Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Africa Mystery Photos

Because of all the fantastic animals we're seeing in Africa, we figured we'd start doing mystery photos again.  But we're going to do them a bit differently.  Jamie and Jason are going to write the clues, and we're going to try and do 2-3 photos every week.

Click here to see the clues and guess the first one. 

Monday, April 21, 2014

A Coral Reef that Recovered from Bleaching

Here's a post we did on The Wilderness Classroom site about a coral reef in India that recovered from a 1998 bleaching event, and why it recovered.  It is a continuation of the great conversation we had with MD Madhusudan of India's Nature Conservation Foundation.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Tiger conservation programs in India

Here's a post we did on The Wilderness Classroom site about tiger conservation programs in India.  It's based on a very interesting conversation we had with MD Madhusudan, one of the founders of the Nature Conservation Foundation, in India.

New Foods

One of the questions that a lot of kids ask us is what new foods have you tried.  So we created a chart on Jamie and Jason's blog which you can find at this link.  We've updated the chart through India.  There are some pretty interesting additions - check out Cambodia especially.  And if you want to see some photos of the Cambodian crawly things we tried, you can see them in our Cambodia photo album (they are the first pictures you'll see in the album).

Also, we have gone a few weeks without a post.  We are now camping our way through southern Africa, and our Internet access has not been good.  But we will have some more posts out in the next couple of days.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Tigers in India

Here's a post we did for The Wilderness Classroom on the state of tigers in India.  We visited Ranthambhore Reserve in Rajasthan, India and were lucky enough to see a tiger in the wild.  Check out this post to learn about these magnificent creatures.

Also, click here to see a post that Jamie and Jason did about tigers on their blog.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Irrawaddy River Dolphins and Endangered Animals

Here's a post we did on The Wilderness Classroom site about Irrawaddy river dolphins in the Mekong River, in Cambodia.  These are fascinating animals.  Click here to read more, and see a short video of the dolphins we saw.

Irrawaddy dolphin in Cambodia from Wikipedia. Foto: Stefan Brending / Lizenz: Creative Commons CC-by-sa-3.0 de

Friday, March 7, 2014

A Cambodia homestay

Jamie created this 3 1/2 minute video about the homestay we went on in Cambodia.  You can also see it on our kids' blog.

The homestay that Jamie describes in her video post was arranged for us by the Cambodian Rural Development Team.  In our short interactions, we were very impressed by this organization.  Their mission is “To improve food security, incomes, and living standards of subsistence rural communities while supporting environmental conservation throughout Cambodia.”  They seem to take a very practical and long-range approach to achieve their mission, with close coordination with local people.  Ecotourism is just one of their many projects, but it was obvious from the reception we received during our Koh Phdao homestay that the community really embraces CRDT’s efforts.  Koh Phdao was one of the cleanest and most welcoming places we visited in Cambodia, and Cambodia itself is a very friendly country.

If you’re considering a visit to Cambodia, or want to support a great local organization doing the right things in Southeast Asia, we recommend you connect with this group.

Study Guide Questions:

1. Can you name 2 of the 3 instruments you saw in the video?

2. We stayed in a stilt house.  Can you think of why all the houses on the island are built on stilts?

Monday, March 3, 2014

Itinerary change

We've made a few changes to our original itinerary.  We'll be leaving India in about a week and are then heading to South Africa.  I'll be attending the Climate Reality Project's training in Johannesburg, South Africa starting on March 12th.  This is the same training I went to in August last year, but this time I'll be attending as a mentor.

So we'll be going to South Africa, then Mozambique followed by a visit to Victoria Falls, which means we'll likely briefly touch Zimbabwe and Zambia.  Then it will be on to Botswana and Namibia, before finishing our time in Africa in Cape Town, South Africa.

We'll leave Africa towards the end of May and then we're heading to Italy, Spain, France (we're adding a stop in Paris), The Netherlands, and Norway.  We'll probably go to Svalbard (part of Norway) in the Arctic, in late July.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Making rice noodles in Vietnam

Here's a post we did for The Wilderness Classroom about making rice noodles in Vietnam.  It is a combination of text, photos, and a couple of 1 minute videos where you can see machines used to take the hulls off rice and how they convert rice into rice noodles.

Click here to see the post, and from the post you can see the videos.  You can also go to our youtube channel to see the videos.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Rescuing Vietnamese Turtles

Here's a post we did on The Wilderness Classroom about rescuing endangered Vietnamese turtles.  During our visit to Vietnam's Cuc Phuong National Park, we visited the Turtle Conservation Center (TCC).  They currently house 650 turtles!

An endangered Vietnamese pond turtle

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Interview with

Mongabay is a fantastic environmental science and conservation news site, with great sections for kids. Mongabay aims to raise interest in wildlife and wildlands while promoting awareness of environmental issues.

We recently did an interview with Jeremy Hance of Mongabay.  He titled the story, "Two kids, one year, from the Amazon to the Arctic: the environmental adventure of a lifetime."

Video summary of Vietnam and other posts from our kids

Jamie decided to do a video post about our time in Vietnam.  She wrote the script and we added in photos and some video clips.  Here's her video which can also be found on our kids' blog.

And if you haven't checked out their blog lately, Jamie did a post on dolphins (there's a short video in that post showing dolphins racing along the front of a boat we were on) and Jason just did a post on box turtles.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Langurs and Lorises: Endangered Primates in Vietnam

Here is a post we did on The Wilderness Classroom site about our visit to the Endangered Primate Rescue Center at Cuc Phuong National Park in Vietnam.

Red-shanked douc langur

Slow loris - nocturnal primates that move VERY slowly, like a sloth

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Vietnam's Emptying Forests

In Vietnam, we wanted to learn about an important issue:  why is there poaching, or illegal killing, of certain endangered animals? 

To find out, we went to ENV (Education for Nature Vietnam).  Animals are trafficked (bought and sold) illegally in Vietnam.  Many animals are also hunted in Vietnam, and sent to China because there is demand there. 

Why would people buy and sell animals illegally?  Here are some examples:
  • Many animals -- such as rhinos, macaques, or tigers -- are killed and used to make traditional medicines
  • Wildlife restaurants” serve exotic dishes to locals and tourists – such as porcupines, mouse deer, monitor lizards, civets, snakes and even bears
  • Animals are kept illegally as pets – monkeys, for example.
  • Some animals are stuffed or hung on the wall as trophies, or status symbols – like shiny lacquered marine turtle shells, or stuffed tigers.
  • Some animals are kept in cages as attractions to bring tourists into restaurants or hotels.
Vietnam’s Rhino:  Extinct
The impact of this illegal demand for animals and animal products is huge.  One example is the Javan rhino, which has been extinct in Vietnam since 2010 (a small population of only 50 Javan rhinos still exists, in Sumatra). 
Indian Rhino (closest known relative to Javan Rhino).
Photo from Jo Oh on Wikipedia
It’s bad enough to kill a rhino, but the really sad thing is that the rhino is just left there – it isn’t even eaten or used for any other purpose except its horn. 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Monkey Mia: Dolphins, Dugongs, and a Sea Snake

Monkey Mia is a private facility located along Shark Bay in Western Australia.  Shark Bay consists of about 900 miles of winding coastline, which creates a lot of bays sheltered from the ocean.  Underwater in these bays grow fields of sea grass.  This environment creates a great place for large amounts of marine life, including sharks, rays, dugongs, sea snakes, and bottlenose dolphins.

Have you ever heard of a dugong?  We had not.  Have you heard of a manatee?  Dugongs are similar to manatees, but are a bit smaller, have a different shape tail, and live only in the ocean (manatees spend time in both the ocean and in fresh water rivers).  An estimated 10,000-15,000 dugongs live in Shark Bay -- the largest population of dugongs in the world.   According to one of the rangers at Monkey Mia, this is about one-tenth of the world’s dugong population.

Dugong photo from Julien Willem on Wikipedia
Dugong we saw on a boat trip in Shark Bay
Now about that tail… take a close look at it.  Does it look like a mermaid tail?  It is thought that sailors a long time ago believed they saw mermaids, but were actually seeing dugongs!

Dugong tail
Dugongs are very big and eat sea grass.  Because of their diet, they are sometimes called sea cows.  Dugongs can get to be almost 10 feet long and can weigh up to about 1100 pounds.  They can live to be about 70 years old.  Females have one calf after a year of pregnancy.  They can hold their breath for about 6 minutes before they need to surface and breathe air.  As they live in only shallow water, don’t move very quickly, and reproduce slowly, they have been easy targets for hunters in the past, and have also been hurt by people destroying their habitat, and have also been mistakenly killed by fishermen.  Because of this, their numbers have been declining in many of the places that they live.


The primary reason we visited Shark Bay and Monkey Mia was dolphins.  Jamie especially is crazy about dolphins!

Monkey Mia Bottlenose Dolphins
Monkey Mia is a place where people have been feeding wild bottlenose dolphins for about 45 years.  It started with fishermen who would feed dolphins off their ships, and then became more formalized over the years.  At one point, people were feeding and touching the dolphins without much oversight, which led to the animals being stressed, mothers ignoring their young, and dolphins even starting to bite people.

Now, however, rangers from Australia’s Department of Parks and Wildlife tightly control the feeding process.  There are only 5 female dolphins that are fed, and they are only fed a maximum of 3 times a day.  The total amount they are fed is about ¼ of their daily nutritional needs, so they don’t become dependent on feedings from humans.  And no one is allowed to touch the dolphins.

Group getting ready for a dolphin feeding
Dolphin feeding chart - we did the ones on Thursday the 12th
The dolphins were amazing.  We all got to feed a dolphin, and that was quite an experience.  But it was equally great to just watch these fabulous animals swim around and interact with each other.  Even after the feeding, there were often dolphins swimming up and down the beach, sometimes fishing, sometimes playing, and sometimes perhaps just hanging out.

Dolphin close-up
Jamie feeding a dolphin
Jason feeding a dolphin
While we were waiting for one of the feedings, a sea snake came close… perhaps a bit too close, actually.  Sea snakes are one of the most venomous creatures in the world.  A bite from one can kill a person.  However, they are not aggressive and virtually never bother or bite people.

Sea Snake
We had a great time feeding the dolphins.  But we had a long discussion about it afterwards.  The question we asked ourselves was whether this was good for the dolphins or not.  We decided to come up with a list of benefits for the dolphins and problems that this could cause the dolphins.

This is actually Jamie and Jason’s list.  Before reading their list, we’d suggest you stop and come up with your own lists.  Then compare it with theirs.  We’d love to hear from you about your lists!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Local online news story on

We didn't realize this was written about us, but saw web traffic coming from this link.  A nice little story written on the St. Louis Park Patch site about us.  Patch is a neighborhood focused news and information site.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Ningaloo Reef, Coral Bleaching, and Red Kangaroos in Western Australia

Here's a 7 1/2 minute video about our visit to Cape Range National Park and the Ningaloo Reef, in Western Australia.  We had our first exposure to the "outback,"explored some beautiful gorges, saw some really unique wildlife, and did some fabulous snorkeling.  We also learned about the impacts of climate change on coral reefs, and specifically what happened at Ningaloo from some friends we made at Australia's Department of Parks and Wildlife.

Study Guide Questions:

1. What is the difference between a fringing reef and a barrier reef?

2. True or False: Coral is made by a plant.

3. Is white, bleached coral healthy?

4. What causes the bleaching of coral?

5. What is the name of a baby kangaroo?

Monday, January 13, 2014

Unexpected Australia & Crossing the International Date Line

When traveling, sometimes things don’t go quite as planned.  The next leg of our trip took us from Seattle to Perth, on the west coast of Australia.

It was supposed to take 26 hours and 3 flights.  However, one of our flights was delayed, and because of the long, long lines at immigration in Brisbane, Australia (over 1000 people!), we missed our connection to Perth.  The next flight wasn’t until late in the day, so we ended up having an unexpected day in Brisbane.

So we took a shower in the airport, checked our bags, and took the train into Brisbane for the day.  The weather was beautiful, and it turned out to be a great day.

Brisbane from the Botanical Gardens

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Galapagos, El Niño, and Climate Change

In our previous post we talked about human impacts on the Galapagos.  There is one more human impact that we’ll discuss in this post on The Wilderness Classroom, and that is climate change.

Other Climate Change Links: Will Steger Foundation
EPA's Climate Change for Kids
Tiki: Climate Change for Kids

Galapagos: The Impact of People

Most people come to the Galapagos because of the amazing wildlife.  But we also wanted to learn about the impact that people have.  This is really important because both the population of the Galapagos and the number of visitors to the Galapagos are growing by quite a bit.

Read this post on the Wilderness Classroom site to learn about human impacts on the Galapagos.

Landfill on Santa Cruz Island
©WWF Galapagos Program / Maximilian Martin