Friday, March 2, 2018

The Masters are in the house!

Original Post from 12/20/2016

You can now refer to us as Master Gwen and Master Sara, just kidding!! On December 16th Gwen and I both received our Master’s Degrees from Miami University. WE DID IT!!! Gwen received a Master of Arts in Teaching and I a Master of Arts, both in Biological Sciences. I think that it is safe to say that we are both enjoying our free time. It actually feels a bit strange to be able to read a book for enjoyment.  For the time being I think we are both going to take a break from school, but who knows what may come our way in the future.

- Sara

Meet the newest addition to our soil and water family!

Original Post form 11/4/2016

On September 2nd at 3:28 pm a new addition was added to our soil and water family. My husband and I welcomed a beautiful baby girl into the world. Maci was 20 inches long and weight 8 pounds 12 ounces. Mommy and Daddy are both enjoying parenthood and can't get enough of her. I have added a few pictures below for your viewing pleasure!

Heading home from hospital. 

Newborn Pictures

Newborn Pictures
Family trip to pumpkin patch.

Maci loves her mommy!


She has quite the wardrobe!

Her smile is contagious!

Guyana...It's not in Africa

Original Post from 10/3/2016

I can't believe it's October already. As we settle in to fall, I wanted to share with you some of my summer travels. I had an amazing opportunity to visit Guyana this past summer. As many of you know, I am getting my Master's Degree from Miami University through Project Dragonfly (if all goes well, I will graduate in December) and as part of the program I went on an Earth Expedition class to Guyana.

Where, you might ask (as almost everyone I told did) is Guyana? Well a little geography lesson, Guyana is on the northern coast of South America. Colombia and Venezuela are to the west, Suriname and French Guiana to the east and Brazil to the south. It is a country with a interesting past, having been a Dutch, French and British colony and finally gained its independence in 1966, just 50 years ago. 

My fellow students and I (17 total) met up in the capital city of Georgetown and quickly departed by 2 small planes to the interior of the country. Most of the people in Guyana live along the coast as the interior of the country is very remote and includes amazingly large areas of intact rainforest that are difficult to travel to. As a class we spent several days at the Iwokrama River Lodge and then moved on to the Surama Eco Lodge. Both places were within the boundaries of the Iwokrama Reserve, sometimes called the Green Heart of Guyana. Iwokrama was established 20 years ago with the lofty goals of conserving the forests while also promoting their sustainable and equitable use among all the citizens of Guyana.

When I look back and reflect on my time in this amazing, beautiful and very hot country, my mind wanders to the forests. I loved the experiences we had meeting the local Makushi tribe members (making cassava bread with the women and carving hunting arrows with the men), investigating and trading cultural experiences with the local wildlife club students and even going on nature hikes with park rangers to learn more about the local flora and fauna (there were so many beautiful things to see everywhere you looked), but I just can't get the image of the vastness of the rainforest out of my head.

In America, we are often bombarded with images and statistics about the constant destruction of the rainforest and prior to going to Guyana, I believed that all rainforests in the world were under constant attack and that if we as global citizens didn't act now, we would all perish. I know I am not the only one to have felt this way, but I am here to tell you that it is not always true. While there are many areas of rainforest in the world that are being destroyed, there are also many areas that are being protected. Iwokrama is one of those protected areas and the most amazing part is that all of the stakeholders (timber companies, local people, indigenous tribes, government agencies, environmental groups and others) are working together to find a way to have the forest benefit everyone. Iwokrama is focused on research and discovering best management practices so that people can use the forest while still maintaining it for future generations. Some areas of the forest are set aside to never be logged, while others will be selectively logged now and then not again for decades. This allows the forest to regenerate naturally and gives local animals places to migrate to if needed. It truly is a wonderful experiment that I hope can benefit conservation efforts all over the world. 

I truly loved Guyana and would never have even considered traveling there had it not been for this program. If you are interested earning your Master's degree from Miami University through the GFP (Global Field Program) or AIP (Advanced Inquiry Program) or if you are just interested in going on and Earth Expedition check out there website.  Applications are currently being accepted for the 2017 program. 

I have included a few photos with this post (all pictures were taken by Samantha James or myself) would love to talk and share more experiences and pictures with you next time I see you. Just ask!

Google map image of Guyana
Kaieteur falls. One of the largest single drop waterfalls in the world. 

As we near the end of our journey, we took time to relax by Kaieteur falls.

plane to Surama Village

peanut head lanternfly

making a hunting arrow with leader Dan Allicock

Getting ready to throw the cassava bread on the roof to 'cook'

Throwing the cassava bread on the roof
Cassava bread 'cooking' on the roof

planting cassava at the Allicock farm

Surama Village homes

Wildlife watching with classmates

capuchin monkey

Help Save the Monarch Butterfly! Collect Milkweed Seed Pods


The Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus) has to be one of the most amazing insects on the entire planet. Scientists know of no other insect that tackles a migration as long as that of the Monarch Butterfly and the most remarkable aspect of the migration is that it is not learned from a previous generation: adults do not teach it to their offspring within the same species. The Monarch Butterfly life cycle is very unique in that, the first, second and third generation typically lives for only four to six weeks. It is the fourth generation that makes the Monarch Butterfly life cycle unique. The fourth generation, often called the super generation, flies over 2,500 miles from southern Canada to the mountains of central Mexico. It spends the winter in Mexico and once spring has arrived these same Monarchs begin their migration back north towards the United States where they will mate, lay eggs on milkweed plants and die, after living about 8 months!

For decades, scientists have been fascinated with the extent and range of the Monarch Butterfly migration. But now, researchers are running out of time. Since the late 1990s, the population numbers and the overall winter acreage that Monarch Butterflies have inhabited in central Mexico have been in decline. During the winter of 2013-2014 scientists found the smallest number of overwintering monarchs. Researchers have determined many reasons for this population loss, including the decline of the common milkweed plant (Asclepias syriaca L.). Milkweed is essential to the life cycle of the Monarch Butterfly because adult females exclusively lay their eggs on the underside of milkweed leaves. The young caterpillars eat the leaves, ingesting cardenolides (toxic juices within the milkweed) without harming themselves, but making the Monarch distasteful to potential predators.

So what can we do to save the decline of the Monarch Butterfly population? Join forces with the Ohio Pollinator Habitat Initiative (OPHI). The OPHI is a partnership between ODNR, ODA, Div of Wildlife, Monarch Joint Venture, OSU, Pheasants Forever and many others to educate citizens and create beneficial pollinator habitat. We are asking citizens to help us collect milkweed pods which will be sent to the state nursery where they will be separated, dried and used for future planting to help increase pollinator plantings around the state.

​Tips for seed pod collection:
  • It is best to collect the pods when the seeds inside are brown. Do not collect pods when seeds are cream or white.
  • If the center seam of the pod pops with gentle pressure, it is ready to be picked.
  • Collect pods in a paper bag, plastic may cause the pods to rot. Store pods in a cool, dry area until you drop them off.
  • Drop the seeds pods off at the district office (M-F 8:00a - 4:30p) between September 1 and October 31. We will make sure they get to the State nursey where they can be planted in future pollinator plantings.
Other things you can do to help the Monarch Butterfly (and all our pollinators):
  • Use pesticides sparingly, if at all, in your garden.
  • Plant milkweed in your own yard.
  • Plant other nectar sources that help adult monarch and other pollinators.
  • Encourage your friends and neighbors to plant milkweed and butterfly gardens.

It's almost time to register!

Original Post from 7/22/2016

We are now in the final countdown, only 10 days away from opening registration for 2016-2017 school year.  On Monday, August 1, 2016 we will open registration for those educators who are ready to schedule.

Please remember that we are only able to come to your building 3 times per year.  It is often the case that we can work with multiple teachers/grades in one day. Please coordinate with other interested teachers before scheduling.

For those of you that may be unfamiliar with our program offerings we highly suggest that you look through the list of offerings that we have on our website. We have programs available for students from pre-school up to high school.

Scheduling a program is now easier than ever! All you have to do is visit our website, and on the right side of the page you will have the option to book with Gwen or Sara. Click on either ‘Book Sara’ or ‘Book Gwen’ and you will be forwarded to the registration page. All you have to do after that is, pick a date, time and program. Once you have completed the form you can consider yourself scheduled.  Once scheduled a reminder email will be sent a few days prior to the program.  

If you still have questions about our programs or how to schedule via our website please don’t hesitate to call, 772-7645 and ask for Sara or Gwen or email Sara or Gwen with your questions. 
We look forward to working with you and your students this school year. 

Summer Library Programs

Original Post from 6/22/2016

Woohoo it’s finally summer break. Time to sit back and relax, just kidding! Here in the education department we are moving into summer library programs full force. You can find me or Gwen at many of The Public Libraries of Cincinnati and Hamilton County throughout the summer. To read a full description of the program being offered please visit our website,
Be sure to check with the library to see if they require registration. We hope to see you at a few of the libraries this summer! 



Original Post from 5/31/2016

Don't forget there are only 10 days lefts to register for the Passport to Fishing Event on June 18th at Miami Whitewater Forest.

This year we have some great things to give away! 

Thanks to an amazing donation by Cabela's, every participant will leave with a brand new fishing pole.

Bass Pro donated five tackle boxes stuffed with goodies that will be given away as door prizes. 

The Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden donated two admission tickets to be given away as a door prize.

Don't forget to register before it is too late! 

If you have any questions please feel free to call or email Sara Fehring at 513-772-7645.

The Masters are in the house!

Original Post from 12/20/2016 ​ You can now refer to us as Master Gwen and Master Sara, just kidding!! On December 16th Gwen and I both re...