Floodplain forest

This weeks class covered wetlands, aquatic invertebrates and invasive species. I had no idea that there were 10 different kinds of wetlands, or that before we turned the Midwest into an agricultural haven, 1/3 of Illinois was wetland. Back in the day, the government owned most of the wetlands in my state and considered it a wasteland. The only way they could sell the burdensome plots was to drain it and Illinois lost 90% of its wetlands.

We then learned all about the variety of invertebrates that live here – from the surface hangers to the bottom dwellers. What was most fun was going outside and collecting samples from the pond.

We observed many of the creatures we’d just learned about inside in our trays. It was a whole other world in there and I want to carry a tray around with me everywhere! I just don’t look at things closely enough, and miss so much that is wonderful out there.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UnEidlUWozQ?rel=0&w=600&h=338]

We then brought our samples inside and looked at them under the microscope. Whoa! It was seriously crazy fun – I implore you to watch the video because there is just no way to grasp how cool it is without seeing it.

Mike took us back outside and talked about the fight over invasive species. Fact is that biodiversity is critically important, and invasives will take over, ultimately eliminating other native plants. Our world is full of so many living things, and allowing invasive species to take hold means that we will lose far more than we already have.

This week’s class was held at the Middle Fork Forest Preserve, so after things wrapped up we hit the trail and explored the area.

The path we followed was called the Oak Burl Trail, named after the deformities found in these trees. The burls are highly prized by woodworkers because of the patterns it creates in the grain. I think they look pretty impressive from the outside as well!

As usual, we found some terrific fungus on the way! I need to start cataloging and learning what these all are.

We also stumbled on this ginormous spider, who was spinning a web all the way across the wide walking path. He was so cool and we had a great time getting up close and personal.