BIOL 398N Week 2 Topic 1: Studying Wildlife Backward

I decided to interview my physical therapist, he has lived in the Severn/Harmons area of Maryland for the past 40 years. He bought his first real house in 1990. He married his late wife the same year I was born. That’s how we got on the subject of what it was like.

  • What was the area like in __1994_____ (year)? This was the year I was born

“in 1994 there was only Fort Meade, the schools and oh there was a food lion, pretty sure that’s still there. There were much less people. Traffic didn’t exist even on Friday 5pm.  People would have lunch and picnics on the parkway, you know where the grass median is, that’s why it’s called a parkway.”

  • How many people lived in the area?

“I had a total of at most 18 patients at a time. I would make house calls instead of the people being forced to come to clinic to be treated for a broken leg or spine. Now I have over a hundred patients, this area was more of a pass over for 95 and route 100. Not many people lived here at all. Maybe 6 or 7 hundred”

  • What were the main land uses by people at that time? (e.g., small farming, industrial, shopping, suburban homes, etc)

“Like I said before there wasn’t much. Rout 175 was the most exciting thing around. It connected the base to interstate 95. There was the small strip mall that had a food lion, drug store, liquor store, some fast-food place I can’t remember. Come to think of it. there was this old-time dollar store that I got fake flowers from and give them to my wife. She uses to turn them in to door writhes. Anyway, the area was mostly to support the military and government work of fort Meade. “

  • What were the most common wild animals you might see in the day? In the night?

“Unlike today, this area was mostly wooded. You could see all kinds of animals. My house backs up to a lake in Harmen’s. If you know, you know. Anyway, so you could hear the foxes and owls at night. One night, chuck the guy 2 doors down hit a skunk in the road leaving for work. stunk up the whole block. I never saw a skunk other then that one. The birds were everywhere, birds of all kinds and colors. My wife always had bird feeders out. We would watch the squirls and chipmunks run around and take the bird seeds. Yeah. chipmunks… I have not seen one in years.”

 

  • Are those animals more or less abundant now in that area? Why do you think?
  • “Absolutely, when they put that big mall in… everything went to shit. The bears were either killed or relocated “supposably” and the chipmunks are gone. The turkeys are gone, The deer scattered away. Tearing down the trees and putting up them over priced closets with a bathroom yall call an apartments complexes have ruined the peacefulness that we had.”

 

  • Were there predators in the area? If so, which ones?

“Well there was the occasional bears, foxes, coyotes, hawks, raccoon… is that a predator?”

  • Did people hunt, trap, or otherwise kill wildlife? Why?

“Well of course we all did. I don’t know why other people would but, I personally love deer meat. Wild turkey is good if done right.”

  • Have any invasive species or diseases affected local wildlife—such as invasion of Asian carp in waterways?

“An Asian what? I don’t know how a Asian fish would end in a pond?”

  • Did anyone work to improve wildlife habitat (e.g., planting hedgerows, building ponds, setting up bluebird boxes)? What types of efforts?
  • “The Army guys would plant trees next to the roads they made. I’m pretty sure they would do other stuff. Also the churches would plant flowers”

Did you keep any photos, notes, or other records of wildlife and nature from that time?  ”

“I could try to find them in her stuff. I will look tonight.”

  • How have residents’ attitudes toward wildlife changed since that time?
  • “The people in general have completely changed. Id rather not explain further.”

 

  • What is the biggest change you can think of that has affected wildlife populations in that area since that time?

“Over population in some areas. Lack of care from the younger generation and the types of people that are now here don’t care about anyone except them selfs.”

  • Have you done anything to help wildlife in your area (e.g., planting trees, feeding birds)? I plant wild flower style plants and also have 4 bird feeders and a humming bird feeders.
  • What is your favorite memory about wildlife in that place in that time? “How much my wife loved the birds and flowers. The blue jay was her favorite.”
  • Do you believe a connection with nature is important for people?

Absolutely, we only have 1 planet earth that feeds us. Without it we die.

After reading this week’s chapters on natural selection, ecology, and habitat, plus watching the video on junco research, think about the place where you live or a place that you know well. Think especially about the wildlife that live there and how they are adapted to the habitat they depend on. How have they survived in your area as conditions have changed over the years, decades, and centuries?

 

To better answer these questions, I ask you to interview someone who lived in the area in the past. Oral history can be a valuable tool to understanding wildlife ecology, population trends, conservation efforts, and related human values. One example of this technique is a new book, Imperial Dreams, by Tim Gallagher. Only one video of the Imperial Woodpecker from the 1950s still exists (see below), and no known living specimens, but Gallagher realized that there are living people who remember the birds, their habits, and how humans interacted with them. Gallagher spoke to many old-timers in Mexico where the Imperial Woodpecker once lived. You may find this podcast of the Diane Rehm show interesting: Interview with Tim Gallagher. (Optional) And here’s a brief video of of an Imperial Woodpecker.

 

Your interview subject can be someone who has lived for many years in one place and can talk about the past and compare with current conditions, or it can be someone who lived somewhere in the past but doesn’t currently live in that spot. A typical approach is to interview a parent or older relative about the place where you grew up. Even though your interview subject is probably not a wildlife biologist or ecologist, try to get them to be specific about wildlife and habitat they might remember. Please ask questions such as the following (you don’t have to ask all of them, and feel free to ask others) and report back to the class about your discussion (I don’t expect a formal report! I just want to hear what your subject remembers about wildlife in a coherent few paragraphs):

  • What was the area like in _______ (year)?
  • How many people lived in the area?
  • What were the main land uses by people at that time? (e.g., small farming, industrial, shopping, suburban homes, etc)
  • What were the most common wild animals you might see in the day? In the night?
  • Are those animals more or less abundant now in that area? Why do you think?
  • Were there predators in the area? If so, which ones?
  • Did people hunt, trap, or otherwise kill wildlife? Why?
  • Have any invasive species or diseases affected local wildlife—such as invasion of Asian carp in waterways?
  • Did anyone work to improve wildlife habitat (e.g., planting hedgerows, building ponds, setting up bluebird boxes)? What types of efforts?
  • Did you keep any photos, notes, or other records of wildlife and nature from that time?
  • How have residents’ attitudes toward wildlife changed since that time?
  • What is the biggest change you can think of that has affected wildlife populations in that area since that time?
  • Have you done anything to help wildlife in your area (e.g., planting trees, feeding birds)?
  • What is your favorite memory about wildlife in that place in that time?
  • Do you believe a connection with nature is important for people?

I’m looking forward to your interviews. They’re often a highlight of the course. Remember main post requested by Sunday by 11:59 pm, main and response post to at least two classmates required by Tuesday at 11:59 pm.

I interviewed my mother who is from South Korea. She grew up in Pyongtaek City, South Korea. She was born there in 1972 and left in 2001.

What was the area like in 1980?

The majority of the area was rice fields as the main crop was rice. The area was rural with mountains, small forests filled with pine trees, and single housing. There were some three story apartments. There was cats, dogs, frogs, birds, cows, butterflies, dragonflies, sparrows, tiny fishes, squirrels and magpies in the area.

How many people lived in the area?

It was a rural area so the population wasn’t high.

What were the main land uses by people at that time? (e.g., small farming, industrial, shopping, suburban homes, etc)

The land was used for farming crops like rice, spicy peppers, sweet potatoes, potatoes, and garlic. The houses were made of brick and cement. There was a traditional market for people to sell their products. There was light construction. The schools during this time were large as well as the playgrounds.

What were the most common wild animals you might see in the day? In the night?

The most common wild animals you might see in the day are dogs and cats. At night, it would be frogs, crickets, and cicadas.

Are those animals more or less abundant now in that area? Why do you think?

There are much less wild animals in the area. The area modernized completely. There are far less rice fields and it has become a well developed city compared to the 80s. There are apartments, tall apartments, malls, train stations, more cars, public transportation, restaurants, parks, and wider roads. There is less space for wild animals. There are less trees and vegetation outside of parks and mountains. It is no longer rural and the main industry in the area is semiconductors and electronics.

Were there predators in the area? If so, which ones?

There were no predators in the area. The only predators in the area were humans.

Did people hunt, trap, or otherwise kill wildlife? Why?

People did not hunt or trap wildlife. There were no wildlife to hunt. People went to other places to hunt wildlife.

Have any invasive species or diseases affected local wildlife—such as invasion of Asian carp in waterways?

Bullfrogs was an invasive species that affected local wildlife. Bullfrogs ate the local frogs that were important for farming. The local frogs ate bugs and pests that ate and damaged the rice. Bullfrogs negatively affected the food chain.

Did anyone work to improve wildlife habitat (e.g., planting hedgerows, building ponds, setting up bluebird boxes)? What types of efforts?

My mom does not recall anyone improving the wildlife habitat. She does remember farmers killing bullfrogs that they find.

Did you keep any photos, notes, or other records of wildlife and nature from that time?

No she doesn’t have any records of the wildlife and nature from that time.

How have residents’ attitudes toward wildlife changed since that time?

People didn’t realize how important trees and vegetation are. They are looking for better quality of fruits, vegetables, fish, and meat in Korea. They improved the food safety and regulation.

What is the biggest change you can think of that has affected wildlife populations in that area since that time?

The modernizing of the city has greatly changed the wildlife population. The farming has shrank and the high tech industry has boomed.

Have you done anything to help wildlife in your area (e.g., planting trees, feeding birds)?

She has placed bird feeders and hummingbird feeders.

What is your favorite memory about wildlife in that place in that time?

She enjoyed the butterflies, dragonflies, and catching frogs. The air was clean and the land was less used.

Do you believe a connection with nature is important for people?

Yes a connection with nature is very important. Humans cannot survive without nature.