The field trip for June 25, 2023, was focused on learning about the many preservation efforts that occur on Frautschi Point and the Lakeshore Nature Preserve overall. Myself, new board member Ingrid Jordon-Thaden, Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator, Bryn Scriver, and Field Projects Coordinator, Adam Gunlach, as well as long-time volunteer and birder Laura Berger, answered a myriad of questions from two short-term visitors to west campus from foreign countries. They were both neurosurgeons visiting our medical campus for a short period of time. They had found our tour information from the kiosk at the parking lot and wanted to learn more about the ecological restoration going on in the area. Given their general interest in anything biologically related, the conversations about what we were observing ranged far and wide. As Adam and Bryn showed them the importance of the oak and prairie communities and what we are doing to preserve these habitats, we talked about invasive species, diseases, and the general balance of ecosystems. For example, here is a picture of a spongy moth caterpillar (formally called the gypsy moth) climbing in a wound on an ash from the Emerald Ash Borer.
While observing the plants around us I noticed some natural aphid parasitism from wasps (pictured below) and talked about the process of mummification of the aphids and how they look like little brown pearls. Laura pointed out various bird songs along the way and we were graced with the presence of a brood of baby turkeys as we walked along the edge of the prairie.
Adam noticed that despite the extreme drought we have been experiencing, the prairie wildflowers were doing fantastic this year. Bryn and Adam talked about notable prairie plants, and we turned the discussion to fire ecology. I then talked a bit about native vs. introduced grasses in a prairie and how prescribed burning in the spring not only encouraged all prairie plants over woody trees and shrubs but encouraged room for native grasses to flourish late in the summer and fall. We had excellent weather with large billowy clouds overhead and a nice breeze that allowed for the conversations to go long and natural without fainting or running from the rain.
Report and pictures by Ingrid Jordon-Thaden