A Visit to the Flathead Lake Bio Station

The Flathead Lake Biological Station was established in 1899 making it one of the oldest active biological field research stations in the United States. This past week we were fortunate to take part in their open house. We had never explored the Yellow Bay section of Flathead Lake before and were astounded by the number of cherry orchards that we passed as we drove to the station. Even more exciting however, was being able to tour the Biological Station and find out more about the research projects taking place on and around the lake.

As we toured the grounds we met a variety of scientists both international and local that were more than happy to explain their research projects to us. We viewed and learned more about drones that are being used to map mountains and floodplains. The kids took part in a hands on experiment that helped them understand the many shapes (and their function) of plankton. At one display the kids were tasked with finding a representation of Nitrogen and Phosphorus in a large bucket of sand. This helped explain how little Nitrogen and especially Phosphorus there is in Flathead Lake. The Phosphorus in the lake is used so quickly that it is incredibly hard to detect in water samples.

After making our way through the Biological Station’s buildings we headed down towards the dock where we watched two dogs that were trained to sniff out invasive species. It was incredible to watch one of the dogs find a Zebra Mussel hidden in the motor of a boat within seconds of the scent hitting her nose.

For the grand finale of our tour we went out on one of the field station boats towards one of the monitoring buoys placed on the lake. The boat operator (a long-time researcher at the station) gave us a great overview of the work going on at the Flathead Lake Biological Station. The kids especially enjoyed the high waves that the boat encountered due to it being a very windy day!

All in all it was a fascinating open house and a great hands on look into the science being conducted just across the lake from us. It was especially wonderful to hear that Flathead Lake is a very healthy ecosystem and that a lot of work is being put into keeping it that way.


Fives’ Favorite Resources to Learn About Climate Change

Climate change has never been far from our minds as we travel. For one, we have experienced its effects first-hand (seeing shrinking glaciers in Glacier National Park and driving through the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy on our way to Washington D.C.). Our homeschool studies have also helped us understand the various consequences of climate change, including how melting sea ice is endangering polar bears and other creatures.

With the People’s Climate March happening this Sunday in New York City and around the world (in anticipation of next week’s UN Climate Summit), we’ve decided to focus our homeschool for the coming days on climate change and its impacts. While we will not be able to make it to any of the marches, we are planning to watch the NYC rally live on Sunday. Now is the perfect time to learn more about climate change and how our actions at this very moment will accelerate or lessen its impact. We have found the following resources to be informative and engaging for all ages.


Climate Change 101 with Bill Nye
We are huge Bill Nye the Science Guy fans, and his shows (click here for a list of topics) make learning about science a riot. While the following video is not part of the series, he does an excellent job breaking down the science of climate change in under 5 minutes.


Climate Kids: NASA’s Eyes on the Earth

Nasa Climate

NASA has put together a great assortment of animations and games to teach the fundamentals of climate and climate change. It is conveniently organized by topic or by type of content (video, animation, game, etc.).


Showtime’s Years of Living Dangerously
This 9-part documentary series does an amazing job of making the complexities and challenges of climate change come alive through an impressive cast. The first episode is available for free, and it changed the way we look at the palm oil we find in countless food products (a huge cause of deforestation in Indonesia) and at the conflict in Syria (fueled in part by chronic drought). The entire series is now available to stream online at Amazon and iTunes.


Surging Seas


This interactive map program shows the impact of rising sea levels on coastal locations in the United States. Based on the increasing reach of high tides, the program allows you to experiment with various scenarios and see which areas end up underwater (shown in blue). You can search places by state, city, or zip code.


Crash Course World History and Ecology
The Crash Course video series gives a great introduction to both the historical and ecological dimensions of climate change. The first video lays out the social upheaval caused by the Little Ice Age in the 17th century, while the second video looks at climate change through the lens of ecology.