Friday, March 4, 2011

An interesting isopod

Well...interesting in that it's a pretty recent addition to the cave fauna that is found in the subterranean habitats of Oklahoma's Ozarks. Its official name is Caecidotea mackini, but perhaps a name that rolls off the tongue easier would be its common name, Mackin's Cave Isopod. The species was named in honor of J.G. Mackin, an Oklahoma professor who worked on these organisms back in the 1930s and 1940s. Last week I spent 4 days inventorying caves in Oklahoma with US Fish and Wildlife Service scientists and a colleague/friend/cave biologist from the Atlanta Botanical Garden. During the week, we attempted to visit the only known population of Mackin's Cave Isopod, which is on land owned by The Nature Conservancy. This cave (which I'm not going to name) is particularly interesting as it is home to this isopod, an Oklahoma endemic cave crayfish, and a population of Ozark cavefish. Unfortunately due to the 2 ft of snow several weeks back and several more recent rains, we were unable to go deep into the cave because the water was too high. But, we were able to find a few individuals of the isopod to photograph. It's likely that this species will be found in other caves in the area, but as of now its only known home is this single cave. That knowledge adds additional justification to why The Nature Conservancy is helping protect this piece of the subterranean Ozarks.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

You'd think...

You'd think that following a significant injury such as an ankle break requiring a plate and screws, that I would have had plenty of time to blog while recovering. Well...I did have the time, but not much inclination. It's funny that now that it is turing to spring, and I'm back to close to 100% and itching to get outside, that I'm ready to drop my thoughts here.

Is that irony, perhaps? This picture is from last September, taken while down in Shreveport, LA. This past fall and winter was dedicated to healing and getting back to doing things outside. It was a long process.

But, it's time to play and time to muse.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Cave Harvestman

I've been looking for the original site where the cave harvestman, Crosbyella distincta, was discovered. Back in the 1930's, a couple of guys visited a cave and collected a small (about the size of a US quarter) orange colored harvestman (or daddy-long-legs). These specimens, when looked at by a specialist, turned about to be a new species, and it was officially recognized as such in 1942. Unfortunately, it is unclear in the species description what cave the guys visited, so we've been unable to revisit the site. However, in the late 1980s, some cavers working in the Buffalo National River collected what might be this same species from Fitton Cave, Arkansas' longest cave. More recently, I've seen specimens from Fitton Cave, and two other caves in the area. These latest specimens I've sent to the current expert, and hopefully I'll have a answer soon. Below, is a picture of what is probably C. distincta from one of the caves I've been visiting.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Micky VeraBlasco and Tom Panian Wedding Photos

This past weekend, we went to see our caving friends get married in a cave in Shannon County, Missouri. Click HERE to see the rest of the photos.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Three days along the Buffalo River

Christy and I spent 3 days playing along the Buffalo National River this past week. It was a much needed trip to the woods. Originally, we had planned to canoe for several days on the river, but heavy rains just before our trip put the water levels up too high for us. We did see a lot of folks putting on the river to enjoy a little white water fun. Instead of canoeing, we based camped at The Nature Conservancy's Smith Creek Preserve and day hiked around several places in Buffalo National River Ponca Wilderness Area. Wildflowers were blooming everywhere!

We saw: Wild Ginger, Bloodroot, Wake Robin, Rue Anemone, False Rue Anemone, Spice Bush, Redbud, Flowering Dogwood, White Trout Lily, Yellow Trout Lily, Bellwort, Toothwort, Spring Beauty, Rose Verbena, Hoary Puccoon, Wild Sweet William, Cleft Phlox, Purple Violets, White Violets, Yellow Violets, Violet Wood Sorrel, Pussytoes, Pale Corydalis, Harbinger of Spring, and Dutchman's Breeches.

Up, but not blooming yet, were: Solomon's Seal, False Solomon's Seal, Comfry, Jack in the Pulpit, and May Apple.

Some of our migratory songbirds are returning, too. We heard Louisiana Water Thrush and Black and White Warblers.

Here a some pictures of the trip.

Day 1

Driving through Boxley Valley, you often get to see part of the elk herd. Here, most of the herd were concentrated around a tree.

Water level at Ponca low water bridge. Good floating along this stretch is gaged by the amount of air space under this bridge. Anywhere from 2 feet of air space to 0 feet of air space is considered good floating, with 0 ft air space being really sporting. Less than 24 hours early, the water was about 2 ft ABOVE the bridge.

Wildflowers were blooming everywhere, and I was really hoping to see Dutchman's breeches. This is the perfect time to see them, and they were blooming in many places we hiked. These were photographed along the road down to Camp Orr.

Wake Robin (or Sessile Trillium) and Spring Beauties were also blanketing the forest floor everywhere. The trillium is the larger, purple colored flower, and the spring beauties are the smaller pinkish flowers. There were also photographed along the road to Camp Orr.

Our first hike was up to look at a cave entrance, and here is Christy standing next to the entrance. With so much rain, you could really hear the water roaring down in the cave.

Just an interesting picture of a small fern.

Another neat picture of some moss along the trail.

Our second hike was up Shop Creek. Along the creek, we saw our first Bellwort flowering.

The view up Shop Creek.

Shop Creek with Christy on a boulder for scale.

Shop Creek drops over a sandstone ledge that makes a beautiful waterfall. In normal flow, there are only two falls. But, after a good rain, all three were going.

Another view of the falls.

We had some time before dark the first night to walk along Smith Creek before we set up camp.

Yellow Trout Lilies were blooming along Smith Creek and in many other places we hiked.

Day 2

The second day, we decided to hike up Indian Creek to see if the waterfall at the box canyon was flowing and to see if water was flowing out of Tunnel Cave. About half the hike up Indian Creek is on a trail, but then the hike gets much more interesting with lots of boulder hopping and scrambling!

Along the creek, we saw False Rue Anemone in bloom.

Another view of Indian Creek looking upstream.

Indian Creek looking downstream of a small waterfall.

Self portrait of the two of us at a small waterfall.

We picked the perfect day to hike up Indian Creek. The creek and the woods seemed particularly vivid and alive that day.

Here we are a Tunnel Cave, and sure enough water was flowing out of the cave. I've never seen water coming out of the cave, so this was a real treat.

Day 3

On day 3, we decided to hike the Bench Trail and then bushwack down Fish Trap Hollow to see an ~80 ft waterfall. Unfortunately, our directions to the falls were a little vague, and we never made it. But, we did stumble upon one of our favorite wildflowers, Hoary Puccoon, blooming in a small limestone glade during our bushwack. Finding this wildflower was especially exciting for Christy, because it's been years since she's seen it.

On the same glade, we also found Rose Verbena in bloom. It was disappointing not making it down to see the falls, but finding these two wildflowers in bloom on a tiny limestone glade in the middle of the woods definitely makes up for it.