Tuesday, August 15, 2017

2017 Lichen BioBlitz

One of my big events this summer was the Lichen BioBlitz at Great Basin National Park. Over 50 people gathered to go search out lichens. I came into the event knowing very little about lichens. But, to my surprise, after three days, I could spout out a few Latin names. Woohoo! Everyone had a good time and started viewing the rocks, soils, and trees a lot differently!

Following some talks and a potluck lunch, we split into groups and went out to explore. On the first afternoon, I went out to Snake Creek with a group led by BYU professor Steve Leavitt. He showed us a variety of places that lichens grow.

Tree branches often have some lichens on them, like this Xanthomendoza.

A handlens was really helpful to see some of the tiny parts of the lichens. I was glad I had brought my macro lens for my camera.

I can't quite remember what all I saw that first afternoon. There was so much information that it was all a bit of a blur. On one water birch next to Snake Creek, Steve circled the tree. I asked him how many lichen species he was seeing. He replied at least ten. Whoa!

I knew I had a lot to learn! The next day I headed up to the glacier with Devin.

It turned out this was a good hike to get some lichens straight in my head. We kept seeing the same ones over and over, so it was great practice. Here's elegant starburst lichen, Xanthoria elegans, one of the most common lichens in the park. It grows at all elevations, usually on rocks.

This white and black lichen is the roadmap lichen, Lecidea tessalata.

This lichen had little trumpets emerging from it, so cool! (Cladonia species)

Devin was very patient and did a great job of explaining not only lichens, but also overall forest ecology.

One thing that fascinated me was how many bryophytes (mosses) were around. They are much fuzzier than lichens. And when you look at them really close up, they are amazing.

The shapes of the lichens are fascinating. Here's a Rhizoplaca.

And a different species of Rhizoplaca. Those little round plates helped me remember the name.

We progressed up the trail and got to the bristlecones. Tucked away in the interior of a dead bristlecone was some wolf lichen (Letharia vulpina). It looked totally different than the other lichens we had seen.

One tree had mega-sized wolf lichen on it. So cool! These lichens can be used to make a yellow dye. They've also been used to poison foxes and wolves in Europe.

Up by the glacier we found some orange stains on some rocks, while there was more Xanthoria on others. We also found lots of yellow Candelariella (sort of sounds like candle, which makes it easy to remember), little bits of black Sarcogyne, a black lichen that grows in the rock (so it gets the neat title of being endolithic), and a couple more kinds of Rhizoplaca.

After exploring the glacier area, we went to Teresa Lake. Time out for a sphinx (hummingbird) moth on some Parry's primrose.

Devin then found this Rhizocarpon lichen under water at the spring that feeds Teresa Lake. Who knew that lichens can grow underwater?

After another night of camping out at the Wheeler Peak Campground, we packed up and headed to different places. I joined USU professor Brad Kropp at the picnic area, where we started off by looking at soil lichens.

This is Psora, a brown lichen with white-rimmed edges. 

 Then we looked at more rocks. I think this is Lecanora species. I like the circular pattern.

And if it's green and kind of blotchy, it could be Xanthoparmelia.

 There's so much more learning to do. I have my hand lens ready! 

Can you identify any lichens in this photo?
The orange is Xanthoria elegans, the yellow is Candelariella, and the white and black is Lecidea tesselata. I'm not sure what the grey one is.  Oh yeah, and it looks like there's a little bit of the endolithic lichen, Sarcogyne.

If you don't know them all, don't worry. The experts don't either. It looks like at least one new species of lichen was found during the BioBlitz. This is a species that science didn't know about before this BioBlitz. How cool is that?

Here are the folks who were still around after the delicious closing lunch (thanks Great Basin National Park Foundation!), preliminary results talks (thanks Brad and Steve!), and raffle prize drawing (thanks Western National Parks Association!).

It will take the experts a few months to finish identifying what was found at the BioBlitz. It was a great three days, and I won't ever look at lichens in quite the same way

Thursday, August 3, 2017

First Time at 4-H Camp

 This is the first year for our kids in 4-H. My husband participated for many years as a kid, showing animals. I also participated, even though I was a townie and never showed animals. I have fun memories of doing tree leaf collections and baking cookies.

4-H is so much cooler now, with a whole variety of projects. Desert Boy is signed up for a lamb, shooting, legos, and computer coding. Desert Girl is a cloverbud (younger, non-competitive 4-H) and signed up for entomology and flowers.

Other possible 4-H categories include baking, sewing, crafts, model rocketry, outdoor cooking, photography, robotics, welding, woodworking, and more.

There are lots of 4-H meetings, but we've missed them all because we live so far away and currently don't have a local club. But we heard about 4-H camp, which was over the course of three days. We already had other activities planned for the first and third days, but we could attend Saturday, which was Family Day. We drove out to White River Valley and to the unmarked camp, which is on private property. 4-H camp has been held at the same spot for a long time, next to a hot spring. My husband used to go there. A metal building is a new addition and allows for a variety of activities out of the hot sun.

The first activity of the day: an obstacle course. First, get through the spider web.

After making a simulated campfire, run to the pond.

Two swimmers had to swim across and get some rubber duckies. Desert Boy volunteered to be one of the swimmers and did okay. He could really use a swim team, but we'll just have to improvise!

Then they tied themselves together and hobbled through the door. The team that Desert Boy and Desert Girl were on won, and later they got a free icee for their efforts.

Not long after it was lunch time, with some delicious hamburgers.

It was getting hot after lunch, so it was time for a water game. PVC pipes had holes in them, and the kids had to cover the holes with a goal of filling the pipe to the top.

Water kept spilling out of the pan, making it a cold task.

When that was done, it was time to swim! My husband and I looked at the hot spring, which was off limits. The water was quite hot.

First, a group photo.

Then into the pond! The water comes from the hot spring, so is quite pleasant.

The bathtub used to be a soaking place, but it needs a good cleaning.

We enjoyed our day a lot, and the kids begged to stay longer. We could have, as there was a fatal accident on the highway by a construction zone and we were delayed a couple hours. Drive safely!

The kids are already asking about 4-H camp for next summer, and it's tentatively planned for the second weekend in July. Hopefully they can make it and make even more great memories. And maybe next year, more local kids will participate, which will make it even more fun. :)

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Topaz Museum, Delta, Utah

 The Topaz Museum in Delta, Utah had its grand opening on July 8, 2017. The groundbreaking for the museum was in 2012, and then it opened with temporary exhibits, artwork done by internees. Planning and funding followed to develop new exhibits for the museum.

If you want the quick synopsis, it's: Wow! You have got to see this museum!

The Topaz Museum is amazing. Topaz was one of several internment camps during World War II. Americans of Japanese descent living within 100 miles of the West Coast were sent to internment camps because they were seen as a threat to American security. Even if they were elderly or infants. Even if they had thriving businesses or farmed crops needed by wartime America. They weren't reimbursed. They could only take one suitcase. They didn't know where they were going or how long they were going for.

One of the things that I think worked so well in this exhibit is that it not only tells you about the Topaz story, but makes you reflect on your own. In the panel below, the question at the bottom asks, "How many years ago did your family immigrate to the United States? What problems did they face?"

Californians sent to the West Desert were in for a real shock. Topaz was out in the middle of nowhere, with little precipitation and little vegetation. One thing there was plenty of was dust. And tough living conditions.

This painting illustrates some of the dust storms they faced.

Families were assigned to spartan barracks without insulation.

The museum has exhibits about what life was like. Schools were created plus some social opportunities to help keep people busy.

There were some quotes in the exhibit that really resonated.

Some of the previous artwork is still on display. I was glad to see that.

One of the panels towards the end of the exhibit questions, "Could an injustice like Topaz happen again in our country?"

 It took the country a long time to recognize the injustice that had been done. In 1988, Congress passed the Civil Liberties Act, signed by President Ronald Reagan. This act acknowledged "fundamental violations of the basic civil liberties and constitutional rights" of people of Japanese ancestry. The act also authorized payment for the 82,000 people who had been interned. Unfortunately, 40,000 of them had already died.

Hopefully this museum will help us remember what our great nation is for and help to prevent such atrocities in the future.

In the small gift shop, you can also get directions to where the actual Topaz site was located. No buildings still remain, but you can get a sense of what it would have been like to live out there for years in inadequate buildings and few freedoms.
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