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Day 74: Salamanders (Part Two)

Today I had to make another campus visit to Lispcomb University, where I am an undergrad student. I had a meeting with one of my professors. The girls were mostly excited to be able to eat nachos in the student center.

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At one point, Amelie reached into her purse and picked up a cardboard rectangle that she had taped an old iPod sticker onto. “Look! I’m a college girl with an iPhone!” Oh Lord, help me with this child.

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I needed to visit campus to meet with my Sustainability professor and to work out a curriculum for a community service class. This semester, I am going to try to restore biodiversity to my backyard as part of an A Rocha related project. Several other families in our community are doing the same. The hours I spend working on the project will count toward the community service class, which in turn, counts toward half of my two concentrations (Writing and Sustainability).

At my meeting I find out that my first assignment is to identify all species of salamander native to the Nashville area. I also would need to create an index with picture and information about the salamanders. As I was talking to Dr. English about salamanders, the girls piped in that they had recently unearthed some salamanders during a playdate at a friend’s house. Dr. English is so sweet, enthusiastic, and especially good with children; she spent a large portion of our meeting talking with the girls, and gave the girls an impromptu biology lesson about salamanders and their behaviors.

Most Tennessee salamanders hibernate under the dirt until it’s time to come out and mate–right around Valentines Day. Now isn’t that romantic?! Okay, maybe only biologists are able to see the romance behind salamander mating rituals. Nevertheless, the girls were delighted as Dr. English asked them about the salamanders they found. Dr. English told us that the girls most likely had found some Spotted salamanders not yet ready to come out of their cozy sleeping places.

As soon as we got home we got to work on the index. We found a pretty comprehensive list of Tennessee Salamanders on the TWRA website, and then set out to narrow down the list to Nashville salamanders only.

I could tell that Amelie was having a bit of trouble sorting through everything. I don’t expect her to be reading at the level of a biologist, so I asked her what she would like to do. She still wanted to do something related to salamanders and she decided to read our large animal field guide and to draw pictures of Tennessee salamanders.

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The TWRA site includes salamanders from all over Tennessee. But not all of the descriptions are specific about a particular salamander’s location. So we had to make our best guesses from the information given.

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We made our lists separately, and I was so surprised at the end of our project when Sera’s list and my list matched exactly. I was so proud of her! She really used critical thinking skills to figure out which salamanders were most likely to be in Nashville.  We even put question marks next to the same ones we weren’t sure about.

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It was such a great day, and such a great practice in research. I’m excited that my girls can participate in in my work and education. This way of living life–of learning together–is a perfect fit for us. And I’m so grateful.

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