Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Happy Birthday Rachel!



Today marks a very special day for my younger sister, Rachel. She'll be turning 5 AND 20 all at once. That's right, she's a leap year! And to celebrate, I decided to do something a bit more special by drawing her a picture. In the five years of being in Ohio, all of my immediate family has had the chance to make it out here except for her. So, I couldn't think of a better way to show her my recent stomping grounds than to send them to her from my perspective. A closer look will reveal some of my favorite plants, animals, and historical sites from southeastern Ohio that have made an impression on me. Happy Birthday, Rachel! BIRDS: Ohio's state bird - cardinal, Pileated woodpecker, Hooded warbler, Yellow-crowned kinglet, Whippoorwill; ANIMALS: Southern flying squirrel, Black rat snake, Wild turkey; FUNGI AND LICHENS: Morel mushrooms, Devil's urn fungi, Old man's fingers fungi, Green sheild lichen; TREES, SHRUBS, AND VINES: Ohio's state tree - Ohio buckeye, Persimmon, Sassafras, Witch hazel, Bigleaf magnolia, Paw paw, Tulip tree, Spicebush, Pignut hickory, Poison ivy, blueberries; WILDFLOWERS AND SEDGES: Ohio's state flower - cardinal flower, Toad trillium, White trillium, Plantainleaf sedge, Spotted pipsissewa, Virginia bluebells, Wild ginger, Dutchman's breeches, Squirrel corn, Bloodroot, Yellow trout lili, Bellwort, Woodland sunflower, Wild blue flox, Yellow lady's slipper, Bluets, Fire pink; SITES: Ash Cave, Conkle's Hollow, Moonville tunnel, An abandoned coal mine, Lake Hope furnace, and a fire tower.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Ohio Forever

Five years ago, I ventured away from my home in New England to follow my dreams of pursuing the field of natural resources in southeastern Ohio. I didn't know then that I'd stumble upon such vast opportunities, which have led me to live and breath all aspects of Ohio. From botanizing the most southern counties of the state to working on the northern islands of Lake Erie, and everything in between; I feel as though I've experienced the heart and sole of this midwest gem of a state. As I reflect on my experiences as an Ohioan, I realize that I've been blessed with a life-changing opportunity - one that I feel I've taken full advantage of. Thus, as graduation from college fast approaches and I come full circle in this experience, I feel fulfilled and grateful.

One day, I woke up and saw my first bloodroot, hepatica, trillium, and a woodlot full of gnarly hickories of all sorts. The paw paws were ripe in the vinton furnace forest creek bottom, where I filled my shirt with all I could eat. Later, curiously hiking the ridge only to be surprised by a timber rattlesnake slithering through the leaves. And the nostalgic Vinton furnace remnants and coke ovens deep in the woods appeared so noble as Virginia creeper swept across their sandstone faces. Taking breaks from collecting DBHs by picking blackberries, dewberries, and raspberries with the forestry crew. By night, I heard the whippoorwills, screech owls, and saw the woodcocks do their dance near school. Not to mention holding northern saw-whets and eastern pipistrells to band. Harvesting ramp, chicken of the woods, and morel mushrooms for a moonlit spring feast.

As the dew is trickling away, have you heard the colors sing, too? From indigo buntings to yellow warblers; wood thrushes and spring peepers should be heard by all. Feeling the cool woodland breeze drop from a sw aspect to a ne aspect; the scent transformes from carolina rose to spice bush, respectively. From the haunted Moonville tunnel to gazing up at the old Nelsonville brewery before it fell. Peering into old mine shafts led my mind through a long tunnel of history and curiousity. An abandoned coal tipple deep in the woods gave me vision of a booming town, now occupied by forest creatures. 

For eternity, memories will pursist of hiking through the wooded hackberry shoreline of Middle Bass Island only to be surprised by my first adult bald eagle in the canopy. And of course, the endless nights of fishing for smallies, rock bass, and sheepshead off of the Southbass Island dock with a black crowned night heron friend. Wild walks along the put-in-bay boardwalk; The most remarkable of remarkable 4ths as the “Sunny S” parked in the harbor for my lucky group to view the fireworks. The cool mist whisping off the whaler in the morning from our commute from Southbass Island to work - ol' Lonz winery in view. 

Up north to catch big steelhead on the noodle rod and back again four years later to show dad. And of course, not only visiting Shawnee State Forest, Pearl King Savannah, Prairie Road Fen, Gallagher Fen, and Davey Old Growth Woods in one day, but also being part of two county orchid records. Those timeless burr, post, and black jack oaks of northwest Ohio will stick with me forever. And of course, Conkles Hollow, to Old Man's Cave, to spending my Easter Holliday photographing the tall waterfalls come alive only to meet a blanket of red trilliums below at Cantwell Cliffs

The opportunity to see the west would have never arisen without Ohio. Stories of life on the North Dakota prairies shall be introduced to my future children like fishing tales of starry night channel catfishing on the Connecticut River were passed down to me. There, I saw new plants and animals that only books had previously shown me - from fishers and moose to banding pelicans; grasses and more grasses were not only observed, but taught to me. And I could never forget coming across acres of multiple species of lady's slipper orchids! As much as I loved this wide open space, the hills and trees were calling again. Upon returning to Ohio, I took off to meet Dolly Sod's in WV and the Red River Gorge-ous sunrises of KY in peak foliage color during autumn. It is today that I fully understand Mark Twain's quote - "Don't let schooling interfere with your education." As dad always said, "knowledge is power;" though, experiences are an essential supplement to growth.

In five years, I've exceeded my dreams and expectations for this experience. I am a changed man and the unforgettable culture, history, and feel of this midwest state and region will be embedded in my family and I forever. The Ohio fall festivals, summer farm stands, winter hikes, and spring ephemerals now run deep in my veins.  Cheers, Ohio - to past and future adventures to come!

The Ohio Fish and Wildlife Conference

This year, The University of Rio Grande was well represented at one of the largest natural resources conferences Ohio has to offer - The Ohio Fish and Wildlife Conference. As one of the three student chapters of The Ohio Chapter Wildlife Society (OCTWS), Rio was fortunate to be asked to operate and find donations for the raffle table. As the President of our chapter's TWS club, I was a bit nervous because our program is small; thus, there are a limited amount of available volunteers to help out with this project. But, I was pleasantly surprised when I showed up at the carpool meeting area in Nelsonville at 6am to find approximately 10 eager Rio students ready to volunteer! Andy Montoney, State Director of the Wildlife Services, asked us to seek out donations from any local vendors in the weeks leading up to the conference. All in all, club members were able to find donations such as personal photography, two homemade blue bird boxes, gift certificates, a walking stick, and many more items.

               
Jerry with a blue bird box that our student chapter built. Our professor, Don Althoff and his wife, Karen, were kind enough to design the box and let us use their tools. Also, some photography I donated.

              
It was very rewarding to see people choose my photography in the raffle!

Ultimately, everybody had a great time running the table, speaking to employers, and viewing presentations. I had a chance to step away from the table to view a particularly interesting topic for me presented by Roger Williams titled, "Using fire to restore forests and wildlife communities." Already looking forward to next year's conference as we've been asked to operate the raffle for th second year!