Late summer and fall have been very wet and that is good for finding more mushrooms. My Door County list has grown to 598 species. The site with the most, 244 species, is Whitefish Dunes State Park. Now Toft Point is in second place with 150. New descriptions of 20 more species found at Toft Point since early September are now on the Cofrin Center for Biodiversity web site, including 68 photos to add for the new species and better pictures for some that are already in the site.
Two species found are also new to Door County. They are Agaricus cretacellus and Gomphidius glutinosus. Fortunately when I found one of these and did not have a camera, my friend Beth Bartoli had hers and was able to get good photographs.
A very different type of fungus was found on a small Mycena species growing on the ground in the woods. It is called the Pin Mold or Bonnet Mould in England. It is parasitic on several species of mushrooms. It was first discovered by a German naturalist in 1818. The Zygospores are produced in black balls at the ends of fine filaments which coat the Mycena mushroom.
Some people despair at the wet soggy autumn, but I rejoice for the welcomed moisture that will aid trees going into the winter season and help mushrooms continue their important work as nature’s recyclers.
Eleven University of Wisconsin-Green Bay students have been selected to receive Cofrin or Land Trust student research grants for the 2013-2014 academic year. These grants provide unique opportunities for students to pursue faculty-guided research that contributes to the conservation and management of natural areas in Northeastern Wisconsin.
The Cofrin grants are available for students conducting research on UW-Green Bay managed natural areas, including the Cofrin Memorial Arboretum, Kingfisher Farm, Peninsula Center Sanctuary, Point au Sable Nature Preserve, Toft Point Natural Area and the Wabikon Forest Dynamics Plot. These grants are made possible through a generous endowment from the family of Dr. David A. Cofrin and the late John Cofrin. The Land Trust Grant is funded by a donation by UW-Green Bay faculty members Michael Draney and Vicki Medland to encourage students to conduct research that contributes to areas managed by recognized land trusts, nonprofit organizations or state or federal agencies.
Tim Flood, Kenosha — An Environmental Science and Policy graduate student, Flood will examine the colonization of plant communities at the Cat Island Chain Restoration Project now under construction in the lower Bay of Green Bay. The island chain is expected to create protected habitats that should support high quality aquatic plants and provide habitat and forage for water birds, fish and other aquatic organisms. The project will provide insight into the current and expected success of the Cat Island Chain Restoration project. Flood will work under the guidance of adjunct faculty member Patrick Robinson.
Amanda Johnson, McFarland — The importance of woodchucks as “ecological engineers” has been suggested for many years, but little documentation is available to support this claim. The UW-Green Bay campus and its Cofrin Arboretum are home to a healthy population of woodchucks, and Johnson, a senior, hopes to learn more about the importance of woodchucks and their burrows to other animals (including red fox, eastern cottontails and other mammals). Under the supervision of Prof. Robert Howe, she will mark and watch burrows with heat-sensitive cameras to capture activity by visitors and residents of old and new woodchuck burrows. The study will provide insights into the importance of woodchuck burrows for maintaining local mammal diversity in semi-natural landscapes like that of the Cofrin Arboretum.
Sravani Karnam, Nairobi, Kenya — Karnam was inspired to study aquatic systems after a presentation by Natural and Applied Sciences seminar speaker Carrie Kissman, an assistant professor of Biology at St. Norbert College who conducts research on trophic cascades in freshwater lakes. Karnam developed a proposal to model trophic dynamics in pond habitats on the Cofrin Arboretum. The primary objective of her study is to understand the trophic organization in the ponds by evaluating the density and composition of phytoplankton and zooplankton at different times of the year. She will use the results to create models of trophic interactions that predict the nutrient conditions and roles of higher-level predators in these systems. Karnam will work under the supervision of Associate Profs. Amy Wolf and Atife Caglar, with assistance from Kissman and Medland.
Jessica Kempke, Green Bay — Graduate student Kempke will be conducting a study of bat migration patterns along the Lake Michigan coast in northeastern Wisconsin using ultrasound recorders or “bat detectors.” These devices record the high-frequency calls of bats, which can be identified in many cases to species. Kempke will compare bat diversity and abundance along the coastline with paired sites 3-5 kilometers inland. Her study will contribute to the knowledge of the distribution of bat species as well as trends in migration and habitat use. Kempke’s project is a collaborative effort with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists and is part of her graduate research at UW-Green Bay, under the supervision of faculty members Wolf and Howe.
Brianna Kupsky, Green Bay — A UW-Green Bay senior, Kupsky also will conduct research on bats, collecting data at several UW-Green Bay natural areas. This research is a continuation of a study she began last year with the help of a Cofrin Research grant. The purpose of Kupsky’s project will be to develop and implement a systematic monitoring program of migratory and resident bat populations at the UW-Green Bay managed natural areas. This information will continue to create a baseline for future studies and will help verify the composition of resident and migratory bat assemblages at these areas. Kupsky is working under the guidance of Prof. Howe.
Christa Meyer, Medford — Meyer, a senior, already has collected detailed information about a family of red foxes living in the Cofrin Arboretum. Her proposal aims to document the behavior of the adult foxes and their pups during the course of the summer. She also hopes to document the interspecific interactions between the foxes and other animals that occur in the Cofrin Arboretum and UW-Green Bay campus. Christa is working with Howe as an outgrowth of an independent study project during spring 2013.
Amanda Nothem, Campbellsport — Education major Nothem, under the guidance of Associate Prof. Scott Ashmann, will create hands-on K-12 curricula for teacher-guided field trips to UW-Green Bay’s Cofrin Arboretum. The curricula, aimed at educators at different grade levels, will include pre- and post-assessments, handouts, data collection sheets, data analysis sheets and reflection/discussion questions for water and atmospheric testing in the Cofrin Arboretum. Equipment purchased with the grant will be available for teachers to check out from the Education Department.
Tom Prestby, Wauwatosa — Graduate student Prestby will be surveying migratory shorebirds in the coastal zone of lower Green Bay, Lake Michigan. His study will document shorebirds and provide maps of potential shorebird stopover habitat in the lower Green Bay coastal zone. Under the guidance of Howe and Wolf, he will use field data to estimate the extent and variability of habitat for migrating shorebirds in lower Green Bay.
Mary Quade, Green Bay — Mosses are the second most abundant group of land plants on Earth. Senior Mary Quade will be documenting moss abundance and biodiversity at the Wabikon Lake Forest Plot under the guidance of Associate Prof. Wolf. She will document moss community associations and the size and species of trees used by different moss species. Quade’s results will be important for longitudinal studies looking at the effect of climate change on diversity and abundance of mosses, as well as the potential role of mosses as indicators of environmental quality.
Haley Sharpe, Green Bay — An undergraduate, Sharpe will look at the dispersal of tree fungi by woodpeckers. Her project proposes to collect fungal swabs from the beaks of woodpeckers that are captured and banded at the Point au Sable Nature Preserve. Samples from the birds will be grown in the lab and tree fungi identified. This study will help determine the importance of woodpeckers as vectors of fungi between dead and decaying trees. Sharpe will be working under the guidance of faculty members Howe and Wolf.
Linda Vang, Green Bay — Myrmecochory is seed dispersal by ants, and the plants that rely on dispersal by these insects often produce seeds that have an attractive, nutritious structure called an elaiosome. Ants collect the seeds and feed the elaiosomes to their larvae, then discard the seeds outside of their nests. Vang, working with Wolf, will conduct an experimental study to determine the importance of ants in dispersing seeds of wildflowers in the Cofrin Arboretum. Vang, a senior, will identify which ant species disperse seeds and how quickly the seeds are discovered and removed by ants.
Examples of animal gigantism, especially on islands, have long been recognized. Consider, for example, the Madagascar Hissing Cockroach, which is much larger than African mainland roaches. However, it was not until 1964 that a young biologist named J. Bristol Foster published a paper in Nature entitled “Evolution of Mammals on Islands” that explained the phenomena that is now referred to as Island or Insular Gigantism. Foster compared the sizes of island animals and their mainland relatives and surmised that islands contain fewer species than nearby mainland habitats and therefore will have fewer numbers of both predators and competitors. Under such conditions he argued, animals can grow to larger sizes. It is interesting that almost all examples of this evolutionary phenomenon are almost exclusively restricted to islands or other highly isolated habitats. So imagine our surprise when UW—Green Bay botanist and instructor Gary Fewless snapped this photo of an extremely large spider on the UW—Green Bay campus.
In recent decades other scientists have greatly improved our understanding into why animals on islands can grow so much larger. Large size provides a number of evolutionary advantages to species. Bigger animals can choose from a larger array of food items. Large predators can choose small or large prey. Bigger animals can produce more offspring and provide each with more food and better protect themselves and their offspring. It is not known whether this is an isolated individual or representative of a new population, perhaps associated with the Cat Island Chain restoration. NAS biology professor and spider expert Michael Draney noted that “Spiders often grow to larger sizes in urban areas thanks to favorable sites for building webs, especially near lights.” However he did add that “This individual is quite a bit larger than the average, though.” Draney, whose specialty are dwarf spiders, shook his head as he considered both the photo and his past advice to area arachnophobes. “Throughout my career,” he said, “I’ve tried to reassure people that spiders in Wisconsin are nothing to worry about. He looked apprehensively out his office window as he added, “All that has changed now.”
It is interesting to note that this is actually the second case of animal gigantism documented in northeastern Wisconsin. Several years ago Fewless, who never leaves his camera far out of reach, also captured the following image of large blue-spotted salamanders feeding on vegetation along the Fox River. When asked about his luck in spotting these unusual animals Fewless suggested that they might not be that out of the norm. “Well”, he said, “there has been an emphasis on growth in this area in recent years. Given our growth in other areas, these animals may not be as large as first thought. It may just be a matter of perspective.”
The Point au Sable Natural Area is an unmodified estuarine wetlands, one of the few in the Lake Michigan ecosystem. This area plays a very important role for the migratory birds passing through. This is the main reason why this area has stayed protected from development. In recent findings, it was shown over 200 different bird species in one year have stopped to enjoy the Point au Sable Natural Area. For more information about the Point au Sable Natural Area click on the link http://www.uwgb.edu/biodiversity/natural-areas/pt-au-sable/.
Recently the Point au Sable Natureal Area was burned in an effort to try and stop the Phragmites invasion. Phragmites australis, also known as the common reed, is an exotic invasive species. It can grow up to 3-4 meters.
It was estimated the flames reached 75-100 feet. If you look closely you can see a burn crew member just at the base of the Phragmites.
According to the Arboretum Project Coordinator, Joshua Martinez, “the lagoon should be a mixture of open water, submerged aquatic plants, emergent marsh, cattail marsh, and sedge meadow. The Lagoon system is ever changing with water levels of the great lakes (more specifically the bay). As a result, Point au Sable was historically a heavily disturbed site, not because of people but rather because of water level cycles of the great lakes. Phragmites was present on the site in the last flooding of the lagoon in 2000, and once the water levels had receded the Phragmites was able to spread very fast because of its growth patterns of stolons and rhizomes. This was because the soil surface of the lagoon was exposed with little vegetation on it and allowed the Phragmites to spread fast with little resistance from native plant competitors. In addition, the lakes levels have not been following their typical water level cycle, and have been staying low for longer than expected and provides great potential for Phragmites to spread aggressively.”
It seems there is an abundance of Lotus corniculatus (Birdsfoot trefoil) along the edges of the paths in the Cofrin Arboretum right now. The name originates from the seed pods that fan out from the stem like a bird foot. The three-lobed trefoil leaves are found in many species in the pea family (Fabaceae). Unfortunately, like so many other wildflowers it is exotic and can become invasive. This perennial plant is native to parts of Europe, Asia, and North Africa, and was probably introduced from Europe as a forage plant for cattle. It is common throughout the western Great Lakes states where the bright yellow flowers are found in pastures, roadsides, and disturbed riparian areas throughout the summer months.
Birdsfoot trefoil is able to thrive in low nutrient soils because, like other plants in the pea family, its roots contain nodules filled with symbiotic bacteria that can fix nitrogen. The bacteria are able to convert nitrogen in the atmosphere into a chemical form that is easily absorbed by plants. This allows it to easily invade sunny disturbed sites where it will eventually form a deep perennial root mass.
It can form dense low growing mats that shade out native plants and is considered invasive in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, and 5 other states. Because fire increases seed germination it can be a serious threat to our native prairies. Small plants can be dug up, but all of the roots must be removed to prevent it from resprouting. Heavy infestations are usually treated by repeated mowing or with herbicides.
Recently the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay held the ninth annual Watershed Symposium for The Lower Fox River Watershed Monitoring Program. The LFRWMP partnered with many programs to aid in their research and give the students an opportunity to learn more about watershed monitoring. These program partners were Appleton East High School, Appleton North High School, Ashwaubenon High School, Boys & Girls Club of Green Bay, Green Bay East High School, Green Bay Preble High School, Green Bay Southwest High School, Luxemburg-Casco High School, Oneida Nation High School, Oshkosh North High School, Pulaski High School, and West DePere High School.
The LFRWMP is a continuing program that provides high-quality data which is used for making decisions about improving water quality and foster habitat restoration within the Fox River Basin. The Lower Fox River Watershed Monitoring Program has four main goals
Strengthen student and teacher knowledge and understanding of land use impacts on water quality and stream ecosystems
Enhance teacher capacity to teach watershed science by providing hands-on training in water quality and biological indicator monitoring techniques and data interpretation
Develop a long-term watershed integrity database that helps users understand changes over time and contributes to improved watershed management strategies
Provide ongoing opportunities for high school students and teachers to engage in hands-on science and to interact with other students, university scientists, resource managers and community professionals
Students from the program partners are allowed the opportunity for hands-on field work sampling and their school research posters, presentations, and videos can be found at http://www.uwgb.edu/watershed/school.htm.
The symposium and Lower Fox River Watershed Monitoring Program are supported by a gift from Arjo Wiggins Appleton Ltd.
The Big Day Bird Survey final total was 56 different species found around the UWGB campus and arboretum area, a fantastic number! Dr. Howe’s Spring Ornithology class went out at 7:00am to start their share of searching in the morning. The count continued until midnight. The 50th bird species seen was a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, the first one of the year at UWGB!
Winds of up to 69 mph swept through Door County on Thursday, September 29th causing extensive damage, especially on the west side of the county. Thousands were without power for two days and Highway 57 between Jacksonport and Baileys Harbor was closed through Saturday. All the state parks located in the county were closed for the weekend.
Toft Point natural area, managed by the Cofrin Center for Biodiversity, is located in Baileys Harbor, WI and was in the path of the windstorm. At least 24 downed or broken trees were counted by the Friends of Toft Point as they inspected the trails on Sunday.
Josh Martinez, land steward for the Cofrin Center for Biodiversity will be heading up with UW-Green Bay facilities staff to clear the road and trails at Toft Point on Friday, October 7th. We ask that people remain off the trails and road until after trees can be removed to avoid injury from leaning trees and branches.
We have consolidated our blogs to this single site. You can get where you want by clicking on categories listed in the right hand panel. Please note that the links inthe main menu only return you to our old website. Ths will be changing as we load up our newly redesigned site in a few weeks.
Luckily, Dr. Bob Howe took the UWGB Ornithology class to Point au Sable again to set up the bird banding station for the last class field trip. With spring migration moving along, we captured seven individual birds, of five different species: three Ovenbirds, one White-throated Sparrow, one Northern Cardinal, one Yellow-rumped Warbler, and one Sharp-shinned Hawk. Therefore, the class was able to gain a new perspective on identifying bird species by seeing them up close. In addition to those species, numerous others foraged and traveled through the area, including Cape May Warblers, Black-and-white Warblers, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Black-throated Green Warblers, Pine Warblers, Scarlet Tanagers, Blue-headed Vireos, Red-tailed Hawks, House Wrens, Great Crested Flycatchers, Forster’s Terns, and many more.
Thanks to Kari Hagenow, I am able to share a few photographs taken of the birds caught at the banding station: