Greetings, and welcome to the Ruffner Monthly!

How is it November already? Ruffner Mountain's fall colors are close to their peak, twinkling in beautiful bronze and gold, while wildlife are busy getting ready for the winter ahead. 

As the end of the year is fastly approaching, and we prepare to give thanks for all that we have, 
consider giving to the greenspaces you use and love.

Let's see what November has in store... 

Treatment Testing for White-nose Syndrome
Notes from the Wildlife Curator
Storytime on the Mountain, A Q&A with Ms. Jerri Beck

Winter is Coming...Winter Hours, That Is  

As the days grow shorter, we are changing up our hours at the Nature Center. Please note that beginning December 1st through February our winter hours will be 9:00 am - 4:00 pm Tuesday - Saturday and 1:00 pm - 4:00 pm on Sunday. As always, trails are open from dawn until dusk.  

Welcome Ruffner’s Newest Members
October 2018

Linda and Peter Yungbluth
Sheri Tims
Kalee Cotten
John Cotten
Slamen Family
Brian Cornett
Kim Cornett
Jeffrey Grantham
Colin Reily
Roland and Mary Bergeron
Estye Fenton

Harry Howell
Jody Gottlieb
David Fox
Alison and Ryan Jenkins
Jill Chambers
Alex Dumais
Trey Carnes
Johnnie Shaneyfelt
Mallory Barnett
Zeph Leggett
Brock Culpepper
Seth Lewis

ASAN Food & Farm Forum

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Treatment Testing for White-nose Syndrome

For the past few months, Ruffner Mountain has been, and will continue to be, a site for research conducted by Bat Conservation International (BCI) in conjunction with the United States Forest Service, Northern Arizona and the University of Winnipeg. This study is currently testing treatment options in mines that have tested positive for White-nose Syndrome (WNS) - a fungal disease that is devastating bat populations in North America.


This study, along with BCI Inc. and their partners, have recently been announced as one of the recipients of the Bats for the Future Fund 2018 - a grant funded by The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, Avangrid and Southern Company.

Here's what Alyssa Stulberg, a graduate student at the University of Winnipeg had to say about the ongoing study:  

I am part of a collaborative effort working to determine an effective management strategy for White-nose Syndrome, a fungal disease that is causing drastic declines in hibernating bat populations across Canada and the US. The disease is caused by the fungus Pseudogymnoascus destructans (Pd) and was first detected in 2006 in the state of New York. Since then it has spread across thirty-three American states and seven Canadian provinces and threatens the survival of several hibernating bat species.

Our experiment led by Bat Conservation International and including the University of Winnipeg, Lockhaven University, Northern ArizonaUniversity, and the US Forest Service is specifically using UV light and polyethylene glycol (PEG) to inhibit the growth of Pd in environments where bats hibernate. Both UV and PEG limit Pd growth in laboratory settings and we hope application in the environment will create habitats in which bat populations can persist throughout the spread of White-nose syndrome. We are applying treatments in three abandoned mines in Ontario, Arkansas, and here at Ruffner Mountain in Alabama as this encompasses the northern- and southernmost frontiers of White-nose spread. We recently completed treatment applications and will be monitoring the effects over the course of the next few months.

Ruffner wishes Bat Conservation International, Inc., their partners, and all of the recipients of the Bats for the Future Fund success in their endeavors.

We will keep everyone posted as the results of this study emerges.


Notes from the Wildlife Curator by Chivon Morse

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The weather has turned cooler, and we are approaching our first hard freeze of the season. We know that some mammals hibernate, that squirrels snuggle into nests, that some birds migrate and some just stick it out – but how do turtles spend the winter?

Turtles are ectotherms(aka “cold-blooded”), meaning that they cannot control their body temperature the way humans do and have to rely on environmental heat sources to stay warm. (Side note: Have you ever seen those pictures of pet snakes in sweaters? Cute, but completely ineffectual.) So one can believe that an ectotherm would have a hard time surviving the winter, unless it did something very special – shut down. Ectotherms can slow their heart rates, metabolic rates, and respiration rates to very minimal levels in cold weather.

Aquatic turtles tend to bury in mud or, like snapping turtles, rest on top of the floor of the pond or lake they are in, and go into a state of dormancy. If the water above them ices over, even better – it will insulate the bottom depths of the pond and keep it at a temperature where the turtles can survive. But what about oxygen? Turtles don’t have gills and must breathe air to survive. A turtle’s superpower is that it can absorb oxygen through their skin, the lining of their mouth and cloaca. Yes, that’s right – an aquatic turtle can “breathe” out of its south end. Some turtles can absorb oxygen a little better than others. Snapping turtles, for example, can survive in stagnant ponds where no water is moving to generate oxygen for months – others, like soft-shell turtles, need more flowing water in order to give them enough air to survive.

But what about our non-swimming friend, the box turtle? As the temperatures get colder, box turtles burrow into the soil, digging deeper and deeper the colder it gets to protect themselves from extreme weather conditions. Once buried, a box turtle can survive sub-freezing temperatures, emerging when the temperatures once again warm in the spring.

How ectotherms survive cold weather is really neat, and turtles, such as the butt-breathing aquatic turtles, are some of the neatest of them all.

Storytime on the Mountain - a Q&A with Ms. Jerri Beck

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Ms. Jerri Beck has been leading Storytime on the Mountain program since 2003. We had a chance to talk with her about the importance of reading to children as well as her favorite stories as a child. 
Our next Storytime on the Mountain is Saturday, November 17th from 10:00 am - 10:30 am. Ms. Jerri will be reading The Thankful Book by Todd Parr. This program is free to all ages and no registration is required. Hope to see you there!

Can you share a little about your background?

Ms. Jerri: I grew up on a farm in the middle of nowhere and learned from an early age how important animals are to us. (For example, mice would take over most family farms if not for snakes.)

What was your favorite story growing up?

Ms. Jerri: When I was growing up, we didn't have the wonderful story books we have now. My favorite book was actually poems, When We Were Young by A. A. Milne. (Liked his poems more than Pooh.)

What is your favorite part about volunteering at Ruffner?

Ms. Jerri:My favorite part of volunteering at Ruffner is meeting families and introducing children to interesting aspects about animals they may be familiar with. I also enjoy sharing books and stories I love.

Why do you think it's important for kids to hear stories about nature?

Ms. Jerri:Kids need to learn about nature starting early. If you are not informed about something, you probably won't respect and appreciate it. Earth is our home, and it is beautiful; it is up to us to keep it healthy and in good shape. This covers every aspect of nature. (For example, we don't have Madagascar hissing cockroaches here, but that's a fine example. They are essential to survival of the forests on Madagascar. Closer to home, plants are ourmain source of oxygen.) Also, nature is fascinating when you start learning about it.

A final note: hope children of various ages will come to story and craft time—and bring questions if they have them.