What is it? Wow, look at that!
That is what you heard, over and over again, Saturday afternoon in the Conservation Education Center at Black Bayou Lake NWR as eleven excited Master Naturalist wannabees went through the contents of their collection pails. Our workshop leader, Dr. Anna Hill, went from microscope to microscope patiently answering our questions.
At the same time, Kris Kelley of FoBB sat behind a microscope hooked up to a camera and projector. We all took pictures of the critters in our petri dishes and projected on the screen, but the photos Kris took with the microscope camera are excellent. He created a cache of them on Google Docs for us. Click here and enjoy:
Note that one of the frames on that page is a video that has been uploaded to YouTube. Here’s a direct link to the video:
The point of interest in the video is the white, lacy critter in the upper half of the frame. Not much happens for the first 45 seconds, but then you will see the entire critter convulse as it responds to something in the petri dish environment–food, most likely! And from there to the end of the video, various parts of the “ciliate colony” react every few seconds in similar fashion. I hope it was having a good meal!
A species list will be forthcoming, but be forewarned that most of what we saw we could not identify to the species level. Nevertheless, we learned some categories, I satisfied my long-time desire to see dragonfly and damselfly naiads in living color, and all the critters were truly amazing to behold.
As we were preparing to empty our collection pails in the pond in front of the Education Center, I captured a little drama happening in mine. I had collected a fishing spider and a predacious diving beetle larva–a critter that looks about as scary as its name. It had kept its pincers closed throughout its several minutes of fame under the projecting microscope, but now they were open and the creature was turning its head toward the spider, which was on the surface of the water nearby. Of course, I have no idea what was actually going on in that pail, but it sure looked sinister!
And here’s a link to another cache of photos from the day, created by Charles Paxton:
Important Note: Black Bayou Lake is a National Wildlife Refuge. Collecting specimens from the lake requires a permit, which our workshop leader had gotten for us. To do this without a permit is strictly against the law. (BTW, Dr. John Carr also had to have a permit for his work with us a few weeks ago.)