Oodles of Odonates at Awenda Provincial Park

This past week, the BIObus visited Georgian Bay Islands, Six Mile Lake, and finally Awenda Provincial Park, nestled at the tip of the Penetanguishene (meaning “land of white, rolling sands”) Peninsula in Georgian Bay.  This park has both a rich geological as well as cultural history, with the area having been inhabited by humans as far back as 11,000 years ago.  Archeologists have unearthed many Aboriginal sites, including those of the Wendat people (after whom one of the main trails in the park has been named) as well as the Ojibwa.  The first human occupation of the area documented by archeological sites is that of the Paleo-Indians, with the land changing hands multiple times (including lumber barons and fur traders) before the current park was established.

A waterlily in the marsh at Awenda Provincial Park
A waterlily in the marsh at Awenda Provincial Park

Being warned by the park rangers that the waters of Georgian Bay were often turbulent due to high winds, and would therefore most likely not offer the greatest diversity of aquatic invertebrates, we stuck to the more land-locked Kettle’s Lake.   With a large marsh extending off of one end of the lake and sandy shores at the opposite end, this offered a fantastic sampling site, offering up more macro (larger) invertebrates than any of our other sites on the trip.

Thanushi and I sampling in the marsh at Awenda
Sampling in the marsh at Awenda Provincial Park
Soil invertebrate sampling at Awenda
Soil invertebrate sampling at Awenda Provincial Park
Kate recording data for the aquatic samples
Kate recording data for the aquatic samples

We found a positive plethora of Odonate larvae (dragonflies and damselflies) in both the marsh and the lake, with several crayfish as well.  Unfortunately, at least one of the crayfish we caught was the invasive Rusty crayfish, native to the Ohio River Basin in the southern United States.  Characterized by its “rusty” colour as well as being larger and more aggressive than the native species of crayfish in Ontario, this invader was most likely introduced by anglers using them as bait or by people releasing pet crayfish into the wild, and has now spread to much of Southwestern Ontario.

An adult dragonfly peers at us from atop a sample jar
An adult dragonfly peers at us from atop a sample jar
Crayfish within the macro-invertebrates sample jar back at camp
Crayfish within the macro-invertebrates sample jar back at camp

The control of invasive species is a massive concern both ecologically and economically, and an area in which DNA barcoding has much to offer.  Being able to quickly discern the presence of a foreign species at national or provincial borders, and control the entrance of these species into new areas is something that is currently next to impossible.  By using genetic markers, we might be able to implement DNA barcoding in such a way that might help prevent the spread of non-indigenous species.  For more information on invasive species in Ontario, you can visit www.invadingspecies.com.

I hope you’ve enjoyed hearing about the various escapades this week aboard the BIObus had to offer!  Until next time!

-Liz

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