I spent last week in a forest along the Hudson River visiting an old university buddy, Jeff. He'd just taken a new position as Education Director for a forest consortium and asked if I'd fly out and help brainstorm with him. This consortium contains some heavy hitters in terms of resources including the American Musuem of Natural History, Columbia University, and NYC public and private schools. They hired the right guy in Jeff, as I couldn’t think of someone better able to tap a natural landscape, science, and the awe and wonder every kid and adult holds, whether they know it at first or not. I'm very excited to see what comes. As for me, I proposed various ideas including a watershed ecology program, and as an off-shoot, a fly-fishing camp.
While there, we wandered the forest for untold hours day and night, caught critters, taught on-site aquatic ecology, food chain relationships, and natural history to groups of middle and high school kids, and met teachers, development people, and consortium members. The main modern buildings are active and passive solar, as well as harness geothermal resources; It sells energy, rather than purchases it. The geothermal tap also allows the Forest Manager to raise brook trout on-site. I’m picturing a giant stream tank. :)
Here are a few images I whacked while there. I say "whacked" bc I only brought a point-n-shoot, which has its limitations.
There are several small, mostly warmwater, lakes and reservoirs on the property, although the deepest ones stratify and hold trout. They were mostly boggy, and acidic, with slow growth rates as evidenced by the bass and sunfish I could see. I was told there are some “bigger” bass in a couple of the lakes. The streams are small and hold various dace and minnows, as well as some brook trout.
Originally owned by Harvard, the place has been a forestry research site as well as a water supply for many years. It has buildings on it that date back to 1834.
The forest is very much alive and kicking:
Jeff teaching about energy flow (the food chain) using a large orbweaver spider that also offered a super-high “shriek factor” as it could be lured to pounce out from its hide with the light touch of a grass leaf. The girls shrieked and leapt backwards with the synchrony of a flock of starlings! By the end they wanted to touch her.
This hapless creature is a Southern Bog Lemming, and someone’s mid-night snack; Just who is hard to say, as many creatures will target the brains of their prey. A weasel is a prime suspect.
Can you see what's hiding in here? Look for the eye. Don't put your hand in there!
It was denning time, and we visited a couple hibernacula on prime sunny afternoons.
One den site was located a bit close for comfort, and potential liability, so we had to move some snakes. These were part of a mark-recapture study too.
This one was a real bruiser. I wonder how many chipmunks it could liquify and gulp in a summer?
We watched our steps with intensity. That rattle sounds like a hive of wasps and stays in your mind for a long time. We tallied 16 rattlers one afternoon.
We stayed in this building, built in 1834, sans water, heat, or lights. The first night we forgot a flashlight and had to feel around for the matches and candles we knew had to be there.