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Bird of the Month: American Robin

Birding Events at the Forest Preserves - Sun, 06/26/2016 - 1:00pm

See and learn about this common yet fascinating bird — one of the few that nest near people!

The post Bird of the Month: American Robin appeared first on Forest Preserves of Cook County.

Eggers Grove Big Year Birding Field Trip

Birding Events at the Forest Preserves - Sun, 06/26/2016 - 8:00am

Interesting wetland breeding species, plus woodland birds such as scarlet tanager. Updates: chicagobirder.org. For information: chicagobirder@gmail.com.

The post Eggers Grove Big Year Birding Field Trip appeared first on Forest Preserves of Cook County.

Penny Road Pond Big Year Birding Field Trip

Highlights: osprey, shrublands, woodlands and grasslands. Wear long pants, hat. Updates: chicagoaudubon.org. Register with Craig Stettner: cstettne@harpercollege.edu, 847-925-6214.

The post Penny Road Pond Big Year Birding Field Trip appeared first on Forest Preserves of Cook County.

Big Year Birding Field Trip Miller Meadow Bird Walk

See a good variety of birds in grassland, river and woods. Register in advance with Henry Griffin: trumpetswan@comcast.net, 630-430-5143.

The post Big Year Birding Field Trip Miller Meadow Bird Walk appeared first on Forest Preserves of Cook County.

Brookfield Zoo Big Year Birding Field Trip

Bird the grounds at Brookfield Zoo and search for migrants along the Forest Preserve Nature Trail at Swan Lake. Contact team leader James: james.mckinney@czs.org or 708.688.8475. Trips last 2 hours.

The post Brookfield Zoo Big Year Birding Field Trip appeared first on Forest Preserves of Cook County.

Create a Tropical Paradise with These Hardy Perennials

Garden Blog - Wed, 06/22/2016 - 9:38am

It’s officially summer in Chicago, and you’ll start to notice a plethora of begonias, impatiens, marigolds, cannas, dahlias, and elephant ears, all planted for a temporary taste of the tropics.

If you’ve dreamed about creating an exotic vacation look at home, but wanted to reduce your yearly investment in annuals, consider pairing them with tropical-looking hardy perennials that come back yearly. The following additions will help give your garden that south Florida feel.

 Hibiscus 'Midnight Marvel'

Hibiscus ‘Midnight Marvel’

Midnight Marvel hibiscus

You don’t have to live in Hawaii to grow hibiscus. There are actually two species native to Illinois. Several others occur in the southeastern states. These hardy plants emerge late in the spring, get quite large and shrubby, bloom their hearts out in late summer, and then retreat underground when winters comes along.

Midnight Marvel is a spectacular hybrid with very deep wine-colored foliage and dinner-plate-sized crimson flowers. Each flower lasts just a day a two, but are so plentiful that the show lasts for weeks, and hummingbirds love it. After each flower passes, the light green calyx tubes look pretty set against the dark leaves. Midnight Marvel reaches 4 to 5 feet tall, so is best placed at the back of the bed in a site with full sun.

 Belamcanda chinensis 'Freckle Face'

Belamcanda chinensis ‘Freckle Face’

Freckle Face blackberry lily

Orange is a hot color, perfect for a tropical garden. The flowers of Freckle Face blackberry lily (Iris domestica ‘Freckle Face’) are a gorgeous carroty shade with many vivid red spots covering each petal. The blackberry portion of the name refers to shiny black seed clusters that pop out of the split open pods. Sprays of flowers bloom for several weeks in late summer on these 2-foot-tall plants.

Despite its name, this plant isn’t actually a lily at all, but resides in the iris family. The blue-green spiky leaves even resemble bearded iris foliage. Taxonomists very recently changed the name, so when searching online, you will most likely find it under Belamcanda chinensis ‘Freckle Face’.

 Aralia cordata 'Sun King'

Aralia cordata ‘Sun King’

Sun King udo

Here’s a statuesque perennial for the part-sun area of your tropical garden. An enormous specimen, reaching 6 feet tall and 3 feet wide, Sun King udo is mistaken for a shrub, but is completely herbaceous. This is definitely a shade plant, but providing it with just a few hours of sun will really enhance the gold color of its foliage.

In summer, Sun King udo’s many umbels of greenish-white flowers are total bee magnets. By autumn, the spent flowers have changed into densely fruited clusters of wine red berries. The fruits are attractive, but best left for the birds, since they are not remotely tasty.

Shieldleaf rodgersflower

If you’ve got shade, consider mixing bold and tropical-looking foliage for a jungle effect. The perfect non-invasive perennial for this is shieldleaf rodgersflower. Formerly in the genus Rodgersia, Astilboides tabularis produces gigantic 2 to 3-foot-wide parasol-like leaves.

 Astilboides tabularis

Astilboides tabularis

While the leaves are the most striking part, creamy-white astilbe-like flowers do sprout up through the dome of foliage in late June. With enough moisture, the foliage remains light green and attractive until autumn. This is not a plant for dry shade or windy spots, but perfect for moist, rich soil. For additional large leaves in the shade, try Ligularia dentata ‘Othello’, Hosta ‘Sum and Substance’, and Rodgersia.

 Dryopteris goldiana

Dryopteris goldiana

Goldie’s fern

Tropical gardens are meant to invoke a relaxing vacation, and what is more cool and calm than ferns? Many gardeners grow ostrich fern, which is one of the largest and most tropical-looking spore producers in the Northern Hemisphere. However, ostrich fern can be a bit of a thug if space does not permit. Instead, try growing Goldie’s fern, which is a slow spreader and the largest species of Dryopteris in the United States. Under the best conditions, it will reach 4 feet tall and 3 feet wide. The fronds are a soothing shade of dark green and not golden as the name implies. (It is actually named after Scottish botanist John Goldie.)

The trick to getting the tropical look to work in your garden is to create a framework of dramatic, large-leaved perennials, and lacy, soothing ferns, then surround those with some hot red, orange, and yellow annuals. Top it off with some tiki torches, bamboo fencing, and a few lawn flamingos and you’ll have the perfect paradise for a hammock and mai tais!

©2016 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

60 Second Science: That’s Not a Seed: Propagating in Saltwater

Plant Science and Conservation - Tue, 06/21/2016 - 11:20am

Most plants hate saltwater. Pour saltwater on your houseplants and, a little while later, you’ll have some wilty plants. But mangroves can grow—and thrive—in saltwater.

You may have seen mangroves if you’ve been to the Florida Everglades or gone to an island in the Caribbean. Mangroves are trees that live in tropical, coastal zones and have special adaptations for life in saltwater. One of these adaptations is in how they reproduce: mangroves don’t make seeds. Instead, they make living, buoyant embryos called propagules (prop-a-gyule).

Mangrove propagules come in different shapes and sizes. Each species has its own unique propagule.

Mangroves produce a huge number of propagules the same way an oak would make hundreds of acorns.

Mangroves produce a huge number of propagules the same way an oak would make hundreds of acorns.

These relatively small propagules could become giant red mangrove trees.

These relatively small propagules could become giant red mangrove trees.

Black mangrove propagules on a branch; their outer coating will dissolve on their journey downstream.

Black mangrove propagules on a branch; their outer coating will dissolve on their journey downstream.

Propagules come in different shapes and sizes. These are from a tea mangrove (Pelliciera rhizophorae) tree.

Propagules come in different shapes and sizes. These are from a tea mangrove (Pelliciera rhizophorae) tree.

Normally, trees reproduce with seeds. You’ve probably seen the whirlybirds of maples and acorns of oaks. These seeds can go dormant. They are basically “asleep” or hibernate until something—water, temperature, or physical damage—wakes them up, allowing them to start growing months or years after they are produced.

Here I am with a couple of mangrove specimens. These roots are in water at high tide, but exposed at low tide.

Here I am with a couple of mangrove specimens. These roots are in water at high tide, but exposed at low tide.

Propagules, on the other hand, don’t have that luxury—they fall off their parent tree, ready to start rooting and growing a new tree. Nature has provided an amazing way for the mangrove seeds to move away from the parent tree: they float.

As the propagules float through the water, they shed their outermost layer and immediately start growing roots. The clock starts ticking as soon the propagules fall—if they don’t find a suitable place to start growing within a certain amount of time, they die. If a mangrove propagule ends its journey at a location that’s suitable for growth, the already-rooting propagule will send up its first set of leaves—cotyledons.

Ocean currents can take propagules thousands of miles away from where they started. A mangrove’s parent tree might be around the corner or around the continent.

Dr. Emily DangremondDr. Emily Dangremond is a postdoctoral researcher at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center and a visiting scientist at the Chicago Botanic Garden. She is currently studying the ecological and evolutionary consequences of mangroves responding to climate change at their northernmost limit in Florida.

Students in the Chicago Botanic Garden and Northwestern University Program in Plant Biology and Conservation were given a challenge: Write a short, clear explanation of a scientific concept that can be easily understood by non-scientists. This post is part of their series.

©2016 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

60 Second Science: That’s Not a Seed: Propagating in Saltwater

Garden Blog - Tue, 06/21/2016 - 11:20am

Most plants hate saltwater. Pour saltwater on your houseplants and, a little while later, you’ll have some wilty plants. But mangroves can grow—and thrive—in saltwater.

You may have seen mangroves if you’ve been to the Florida Everglades or gone to an island in the Caribbean. Mangroves are trees that live in tropical, coastal zones and have special adaptations for life in saltwater. One of these adaptations is in how they reproduce: mangroves don’t make seeds. Instead, they make living, buoyant embryos called propagules (prop-a-gyule).

Mangrove propagules come in different shapes and sizes. Each species has its own unique propagule.

Mangroves produce a huge number of propagules the same way an oak would make hundreds of acorns.

Mangroves produce a huge number of propagules the same way an oak would make hundreds of acorns.

These relatively small propagules could become giant red mangrove trees.

These relatively small propagules could become giant red mangrove trees.

Black mangrove propagules on a branch; their outer coating will dissolve on their journey downstream.

Black mangrove propagules on a branch; their outer coating will dissolve on their journey downstream.

Propagules come in different shapes and sizes. These are from a tea mangrove (Pelliciera rhizophorae) tree.

Propagules come in different shapes and sizes. These are from a tea mangrove (Pelliciera rhizophorae) tree.

Normally, trees reproduce with seeds. You’ve probably seen the whirlybirds of maples and acorns of oaks. These seeds can go dormant. They are basically “asleep” or hibernate until something—water, temperature, or physical damage—wakes them up, allowing them to start growing months or years after they are produced.

Here I am with a couple of mangrove specimens. These roots are in water at high tide, but exposed at low tide.

Here I am with a couple of mangrove specimens. These roots are in water at high tide, but exposed at low tide.

Propagules, on the other hand, don’t have that luxury—they fall off their parent tree, ready to start rooting and growing a new tree. Nature has provided an amazing way for the mangrove seeds to move away from the parent tree: they float.

As the propagules float through the water, they shed their outermost layer and immediately start growing roots. The clock starts ticking as soon the propagules fall—if they don’t find a suitable place to start growing within a certain amount of time, they die. If a mangrove propagule ends its journey at a location that’s suitable for growth, the already-rooting propagule will send up its first set of leaves—cotyledons.

Ocean currents can take propagules thousands of miles away from where they started. A mangrove’s parent tree might be around the corner or around the continent.

Dr. Emily DangremondDr. Emily Dangremond is a postdoctoral researcher at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center and a visiting scientist at the Chicago Botanic Garden. She is currently studying the ecological and evolutionary consequences of mangroves responding to climate change at their northernmost limit in Florida.

Students in the Chicago Botanic Garden and Northwestern University Program in Plant Biology and Conservation were given a challenge: Write a short, clear explanation of a scientific concept that can be easily understood by non-scientists. This post is part of their series.

©2016 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

Skokie Lagoons Big Year Birding Field Trip

Birding Events at the Forest Preserves - Tue, 06/21/2016 - 7:00am

Join us for as long as you can, leave early if necessary. Updates: chicagoaudubon.org. Register with Dave Willard: dwillard@fieldmuseum.org, 312-665-7731.

The post Skokie Lagoons Big Year Birding Field Trip appeared first on Forest Preserves of Cook County.

LaBagh Woods Big Year Birding Field Trip

Birding Events at the Forest Preserves - Sat, 06/18/2016 - 7:00am

Breeding woodland birds. May be muddy. See chicagobirder.org for updates. For more information contact chicagobirder@gmail.com.

The post LaBagh Woods Big Year Birding Field Trip appeared first on Forest Preserves of Cook County.

Discovering Plant Populations

CLM Internship Blog - Fri, 06/17/2016 - 1:37pm

While my work with US Fish and Wildlife has so far been primarily focused on fish and other animals, these past few weeks have involved plant surveys for a species called Applegate’s milkvetch (Astragalus applegatei). Applegate’s milkvetch is a small perennial plant in the pea family that grows close to the ground and has delicate pinkish-white flowers.

Applegate's milkvetch

Applegate’s milkvetch

Applegate’s milkvetch is only found in the Klamath basin and due to development and other disturbance of its habitat, it only exists in small populations around the basin. The plant was federally listed as endangered in 1993. Until this last week, only four populations of Applegate’s milkvetch were known around Klamath Falls. Last week we surveyed one of these populations, which happens to be at the airport. The parade of fighter jets taking off and landing made for an exciting day of surveying.

A field we surveyed for Applegate's milkvetch at the Klamath Falls airport.

A field we surveyed for Applegate’s milkvetch at the Klamath Falls airport.

Based on a reported sighting of Applegate’s milkvetch by some local botanists, we ventured to a nearby state park to look for the reported plants. Having expected at most a few hundred individuals, we were surprised when hours of crawling on all fours later we had found upwards of a thousand individual plants. Between our survey efforts last week and today (which exclude one of the largest areas of the park), we have found over 4,000 plants. This is likely one of the largest remaining populations of Applegate’s milkvetch, far exceeding the recovery plan’s call for 1,500 individuals. While continued monitoring will be required, the discovery of this population may assist in down-listing and potentially de-listing of Applegate’s milkvetch.

A small area at the state park where we surveyed for Applegate's milkvetch. Each colored flag indicates an individual plant.

A small area at the state park where we surveyed for Applegate’s milkvetch. Each colored flag indicates an individual plant.

NYC livin’ and plant identifyin’

CLM Internship Blog - Fri, 06/17/2016 - 1:35pm

Hi all!

Moving to New York City was not what I expected when I applied for an internship with the CLM program, but I have totally embraced my life as a new New Yorker. I packed everything in my tiny car and prepared to move into a cozy apartment in Brooklyn. Being a new New Yorker, I have also embraced a new diet of primarily pizza, bagels, and donuts…kidding…kind of. I have only spent about 2 weeks here, but I am really enjoying all of the great food and the never ending things to do. As for the internship, we received our plant list on the first day, and I have been steadily trying to learn the list of over 200 species. This has been overwhelming, but I appreciate the challenge. I find it really great that my job consists of learning and getting familiar with these plants before our field season gets into full swing.

Last week, we did our training in North Carolina with the other Seeds of Success east coast interns. I was saddened to learn we wouldn’t be going to the Chicago workshop, but North Carolina was beautiful, so I can’t complain. We spent three days learning about the history of SOS and the protocols. On our third day, we got to go out into the field, which was a great hands on learning experience. We spent the first half of our day identifying common plants in the area and looking for possible plants to take seed collections from. We focused on grasses, sedges, and rushes, three groups of plants I am not as familiar with.  The second half of our day was spent doing a seed collection as a collective group. We collected seed from the plant, Glyceria striata, and it was a pretty easy seed to collect. So easy, that we apparently collected about ~500,000 seeds, which is a bit over our 15,000-30,000 seed goal, haha. That being said, it was a great experience to finally apply what we had learned the past two days (and be in the field, of course).

My internship has just begun, and it has already been great. I’m looking forward to the rest of this six months full of plant identifyin’, seed collectin’, and NYC livin’.

Dogbane (Apocynum cannabinum) seed

Dogbane (Apocynum cannabinum) seed

Identifying Poaceae! This is Dichanthelium scoparium.

Identifying Poaceae! This is Dichanthelium scoparium.

Signing off,

Barbara Garrow

Seeds of Success Intern

Greenbelt Native Plant Center in Staten Island, NYC.

Sharing the Titan Arum Love

Garden Blog - Fri, 06/17/2016 - 1:29pm

Spring is traditionally the season that gardener friends and neighbors share plants. So when we noticed in late May that one of the 13 corpse flowers in the production greenhouse at the Chicago Botanic Garden was showing signs of sending up an inflorescence, we knew it was time to share.

 Loading up the titan arum bud in the truck.

We bid a fond farewell to titan arum no. 5 (now dubbed “Persephone”) on May 31, 2016. The titan traveled by truck to its new home at the Garfield Park Conservatory.

Wanting to spread the titan bounty and to make this amazing plant accessible to Chicagoans from all parts of the city, the Garden turned to our friends at the Garfield Park Conservatory.

Titan arums hail from the rainforests of Sumatra, and therefore need the high humidity and controlled warmth of a greenhouse. (Check: the Conservatory’s Jens Jensen-designed greenhouses include an Aroid House with lagoon.) The plants are notoriously slow to reach the flowering stage and unpredictable when they do—careful horticultural monitoring is a must. (Check: we heart horticulturists.) And the Conservatory is located mere steps from Garfield Park’s beautifully renovated Green Line “L” stop, the city’s most central and accessible train line (super check).

Traveling in the city? Take the Green Line directly to the restored Conservatory–Central Park Drive el station.

Traveling in the city? Take the Green Line directly to the restored Conservatory–Central Park Drive “L” station.

For the Garden’s horticulture team, it has been a labor of love to raise “titan no. 5” to this stage. Grown from seed sent in 2008 by the University of California Botanical Garden at Berkeley, the plant had developed the largest known corm in the Garden’s collection. When it was repotted in December 2015, the corm weighed in at 48.2 pounds and measured 16 inches wide and 12 inches tall. Through careful propagation and much TLC, the horticulture staff had coaxed this corpse flower toward opening in just eight years—a fairly short time frame in the life cycle of a titan. 

Mary Eysenbach, director of conservatories at the Chicago Park District, and her team at the Conservatory were thrilled to accept the gift of a titan arum, especially one nearing its first bloom. Dubbed “Persephone,” the plant was installed in the Aroid House, where it has been happily growing…and growing…among the Chihuly glass sculptures, reaching 69 inches in height by Thursday, June 16.

All signs now point to the corpse flower opening soon: slowing growth, reddening of the spathe, drying of the bracts. (Read more about the life cycle of titan arums on our blog.)

A titan arum, or corpse flower (Amorphophallus titanum) in bloom.

A titan arum’s inflorescence opens for a short time—just a day or two—and emits a powerfully stinky smell for the first few hours, as the female flowers inside put out the call for pollinators.

If you saw Spike or Alice or Sprout  at the Chicago Botanic Garden—or heard about “that stinky flower” through the news or social media—you know what a rare, amazing, sensational phenomenon a corpse flower can be. Increasingly rare in the wild, a flowering titan is a sight to behold, and a wonderful way to learn more about the astounding lives of the world’s plants.

We’re proud to share a titan arum with the Garfield Park Conservatory, and encourage everyone to visit, watch, and smell as its inflorescence opens.

Want to see Persephone in person? Take the Green Line directly to Conservatory–Central Park Drive. Follow the titan’s progress @gpconservatory #‎GPCPersephone‬.

©2016 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

60-Second Science: Begone, Buckthorn!

Plant Science and Conservation - Fri, 06/17/2016 - 11:07am

When buckthorn moves in to the ecosystem, it dominates.

Imagine a friend invites you to a dinner party, promising a delicious spread of food and libations. You arrive, excited and hungry, only to find nothing but raw kale, brought by an uninvited guest. Regardless of your feelings about kale, this would be pretty underwhelming. The other guests are obviously disappointed about the monotonous spread. Most people leave, and because most people aren’t eating the kale, the kale continues to dominate the party. Even if someone brought in better foods that more people enjoy, there is no room on the tables. The kale is everywhere!

 Buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica).

Common buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica)

While not a perfect analogy, this anecdote relays the reasons why buckthorn invasion is detrimental to forest ecosystems. The dinner guests are like the other plants and animals that usually live in the woods. They have certain dietary needs, and if those needs cannot be met, they will have to leave and find another place to live. The more one species dominates (kale, or in many local forests, buckthorn) the fewer species can live there, leading to the ecological equivalent of a party that ends at 8:30, just as everyone was arriving. While it may be true that one person at the party really likes kale, it’s hardly fair for the preferences of that person to supersede everyone else’s needs. In the case of buckthorn, many have opposed its removal because that denies robins a berry that they enjoy. However, keeping the buckthorn (which doesn’t belong there in the first place) is like keeping all of the kale on the tables and not allowing for other foods to be served just for that one person. Even more frustrating, the person that likes kale has plenty of other dietary options. Kale isn’t even their favorite food!

 The McDonald woods shows healthy filtered sunlight and native plant understory growth after buckthorn removal.

The McDonald woods shows healthy filtered sunlight and native plant understory growth after buckthorn removal.

To many people, the idea of cutting down trees to help forests grow stronger is counterintuitive. But buckthorn is no ordinary tree. It is an invasive species, meaning that it doesn’t belong in Chicago area forests, and it steals resources from the plants that are supposed to live here. So remember, when you hear people talking about cutting down buckthorn, they are actually doing it to make the habitat healthier and more inclusive in the long term. They are working to replace the kale at the party with better food and drinks, ensuring that all the guests that were invited can have a good time, staying up until sunrise.

Read more about our ongoing buckthorn battle, and see the difference removal makes in restoring an ecosystem.

Bob Sherman

Bob Sherman is an undergraduate studying environmental science at Northwestern University. His research interests include prairie restoration and how abiotic factors impact prairie and forest ecosystems. He hopes that his research will have a positive impact on ecosystem restoration and management.

Students in the Chicago Botanic Garden and Northwestern University Program in Plant Biology and Conservation were given a challenge: Write a short, clear explanation of a scientific concept that can be easily understood by non-scientists. This post is part of their series.

©2016 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

60-Second Science: Begone, Buckthorn!

Garden Blog - Fri, 06/17/2016 - 11:07am

When buckthorn moves in to the ecosystem, it dominates.

Imagine a friend invites you to a dinner party, promising a delicious spread of food and libations. You arrive, excited and hungry, only to find nothing but raw kale, brought by an uninvited guest. Regardless of your feelings about kale, this would be pretty underwhelming. The other guests are obviously disappointed about the monotonous spread. Most people leave, and because most people aren’t eating the kale, the kale continues to dominate the party. Even if someone brought in better foods that more people enjoy, there is no room on the tables. The kale is everywhere!

 Buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica).

Common buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica)

While not a perfect analogy, this anecdote relays the reasons why buckthorn invasion is detrimental to forest ecosystems. The dinner guests are like the other plants and animals that usually live in the woods. They have certain dietary needs, and if those needs cannot be met, they will have to leave and find another place to live. The more one species dominates (kale, or in many local forests, buckthorn) the fewer species can live there, leading to the ecological equivalent of a party that ends at 8:30, just as everyone was arriving. While it may be true that one person at the party really likes kale, it’s hardly fair for the preferences of that person to supersede everyone else’s needs. In the case of buckthorn, many have opposed its removal because that denies robins a berry that they enjoy. However, keeping the buckthorn (which doesn’t belong there in the first place) is like keeping all of the kale on the tables and not allowing for other foods to be served just for that one person. Even more frustrating, the person that likes kale has plenty of other dietary options. Kale isn’t even their favorite food!

 The McDonald woods shows healthy filtered sunlight and native plant understory growth after buckthorn removal.

The McDonald woods shows healthy filtered sunlight and native plant understory growth after buckthorn removal.

To many people, the idea of cutting down trees to help forests grow stronger is counterintuitive. But buckthorn is no ordinary tree. It is an invasive species, meaning that it doesn’t belong in Chicago area forests, and it steals resources from the plants that are supposed to live here. So remember, when you hear people talking about cutting down buckthorn, they are actually doing it to make the habitat healthier and more inclusive in the long term. They are working to replace the kale at the party with better food and drinks, ensuring that all the guests that were invited can have a good time, staying up until sunrise.

Read more about our ongoing buckthorn battle, and see the difference removal makes in restoring an ecosystem.

Bob Sherman

Bob Sherman is an undergraduate studying environmental science at Northwestern University. His research interests include prairie restoration and how abiotic factors impact prairie and forest ecosystems. He hopes that his research will have a positive impact on ecosystem restoration and management.

Students in the Chicago Botanic Garden and Northwestern University Program in Plant Biology and Conservation were given a challenge: Write a short, clear explanation of a scientific concept that can be easily understood by non-scientists. This post is part of their series.

©2016 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

Maryland State Parks for Days

CLM Internship Blog - Fri, 06/17/2016 - 11:06am

Hello again! Jake Dakar here. I was a Seeds of Success (East) intern last year based out of the North Carolina Botanical Garden in Chapel Hill, NC, and I’m at it again this year in the same location. During the interim period between November 30 and May 31, I stayed on as a temporary employee at NCBG doing a multitude of things, some of which were behind the scenes work in preparation for this year’s SOS East collecting season.

After months of work, countless email correspondences, and the tireless help of many involved, I recently received good news – we had succeeded in getting permission to collect seeds at 19 different Maryland State Park properties. Most of them are surrounding the Chesapeake Bay and Potomac River, as well as one on the Atlantic coast, and a few inland parks.

Just a couple of weeks ago, my mentor, Amanda, and I visited 18 of the 19, the 19th being Assateague State Park, which would have been extremely out of our way. We spent the entire week State Park-hopping to survey plant communities for our collection season this year.

It’s difficult to remember every detail about each park, but I did take pictures at a bunch of them.

We started off our tour at Seneca Creek State Park, where we found great populations of Asclepias syriaca, Kalmia latifolia, and Gaylussacia frondosa. Here is a picture of the Kalmia.

IMG_7412

Next we stopped at Patuxent River State Park, which was really pretty, but wasn’t suitable for our needs.

After that we went to Patapsco Valley State Park. The traffic was awful getting there, but we got some beautiful views of old railroads and some pretty rock formations. Again, though beautiful, we didn’t find large enough populations of species on our target list.

We ended our first day at North Point State Park, where we found good populations of Prunus serotina and Cornus amomum, though we saw Phragmites australis growing everywhere, including in the woods.

The next morning we started off at Gunpowder Falls State Park where we noted a nice population of Carex vulpinoidea. Here is a photo of the very first Adiantum pedatum population I’ve ever seen in the wild!

IMG_7429

Next we stopped at Rocks State Park where we saw, once again, a really nice population of Kalmia latifolia as well as some Rhododendron viscosum var. viscosum which is the first population we’ve seen large enough to make an SOS collection from!

Following that we went to Susquehanna State Park where we found a population that may be large enough to collect from, of Asimina triloba, which would be a fun collection to clean, as the Paw Paw is our continent’s largest fruit, and also one of my favorites. Here is a photo of some water fowl around one of their ponds.

IMG_7461

Our last stop on day 2 was Elk Neck State Park, which was a really great spot. We saw tons of Kalmia latifolia, Pontederia cordata, Gaylussacia frondosa, Asimina triloba, Teucrium canadense, Prunus serotina, Typha latifolia, and the list goes on. Here’s a picture of the lighthouse at the tip of the neck.

IMG_7471

The following morning we began at Sassafras Natural Resources Management Area, where we saw a bunch of Viburnum dentatum, Pontederia cordata, Cornus amomum, and Asclepias sp. (the flowers weren’t quite ready yet.

This isn’t a MD State Park, but we had time to stop off at Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge, where we saw a great population of Typha angustifolia, Iva frutescens, Schoenoplectus americanus, Spartina patens, Distichlis spicata, and Juncus roemerianus. Here is a photo of some Amorpha fruticosa.

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Our next stop was Tuckahoe State Park. We found our first great population of Iris versicolor, as well as lots of Saururus cernuus, Sambucus canadensis, and Cephalanthus occidentalis. I took a photo of a plant I had never seen before, Medeola virginiana.

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We then visited Rosaryville State Park, which unfortunately didn’t have anything for us, but it was nice to visit, since we pass it quite often during our travels.

Our last stop on day 3 was Merkle Wildlife Sanctuary, where we saw some Pinus virginiana, and a nice wetland that will be a little difficult to access. Here is a photo of some Juglans nigra I found there.

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In the morning we headed off to Calvert Cliffs State Park, which was fantastic. There were incredible populations of Gaylussacia frondosa, Kalmia latifolia, and Pinus virginiana. I couldn’t help but photograph a caterpillar (maybe someone here knows what type) on some Packera aurea.

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Next was Greenwell State Park, which didn’t have much in the way of natural areas, but had a well developed Equestrian area, pictured below.

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We then visited St. Mary’s River State Park where we found our very first population of Rubus hispidus, as well as some Dichanthelium scoparium and many species of Eleocharis. Here is the Rubus I mentioned.

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Following that we visited Point Lookout State Park, which looked very familiar to a lot of places we collected last year. There was Solidago sempervirens, Spartina patens, Iva frutescens, Smilax rotundifolia, and Juncus roemerianus, among other things. Here is a photo of some Diospyros virginiana.

 

Our last stop on day 4 was Smallwood State Park. We found lots of good stuff there, including Saurus cernuus, Carex lurida, Alnus serrulata, Typha latifolia, and Glyceria striata. Here is a photo of some Salix nigra in fruit!

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Our first and last stop on day 5 was Chapman State Park. We saw pretty much the same flora there as we found at Smallwood, since they are within 15 minutes of each other. I did, however, take a photo of Liriodendron tulipifera.

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All in all, it was a very productive scouting trip, and we had a lot of fun botanizing and seeing the beauty of MD State Parks.

I look forward to a fruitful season with SOS once again. Until next time…

Jake Dakar, NC Botanical Garden, SOS East

(/O_O)/ The Meeting of the BLM Legends: CLM Ultra Blog Edition! \(O_O\)

CLM Internship Blog - Fri, 06/17/2016 - 10:58am

Alternative Training: Drones
I am truly excited!! I had an alternative training opportunity in Laramie, Wyoming learning about remote sensing and drone technology! This was a two day symposium talking about drone capabilities, cameras, research, and GIS technology. I learned that drone technology was still a brand new venture for many people, and a lot of researchers received their drone and pilot’s license within the last year!

Drones came in all kinds of shapes and sizes! I witnessed that they could weigh up to 1.5 to 40 pounds. Some of the drones looked like very bizarre-looking helicopters with go pros attached to their undersides. Some of the drones looked like mini Styrofoam planes that had a built in camera and GPS device. These plane drones follow a computer program and GPS line transects automatically without any person manually operating them. Some of the cameras were really powerful and could generate point cloud maps of a canyon or river basin. These point cloud maps are usually over a terabyte of data and the pixel size was 1 cm by 1 cm. The details of these point cloud maps were amazing, you could pick out individual species of grass!!

The different kinds of drones that were used.

The different kinds of drones that were used.

There were many drones being developed for research projects throughout the world. Drones could be used to count animal species in harsh climates like in the Arctic, they could be used to cross the Atlantic Ocean to detect hurricanes, and they could be used to fly near forest fires to record and monitor fire movement. They used drones for a rainforest project, where they had to monitor canopy tree species in this one forest preserve. With remote sensing software and drone photography, they were able to accurately map almost every single canopy tree species!

There were a few problems that the researchers did encounter when operating drones out in the western United States. One of the major issues were birds of prey. Hawks and eagles always considered drones a threat to their territory, so they would fight the drones in the air! The researchers always brought extra parts for the drones in case the birds of prey wreck any parts. Wind was another issue people have encountered. Sometimes, the wind would be so strong that it would crash the drone immediately after take-off! The Styrofoam drones fared better than the plastic drones. Some drones were shot out of the sky by a land owner or hunter, because the drone was passing through their property to a study site.

In the future, I believe drones would be an important tool for GIS and remote sensing research. They have many capabilities and were extremely useful in collecting hard to obtain data. They were controversial right now in the United States. Many of the laws were brand new and were still being developed in terms of regulating drone activities. The general public was still wary about drones and UAVs. Drones could be very useful in data collecting, but they could also be used to video record and spy on neighbors. Someone used a drone to record some geysers in Yellowstone, and the drone crash landed into a geyser!

Drone technology and regulations are still developing. In the future, I believe that drones could be very beneficial for data collection and monitoring for many scientists. There are still many problems and hurdles this type of technology has to overcome. As of now, I am on the border with using drones. I see all the great possibilities and capabilities drones have for research, but I could see why there is backlash and concern over the use of this technology.

Beyond the symposium lectures, on the second day we got to fly and view different drones! We saw drones fly outside in an open parking lot and we got to see drones maneuver in indoor stadiums!  Unfortunately, people crashed some of the drones, so some of the presentations were short. Fortunately, these drones were easy to repair! One of my favorite drones to watch were the Styrofoam drone planes. They weighed about two to three pounds and they automatically flew in the air without the aid of a human flying it. The drone coordinator inputted GPS lines for the drone to follow and the drone flew those lines exactly and safely crashed near the coordinator without any damage!

Overall, I learned a lot about drones by attending this symposium. When regulations ease up on drones, I would like to get my drone license, and use this type of technology for my future job! Hopefully, I can use drones to help detect invasive plant populations, so that they could be mapped and treated at a further date!

AIM Training in Rock Springs! BLM Legends, Assemble!!

Wow! I had the fortunate opportunity to go to Rock Springs, Wyoming for AIM (Assessment, Inventory, and Monitoring) training. This type of training was essential for rangeland monitoring, plus it looked great for the resume! We had to learn various techniques on rangeland data collection. We had to dig soil pits and identify soil profiles, we had to measure canopy gap, learn about vegetation density, update our line point monitoring, collect surface soils, and learn about various plants! Each day began with lectures and field exercises. Most of the day had beautiful weather conditions, but in the late afternoon, it would thunderstorm out!

BLM Legends learning about how to identify different soil textures.

BLM Legends learning about how to identify different soil textures.

There was another reason why I was super hyped about doing this training… I got to meet all of the Wyoming and northeastern Utah BLM Legends! I never seen so many BLM Legends and staff in one room before! When we went out in the field, there was usually a forty car caravan of BLM Legends traveling to a site for field exercises. It was hilarious to see people from the public stop by and ask why there were so many Government trucks! Beyond the BLM legends, there were GBI interns! They were similar to CBG interns, but they were with the Great Basin Institute! They were there to learn about the AIM protocol as well!

There were too many There were BLM Legends everywhere, you could not count them all!

There were too many BLM Legends everywhere, you could not count them all!

Our first day, we were in the field learning about soil profiles and how to identify soils! At the Rock Springs, BLM we got to test out different soils and identify them! That was a lot of fun, but many people got dirty due to the crazy amount of clay in some of the soils. Afterwards, we went into the field and dug soil pits! That was fun, even if we had to take a break when an active thunderstorm blew by. I loved the amount of forbs I saw out there! Penstemon (Penstemon spp.), wall flowers (Erysimum spp.), and Hood’s phlox (Phlox hoodii) were prevalent. I even got to learn some new shrubs I have never encountered before like the spiny hopsage (Grayia spinosa)!

Rock Springs wildflowers!

Rock Springs flora Phlox, Penstemon, wallflower, and hopsage !

The next day we attended some lectures in the morning. Later, we went to the south of Rock Springs to a beautiful piece of BLM land that was covered with lush Wyoming sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata) and Utah juniper (Juniperus osteosperma)! We learned all of the field methods when we were out there! Unfortunately, the final lesson was cut short due to a nearby thunderstorm. This thunderstorm was a doozy!! It hailed triangular hailstones on us that hurt like the dickens!! We survived and headed back to the field office, where we learned about statistics …the lecture really put everyone to sleep. ^_^;

The mighty hailstorm coming our way! Triangular hail really hurts!

The mighty hailstorm coming our way! Triangular hail really hurts!

Thursday was a large test for all of us! We had to do all of the AIM techniques on a mountainous hill near Rock Springs. We collected soil samples, measured canopy gap, looked at line point intercept, and preformed other various types of data collection. There were some ticks present, but they did not bother us! It was a beautiful day and I got to learn more cools forbs. I had the pleasure of studying black sagebrush (Artemisia nova) when I was monitoring! We were not stormed out this day, which was great!!

Ticks I have found when I was in the field.

Ticks I have found when I was in the field.

The final day, we took a test and finished up with lectures! Everyone did well on the open book test! We were released early, and our group got to look at wild horses and various Wyoming landscapes on our trip back to Buffalo, Wyoming! Overall, this was an amazing training opportunity! I am glad I took this training and I suggest that any intern in the future should take this training, even if they are not a rangeland monitoring intern!!!

Summer Season

Just a few weeks ago, it felt like Winter was still prevalent… now Summer was in full swing! Due to the additional amount of rain we have received in May, wildflowers were blooming like crazy across the Bighorns and the Powder River Basin!! The second part of my internship began at the beginning of June! All of a sudden, I got three major jobs with ten smaller jobs! I am super excited with a full schedule! My main priority was to ground truth all of the cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) areas I detected during my remote sensing. This task may be huge, but most of the areas I could drive past and take five minutes worth of notes at each site. I could easily visit fifty sites if I wanted to along county roads. My next job involved NISIMS and salt cedar (Tamarix spp.) data collection. I would go to a specific area located east of town and record all of the weeds I have encountered. I would also have to look for salt cedar in many of the draws. All of the salt cedar sites have been chemically and mechanically treated, and my job involved me going to each of the treated areas to make sure there would be no salt cedar left. Another job involved looking for bird nests in the sagebrush community. I would be going out with wildlife biologists and look for various bird species and nesting sites. I am excited to do all of the above jobs. If the weather was not suitable for field work, I get to work on indoor projects such as the continuation of look for cheatgrass using supervised classification, scanning old orthophotographs, working on soil profile identification, working with data management on oil and gas sites, typing up cheatgrass reports, and working with plant identification. Hopefully, I will have time to work on my blog!! ^_^;

Summer highlights so far!!

Summer highlights so far!!

Here is a gypsum crystal I have found when I was out looking for cheatgrass!

Here is a gypsum crystal I have found when I was out looking for cheatgrass!

Looking for the Blue Gems

I had a great opportunity to help out with bird monitoring for an entire week! One of my specialties was bird identification and I was thrilled to help out in any way! There was a study on sagebrush obligates or birds that use the sagebrush steppe as a breeding area. We had to look for nests of any bird species that used the sagebrush as a nesting area. Brewer’s sparrow (Spizella breweri), vesper sparrow (Pooecetes gramineus), western meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta), lark sparrow (Chondestes grammacus), spotted towhee (Pipilo maculatus), loggerhead shrike (Lanius ludovicianus), and sage thrasher (Oreoscoptes montanus) were the main bird species we were looking for!

I had to help out these Canadian wildlife biology technicians find nests that were hidden in the sagebrush. I thought it was going to be easy…unfortunately finding bird nests was extraordinarily hard! These nests were buried in dense sagebrush. The three most common bird species were Brewer’s sparrow, vesper sparrow, and the western meadowlark. The brewer sparrow’s nest were located towards the top of the sagebrush and the eggs were a bluish- turquoise color. The vesper’s nest was buried in the bottom of the sagebrush and was usually covered with grass, making it extremely difficult to find. The meadowlark’s nests were grass domes hidden usually by the transition areas by grassland and sagebrush. It took me two days to actually find an active nest!! Usually, we would spread out and rub a leg along each sagebrush we encountered. Rarely, the female would quickly leave the nest, and we would quickly find the nest she left, mark a GPS point there, and move onto the next area. Another way to look for nests would be to watch the bird couple in their territory in the morning and see where the female goes. I had to be wary, because the male would pretend to enter the sagebrush and lead me astray!! I was able to eventually find more nests! I found many bird territories including a sage thrasher territory! Later, a nest was found in the area. I did find two active Brewer sparrow’s nest. Finding the eggs was like finding blue gems in the sagebrush! It was a welcoming sight! Some problems we encountered in the field were snakes, many ticks, and high temperatures!  Overall, it was a great experience and I learned a lot about birds and their nests!!

Some of the nests that were found when we were all out in the field. Sometimes we would encounter snakes, so we would have to be careful when stepping near sagebrush.

Some of the nests that were found when we were all out in the field. Sometimes we would encounter snakes, so we would have to be careful when stepping near sagebrush.

Moment of Zen

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Here are some cool thunderstorm cells I saw recently!!

Hello, World!

CLM Internship Blog - Fri, 06/17/2016 - 10:51am

Hello to all,

This post marks the very first CLM blog post of my internship and the end of my first 2 weeks. Finally getting to start my internship with SOS East and the NCBG team has been so great. I’ve spent the past 2 months counting the weeks down to when I’d start and these first two weeks just flew by.

Week one had me getting to know my new teammates, ordering our new gear, and even making one or two excursions to the field. Everyone seems really great and I think we’ll all get long well. It was so much fun going shopping with them and lunching together. I’m mostly used to working solo or with one or two other people, but this has been a nice change of pace.

On the field trips we made we came across a crawdad graveyard, a tiny toad migration, and a great blue heron. My favorite spot was a recently acquired parcel of land which was just beautiful and was where we saw the heron fly by. All the fun wasn’t just in the field though, because we were able to spend a lot of time touring the botanical garden, getting acquainted with some of the plants we’d be collecting, meeting the rest of the garden staff, and meeting some of the animal visitors to the garden, including rabbits, birds, toads, and one box turtle. I wooooould share some pics, but it appears the site can’t handle this many megabytes of awesome.

Week two had us in a 3-day training session with the rest of SOS east down at the garden. We all ate breakfast, lunch, and dinner together, and listened to speakers including but not limited to the man, the legend, and author of Weakley’s Flora, Alan Weakley! *Cheers* On the last day of training we all went down to Mason Farm and made an official SOS collection of Glyceria striata. This little adventure had me squelching my way around this soggy wetland area in my muck boots, surrounded by an ocean of Glyceria just waiting to be collected. Turns out we actually collected about 10 times as much as we needed, but I guess it’s easier to do that when you have 14 interns all collecting a single species.

Anyway, that’s all I have for this week but stay tuned! The NCBG team will be making its first multi-day trip to the coast this week, so I’m sure I’ll have lots more to share in my next post.

Until then, good luck and happy plant hunting!

Rose A.

 

A New House in Taos!

CLM Internship Blog - Fri, 06/17/2016 - 10:48am

After a crazy and exhausting week of graduation, and a long and reflective drive across the country, I have finally made it to Taos, New Mexico all the way from New England! Both I and my now slightly-whirring car are undoubtedly happy to be here. Even though my trip consisted of ascending and descending the Appalachians, driving through the countryside of Kentucky, and throughout the flatlands of the south, my arrival in New Mexico provided sights completely unparalleled to those of the journey on the way here. Having grown up in the west but venturing out east for school, I was confronted by many sites and environments that made me feel nostalgic: big outcrops of sedimentary and volcanic rock, snow-capped mountains, and winding roads through coniferous forests. While I definitely already miss the East Coast, I definitely have no complaints about the biology and geology of northern New Mexico.

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While I’ve only worked for just three days so far, my time has given me a sweet taste of the promises contained in the rest of the season. For instance, my first day consisted of driving to an agricultural research center to pick up some saplings slated for landscaping on government property–providing a new home for some native plants and hopefully their pollinators too. On this stop we were also able to gnab some free green and purple asparagus! We also headed out in the field to attempt to collect seeds of Hesperostipa, and although they weren’t quite mature enough, this gave some perspective on what most of my season working with the BLM will contain.

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It takes time getting used to new places, a new apartment, new people, and new plants, but I’m already excited and motivated to get all I can out of this experience. This past week, although short, gave me a glimpse into the different environments I’ll be able to work in as well as the wealth of biology, culture, and post-college life I have all to learn about. I’m looking forward to checking back in next month, with new experiences and a greater knowledge of New Mexican flora under my belt!

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Jack Diedrich
BLM Taos, NM

 

A blog?

CLM Internship Blog - Fri, 06/17/2016 - 10:45am

Blogging is something I have never done before and never thought I would be doing today.  I always saw “bloggers” as the people who sit in their houses all day and write about things that are of no importance to me or anyone else.  My views have changed as the years have gone on, but I still thought I would never be writing one.  Boy, life is strange.  I am currently working for the Chicago Botanic Garden as a Conservation and Land Management Intern through the Bureau of Land Management in Lander, Wyoming.  Never been there?  You’re missing out.  Of all the places I have lived, it is my absolute favorite.  There is never a shortage of fun activities to do.  In the winter you can cross country ski, skate ski, snowshoe, downhill ski, backcountry ski, snowmobile, hike, ice fish, etc., etc., etc.  The list for summer is even longer.  The trailhead for the tallest peak in Wyoming is not very far away and the fishing in the Wind River Mountains is absolutely incredible.  The people are nice and always willing to help you even if they have no idea who you are.  But, to get back to my internship…  I have never worked for the BLM before and wasn’t sure how it would go.  So far I absolutely love it.  I get to be outside all day every day in  remote country where the chances of running into other people are low.  There are elk, deer, antelope, moose, coyotes, birds of all kinds, and a whole host of different bugs to be seen.  The flora is even more impressive than the fauna.  I will be monitoring several riparian areas to determine use by grazers and overall health of the area.

Being my first blog, I really don’t know what to tell you other than what is written above.  I’m not a long winded person.  Straight, to the point, short and sweet, blah, blah, blah.  I hope everyone is having a great start to their summer and I look forward to meeting some of you at the upcoming CLM training workshop in Chicago.  Till then, see ya!

 

Amanda

BLM – Lander, Wyoming

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