On Saturday, November 4, 2023, the Friends of Lakeshore Nature Preserve hosted a tour of the Ho-Chunk Effigy Mounds that are still visible and discussion of those that were destroyed on campus. We met at the Washburn Observatory and the weather was perfect, crisp, and clean with a blue sky and bright sun.
Our tour had approximately 45 participants and was guided by Amy Rosebrough, a State Archeologist with the Wisconsin Historical Society. Dr. Rosebrough is the leading expert on Wisconsin Effigy Mounds and their cultural significance to the Ho-Chunk and other tribes of the state of Wisconsin. Having studied effigy mounds of Wisconsin for her PhD here at UW Madison in the Department of Anthropology, she has amassed a lifetime of knowledge that she gladly shares.
She is author of two books on Effigy Mounds of Wisconsin. Her first is a 2003 book, “Water panthers, bears, and thunderbirds: Exploring Wisconsin’s Effigy Mounds”, which is for young readers with suggested activities to encourage students to engage with the effigy mounds of Wisconsin in every county. Her second, is co-authored with retired effigy mound expert, Robert Birmingham in 2017, “Indian Mounds of Wisconsin”. For those of you who missed the tour, I found this great video of her explaining much of what we learned from her. This video is almost a decade old, but the information is just as valid (https://www.c-span.org/video/?322375-1/native-american-effigy-mounds.) She also gave a Wednesday Nite at the Lab in 2018 (https://youtu.be/JDn_frvo_i0?si=QFl-F6_yrTkEgqdy).
Dr. Rosebrough told many stories of discovery and archeological logistics, including the wonders of LiDAR, and the recent findings of the 1,000 and 3,000 year old canoes that were pulled from Lake Mendota. She shared with us the significance of the four lakes region to the Ho-Chunk, the glacial drumlins that were perfect for effigy mound positions overlooking the water, and some of the history of Ho-Chunk village life right here on UW Madison campus. She passed around a hand-held replica of one of the canoes, along with many other photos, maps, and timetables, as she talked to us with an amplifier.
The highlight of the tour was a visit to the newly installed bird-shaped effigy sculpture “Effigy: Bird Form” made in 1997 by Professor Emeritus Truman Lowe, memorializing the loss Indigenous burial mounds on campus but still celebrates Indigenous traditions. You can read more about the history of this particular sculpture and how it came to be installed on campus this year: https://facilities.fpm.wisc.edu/truman-lowe-sculpture-event-on-sept-15/.
After stopping by a partially intact eagle-shaped mound near the greenhouses of Soil Sciences, we continued down the hill towards the west of campus to large partially intact crane effigy mound that sits between the new student Bakke Recreation & Wellbeing Center and Lake Mendota and the trail.
There she explained to us the difficulty in how to preserve, yet respect, the effigy mounds. What kinds of signage is appropriate? How to take out the current historical marker? What kinds of landscape management does it require? Prairie or turfgrass? How do we let people passing by know what exists there while also respecting its purpose of a burial mound to blend into the natural world and only show itself in the spring after a prairie burn?
Our guests were full of questions, concerns, and generally deeply grateful for the chance to learn so much about the effigy mounds right here on campus from such an expert. After what seemed only like 30 minutes, our two-hour tour came to an end at the new Ho-Chunk clan circle (https://news.wisc.edu/ho-chunk-clan-circle-dedicated/), which has a statue for each of the Ho-Chunk clans and sits between the new recreation center and Lake Mendota.
There she thanked us for our attention, but more importantly thanked the Ho-Chunk for sharing their knowledge with us. She reminded us all about how important it is for us to go forward working together with the Ho-Chunk nation here on UW Madison campus as it is literally their sacred burial grounds that we have our offices, classrooms, labs, and fitness centers.
Report and photos by Ingrid Jordon-Thaden.
On Sunday September 24, 2023 from 1:30 to 3:00, 53 folks on the Fall Fungi Fieldtrip led by Marie Trest of the UW Department of Botany, and starting at Picnic Point Stone Gate.
We gathered at 1:30 at the kiosk; the weather was sunny and 76. I collected a list of names. The participants included several families with young children, clusters of UW students, and retirees.
Marie noted that the drought over the past couple of months meant that the variety and number of mushrooms on the forest floor might be low relative to a normal year. She explained that collecting in the Preserve is not allowed unless one has a permit, which she has. Her approach was to allow participants to search for mushrooms for 10-15 minutes, and then we would gather together and she would talk us through the samples the group had found. We did this at two different places, both within 100 yards of each other, both along the roadway leading into the Preserve from the Stone Gate. With 50-some people that meant we had 100 eyes and 500 fingers looking and probing for fungi on or in the soil, on fallen logs, and on branches & leaves in the trees & shrubs. This approach yielded an array of examples.
These included fleshy fungi (in both ascomycota and basidiomycota) and woody ‘shelf fungi’. The size or distribution of mushrooms is not a reliable indicator of how extensive the fungus mycelium spreads in the soil. By one reckoning, an Armillaria fungus growing in forest soil in Oregon is the single largest organism found so far on Earth.
One way to help identify fungi is to take a spore print, but this technique requires several hours and is usually done in the lab more than in the field.
Some participants found slime molds growing on dead wood; biologists consider the slime molds to be protists rather than fungi.
In the woods, some fungi are saprophytes—they breakdown and rot dead wood and leaves in the forest or grasslands. Other fungi can be pathogens that attack the leaves, stems or roots of living plants. Significant examples of fungal diseases that have transformed our landscape include the Chestnut Blight, the Dutch Elm Disease (both are introduced pathogens) as well as Oak Wilt. Other pathogens cause mostly just leaf lesions without much harm, such as the Tar Spot fungus of maple.
If we were collecting at night, we would likely see that some fungi are bioluminescent – the phosphorescent ones can give off light called foxfire—and others are fluorescent – if you shine UV light on these, they reflect a glow at a wavelength different from the UV light you shine on them.
In addition to the fungi that make fruiting bodies we call mushrooms, other fungi can produce spores (including asexual spores) directly from the hyphae or ‘threads’ of the mycelium. Mycologists can collect airborne spores using air-sampling traps (see timepoint 6:15 of this video) followed by identifying the spores using microscopes or even by molecular techniques.
Furthermore, the mushrooms include yeasts, and while yeasts don’t make hyphal threads or mushroomy fruiting bodies, on occasion you can see yeast growing extensively on the cross-section wood of freshly-cut stems or trunks of pruned branches or stumps; the yeast feast on sugars that exude from the phloem of the stubs of the lopped-off branches.
Finally, one participant found what at first appeared to be long white mushroom, but proved to be the flower & curved stalk of Indian pipe, which is a parasitic, colorless plant.
Report and photos by Tom Zinnen.
The Geologic History of the Preserve and Madison Lakes field trip took place on 11/5/2023. The trip was led by Phil Fauble of the Wisconsin DNR. There were 19 attendees. The trip included observation and discussion of geological features at Raymer's Cove and Eagle Heights Woods.
Report and photos by Steve Sellwood