Hello, my name is Ms. Shin. Join me as I travel to New Orleans to study Climate Change and Caterpillars!

Sunday, October 3, 2010


Well Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today was the last day at the bunk house in Slidell, Louisiana. Tomorrow we return to New Orleans to study the caterpillars at the science lab at Tulane University. We cleaned up the bunk house from top to bottom, inside and out; it took awhile, but it is always important to make sure you are a good guest.
A special thank you to the Louisiana Wild Life Rangers (especially Mark) for letting us use their station during our scientific exploration!
When we arrived back in New Orleans, we immediately went to the science lab at Tulane to set up the caterpillars in their new home.
Also, Mark (our fearless Copperhead Snake Leader) managed to find two more caterpillars right in front of his house!

Both of these fuzzy, cute looking caterpillars are apparently poisonous.
Now, we will start logging, studying, and de-frassing the caterpillars we collected at the lab tomorrow, so stay tuned!
See you all soon!
Replying to Comments:
Nicole, I agree, caterpillars are awesome!
Victor, you are correct about the snake, good for you! We used the machete to cut down vines, tree limbs, and branches that were in our way. Oh, and the name of that caterpillar was "The Question Mark," because when it stays on the leaf, it takes the shape of a question mark!
Darren, I didn't freak out when I saw El Guapo probably because I was far enough away, but I have to admit I was a bit scared. The first time I held a caterpillar I was a bit squeamish, but you get use to it. After awhile, it's just really cool!
Liana and Franklin, I'm glad you looked up the vocabulary words... the other's will have to do the same when I get back. So you two are ahead of the game!
Gaurav, The gray on top of the caterpillar are actually wasp eggs. When they hatch they will eat the caterpillar for food. I was very tired from all the kayaking, but my arms are o.k. It's good exercise. I didn't get to see El Guapo again, but I did see a lot of other smaller ones. One was even missing an arm. If you go to youtube you can see some of the alligators I saw, just type in Pearl River Alligator or Honey Island Swamp Alligator.
Jasmine and Ariel, I miss all of you too, but don't worry, I will see you soon!

Friday, October 1, 2010

I Spy... can you?

Hello Everybody,

Well first I want to say that I had so much fun Skyping with everyone. It was so amazing seeing you all again... I miss you all! I especially loved all the great questions you asked me and the scientists here; they were very impressed by your intellectual questions. I'm very happy that I will be back on Tuesday (which is picture day so my class don't forget to wear black and white) because there is still so much I want to share/show you all.

After we Skyped, we went back out to Honey Island Swamp and had our last day of collecting. I have to say, this one was a bit different from the others. It started out the same, but ended with a bit of a shocker. Take a look:

Can you pick out three dangerous things in this picture?
(Hint: One is man made, but the other two are found in nature)

Did you guess the first one?

If you guessed the Machete (really big sword) you are right!

(Hint: For the other two, one is a plant, and the other is a reptile)

Did you guessed the plant yet?

If you guessed poison ivy... you are right!

Now the last one (the reptile) is a hard one. Here, I'll zoom in for you... can you see it now?

(Hint: It is nestled near the tree trunk in the middle of the picture near the machete's handle)

Have you got it yet?


Then here's an even closer look...

If you guessed a snake... YOU WIN!!!

How cool is this!

Now the real question is... what kind of snake is this?

This particular snake which was hiding behind our bag of caterpillars is called a Southern Copperhead and it is very venomous/poisonous. Thankfully our fearless leader Mark spotted it before it had a chance to strike anyone! The one we found was about 2 feet long!

What else can you tell me about the Southern Copperhead?

Thursday, September 30, 2010


Hello Everybody,

Well, it was another great day here at Pearl River. I went Kayaking... again, but this time instead of kayaking for 3 miles (like I did yesterday), we kayaked for 8.1 miles!!! I am totally EXHAUSTED!!! It was, however, an amazing experience. There is always so much to do, learn, and experience here... I don't think I'm going to be able to leave...just kidding! I can't wait to get back and show you all what I have learned here.

Till then, here are some more pictures for you to enjoy:

This is a Purple Crested Slug (caterpillar) that is parasitoid; the white cocoons on it's back are Braconid Wasps that will hatch and then eat the caterpillar.

These are Zygaeniidae or the "Great Leaf skeletonizer." They eat everything but the leaf vain, so the leaf looks like a skeleton by the time they are done eating it.

This isn't El Guapo, but you get the point.

Guess what the name of this caterpillar is? (the answer is in the question)

Here's are some words for you to look up and put into your science notebook:

1- Crypsis
2- Camouflage
3- Frass
4- Specialist
5- Generalist
6- Pupate
7- Chrysalis
8- Metamorphosis
9- Venomous
10- Spiracle

I'm very excited to Skype with you all on Friday, so see you tomorrow.

Replying to Comments:

Franklin and Gaurav, I agree the Assassin Spider is very cool. It doesn't really bite nor is it poisonous, however, he can and will hurt you! Certain insects (like mosquitos and spiders) do not have teeth, so instead they have a straw like jaw. They will stick you and since it can't chew or bit they inject a digestive liquid into your skin. Basically, the liquid they inject into you skin turns your skin into liquid and then they suck it up for food. How cool is that?

Franklin, you are right, kayak is indeed a palindrome, so is A MAN A PLAN A CANAL PANAMA. =)

Liana, don't worry, I am safe... for now.

Derek, I am kayaking almost everyday and yes it is very EXHAUSTING!!! But, fun. Good job with the scientific names by the way.

Victor, I didn't know that the fowler frog was stinky. Thanks for the heads up.

Mrs. Mason, There are certain caterpillar around the world that are endangered, but none of the ones we are studying down here. Caterpillars can be both good and bad for the environment. For example, one good thing that caterpillars do is recycle Nitrogen. They get it from the trees they eat and then frass (poop) it out into the soil. One bad thing is that if there are too many caterpillars, they will eat all the leaves and can damage the surrounding trees. For instance, last spring there was an outbreak of caterpillars here and the damage is still not resolved today. As for dinner? Insects and birds love to feast on caterpillars! Finally, caterpillars on average only live for about a few weeks before they pupate and turn into butterflies or moths. However, up north where we are (New York) because we have really cold winters some caterpillars will hibernate during the winter months; so, some caterpillars will live for months.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A hunting we will go... for caterpillars!

Hello Y'all,

Today was another exciting day of hunting... and Skyping! I had a chance to Skype with Ms. Marquardt's and Ms. Choi's 2nd grade classes. It was a lot of fun.

After that, I had a chance to go out and look for some more caterpillars. When I got out there, we not only found caterpillars, but also a whole assortment of other interesting organisms. Take a look:

Fowler's Toad

Tussock Moth


Thread Legged Assassin Spider

Tortoise Beetle

How cool are they! NATURE ROCKS!!!

By the way, can you find the scientific names for some of these organisms/species?

Replying to Comments:

I'm glad to see some of you are asking questions and learning interesting facts about caterpillars and about New Orleans. I know I am. I didn't know that New Orleans was founded in 1718 by Jean Baptiste La Moyne, but now I do, so thank you everyone.

Nicole, good job on finding the scientific name for the banded sphinx. You are right it is Eumorpha fasciatus. Kayaking was fun, but exhausting. I'm just glad I didn't fall in and El Guapo didn't think I was his dinner!

Victor, I'm glad you like that caterpillar, they are very cute! I like the Banded Sphinx... mostly because they're easier to find. I feel like they are the Godzilla's of the caterpillar world. =)

Franklin, so far I haven't screamed or freaked out... yet. I didn't get a chance to feed El Guapo marshmallows and even if I did, I don't think I would. Would you?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Day Two of Collecting!

Hello again!

Today was another exciting and exhausting day! I kayaked and plotted caterpillar sites all day! Whew! Thank you for all of your comments and I hope you keep up with my post! Most of you seem to be interested in the 15 foot alligator named El Guapo. You couldn't really see him except for his eyes and tail sticking out of the water... I have to say, it was a little scary. One of my leaders/teachers here (Mark) told me that the locals call him that name; I don't know why though, I guess it's because he's the biggest in the river. When tourists come to Pearl River, the guides feed the alligators marshmallows. Apparently they really like them... who knew!

This is our fearless leader Rebecca.

This is her second in command, Mark.

This is the great and powerful Mike.

This is someone examining a caterpillar using a microscope.

Did anyone figure out what the caterpillars on the previous post pupate/turn into?

If you do, let me know!

Ms. Shin

Monday, September 27, 2010

Day One of Collecting!

Hello All,

Well today was a full day of hunting caterpillars at Honey Island Swamp near Pearl River. We saw and collected A LOT!

We are all out here trying to collect as many caterpillars as we can so we can study them to see how many are infected by Parasites (such as flies). Did you know parasites can lay their eggs inside or outside of a caterpillar? When the eggs hatch, they eat the caterpillar for food... yum!

Now before we get to the good stuff, it's always important to be prepared so here is a list of things I needed to bring with me on my expedition:

-Collecting permit
-20-gallon zip lock bags
-2 sharpies, scissors
-Wipes/hand sanitizer
-Notepad and pencil
-Bug spray
-hat and rain boots
-Bright orange vest (so hunters DO NOT mistaken Ms. Shin for a deer!)

We found a lot of interesting caterpillars and other bugs! However, guess what Ms. Shin spent most of her day doing?... other than collecting caterpillars.

I spent most of my day ESTIMATING how many leaves were on a tree!!! That's right! Let me tell you, it was NOT easy!!! There are thousands of leaves on a tree. You all get to estimate marbles, I had to estimate leaves on a variety of trees and shrubs (oak, maple, and more).

You see, what you learn in school IS IMPORTANT!!!

Now, I continue...

First, our expedition team had to find a spot to "plot," that means we only looked for caterpillars within a circular area (diameter) of 10 meters using plot tape (yellow string).

Second, we labeled and estimated all the trees and shrubs within that area. This took awhile.

Finally, we bagged and tagged the caterpillars within that site in a large, gallon, zip lock bag. There were seven important things we needed to write on these bags:
2-Plot site number
3-Caterpillar Species
4-Instar Number (the stage of their life... usually there are five)
6-The name of the plant it was found on
7-How many caterpillars (of the same species) were in the bag

O.k. now here is what you have been waiting for... the caterpillars.

This one is in the family Lymantriidae. Caterpillars in this family usually have three types of hair: 1) long and silky hair, 2) "hair pencils", and 3) "hair tufts." This combination of traits make the caterpillar look more like a punk rocker than an insect. This species is called Orgyia leucostigma. Can you find out what it looks like when it becomes a moth?

This one is in the family Saturniidae; this one will become the Polyphemus moth. Can you find out what it looks like when it becomes a moth? Caterpillars in this family are usually large enormous, and robust. The also have smooth and shiny heads.

Now comes the gold medal winners; we found these beauties while kayaking down Pearl River.

These HUGE caterpillars are called the "Banded Sphinx," they belong in the Hornworm family. These caterpillar can be found on the Primrose-Willow plant family. Although they come in a variety of colors (I even found a pink one), most if them have black spiracles edged with white, and diagonal white stripes pointing towards the head. Can you find out what these pupate (turn out) to be?

Well this is already a very long post, so that's all for now.

Till next time...

Ms. Shin

P.S. Did you know that caterpillar poop is called Frass!

P.P.S. I also saw a 15 foot alligator while I was kayaking. It's name is El Guapo (which means handsome in Spanish). He likes to eat marshmallows. I couldn't take a picture for you though, sorry. I was too busy paddling in the opposite direction! Ms. Shin did not have any marshmallows. So, maybe next time... maybe not.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

I'm Here!!!

Hello Ladies and Gents,
Sorry this post is so late, but I haven't had internet for awhile. So, don't worry if you haven't posted yet! I hope everyone is doing well! I'm learning a lot here and I'm very excited to show you all what I have been learning. We are a group of 9 teachers and scientists who will be studying Caterpillars in the Pearl River area of Louisiana.

First, I had a chance to look around New Orleans on the day I arrived and I have to say that it is a beautiful city!!! Oh, I love the architecture! The buildings are gorgeous... and the food... YUM!!!

This is a picture of the Parkview Hotel where I stayed for a night before heading out to Pearl River.

New Orleans is a great city with A LOT of history, arts, music, and delicious food!!!

Although a lot of people did lose their homes in Hurricane Katrina, the people of New Orleans still remain friendly and they are very helpful to strangers (yes, Ms. Shin needed help on day one). Did you know that parts of New Orleans was under 25 feet of water?!!! Wow. I wonder what else happened around here?
On Saturday we headed out to the bunk house near Pearl River. We saw a beautiful rainbow over the river. Can you spot it?

It's right about here.

On Sunday, we went over our schedule, what we would be learning, teaching, focusing on, and more. It was the first day of school for Ms. Shin. I didn't get to search for caterpillars just yet, but I did manage to see a beetle and snake right outside our bunk house... that was cool!!!

Hopefully, I will have more to post tomorrow. Till then, stay cool!! No... really... stay cool, it's like 90 degrees and REALLY humid here! And when it rains, it pours!!!
Ms. Shin

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Good to know!

Wow, thanks everyone for all your useful tips! I will definitely remember to bring the bug spray, rain boots, and long, yet cool clothes!

You know, as I am sitting here blogging with you all, it is starting to rain and thunder. This reminded me of today's read aloud "Thunder Cake," by Patricia Polacco. I REALLY want a piece of thunder cake right now! It's a good thing there's a recipe in the back.

Also, rain and thunder can be scary and annoying at times, but I've come to realize that it's actually very important to our environment. Why is it so important? How does it help? Do you think New Orleans gets a lot of rain? Why or why not?

Hey, check out this cool looking caterpillar that looks like a twig; I mean, talk about camouflage! I found it on a website created by Dr. Lee Dyer, he is the doctor of ecology with whom I will be working with. Hmmm, a doctor of Ecology? I wonder what an ecologist does/studies?

By the way, here are some fun games you can play... AFTER YOU FINISH YOUR HOMEWORK! Enjoy!

- Hungry Caterpillar or Hungry Caterpillar

- Caterpillar Gold online

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Getting Ready!

O.k. this is my first blog/post... ever, so be nice everyone! =)

Now, I will be leaving for New Orleans on Friday September 24, 2010 to study caterpillars and I have to admit that I'm a bit nervous. I don't know much about New Orleans (other than Katrina and the recent oil spill), nor do I know much about caterpillars. However, I am excited to learn everything I can; it is going to be such a wonderful experience for me, my school, and my community!

So, my current problem is, what should I bring? What will the weather/environment be like? What kind of caterpillar should I expect to find? Any ideas... anyone?