Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Winter's Tale: From birds to snow angels, traces tell a story

Written in snow: While most people are focused on Atlanta's human traffic jam, Tony Martin is using his camera to record animal traffic patterns. 

By Carol Clark

For Emory ichnologist Anthony Martin, a snow day is a great day to do science in the field. Ichnology is the study of traces left by living things, including tracks, and Martin is an expert in the traces of both prehistoric animals and modern-day ones.

Photo of Martin by Ruth Schowalter.
“Living in Georgia, it’s rare for me to see tracks in snow, so it’s a big treat,” Martin says. “It’s been really fun to see the patterns left by birds around our feeder, right outside our front door.”

Martin doesn't have to see the birds to know that the feeder was visited by hopping, skipping warblers, sparrows and wrens.

A blanket of snow to Martin is like a big sheet of white paper with all kinds of stories written on it.

If you take a walk in the snow, you may be surprised by the variety of animals and their activities recorded in it. Martin advises amateur ichnologists to start by looking for patterns.

“Try to think about what sort of story is being written in the snow by the animal,” he says. “Focus on ‘what is this character doing, rather than ‘who is this character.’ That makes for some really fun tracking.”

A snow angel resting trace, seen in Decatur's Adair Park. Photo by Tony Martin.

1 comment:

  1. Nice Carol! We took a walk in the woods today and saw deer tracks...I think!