Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Bringing The Best to The Edge

With the start of 2016 just days away it seems appropriate to take a minute to reflect on 2015. One of the highlights of this past season was having world class researchers visit the preserve to instruct the museum's Advanced Naturalist Workshop Series #11. Bringing the best teachers to The Edge has been a yearly affair now for 11 years and we're very proud and thankful to be able to bring this caliber of education to southern Ohio.  Here was the lineup with some pics and a bit of info:

April 24-26, 2015
Crustose Lichens
Dr. James Lendemer, Post-Doctoral Researcher, New York Botanical Garden

Dr. Lendemer is one of but a handful of professional lichenologists working in the United States. His voluminous knowledge of all things lichen is awe inspiring and humbling. His casual demeanor belies his world authority status and his ocean-deep knowledge of lichens. After spending the weekend with James I can only say that he is pure genius. He had an eager audience for the workshop with everyone-who-is-anyone doing work on lichens in Ohio attending the workshop. Ray Showman, co-author of The Macrolichens of Ohio attended along with founding members of The Ohio Moss & Lichen Association, folks from the USDA Forest Service and beyond. A great group that managed to produce the most inclusive voucher collection of crustose lichens for the preserve to date. A few interesting highlight species found were Xyleborus sporodochifer which was recently described from The Ozarks and the Dolly Parton lichen  Japewiella dollypartoniana. Recently named by Dr. Lendemer to honor Dolly Parton's work to conserve the Appalachians.

Dr. Lendemer (right) viewing crustose lichens on a tree


Dr. Lendemer (left) with students looking for Zyleborus sporodochifer.



Saturday, June 20, 2015
Ohio’s Rubus
Dr. Mark Widrlechner, Iowa State University

Mark Widrlechner is the undisputed King of Rubus. He is one of the few people in the United States considered an expert in this difficult genus. For those unaware, the Rubus genus includes the blackberries, raspberries and dewberries, to name a few. It is a difficult group to identify specimens to species with much work still to be done with genetics and subsequent taxonomy. Dr. Widrlechner took us through the finer points of identifying this group and the participants prepared voucher specimens that are now housed in the museum's herbarium at The Edge.


A specimen produced at the workshop and now in the preserve's herbarium.




June 26-28, 2015
Bobcats & The Art of Remote Monitoring
Dr. Suzie Prange, Wildlife Research Biologist, ODNR Division of Wildlife
Tim Prange, Environmental Educator, Rural Action
Eric Householder, Wildlife Technician, USDA, APHIS Wildlife Services
Laura & David Hughes, avid remote monitoring practitioners

This workshop marked the first attempt to document the presence of bobcats on the preserve with remote cameras. The instructor team was a powerhouse of the best in their fields at working with these elusive cats. The team was led by Dr. Susie Prange who has been doing groundbreaking work on bobcats in Ohio. The team's efforts paid off with simply amazing videos of bobcats that were captured not a hundred yards from our education center. Several videos were taken at sites frequented by endangered Allegheny woodrats begging the question whether or not bobcats are actively hunting these rare rodents? A special thanks goes out to Laura and David Hughes who not only taught at the workshop but set many of the camera traps that captured the most amazing bobcat footage. Their innate sense of where animals frequent coupled with their penchant for detail and artistic flair made all the difference in the film that was captured. A sample of what they can do:


video
Video from Laura & David Hughes



July 24-26, 2015
Bumble Bees & Pollination Ecology
Mike Arduser, Retired Biologist, Missouri Department of Conservation

Five species of living bumble bee were identified during the workshop with the balance of Ohio bumble bee species identified through collections brought by Mike Arduser. Mike is a recently retired conservation biologist with a deep background in bee work. His bee work with The Nature Conservancy and other organizations is well respected. Would you like to learn more from this incredible instructor? Don't miss the Bees of the Midwest identification workshop taught by Mike Arduser at The Edge March 14-18,2016. Here's the link to register.

Mike Arduser (left) catching bumble bees with net in Lynx Prairie

Male Bombus impatiens with swamp milkweed pollinia (orange) attached to its feet.

September 18-20, 2015
Stoneflies
Dr. R. Edward Dewalt, Aquatic Entomologist, Illinois Natural History Survey
Dr. Scott A. Grubbs, Associate Professor, Western Kentucky University

Two of the greatest minds working on Plecoptera visited The Edge this summer to offer the most comprehensive stonefly identification workshop ever to be held in Ohio. Dr. Grubbs and DeWalt are leading scientists in researching stonefly distribution, both past and present, and what impacts global warming may have on these cold water loving specialists. Participants identified stonefly specimens from around the country that Ed and Scott brought along and some participants brought their own material to resolve long-nagging difficult identifications. Many stream biologists attended, including folks from the U.S. and Ohio EPAs, OSU and others to take part is this special training session.
Dr. Scott Grubbs teaching at the screen with Dr. Ed DeWalt co-instructing from the chair.


October 9-11, 2015
Land Snails
Dan Dourson, Senior Wildlife Biologist, Copperhead Consulting

Dan and Judy Dourson would certainly win the Friends of Mollusks Lifetime Achievement Award if there were such an award. Their dedication to land snail and slug conservation is laudatory and their efforts to teach others how to identify these animals is without bounds. We were fortunate to have them visit the preserve this past fall with 10 lucky workshop participants. See Mark Zloba's post on slugs for Dan's contact and to purchase his fantastic books on land snail identification/ecology of surrounding states that are very applicable to Ohio.





Adult land snails on a penny for size reference.

Dan Dourson teaching the finer points of slug identification..




Posted by; Chris Bedel

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Do the "rat" thing

18 years ago when I first got to the Edge of Appalachia Preserve (EOA), there were 2 animals that symbolized the uniqueness and rarity of this landscape.  One was the green salamander and the other was a rat.  Rats are not usually the kind of animal you would get excited about, but this rat, the Allegheny woodrat (Neotoma magister), is a special animal.  At that time, Chris Bedel, the Preserve Director for Cincinnati Museum Center wanted to get the word out about these state endangered rodents.  He was even giving t-shirts with a rat on it to all children visiting the preserve and coined the phrase "Do the Rat Thing".  It turns out that even though historically Allegheny woodrats lived in a possible 8 counties (according to  A Guide to the Mammals of Ohio by Jack L. Gottschang), presently they are only found in southern Adams County, many of these sites on the Edge of Appalachia Preserve.

The state of Ohio is currently doing survey work by visiting historic locations to mark the absence/presence of rats, and collecting raccoon scat to look for the absence/presence of raccoon roundworm that is known to kill the rats.  Woodrats inhabit cliffs with many cracks and broken rock, and/or abandoned buildings left in the forest as home sites.  They do not prefer to live near people, so if you see rats around you house or farm, they are not Allegheny woodrats, but rather the Norway rat.  A non-native species. 
Allegheny woodrat habitat
In order to survey an area that might contain woodrats,  you look for at least one of three things.  A rat, a midden or a latrine.  A latrine is where it relieves itself of excrement, yep, it usually goes to the bathroom in the same place.  A midden is where it stores food, sticks, leaves or basically any junk it wants.  Allegheny woodrats are pack rats.  They love to collect things, and throughout the night, they run around picking up something it wants until it finds something else it wants better.  If you drop a nickel in woodrat country, it will be gone the next day and probably put in the woodrats midden. 

Midden of Allegheny woodrat at new location.
Latrine of Allegheny woodrat at new location.  Yes, that is a large pile of scat.
This makes for an interesting walk in the woods when you come across an old out building or cliff crack and see a pile of junk stuffed into one place.  You know some rat has been there actively collecting things for whatever reason.  I have seen middens with candy wrappers, shot gun shells, nuts, husks, glass pieces, flashlights (left behind from our students and pirated by rats), belt pieces, rubber pieces all collected simply because the rat liked it and couldn't help itself.  Pretty endearing I should say.  This is where the raccoon scat comes into play because if a rat picks up some raccoon scat that contains eggs of the deadly roundworm, and takes it back to the midden, it not only contaminates the midden with an organism capable of killing the rat, but any other rat that visits that midden for possibly the next 7 years.

So to help with the states efforts, we have been mapping out old sites and most importantly looking for new sites of this elusive animal.  Since most of it's home range left in Ohio is on EOA property, we inherit responsibility to know the locations of these rats and how active they are.  On the same trip as an early post about searching for green salamanders, I found 2 latrines and a large midden full of sticks and leaves in a location not known for woodrats.  Some of the leaves were green, so I knew there was an active rat using this location, which looked like the perfect habitat for woodrats.  Since we hardly ever see the rat in person, I thought the best way to know if one was there was to set up a game camera on one of the latrines and the midden.  I left the camera out for 1 week, and after collecting the SD cards, I soon found that there was definitely a rat living there.  See the videos below to watch this cute, yes, I am saying cute rat curiously moving about the cliffs of the preserve.

video
video

Both videos above are from the new location.  One is a rat at the latrine playing with some debris and the other is a rat trying to free a belt I stuck under a rock near it's midden.

Just like the green salamanders, I am sure we will find more locations of the Allegheny woodrat within the preserve.  But for the species sake, I hope the state finds them outside this county.  Hopefully in the next year or so, some genetics work will take place to learn the health of the Ohio populations and compare them to other states, where unfortunately they appear to be declining as well.  According to the biologists surveying the woodrat, this species seems to be disappearing across most of it's range in North America, and every little thing we can do to help might make a difference for its survival.  Protecting this large forested area of southern Adams County seems to be a good start.

Posted by: Mark Zloba


Friday, December 18, 2015

Slug Life

In our search to learn all the living things on the preserve, we invite many experts that can identify the critters that most people don’t take time to look at.  This fall, Dan Dourson and his wife Judy graced this preserve with their enthusiasm about all things natural, and in particular, came to teach about land mollusks.  Now, we already had a nice collection of land snails from the preserve.  67 species of land snail have been identified on the preserve before the Dourson’s arrival. But after the class a couple species were added and a couple were eliminated from our list.  And they helped clear up some confusing species.  For example, we commonly find a  snail called the upland pillsnail, Euchemotrema fraternum,  but I had no idea there was also a lowland pillsnail, Euchemotrema leai.  Well there is a lot of them around, and there is a very subtle difference between the two.  Apparently I have been collecting lowland pillsnails for years and never knew the difference, which is a small hole under the “lip” of the snail at the umbilicus.  If this sounds confusing or foreign, see picture below or use Dan’s books clear all this up.
Notice the hole in the center of the snail under the lip of the lowland pillsnail on the left.  No hole on the upland pillsnail on the right.
 
But land snails aren’t the only land mollusk to be found.  We have been overlooking slugs, which can be found about anywhere on the preserve,  for as long as we have been identifying everything else.  So now, with the Dourson’s help, slugs shall not be overlooked from here on in.


One reason slugs are overlooked is because of the lack of resources available for identification.  And with what is available, slugs still are not an easy subject.  But lucky for us, Dan has written a few books that can be helpful to Ohio naturalists.  Kentucky’s Land Snails and Their Ecological Communities, Land Snails of West Virginia and Land Snails of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Southern Appalachians.  These books have most if not all of the snails and slugs that can be found in Ohio, especially southern Ohio.





So I wanted to try to use Dan’s Kentucky book to identify slugs that I come across.  That’s when this little creature appeared, on lettuce brought from the preserve Director’s garden.  Luckily, before   accidentally eating it, it made its way into the lab for further study.  From Dan’s book I learned that if a slug has a “saddle” on its back, it’s probably a non-native slug from Europe.  Apparently, most of the slugs we come across, especially in yards and gardens are exotic species.  This little slug had a saddle, but I found that there is one species of native slug possessing a saddle.  Unfortunately, it is virtually identical to a non-native relative.  Only dissection can determine the correct identification.  But since this slug was in a garden, near a dwelling with many exotic plants and soil brought in for gardening, it is most likely the non-native Deroceras panormitanum, the longneck field slug.  Under a dissecting scope with good light you could really see the markings and patterns of this creature.  With this view, the patterns matched up with the Deroceras species, and the size of the animal along with the position of the saddle helped separate it from other genera.


Deroceras panormitanum, the longneck fieldslug.  Notice the "saddle" on its back.

  I wanted to photograph this 22mm slug to send pictures to Dan.  I set up a piece of lichen covered bark to stage the slug about 2 feet off a table.  Watching this animal move is interesting to say the least.  The slime trail it leaves can actually be used to identify slugs, but mostly the color of its defense slime is used.  They use the slime for locomotion, defense and for antibacterial properties.  I assumed the slug would be stuck on this piece of bark for a while, seeing how slugs do not move too quickly, and it was high off the table.  But by the time I got the camera set up the slug was gone and on the table.   I was amazed to see how this slug made its getaway.  It did not crawl off the bark at all.....but it slime rappelled.  I had no idea a slug would use its slime to lower itself, like a spider on a web, to escape an uncomfortable situation. 

I put the slug on the bark a few more times, and every time I did, it tried escaping the same way.  Why waste time crawling when you can rappel to get away.  I’d never have guessed that picking up this one slug would be so educational. I guess that it produces the slime while it’s hanging in mid-air and slowly can lower itself to the bottom.  And if they can hang there for periods of time, I would imagine this could be a great retreat from predators.


Longneck fieldslug making its escape.


Slowly rappelling away.

Head first seems a bit dangerous, but that's a slug for you.

Arrived at the bottom, unfortunately for the slug it's a large table and could be re-captured.

Adding a few new species of land snail to our collection was what I was hoping for with the Dourson’s visit.  But now after collecting many different organisms over the years, I am most excited about having our first slug species added to the collection.  After all, they are everywhere.  I rarely lift a log in the woods without seeing a slug, why not know what species I am seeing.  A small start, but we now can say we definitely have at least these 4 species of slug:  Deroceras panormitanum  the longneck fieldslug, Arion subfuscus the dusky Arion, Megapallifera mutabilis the changeable mantleslug and Philomycus carolinianus the Carolina mantleslug.

If you would like to learn interesting facts about slugs like their practice of stabbing love darts into their partners while mating, their abilities to eat highly toxic mushrooms to beef up their defense mucous, slugs anti-bacterial properties that help humans or most importantly how to identify them and their snail cousins, check out Dan’s books mentioned and pictured above.   These books are not sold in stores or yet on a website.  To buy one you must reach out to him personally at theroguebiologist@gmail.com. 

Posted by: Mark Zloba

Monday, December 7, 2015

Buzzardroost Rock Trail Addition Now Open

In the summer of 2014 the Buzzardroost Rock Trail was re-routed with a new trailhead and extended length leading hikers through different forest types and terrain than the trail before.  It, along with our other trails, was decorated with new signage and given a lot more attention than its predecessor.  Although the trail has been open for over a year, it was missing a proposed loop and other short areas of re-routing needed for a better hiking experience. 

Fork in the trail at Buzzardroost Loop
                                         
We are excited to say that the trail additions, loops and improvements have been made and the completed trail is now opened to the public. 
Yellow line is the new "loop" portion of Buzzardroost Rock Trail which is marked in red

The completion of this trail would not have happened so fast if it weren’t for the many volunteers that came out to lend a hand.  In particular, a big thanks has to go out to Keith Zook and his Edge Trailblazers.  This is a small group of dedicated trail experts that have been instrumental in making this trail and others what they are today.  In addition, Keith has organized numerous volunteer days with Proctor & Gamble staff.  With the help of these gracious folks (too many to name), we cut trail into 1 mile of hillside, constructed numerous bridges and carried logs that were WAY too big for humans to carry….uphill….through brambles of thorn…..over long distances.  And yet, to our surprise, the volunteers keep coming back.  We really can’t thank all of them enough.

Volunteers rake in a new portion of the Buzzardroost Rock Trail


If you find yourself looking for an incredible hiking trail with one of Ohio’s nicest views, then you might want to try the Buzzardroost Rock Trail on the Edge of Appalachia Preserve.  For more information about finding this 4.4 mile (roundtrip) trail, visit http://www.cincymuseum.org/nature or search the visitor information at the top of this page.

Posted by: Mark Zloba