Today I attended a lecture by Dr. Christopher Mowry who teaches at Berry College and founded the Atlanta Coyote project. The presentation opened with an image of a coyote (Canis latrans) standing inside Piedmont Park, which was taken in 2016. Coyotes belong to the Genus Canis, which is also home to the gray wolf (Canis lupus), red wolf (Canis rufus), and domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris). While the gray wolf and coyote are agreed to be clearly separate species by experts, the red wolf has a lot of coyote genes. Both the red wolf and coyote are endemic to North America, meaning they are native and only found in that region. Sadly, the red wolf is now only found in the wild inside Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina.
Historically coyotes were a great plains species. They moved westward for two reasons in particular. The gray wolf is a natural predator of the gray wolf as is the red wolf. Due to the elimination of these predators the coyote was able to expand into new territory. But historically there was a region in which the gray wolf and coyote did live together, known as an admixture zone, where possible hybridization occurred. Urbanization also created an ideal habitat for the coyote, as it creates more edge habitat which increases their food supply of small mammals. For these regions, the coyote can now be found in every state, except for Hawaii.
Does the title of this post sound like Greek to you? Simply put, benthic macroinvertebrates are little tiny bugs that live in our waterways, but you are able to see them with your naked eye. They are often the larvae of insects that we are more familiar with like blackflies, mayflies, and more! While ponds and lakes do have some, there is a higher number of species found in running waterways. And they can actually tell you a lot about the water that they live in! Many agencies use them as a measure of water quality. In a nutshell, some species are more tolerant of pollution than others. So you collect insects for a certain amount of time, count how many are pollution tolerant, pollution sensitive and pollution intolerant, and then do some easy math! You can also calculate what is called an EPT index. This is based on how many mayflies (Ephemeroptera), stoneflies (Plecoptera), and caddisflies (Trichoptera). This is great if you have a stream running on your property and want to know more about its health.
Because there are so many species, typically macroinvertebrates are broken down into families or orders. A dichotomous key is very helpful in their identification. In West Virgina alone, there are 538 species that the state has identified! This level of identification is hard without breaking out a microscope. In high school, I volunteered with a stream team that was partnered with a local university. We would go out and collect the samples and analyze them. While the EPA does have an SOP for sampling macroinvertebrates most state agencies have their own SOP which can be found by simply googling XYZ State macroinvertebrate sampling. I’m basing the rest of this information on the Georgia EPD SOP. These SOPs are similar to the EPA’s SOP but are adapted to be more effective based on the eco-region. I will detail how to conduct surveys in a future post but for now, let’s look at the different groups of macroinvertebrates.
This past Sunday I had the joy of joining a group at a local park in Dunwoody, GA for an information session on how to identify woody plants in the winter time. Leafs typically are the easiest way to determine what plant you are observing but in the winter you have to rely on other clues. Clues you can use include leaf arrangement, overall plant shape, the bark if the plant has leafs or not, and items that are surrounding the plant on the ground. Some species of plants are inclined to hold onto their leafs while others will not. It is theorized that plants act like this to discourage deer grazing.
Before we dive into the different plants it is important to get some definitions straight. As with most of science, the general public tends to use terms that have very specific meanings and this can lead to confusions. It is also important to make sure that you are using live twigs to identify plants. Dead twigs will snap and can contain missing parts that will lead to misidentification.
- A twig: the plant’s past year growth, general different in appearance on the plant
- opposite leaf arrangement: the plant has twigs that are directly across from each other
- there are fewer of these than alternate, so it’s a great clue when IDing plants
- all Ashs, Maples, and Buckeyes have opposite leaf arrangement
- alternate leaf arrangement: the plant has twigs that are staggered
- lenticels: tiny dots or slops in the barks, helps the plant to bring more oxygen
- leaf scar: the pattern that is made when the leaf falls off
- helpful to have a macro lense to observe this
It is also important to note that plants have both flower and leaf buds. They are different and will look different from each other including the twigs which they are on. If the bark is shiny it generally means that it has a lack of hairs. Now time to divide into the different plants we observed, and how to determine that they are that plant.
My name is Lauren Schramm and ever since I can remember I have learned every bit about the natural world that I could. I graduated from college with a degree in biology and environmental studies. After living in Vermont, New York, and Texas I find myself in Georgia.
I am trying to learn as much about the natural world as possible. This blog will serve as a place for me to document my learning. My interests are very varied so likely this blog will be as well but it will always be connected to the natural world and educational.