21 September, 2002
The End of Summer
We were up and out early again this morning in our search for Stinkbugs. We had such a poor day collecting yesterday that we needed to find some good sights where there were still Stinkbugs in trees. Luckily we struck found a nice area with our first stop. We saw what appeared to be a few Birches in a park along the Chena River. What we found were many Birches all along the river that for some reason still had a large number of leaves. The first tree I searched netted about 30 Stinkbugs. I also developed a new technique for
getting Stinkbugs from the higher parts of the trees. In places where I saw Stinkbugs, but could not reach them, I tossed my glove at the branch to knock the bugs loose. As they fell I would catch as many as I could in a container. I could then look for the ones that I missed and had fallen into the leaf litter. I really do not know how effective the method is, but I did find that for every two Stinkbugs that I thought fell into the litter, I was able to recover at least three. By the end of the morning, I had collected approximately 200 bugs. Todd had collected a similar number and when Dr. Duman added his collection totals we felt that our morning had been at least moderately successful. With Stinkbugs loaded we headed in to the lab for some Birch Shield Bug analysis. Todd spent some time trying to recover hemolymph (insect blood) from some of our mornings catch and we set up a drying oven as well. A sample of the Stinkbugs is dried to assess their water content. It is widely thought that one important technique in surviving the winter is for insects to eliminate as much water as possible. The smaller the amount of water inside the body, the more manageable that water can be. I found that the Stinkbugs do have one very interesting characteristic in that their hemolymph is a brilliant emerald color. Most of the insects we have seen have a clear or a yellow-gold hemolymph. The green color of the Stinkbug hemolymph makes it quite unique.
We did take a short while this afternoon to visit downtown Fairbanks and some areas around campus for the Equinox celebration. There is a small festival downtown and a marathon that runs from the campus up onto a mountain ridge and then back to campus. I am told that the Fairbanks Equinox Marathon is considered to be the second most difficult marathon in the country with only the Pikes Peak Marathon being considered a greater challenge. The celebration for the equinox is one of four sun location celebrations. In an area were the movement of the sun is as drastic as it is here in Alaska, the residents tend to pay more attention to the daily locations of the sun. There will be a celebration here for each equinox and for each solstice.
Wherever, I turn here in Alaska, I seem to meet fascinating people with incredible life histories. We ended the day today with an invitation to dinner from Mr. Fran Mauer. Fran has just recently retired as a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He has the better part of the last 30 years working as a biologist in the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge. His knowledge of Alaskan wildlife, Alaskan ecology and environmental issues seems nearly endless. Even more impressive than his knowledge however, is the passion with which he speaks of wildlife issues and the commitment he has made over the years to do what he feels to be right for the Wildlife and for Alaska.
Tomorrow we take our search for Stinkbugs farther south. I am hoping we might get as far south as Denali National Park. To see Mt. McKinley, the tallest mountain in North America, would be a wonderful ending for my TEA field experience.
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