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Educational Materials

This page contains educational materials that are available to the public, as well as links to relevant and applicable media and materials

Featured native animal of the month 

Cougars- Puma Concolor

A mountain lion walks through snow with trees in the background.

Cougars, scientifically known as Puma concolor, are fascinating and elusive large cats that inhabit a diverse range of ecosystems throughout the Americas. Also commonly referred to as mountain lions, pumas, or panthers, cougars are highly adaptable predators known for their agility and stealth. They are found as far north as Canada, and as far south as Chile.

Physical characteristics of cougars include a sleek and muscular body, a distinctive coat usually ranging from tawny to grayish-brown, and a long tail with a dark tip. They have powerful limbs and large paws equipped with retractable claws, allowing them to climb trees and pounce on prey with remarkable precision. Adult cougars typically weigh between 90 to 200 pounds, with males being larger than females.

Cougars are solitary animals, known for their vast home ranges that can span up to hundreds of square miles. They are highly territorial and use scent markings to communicate with other cougars in their vicinity. Unlike other big cats, cougars do not roar but instead produce a range of vocalizations, including growls, hisses, and screams.

As carnivores, cougars are opportunistic hunters with a diverse diet that includes deer, elk, small mammals, and occasionally livestock. They are known for their exceptional hunting skills, often stalking and ambushing their prey with a burst of speed. Despite their powerful presence in the wild, cougars generally avoid confrontations with humans.

Conservation efforts are crucial to maintaining healthy cougar populations and mitigating conflicts with humans. Habitat loss, fragmentation, and human encroachment are significant threats to their survival. Understanding the ecological roles of cougars and implementing measures to coexist with these majestic predators contribute to the overall balance and biodiversity of their ecosystems. Educational initiatives aimed at raising awareness about cougars help foster appreciation and support for their conservation.

Featured native plant of the month 

Blue Vervain- Verbena Hastata

Plants with purple flowers by a reflective water body.

Blue vervain, scientifically known as Verbena Hastata, is a perennial herbaceous plant that belongs to the Verbenaceae family. This native North American plant is commonly found in wetlands, meadows, and along stream banks, showcasing its adaptability to a variety of environments. The name “vervain” is believed to have origins in Celtic and Roman traditions, where the plant was associated with various medicinal and mystical properties.

Blue vervain is characterized by its erect stem, which can reach heights of 2 to 6 feet, and its slender spikes of small, tubular flowers that range in color from pale blue to violet. The opposite leaves are lance-shaped and toothed, providing an attractive and distinctive appearance. Blooming from midsummer to early fall, blue vervain serves as a valuable nectar source for pollinators, such as bees and butterflies.

In traditional herbal medicine, blue vervain has been used for its purported medicinal properties. The plant contains various compounds, including glycosides, tannins, and alkaloids, contributing to its potential therapeutic effects. Historically, Native American and early European settlers utilized blue vervain for treating a range of ailments, including fevers, respiratory issues, and digestive problems. While modern scientific research on its medicinal properties is limited, blue vervain continues to be of interest to herbalists and alternative medicine practitioners.

Beyond its medicinal uses, blue vervain holds ecological significance. Its presence in wetland habitats contributes to biodiversity, providing habitat and food for various wildlife species. Conservation efforts that focus on preserving and restoring wetland ecosystems play a crucial role in supporting the continued growth and proliferation of blue vervain.

As with any plant, it’s essential to approach the use of blue vervain for medicinal purposes with caution and under the guidance of knowledgeable experts, as improper use or overharvesting can have negative consequences on both the plant populations and the ecosystems in which they thrive.

Invasive Species Flashcards 

*when printing flashcards, ensure printer settings are to print on both sides, and to flip along short side

  • Set 1
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  • Set 3
  • Set 4
  • Set 5
  • Set 6

Conservation related environmental classes will begun being taught at the Dayton schools, starting this September. Lessons will range from riparian plant and animal ecology, geology and soil science, orienteering, and other fun topics!

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