Monday, June 29, 2009

10 days, 10 nights: Day 8

The next day, Dr. Steve Pennings from the University of Houston gave us a tour of the ongoing LTER projects on Sapelo Island. The projects investigate a wide range of topics, including the zonation of marsh plants and how interactions between plants and animals can govern marsh structure.
We traveled around the island piled into the back of a flatbed truck. Not too bad, as long as it wasn't raining!

Friday, June 19, 2009

10 days, 10 nights: Day 7

After our first night on Sapelo Island, we spent some time exploring the dunes. These are some of the most pristine dunes I've seen, since there is very little in the way of housing developments on the island. The primary dune on the right side of the picture is always being moved by wind and waves and is subject to erosion; the plants are most deep-rooted grasses and a few small shrubs. The secondary dunes on the left side are more stable and have denser, taller herbaceous and woody vegetation. Behind the dunes is a freshwater swale and then a pine forest. A complete transition from beach to inland forest!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

10 days, 10 nights: Day 6

That night, we had a group discussion about what we'd seen so far. Everyone took a turn presenting a few questions they had about things we'd seen so far. Research interests among the students ranged from ecology to hydrology to forestry to engineering (and some fields in between!), making it a diverse and interesting discussion.

The next morning we hiked past some areas covered with Sphagnum moss, which are what give the Okefenokee swamp the name "Land of the trembling earth." Gases produced by the moss get trapped underneath the mats so that when you walk on the moss, the ground seems to give and large areas move under your feet.

10 days, 10 nights: Day 5

We arrived at Stephen C. Foster State Park in the Okefenokee swamp late in the day. The next day we canoed and hiked through the tannin-filled waters (see picture) of the swamp. It rained, again, but it was still a peaceful and striking landscape.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

10 days, 10 nights: Day 4

Night 4 was spent in the Itchetucknee family cabins in Florida. I don't have any decent pictures of that night - it was the stormiest night so far. But the next day cleared enough for us to canoe the black river swamp along the Itchetucknee River.

Pond cypress and Spanish moss

Growing on the reeds below are eggs from the non-native, invasive apple snail. It is a voracious herbivore that can alter plant communities and displace native snails. In one area that was fenced off and designated as "native snail habitat," the only gastropod to be seen was an apple snail. From the number of eggs we saw, apple snail control programs appear to be somewhat ineffective.

Monday, June 1, 2009

10 days, 10 nights: Day 3

The next night we spent in Gulf Shores, Alabama, near some beautifully restored dunes.

Then we drove to see pitcher plant bogs in Florida, where we saw at least six different species of predatory plants.
Sarracenia flava

This one shows the pool of water inside the pitcher and the downward-pointing hairs along the walls to prevent insects from climbing out once they've fallen in.
Sarracenia purpurea