Mallory Johnson

Field Observations

October 7, 2022

Southern 8ths Internship Fall 2022
Weekly Journals
Sunny & warm

Today, we didn’t really do as many observations as we normally would. We focused mainly on the different types of technology that we can use for our research. When we first got out there, we were introduced to a group from Winthrop who were testing oxygen and pH levels in several ponds as well as blue and green algae in those ponds. Brianna let us fly her drone to see how it works in the prairies, which was really cool. After taking a few aerial photos, we went to Brianna’s office where we viewed the photos we took, some photos that she had already taken and also looked at the different apps on her computer that she uses for her work.

Friday October 14, 2022

Sunny 72 F

We started today off by walking down to Thompson Creek to see how far the water rose after hurricane Ian. The leaf packs in the tree branches along the shore of the creek indicated that the water rose quite a bit. After, we headed over to Firework Prairie where we used 1×1 meter quadrats to identify the different plant species in this area. I chose to place my quadrat on the edge of Firework pond and spent 45 minutes studying my area. Before diving in, I took a minute to look at my surroundings and I found what seemed to be deer, as well as bird tracks. I was able to identify three different plant species.

One was Barnyard Grass (Echinochloa crus-galli). Echinochloa crus-galli is a type of wild grass originating from tropical Asia that was formerly classified as a type of panicum grass. It is commonly known as cockspur (or cockspur grass), barnyard millet, Japanese millet, water grass, common barnyard grass, or simply “barnyard grass”. An interesting fact I learned when researching this species was that this plant can grow to 60″ (1.5 m) in height! Another plant species I came across was Flat sedges (Genus Cyperus). Cyperus is a large genus of about 700 species of sedges, distributed throughout all continents in both tropical and temperate regions. Lastly, I was able to identify Yellowseed False Pimpernel.

While looking at the plant species, I was able to come across different insects and invertebrates. I saw what looked to be a honeybee going near the edge of the water, a tiny snail resting in the damp soil under the vegetation and a black cricket not far from the snail. There were also some small arachnids and grasshoppers within the plants as well. I took a closer look at the soil the plants were growing in and noticed small holes in the soil, almost like something dug tiny holes everywhere. It made me wonder what smaller vertebrates or invertebrates live within the soil that we don’t see.

September 30, 2022

Southern 8ths Internship Fall 2022
Weekly Journals
Heavy rain and wind 59˚F
Identification App: iNaturalist

We were unable to go out into the field today due to the bad weather, but instead were given the assignment to research some of the previous species we encountered on our last trip and relate them to the topic we are wanting to research. My research topic leans more towards mammals and after noticing the abundance of evidence of beavers in the area, I would like to start focusing more on them. After researching some basic background information on beavers I learned that beavers are large members of the rodent family. The only other rodent larger than the beaver is the capybara. They are semi-aquatic, which means that they spend much of their time in the water. The most easily recognizable characteristic of the beaver is their large, flat, scaly tail. Beavers are one of the few animals that modify their habitat; they build watertight dams of sticks woven with reeds, branches and saplings, which are caulked with mud.

Beavers are herbivores, eating leaves, woody stems and aquatic plants, particularly cattails and water lilies. Despite popular myth, beavers do not eat fish! Most of the beaver’s diet is made up of tree bark and cambium (the soft tissue that grows under the bark of a tree). They especially like the bark of willow, maple, birch, aspen, cottonwood, beech, poplar, and alder trees. The beaver has a specialized digestive system that helps it digest the tree bark. Beavers also eat other vegetation like roots and buds and other water plants. They display nocturnal tendencies, which means they are likely to be found foraging at night. It is also worth noting that these busybodies spend a considerable portion of their day eating and building different structures, including dams. Dams reduce stream erosion by forming slow-moving ponds. These ponds serve as habitat for a wide range of small aquatic life and also provide water and food for much larger animals. By building dams, beavers create new habitats that can support an incredibly diverse biological community.

After doing some research, I think looking at the different tree species and vegetation around areas where they are most active would be beneficial to my research topic. I could focus on seeing if the current tree species and population will continue to be beneficial to the beaver population and also look to see if there is an adequate amount of preferred vegetation in these areas. Some further research I could do is possibly look at ways to help fix the one spot at Otter pond David mentioned where the beavers keep trying to build a dam, but they keep having to tear down.

Mammal surveys are conducted by a variety of methods. Tracks, sign, and scat can be identified and recorded along transects or meander searches. Winter tracking surveys take advantage of a good tracking substrate. When a suitable tracking substrate is absent, sooted plates or track boxes can be used. Motion sensitive cameras can be used to record mammal presence. Methods applied to terrestrial plant surveys are chosen and designed to address specific goals of the survey or to answer explicit research questions. Various techniques such as transects, plots, quadrats, and meander surveys can be employed.