Home » Teaching at UC Davis » Wild Davis Urban Ecology Scavenger Hunts

Wild Davis Urban Ecology Scavenger Hunts

For the Wild Davis course, students will have to come up with an ecological research or natural history focused individual project. This week’s class exercise is a scavenger hunt brainstorming session to help them develop possible project ideas. Below are the scavenger hunt ‘items’ and what each of the groups (including Sharon and I!) ‘collected.’


The squirrels were a common feature of many interactions

1. Mutualistic Interactions
– a hover fly pollinating a matilija poppy
– butterflies pollinating flowers
– ladybugs eating aphids off plants
Many of the mutualistic interactions we observed involved humans:
– a person with a guide dog
– Anne’s favorite man feeding his stray cat


Hover fly and a matilija poppy

2. Non-Mutualistic Interactions
– herbivory by a duck
– ducks competing for food
– wasp galls on oak trees
– spider capturing prey on a web
– pathogens on plants
– squirrels digging up cached acorns


wasp galls on campus valley oaks (photo by Sharon Strauss)

3. Interactions Between Humans and Animals
– squirrels ‘begging’ for food from humans
– horses housed at the equestrian center on campus
– humans feeding animals, including ducks and squirrels


The squirrels on campus are really well fed.

4. Interactions Between Humans and Plants
– humans enjoying the shade of a large tree
– people taking pictures of flowers and animals
– Picnic Day tree signs, promoting value of trees


These signs were hung up around campus for Picnic Day, they included stats on how much CO2 trees use, how long they live, and resources they require

5. Interactions Between Animals and Human-Made Objects
– a scrub jay perching on a signpost
– nest on the corner of a building
– squirrels hanging out on a trash can
– turtles basking on the cement retainers in the arboretum


A phoebe uses the cement retaining wall as a vantage point for hunting

6. Interactions Between Plants and Human-Made Objects
– ivy on the wall of the Silo and the columns in front of Shields Library
– plants growing in the gutters of buildings
– redwood roots breaking through sidewalk
– trees in the arboretum with ID tags


ivy growing on the Silo

7. Evidence of an Animal (but not the animal itself)
– a duck feather on the ground
– squirrel nest
– spiderwebs with no spider
–¬† various types of bird poo. There was a vigorous discussion on the visual identity of duck and songbird poo, with the latter being described as “high-velocity splatter”


8. Interactions Involving Detritivores
– an earthworm in the leaf litter of the redwood grove
– roly poly in the soil
– mushrooms growing under a tree


an earthworm in the redwood grove at the arboretum

9. Interactions Involving Invertebrates
– a hover fly pollinating a heuchera
– a spider building a web on a tree branch
– aphids on plants


this plant is overrun with aphids (photo by Isabelle Gilchrist)

10. Interactions Involving a Plant that is NOT an Angiosperm or a Gymnosperm
Рcompetition  between maidenhair fern and various angiosperms
– ferns in the redwood grove


11. Interactions Involving an Organism that is NOT a Plant or an Animal
– fungal burl on tree
– fungus on the columns at Shields Library
– mushrooms in the redwood grove

DSC_0669 copy

photo by Sharon Strauss

12. Interactions Between Organisms and Abiotic Aspects of the Environment
– seeds floating on the breeze
– butterflies floating on breeze
– ducks swimming in the waterway at the arboretum
– turtles basking on the cement retainers in the arboretum


I didn’t technically get a shot of a seed on the breeze, but these ones were about to go!


1 Comment

  1. […] *This post is a part of the Wild Davis course at UC Davis in which students must complete three timed observations of an urban habitat within the UC Davis campus or Davis city limits. As an instructor for this course, I joined the students in this exercise in order to provide a public example of the types of work the students do in this class. For more information on the course, you can read about my morning and mid-day observations, follow #wilddavis on Instagram and Twitter, and check out my posts on our in-class activities!* […]

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