One of the hallmarks of the arrival of Spring in Wisconsin is the cacophony of evening croaks and calls from the Spring Peepers and Chorus frogs. Indeed frogs and toads are ubiquitous around the globe, and many of us who have become life scientists (even those of us who have relegated ourselves to the world of macromolecules, cell signaling networks, and nucleic acids) probably spent some time in our childhood chasing and catching frogs.
But what happens to those frogs and toads over the harsh winter months in places like Wisconsin? Well, their strategies are species-dependent, but at least some of them overwinter by freezing, and the story of one species, the Wood Frog, is quite amazing. Think about it. It freezes from the inside out. No heart beat, no circulation, completely dormant. Then in response to some unknown signal (day length? temperature? angle of the sun?), bodily functions slowly resume. What kind of cell signaling cascade controls that response?
Here is a video from NOVA about the Wood Frog and its amazing deicing event. The next time you are out on a Spring or Summer evening and you hear a chorus of frogs calling, you can think about the incredible molecular story behind the event and be even more impressed!
With spring finally gaining a foothold in the upper Midwest as temperatures rose above 60 degrees Fahrenheit this weekend, everyone including myself has been spending more time outdoors. Like my fellow blogger Karen, I am a gardener and have been digging and planting everything from raspberries to currants to apple and peach trees.
However, one of my favorite parts of spring is hearing and seeing all the birds that flit around my property. Ironically, I was outside in a hat, gloves and coat when I heard my first redwing blackbirds of the season but since then, robins have taken up residence, and the house sparrows have returned, stealing the grass seed I scattered on my rather thin lawn. Nuthatchers are entertaining to watch as they peck at tree bark upside down while they hunt for food. An eastern bluebird has taken up residence nearby, and I enjoy spotting him every day, sitting in a tree or resting on my shepherd’s hook. The chickadees are fun to spot as they switch branches on a tree. Crows occasionally stop by especially if I have left out some pizza crusts for them. Turkeys have even hung around my front lawn, and I startled them (and they, me) as I opened my front door and they quickly flew away. I was up early one morning before most birds were active and all I could hear was “gobble, gobble, gobble”.
I’m still learning about all the different birds that stop over on my property as I expect there are more I have not identified. Which birds do you enjoy spotting in the spring?
On March 2, 2012 we were dealing with 8 inches of snow around here. Today the Chorus Frogs are calling, the red-winged black birds are staking out their territory, and the finches and robins are fighting over last year’s nests. People are biking to work; kids have shed their snow pants and boots. The high today for Southern Wisconsin? A balmy 77°F. Perfect for playing with bubbles. Spring has sprung. Actually, it feels a little like summer, and all of us here at Promega Connections are suffering from spring fever. So to celebrate here’s a video about bubblology, with a bubble recipe and instructions for making an awesome bubble rod. Have fun!