In mid-June, members of the Young Naturalist Club at the Lomonosov Moscow State University's Museum of Zoology started their summer school. With the support of the Far Eastern Leopards autonomous non-profit organisation, the school students left for a training facility in the Moscow Region to take summer courses under the guidance of their devoted teacher, Yevgeny Dunayev.
The programme offers several training courses at a summer environmental school for young naturalists of various ages. First-year club students will learn about moss ecology, ecological plant morphology with basic ecology, ecological diversity and morphology of birds, biological photography basics and the interesting study called Ants' Lives Outside the Colony. Those who have already completed the first year study the morpho-functional ecology of amphibians and reptiles, the floristics and taxonomy of flowering plants, ecological groups of insects and their study methods, the basics of cartography and land navigation, and seaweed ecology. Each training course includes lectures, tutorials and daily tours of the local landscapes. Tutorials are also held at the Meldino gull colony, a regional natural landmark.
Students have already made several interesting rare wildlife discoveries. For instance, they discovered what may be the first melanistic specimen of a viviparous lizard (Zootoca vivipara) in Russia. They also encountered and took pictures of a rare insect called the white-faced darter (Leucorrhinia dubia), a dragonfly that only lives in this protected area of the Moscow Region.
Apart from going on tours and conducting scientific observations, students learn how to make their living more comfortable, cook breakfast, lunch and dinner, and clean up the camp like true field ecologists. The summer heat makes the wells run dry and pumps fail to collect much water, so the children have to head to a nearby well and the river to fetch water for the Crimean and Far Eastern plants in the botanical garden set up this year.
But neither the heat nor tiredness from walking the trails every day can spoil the friendly atmosphere as the summer school days go by ever so fast. There are new journeys ahead!