“Outdoor Classroom” Benefits OU Students …and Bluebirds

Oglethorpe seniors Andrew Davenport and Sandy Vuong recently let me tag along to watch their springtime, end-of-semester urban ecology project take off… literally.

The two students were assigned special projects for their Urban Ecology class, taught by Dr. Roarke Donnelly, OU associate professor of biology and director of the Urban Ecology Program. Davenport and Vuong, both biology majors, decided to team up and investigate the behavior of Eastern bluebirds.

OU senior Andrew Davenport "flushing" the bird box

“Bluebirds prefer to find pre-existing cavities and build their nests in them,” said Davenport. “They pick already available accommodations and make them their own. Our research aims at explaining why they choose certain locations to nest and not others.”

The project quickly became a campus-wide effort. OU’s Sigma Zeta National Science and Mathematics Society stepped in to help create the habitats, in hopes that the birds would choose them. Chassidy Teal, Sigma Zeta president, and the other Sigma Zeta members built the birds’ boxes as a service project. Dr. John Cramer, OU professor of physics, helped with the building effort and installed them around campus.

There are now 10 boxes all over the OU campus and half of them are occupied by bluebird families. Some are home to adult birds only, some have eggs in them and some little hatchlings. Davenport and Vuong take turns checking the boxes and recording data several times every week.

“Eastern bluebirds don’t have as many cavities available for nesting as they did before extensive logging and land development,” said Dr. Donnelly. “Boxes serve as suitable substitutes.”

Thanks to the joint effort of the honor society and Dr. Cramer, the two OU seniors are able to use their classroom knowledge and apply it to this hands-on project. But, the experiment has benefitted the bluebirds as well as the students studying them.

“We did not have many bluebirds on campus,” said Dr. Cramer. “The experiment has attracted them to our outdoor classroom.”

Join the Urban Ecology Program and other OU science students during Science-Palooza on Wednesday, April 25, from 12:30 to 1:30 in the Academic Success Center, when they will present their projects and findings from their end-of-semester projects.

The male bluebird passes a worm to the female. She will then feed it to the little baby bluebirds.

View more photos of OUr bluebird families!

‘Space on the Green’ Proves Physics is Fun


Mentos+Coca-Cola+fast reaction time: Louisa Barama '12 demonstrates.

Explosions could be heard across campus on Thursday as the Society of Physics Students turned Oglethorpe’s academic quadrangle into an outdoor science lab.  Students from all disciplines stopped by the quad to try their hand at a number of exciting physics experiments, some that included bursting soda bottles with Mentos candy, making dry ice “bombs,” and re-freezing ice cream with liquid nitrogren.  Check out some of the fun below!

OU students look on as Dr. John Cramer demonstrates to his students Newton's first law of motion, or the "Law of Inertia."

Watch out for dry ice bombs!

Ice cream, anyone?

Provost Dr. William Shropshire (center) gets a lesson in physics from Dr. Rulison and Dr. Cramer.

Fossil Hunt Takes OU Students On the Road

Dr. John Cramer examines fossil finds with two OU students.

Ten Oglethorpe students in the sciences recently ventured to Perry, Georgia on a fossil hunting expedition in search of Georgia’s naturally-preserved past. What did they find? Fossils that date back about 20-30 million years, according to Louisa Barama ’12

Led by Dr. John Cramer, professor of physics, the Society of Physics Students traveled to a limestone quarry two hours south of Atlanta to find and study sand dollar deposits and shark teeth impressions. The most common fossil by far was Periarchus pileussinensis (the Chinese hat sand dollar) but they also found a Chlamys spillmani (a scallop). A bonus was the discovery of a small cave and a seam of very clear to translucent calcite crystals which the students mined.

“There were fossils everywhere, and most of them indicate that all of this area was covered in water before,” said Louisa, a biology major who hopes to pursue geophysics after college. “It was neat to actually experience what we study in class right in your hands.”