Natural Wonders of the Ausable-Bayfield Watershed, with a Little Bit of Outreach

Welcome to another rendition of my blog where you will hear incredible stories about our adventures in the Canadian wilderness.

On June 29, a few of us from BIO teamed up with Pinery Provincial Park and the surrounding Ausable-Bayfield Conservation Authority (ABCA) to collect, sort and maintain samples of aquatic and soil invertebrates to help construct the DNA barcode library. This will allow us to someday assess the biotic integrity of the Ausable-Bayfield Watershed by sequencing the environmental DNA in a water or soil sample.

Me sampling soil invertebrates in the Ausable-Bayfield Watershed
Me sampling soil invertebrates using a mustard extraction method in the Ausable-Bayfield Watershed

One of the highlights of last week was organizing and leading a fantastic outreach event at Pinery Provincial Park on Canada Day for a large group of enthusiastic children, inquisitive middle-aged adults, and a few retirees who were very interested in our work, especially for their grandchildren. In particular, people seemed to be very excited to learn about our field research vehicle, or better known as the BIObus, our home away from home. In my opinion, I think they were very ecstatic about our insect displays; from the stunning polyphemus moth (Antheraea polyphemus), a giant silk moth in the family Saturniidae, to the daunting tarantula hawk, a spider wasp in the family Pompilidae which parasitize tarantulas.

Outreach at Pinery Provincial Park on Canada Day
Outreach at Pinery Provincial Park on Canada Day

A couple of days prior, I caught a Dolomedes spider while sampling the Old Ausable Channel. Also known as fishing spiders, raft spiders, dock spiders, or wharf spiders, these large semi-aquatic spiders hunt by waiting at the edge of a stream, then when they detect the ripples from prey, whether an insect or small fish, they run across the surface to subdue it using their foremost legs, which are tipped with small claws. Like other spiders they then inject venom with their hollow jaws to kill and digest their prey. There were many pale faces that day when we revealed that the robust monstrosities of the aquatic invertebrate world, the infamous fishing spider, could be found in the Old Ausable Channel. All in all it was a fun and an eventful day, and seeing those future entomologists put a smile on my face.

Dolomedes spider in the Old Ausable Channel, Pinery Provincial Park,  http://trackingnature.com/yahoo_site_admin/assets/images/Dark_Fishing_Spider04_Edit_FKP_Sept042010_Watermark.248110501_large.jpg
Dolomedes spider in the Old Ausable Channel, Pinery Provincial Park, http://trackingnature.com/yahoo_site_admin/assets/images/Dark_Fishing_Spider04_Edit_FKP_Sept042010_Watermark.248110501_large.jpg

On a side note, I did manage to sneak off for a bit after outreach to explore the Pinery’s rare and fragile oak savanna ecosystem. Pinery’s rare habitats provide shelter and space for 319 different species of birds. I was very thrilled to have finally found a cerulean warbler (Dendroica cerulean), a small bird of the deciduous forest treetops. Other highlights that afternoon included the Eastern whip-poor-will (Antrostomus vociferous), great crested flycatcher (Myiarchus crinitus), tufted titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor), and hooded warbler (Setophaga citrina), the very first bird I banded during a field survey in Pennsylvania. I highly recommend visiting the Pinery and the surrounding ABCA to all those wildlife enthusiasts!

Cerulean Warbler, Dendroica cerulean, a small bird of the deciduous forest treetops,  http://refugeassociation.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/jim-burns-cerulean-warbler.jpg
Cerulean Warbler, Dendroica cerulean, a small bird of the deciduous forest treetops, http://refugeassociation.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/jim-burns-cerulean-warbler.jpg

-Joey

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