Archive for September, 2010

the thirty years later expedition   10 comments

Dr. Fred Schueler (left), and Adam Zieleman (right), in the 30 Years Later Expedition vehicle

With the exception of my couchsurfer-visitor from France, the dogs and I have spent almost the entire summer at Round Hill in our own company. We occasionally wander over to visit our closest neighbours, but apart from that, we pretty much stick around home while I work on the house. However, the alone streak was broken a couple of weeks ago when the Thirty Years Later Expedition rolled up the lane to spend a few days working in this area of Nova Scotia.

Before I write more, I’ll let Fred and Aleta introduce themselves in their own words from their website:

Biologist/artist team Fred Schueler and Aleta Karstad revisit the landscapes they have traveled over the past 20 to 40 years, checking the condition of ecological communities and populations of plants and animals, some of them now Species At Risk. Aleta will paint and draw enroute as Fred adds valuable new data to historical records, in a database partnership with the Canadian Museum of Nature. Building on a database of over 86,000 records, this is a rare long term study in an age of short term projects.

I first came to know Fred and Aleta about 30 years ago. Don and I were keeping dairy goats at that time, and somehow or other, Fred and Aleta were referred to us in their search for a good milking doe. They acquired a wonderful goat, and we gained what was to become a long term friendship. Although we may go a year or two between seeing each other, our lives continue to intersect from time to time, and in between, we keep in touch by email and through our postings on the eastern Ontario NatureList. Over the year’s, with Fred and Aleta’s encouragement, I along with many other naturalists in eastern Ontario, began recording and contributing our observations to the NatureList. Once again, I refer to their words on the value of ecological monitoring:

Naturalists often complain that species and phenomena are neglected unless they are of direct economic interest. So many aspects of natural history are ignored that “everyplace” is effectively unknown. Environmental change makes everything different than it was before, and requires re-exploration of every territory. The more we learn, the more detail and complexity unfolds to us. Henry David Thoreau ‘travelled a good deal in Concord’, providing an unparalleled public record of the species he recognized and their relationships in natural communities, and making major advances in theoretical ecology simply by constantly re-exploring his ancestral ground.

Anyone can do for their home range what Thoreau did for Concord: notice, record, monitor, analyze, and publicize natural phenomena. Many people are out there enjoying Nature, but relatively few of them record what they see. Every one who goes out as a serious observer, with a field notebook or journal, is adding to what we can know of nature.

Many observations go unrecorded, and many scientific datasets not included in publications languish in files. Fragile Inheritance is mandated to support long term ecological monitoring, as well as archiving and databasing the observations of both amateurs and academics, historical and current. Beyond the tasks of gathering and keeping data, it supports and encourages the essential tasks of analysing, publishing, and disseminating the results of long term monitoring, both to the general public, and to decision-makers.

And so it came to pass that Don and I became more serious about recording our observations – mainly in the form of Don making notes while I would take photographs – and then I would write up field notes to post to the NatureList. In recent years, with the many complications that took place in our lives during Don’s illness, our record-keeping eventually diminished to naught, but I do hope that situation will change once I’ve got more of a home base established here and also become more adept at traveling alone as I criss-cross the continent each spring and autumn. Anyhow, more about my friends.

Aleta Karstad, working on a plein air painting in my garden

As part of the expedition work, Aleta Karstad has been creating plein air paintings at the rate of almost one per day. I will refer you to her website, Biodiversity Paintings for the 30 YEARS LATER PROJECT: adventures in the colour of Canada where you can see the paintings alongside of Aleta’s notes and natural history observations associated with each site. In the above photo, Aleta is working on a painting of one of the old Black Locust trees that shade the front garden of my house and seem to be providing food and something of a gymnasium for a family of Pileated Woodpeckers. You can read Aleta’s notes here.

a small sampling of Aleta Karstad’s plein air paintings from the expedition

One afternoon, while Fred and Aleta, and their very able assistant, Adam Zieleman (the go-to tech guy who has put together their solar power system and other wondrous things), were busy working at their tasks, I checked out Aleta’s storage box filled with recent paintings. I laid them out on the grass to photograph a few. Aleta paints in oils on 5 x 7 inch canvases. Each is a wonderful jewel-like vignette of nature, capturing the essence of the time and place where it was created. To see an array of them spread out upon the grass was like being given a kaleidoscopic glimpse into their travels (click on all photos in this post to see larger views). In addition to recording that which is seen during the expedition, the sale of Aleta’s paintings also helps to defray some of the costs associated with their field work which is only partly funded by the Canadian Museum of Nature. If you’re interested in her works, please do visit her website.

Aleta Karstad’s painting of a Phoebe on the Moira River in Ontario (see her notes about it here.

It’s been nice to have old friends visiting at my new-old place – especially friends who are quite “self-contained” and used to roughing it in the bush, so to speak, as I’m not able to provide much in the way of accommodations as yet. This week, I’m in the process of wrapping things up for this season. In some respects, I’m a little disappointed with not having finished up the exterior of the house, but with the weather as it has been – rain every third or fourth day – progress has been continuously interrupted. I could just slap some paint on the upper sections that remain unfinished, but I don’t think that’s the best strategy. Instead, I’ll try to be happy with what has been accomplished, take a break over the winter months, then pick up where I left off when I return next spring. Now I’m down to the wire with making a few last-minute repairs, putting tools and materials away for the winter, and packing my van for the long journey that lies ahead this autumn. This afternoon, I’ll be taking Sabrina to the vet’s office for a “going away” laser therapy treatment which should hold her over until we arrive in Arizona at the end of November. She’s getting around so much better these days. I can only conclude that the treatments have made a difference to her mobility. Yesterday, I actually found her part way up the stairs to the second floor of the house – twice! As I pack the van, she’s becoming more and more concerned with sticking to me like a burr. I think she’s worried that I’ll drive off without her. Not a chance of that! I’ll try to post at least once more before I depart from the house. After that, watch for new posts written along the way – by which route, I still don’t know. The weather and my mood will sort that out once we’re on the road.

Just a bit of time-sensitive information for those who are interested in Fred and Aleta’s work. On September 22nd, 2010, Fred and Aleta will be presenting a lecture and exhibition at the Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History, in Halifax, N.S. It is entitled Stalking the Wild Conspicuous – a Schueler/Karstad presentation on 30 Years Later Expedition research, illustrated with Karstad’s biodiversity paintings, original paintings on exhibit. Then, on September 25th, Aleta will be giving a painting workshop entitled Plein Air Painting with Aleta Karstad Out-of-doors painting in oils or acrylic, also at the Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History.

Thirty Years Later Expedition as it rolls away to its next destination

Written by bev on September 16th, 2010

under the rocks   9 comments

In spite of some back problems, I did manage to get out to flip a few rocks on International Rock Flipping Day. I didn’t have such great luck this year, but the results were interesting enough. Beneath some loose, weathered bricks stacked against the foundation of the oldest section of the house, I found a few of the very dark, largish sowbugs that are common around the garden. I have no idea of their identity, but have posted the photo above (click on images for larger views).

My other interesting sighting was of a hapless male wolf spider, that to me, looks to be of the genus, Pardosa. Although the poor fellow was missing half of his legs, he was quite able to race over, under and around the fist-sized rocks in the ruins of the old cooper’s shed on the hillside next to the house (see below).

I had intended to flip a few rocks down in the river, with the hope of finding larvae of caddisflies and stoneflies, but by this time, my back was protesting too much, so I called it a day.

To see the blog posts and photos by others who wish to share the results of their own explorations, visit the following links:

Lynda at mainlymongoose
Kordite in the Flickr group
Bill Murphy at Fertanish Chatter
Malia at The Shell and Mantle
Rebecca In The Woods
Dave Bonta, on Via Negativa Here and here and on Flikr.
Paul, The Obligate Scientist
Susannah at Wanderin’ Weeta – Here and on Flickr.
Kate St. John on Outside My Window
Ontario Wanderer on Flickr
JayLeigh in Pacific Northwest Nature for Families
Fred Schueler: a Google document, copied here.
Rikaja in Slovakia
Bev Wigney at Journey to the Centre.
Hugh, at Rock, Paper, Lizard

Thanks to all of the participants, and a very special thanks to Susannah of Wanderin’ Weeta for coordinating this year’s event. Hope to see plenty of participants again in next year’s event.

Written by bev on September 14th, 2010