Journal archives for June 2016

June 07, 2016

Connecticut State BioBlitz 2016, mollusks

The CT State BioBlitz happened on Friday June 3 and Saturday June 4 in East Hartford, which is inland, and not on the coast, therefore (in theory at least) no seashells.

I was there trying to find mollusks. I was there with Jason Michael Crockwell -- berkshirenaturalist. iNaturalist founder Ken-ichi was also there, plus a whole bunch of other terrific iNaturalist folks. We all did sterling work.

This BioBlitz went extremely well. The team of 180 scientists broke the previous world record by a couple of hundred species, with a total that was not far off three thousand, and that is not counting the bacteria, which will add another 145 thousand!

The freshwater mollusks were pretty great, and thanks to Jason's exceptionally sharp eye, we found quite a lot of species. We got unexpected help from Laura Saucier of the State Government, who not only ID-ed all the beat-up river mussel shells we collected, but she was also able to find three more species, two of them State-Listed. So, all together our freshwater total was about 15.

We found a State-listed Pleurocerid water snail, which was an very elegant novel taxon for myself and Jason.

On land we searched for slugs and land snails, but did not do as well as we could have done, because of the prevailing seasonal dryness. We found about 10 land species though.

Here are the icons for some of the mollusk species that we found:

We found it virtually impossible to identify the species in the Amber Snail family Succineidae, and tiny newborn slugs were also too difficult for us.

I did find a valve of one big old marine species right next to the river, but I have to assume a human brought it there, possibly as stuffed clams for lunch?

Working flat out for 24 hours was tiring, even though I did not stay up and search all night like many people did, but in the end this BioBlitz was extremely interesting and highly rewarding.

Posted on June 07, 2016 12:53 AM by susanhewitt susanhewitt | 3 observations | 7 comments | Leave a comment

June 21, 2016

What makes iNaturalist special?

I already love iNaturalist, but I am only just starting to see what it can do for you.

While I was away in the West Indies for a month in May, a contributor here asked me to photograph coastal plants for him, and so I did -- it was fun for me. There was quite a lot of rain for two of the weeks I was there, so a lot of bushes and trees flowered and some annuals grew up out of nowhere rapidly, and blossomed.

The contributor was able to identify almost everything I photographed, even though my images were not very good. I learned a lot about tropical plants from this, and it re-awakened a dormant part of my natural history interests.

Since I have been back home in the Northeastern US, I have been paying much more attention to the wild plants around me, even though in NYC I mostly see what a gardener would call "weeds", rather than gorgeous native wildflower species.

And... after I posted a lot of not very good photographs of these NYC plants, now a lot of them have been identified by other contributors. And, I have been able to ID a few myself, thanks to images that were already on here.

So I am happy to say, I am becoming a bit more of a naturalist, and a better naturalist, thanks to iNaturalist and the help I have received from its wonderful contributors!

Posted on June 21, 2016 11:45 PM by susanhewitt susanhewitt | 6 observations | 4 comments | Leave a comment

June 26, 2016

A salt-loving plant on the roadside

This may be "old hat" to field botanists, but I was amazed to discover that a pretty halophile (salt-loving) plant species can flourish in a man-made microhabitat.

A week ago I found a small but cute plant with five-petalled pink-tipped flowers growing happily right next to the curb in an untended roadside verge. This was in the Bronx, very near the Bronx Zoo.

This spot is many miles from the ocean. However, it is on a curve that is dangerous in snow or ice conditions, which we get every winter here in NYC. Whenever there is snow and ice, the city sprays the blacktop with a salt and grit mixture, which improves the grip of tires on the road, and helps prevent skidding.

It also means that the very edge of the roadside on a curve gets liberally splattered with a wet salt and sand mixture, on and off for a few months each year.

Of course salt will kill most plants, but in the case of a rugged little species of Sand Spurrey, it appears that the road maintenance workers are accidentally creating a perfect little micro-beach.

Sand Spurreys are flowering plants in the same family as Pinks and Carnations -- they are tiny but pretty, and until humans started spraying roads with salt, these plants basically lived only by the sea, or in any other naturally-occurring salt-rich areas.

I would love to know how the seeds are spread in these man-made conditions -- do they get stuck in the grooves of tires and then fall out again? How does this plant spread from one roadside to another, miles apart?

Posted on June 26, 2016 01:59 PM by susanhewitt susanhewitt | 1 observation | 9 comments | Leave a comment