Monday, June 25, 2012

Day 11

Today was another field day out at the Indiana Dunes. Mother Nature was very generous with a mild 72 degrees out in sharp contrast to the past few days in the 90s.  It seems that the team here has had a shift of focus over the course of the past week. Most of the nets over the field sample sets have been damaged beyond repair due to growth from the plants within. The task of finding a way to encapsulate the samples within the netted quadrant is therefore a moot point and has been cast aside for a new project. The new project is a brood of larvae that came from the lab needing to trim down the population size. These larvae are now being used to test the density dependence of population size within a quadrant. 60 stems of lupin were placed in vials of water supported by the lids of rubber made shoe box containers and enclosed in netting. Two sets of quadrants were then inoculated with between 0 and 15 larvae at regular intervals of incremental increase.  The quadrants were then placed outdoor in the shade of a crab apple tree over the weekend. Unfortunately, the stress of being cut, then subjected to the extreme heat of this past weekend was too much for the plants to survive and the vast majority of the plants failed to thrive. There was a great deal of debate as to why the cut lupin in doors survived while these did not. After some time of discussion, a new plan began to form.

One of the 92 data collecting stations
found throughout the park

Each of the 3 sensors at a site is plugged into a USB
port of a laptop and the data downloaded within a few seconds
Meanwhile I tagged along with a team going out in to the field to collect data from the randomly distributed climate data sensors. The objective is to give the general population a better appreciation for these and other data collection stands by providing information on their functions and taking them out of hiding by developing a geocaching activity based off their locations.

We came across this species and were unable
 to identify it. After sending photographs back to
USGS HQ it was identified as a dune cherry.

Revealing and publicizing their locations has inherent risk, however they are already being found and, with little understanding of their purpose, often damaged. It is in good faith that we hope providing information about the benefits that these stands provide damage will be replaced with appreciation.

Prickly Pear Cactus

Perhaps this is an altruistic approach but realistically the portion of the population who would be exposed to the information would be more likely to be seeking answers regarding the functions of the stands for the benefit of knowledge anyway.

By the end of the day we had hiked several miles through some of the more challenging terrain of the Miller Woods including several heavily wooded dune ridges that required us to be on hands and knees to scale the ridge. We joked that we were mountain climbing dune style which wasn’t far from the truth.

Remains of times past can still be found within the park

While our challenges didn’t require ropes or chalk, it did require strategy and technique as we found ourselves tangled in thorns and sliding backwards down a mountain of sand. On the way back to the car we came across a mulberry tree and stopped for a snack when the owner found us and had a laugh. We must have looked like something the cat had found and rejected after our hike in the woods!

We took a moment to enjoy the water's edge and
 gave thanks by stageing an improptu beach cleanup :)

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