Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The art of the Naturalist

By Alberto F. Mimo

Jimsonweed at a Rhode Island Beach

Datura stramonium is a rather large annual herb that was flowering at Roger Wheeler State Beach. This beautiful and toxic plant contains Totropane Alkaloids that can cause hallucinations and death. I took these pictures for your enjoyment.

Some important points to remember

  • You do not have to walk around the world and know what everything is!

  • Walk with a sense of discover!

  • Feel just like if you were Humboldt or maybe Darwin!

  • Choose one plant

  • Is a tree, or maybe a shrub, or forbs?

  • f it is forbs, is it a flowering plant, a grass or maybe a fern, or one of the non- vascular plants like a moss?

  • Work your way with the right ID book and find what it is?

  • Start to fill in your data sheet and ask all the questions. Spend time with each question! This is not a race to see who can ID the most plants. This is an experience, the experience of the scientist, the naturalist!

  • Is your plant found only here? Do I find it everywhere?

  • Is your plant rare?

  • To what family does it belongs?

  • Draw a sketch, Take a picture, and Test the pH of the soils!

  • Oh soils! How much is there to learn about them and how little attention we pay to them! Using the web you can learn lots about the particular soils where you found your plant. Use the tools you have around you, we are not anymore in the Stone Age! Tools are the web, microscopes, GPS units, Maps of all kinds, Books and more books

  • Can you write something about this plant? If you can’t use books and the web to get information

  • A plant is not just a plant, it lives with a community, is found within a particular season, it inhabits a special place! Take a look at the whole subject, not just the plant! Habitat, habitat, habitat! Nitch, nitch, nitch!

  • Take measurements, calculate percent cover, dominance. Use plant-measuring techniques!

  • Spend time with your plant; take a good look at it. Look at its leaves, the flowers, the fruit, and the roots! Every one of these parts evolved with a particular idea in mind. Why is your plant the way it is? How does it relates to its nitch?

  • Are there any friends with your plant? It is being eaten by some insect. Interspecific relationships between different organisms are some of the important things to note, don’t miss the opportunity!

  • Take a sample, press it carefully, once it’s dry, mount it with care, make a label. Go back to your notes and sketches and work with them to fine tune your work!

  • Add your collection to you database; have you have collected it before? If so, where? Compare the two collections.

  • Each plant belongs to a family; each family has its own story. Learn about all that!

  • Take your time and learn the ways of a good naturalist!

    Notes from RI

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Connecticut World of Crayfish

By Alberto F. Mimo
This spring and summer I will be completing an inventory of Crayfish living in ponds and lakes in Connecticut, so during the last few weeks I have been setting up traps at a number of lakes in the northwest.
In the past I have been able to identify three separate genus: Procambarus, Cambarus and Orconectes . The State of Connecticut Fisheries has also come to the same conclusion. I have accounted for a total of 11 species. Most of our work has been concentrated in rivers and streams. Lakes and Ponds have not been thoroughly researched. Last week I read a paper published on the North Eastern Naturalist regarding the infestation of small ectosymbiont annelid known as a Branchiobdellida (Stuart R. Gelder, Lana Mcrry, and Evan Gwillian, North Eastern Naturalist, V 16, 2009, 45-52). As it happen two of the Crayfish collected from Bantam River were heavily infected with this annelid. Two species for the price of one! It appears that such an infestation has not been recorded in New England until now and it will be something to look after with all the climate changes we are experiencing.