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Hip Habitats: The Tundra

The Tundra is a treeless polar desert found in the high latitudes in the polar regions, primarily in Alaska, Canada, Russia, Greenland, Iceland, and Scandinavia, as well as sub-Antarctic islands.

Lights off for 6 months! From late August to April,  there are long, dry winters that feature total darkness and extremely frigid temperatures. However during a clear night, the beautiful and amazing Polar Lights are visible stretching across the sky. The lightshow is caused by high-energy particles from the Sun cascading down on Earth. As they near our planet, they interact with Earth's magnetic field, which channels them toward the north and south magnetic poles. In contrast the months from April to August consist of 24 hours of daylight. 

The tundra has large sections of the soil that remain frozen all year round creating something called permafrost. As the permafrost melts away in the summer months the low lying lands are perfect for mosquitoes to lay eggs. Nicknamed Alaska's state bird, mosquitoes in the tundra swarm by the hundreds! Neither reptiles nor amphibians are found in the tundra because of the climate and permafrost. 

There are three types of tundra: Arctic tundra, Antarctic tundra, and Alpine tundra. All have species of animals that are adapted to live in these ecosystems. Some animals are white in color to help them camouflage in the snow or are black to absorb the sun's heat to keep them warm. In all of these types, the dominant vegetation is grasses, mosses, and lichens. In fact, 90% of a Reindeer's diet in the winter is lichens, however in summer it's diet is about half.

Lichens are a Symbiosis of Fungus and Algae working together. The fungus provides a protected habitat, water to the algae, and the algae provides carbohydrates or food (by photosynthesis) to the fungus.

There are three types of Lichen.

Foliose lichens have two easily distinguishable sides. In other words, there is a top side and there is a bottom side. They can be very flat, leafy like lettuce, or convoluted and full of ridges and bumps.

Fruticose lichens can have long hair-like parts, pendant shaped, upright and shrubby, or upright and cup-like. Many fruticose lichens have round branches that have a central core and others are hollow in the middle. Other fruticose lichens have flat branches that tangle up with each other. 

Crustose lichens are just that, crusts. They form a crust over a surface that appear to be painted on with a paintbrush. They can come in many bright, vibrant colors like sunny yellow, orange, and red, as well as grays and greens. Crustose lichens are pressed against their substrate, which means you cannot lift or remove them. 

Create a Living Lichen collage! Head out onto a nature walk to find lichen on rocks and tree bark. The healthier environements will have more lichen; as it is a sign of good health of air. 

Using a school glue and a frame with back, attach your collection. No need to water your display. Be sure to study the lichen closely with a hand lens and add a sketch of the magnification! 

The Free Infographic is available at the bottom of the page. 


Thank you for reading this Science Lesson Blog written by certified educator of Philanthrolab Science Shop Ms. Stacey The Science Lady. With over 12 years of teaching experience and creative Science curriculum development, her mission is to inspire children to have a love of Science. She is the owner of Philanthrolab Science Shop. An online shop of 50+ Fun & Affordable Science Toys - ALL $10 or LESS! Featuring The At Home Play Pak, Satchel of Science, and The DIY Sci Kit 

If you found this Lesson Blog to be a great resource, filled with fun ideas and educational content that your young scientist would enjoy, please remember to watch the Livestreams every Thursday and Friday on Facebook and Instagram 1:30 p.m. EST.

Do you have a Budding Botantist? The Power of Plants will be the theme covered all month long. Watch Livestreams and read Blogs to learn about the topics of parts of a plants, germination, plant adaptations, and pollination. Support these concepts with the Power of Plants At Home Play Pak, available now! 

The At Home Play Pak accompanies the concepts of the Livestreams.

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Another great option is to book your own Private Class! Choose from 18 classes, the day of the week, and a choice of times. 

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