Greetings from Asheville, NC! I’m here attending an environmental education conference, enjoying the cool weather and the mountains after over a year with nary a mountain in sight. I miss my mountains, so I’m loving it here! I also got to do and see all sorts of buggy things today, so I thought I’d share some the highlights with you all. The photos in this post are “meh” as I took a lot of them with my phone in bad light, but here are some cool things I felt the need to document today:
The Fly Quilt
The conference I’m attending is being held at the NC Arboretum. It is a spectacular place, absolutely stunning, and I’m thrilled to have been able to come here. In their education center they have several nature quilts displayed on the walls. The one above was my favorite, for obvious reasons. I loved the fly quilt! Makes me want to go home and make one of my own, though I can tell you based on my last quilt making experience that mine wouldn’t look nearly as good.
Meeting a National Geographic Photographer
I attended a full day, pre-conference workshop on citizen science today and it was a lot of fun! The workshop was about using bioblitzes (biological surveys, often quite thorough, of specific places over short periods of time) as a means of getting people involved in science and was led National Geographic photographer, Kevin FitzPatrick. Apart from the fact I thought it was odd to see a photographer leading a citizen science workshop, I really enjoyed talking to him. In addition to photographing the National Geographic BioBlitzes (hence his interest in citizen science), he is also a contributor to Meet Your Neighbors. If you don’t know what Meet Your Neighbors is, click on the link and take a look at a few of the images in the gallery. Go on, I’ll wait… What did you think? Me, I love the look of the photos on Meet Your Neighbors, and I have always wanted to see how the photographers involved take their photos because they’re taking those shots in the field! Today, I got to see exactly how to do them. In the image above, Kevin was photographing a rat snake on his setup before we broke for lunch. After lunch, we took his funky light table into the field while we looked for reptiles and amphibians under the Arboretum’s cover boards and sloshed around in Bent Creek looking for insects. Guess which part of that activity I especially loved? If you guessed…
Sloshing Around in Bent Creek
… you were right! I haven’t gotten a chance to do much exploring of the aquatic insect fauna of the state so far, and definitely not in the mountains. The creek wasn’t very deep (I could ALMOST walk across in my high top waterproof hiking boots without overtopping them), but we found some aquatic invertebrates that I, as a former Arizonan, thought were pretty amazing. We found lots of stoneflies, snails, salamanders (not inverts, but super cool!), crayfish, mayflies, caddisflies, true bugs, dragonflies, and two types of beetles, including water pennies. A pretty good haul, but my very favorite was…
Giant stonefly, genus Pteronarcys! I’ve only ever seen a specimen in a vial after it had lain dead for several years, so seeing one alive and in the wild was pretty awesome. While I would have been happy with the things we found even without the giant stonefly nymph, it made my day! Wow, that thing was amazing. I’ve been itching to go see what else I can find in the stream since. Might need to go back down before I leave on Sunday…
After competing in the conference Wild-a-Thon (a mini-bioblitz of sorts) with another woman at the conference, I wandered the grounds with a couple of people from my workshop to kill some time before dinner. We were admiring the ornamental grasses in one section of the garden when I saw the spider above. That thing was HUGE! To get my camera to focus, I had to slide my hand behind the spider, which helped convince me that nearly all traces of my childhood fear of spiders is now gone. I’ve been reminded of that fear of spiders several times recently, so I am feeling pretty good about all but putting my hand on this enormous orb weaver to get a shot of it. The worst part: the background is SO busy, it’s still not a very good shot. Regardless, a gorgeous animal and I’m glad I saw it!
Tomorrow I’m headed to several presentations about citizen science and a swanky dinner at a local museum before my presentation on Sunday. I’m hoping the rest of the conference is as good as today!