discoveries. The more layers we peel back the better we are able to understand the Earth we live on!     



Image Sources:

Earth’s layers-