Gossamer Tapestry

Reflections on conservation, butterflies, and ecology in the nation's heartland

Sunday, May 17, 2009

BioBlitz - Day 1: The Underwater Edition

On Friday and Saturday, the Indiana Dunes hosted this year's National Geographic BioBlitz. In a typical bioblitz, scientists converge on a particular area and intensively sample all of the biodiversity that they can find in a 24 hour period. This year, we attempted to demonstrate how few species can turn up on an extremely diverse site when the bioblitz takes place during a torrential rainstorm. The bioblitz began at 12:00 noon on Friay, and the rains began before 1:00. The last rains fell at around 9:00AM on Saturday. We got about 3" of rain in that time.

Drifts of lupine in the savanna at Howes Prairie

The Indiana Dunes is an incredible site, with lots of ecological diversity and many rare species. I was hoping to be able to take some nice digital photos of Olympia Marblewing butterflies (didn't happen). I had signed up for two events. On Saturday afternoon, I was to sample terrestrial insects at Howes Prairie (actually more of a savanna than a prairie). I was pleased with this site assignment, because there is an endangered butterfly called the Karner Blue there. I actually got very cold and wet while finding about a dozen arthropods. Not a dozen species, mind you, a dozen individuals. We found them by turning over logs and looking under bark.

A syrphid fly we found under loose bark on a dead tree

One of two Six-spotted Tiger Beetles that we found

The afternoon's tally included two tiger beetles, a few syrphid flies, some wood roaches, a June beetle, a millipede and a couple of centipedes, all collected under rocks or bark.

Note how wet this tiger beetle is

Finally, the rain became so heavy, we decided to call it quits about an hour early. By this time, I was soaked to the skin in spite of the fact that I was wearing a good Goretex jacket.

Soaked! Photo by Ann

The BioBlitz provided dinner for the scientists. We were so cold and wet, however, that Celeste, Jamie, Robin and I opted to go inside a warm restaurant and have Mexican food (and Margaritas!). Despite being indoors, I shivered for most of the meal.

My blacklighting setup at the Paul Douglas Nature Center

In the evening (8:00 PM-Midnight) I was scheduled for blacklighting at Miller Woods. We opted to set up the black lighting rig on the back of balcony of the Nature Center. This kept us (and my power supply with exposed electrodes) out of the rain. If you don't count tiny midges and gnats, a total of six insects showed up at the sheet: three scarab beetles (2 species), a Geometrid moth and a couple of stoneflies. It was still cold, and my clothes did not have a chance to dry. But we were out of the rain, and the company was good (Melinda even brought cookies!). Because we were in a National Park, we did nbot get to demonstrate a completely authentic black lighting event. Even worse than the bad weather, there was no beer.

Scarab #1 at the sheet

Scarab #2 at the sheet

The Honest Pero (Pero honestaria)- a Geometrid Moth

By 10:30, we decided to call it a night. The rain was still falling steadily, but my sleeping bag was dry, and I had secured one of the bunks in a cabin. I slept the sleep of the dead that night, warm and dry for the first time in over 12 hours.

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At 07:18, Blogger Dave Coulter said...

The rain made things pretty dismal. Too bad they're not doing it today!

At 07:19, Blogger Kirk said...

Sometimes I question what is the "higher species". Consider yourself lucky it didn't snow.

At 10:13, Blogger SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

That is a fantastic tiger beetle Doug. Ted is going to be so envious!! :) A pity about the rain though.

At 10:47, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have learned to not even bother trying to blacklight after all-day rain (at least in the eastern U.S., out west is different). You could have made the case that they have blacklights at the tavern and had a beer while checking them ;-)

At 11:31, Blogger Floridacracker said...

But don't you love that feeling of physical exhaustion after a day like that?

Those lupines are amazing.

At 19:06, Blogger orchidartist said...

Sorry about the soaking! Someone should have brought hot cocoa to go with the cookies!

At 19:45, Blogger Celeste said...

That will definitely go down in our catalog of shared experiences Doug! I don't think I have ever been so wet!!

At 00:06, Blogger Ur-spo said...

dry is good; sleep well .

At 06:17, Anonymous bev said...

Oh, too, bad. Sounds like it was a rather disappointing bioblitz. Happens sometimes. At least you were able to make the best of a not-so-wonderful situation.

At 12:51, Blogger Doug Taron said...

Dave- I think it would have been even better a day earlier. Oh well...

Kirk- Well, there is that. I remember snow in May twice while I lived in Maine.

Joan- Thanks. It's a really common species.

Ted- I can think of almost no other situation where I would run the blacklight under those conditions. I did it more as a demonstration than anything else. I felt sorry for the organizers- a very hight proportion of the events were being cancelled.

FC- I enjoyed it more the next day (post to follow soon). At 8:15 Saturday night I posted "Doug is Bioblitzed" on Facebook and went to bed.

orchidist- Well, the company that went with the cookies was pretty good.

Celeste- Yet another case of bonding through adversity.

Spo- Thanks

bev- I expected the worse. The whole experience was nowhere near as bad as I had convinced myself that it was going to be.

At 13:15, Anonymous Mark H said...

DOUG! I'd never heard the term, and THAT is an experience I WOULD LOVE to have HERE....ON that same wildwood trail we went on....in the spring. Apart from miserable rain, THANKS for telling me about this. Somehow, I want to get some bug book, take my bird book, and experience this. Audubon does Birdathon's here, but I'd like to experience that a big more richly. THANKS for this lovely inspiring post (except for your drowning)...............

At 17:59, Blogger cedrorum said...

I hate to say it, but I've had field outings like this....and they suck. An intern and I were once 30 minutes into the swamp at Woods Bay when we heard thunder coming. Not good.

At 20:51, Anonymous Anonymous said...

sounds like our Pacific Northwest, with the rain!
LOVELY shot of the lupins!!

At 07:35, Blogger Doug Taron said...

Mark- That spot would make an excellent location for a bioblitz. I guess that the main disappointment about the near drowning was that this site is so much better in terms of species diversity than where we did last year's bioblitz, but we didn't get to see much.

cedrorum- Weather issues are just part of the game. Everyone who does this sort of thing long enough has plenty of stories about being soaked, freezing, sunburnt, bitten and stung. It's all part of the charm of field biology.

merri- Thanks. I think that the rain may have actually enhanced the lupine photo. It's one of the few things that was helped by the weekend's bad weather.


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