Birds birds birds!

I *finally* went birding this past weekend with some great folks to Kankakee Sands and Willow Slough! The highlights:

Wilson’s snipe (a lifer for me!), displaying

Northern pintail

Greater yellowlegs

White-fronted geese

Pectoral sandpipers

Two brown thrashers having a calling war

About 10,000 coots

White pelican

One lonely loon

Green winged teal

Blue winged teal


Red-headed woodpecker

Eastern towhee

Greater scaup

And the usual suspects, such as American crow, common grackles, robins, killdeer, field sparrows, and Canada geese. Surprisingly, not a lot of mallards.

All in all, a great way to spend a cool, bright spring morning, and well worth the hour drive to get there.


A Community Ecology Talk at a Biofuels Meeting: Now For Something Completely Different!

As part of the interdisciplinary project I’m currently working on, with several collaborators at Purdue University and Keith Summerville from Drake University all the way over there in Iowa, I created and gave a presentation to the Sun Grant Initiative working group on March 18th in Minneapolis.  As our project is a bit different from the rest of the biofuels projects, taking part in the 2-day meeting was like a crash-course regarding relevant themes including switchgrass, cordgrass, big bluestem, corn stover, and oil fractions.  Our project is focused on the ecological and economic impacts of removing downed coarse woody debris (CWD; known to foresters as “slash”, and no I don’t mean that guy from Guns N’ Roses).  As cellulosic ethanol becomes more of a reality, more landowners may be considering collecting the CWD leftover from a timber harvest and turning it into cash.  However, we know that CWD confers ecological benefits, including soil and moisture retention, returning nutrients to the soil as it gradually breaks down, and creating microhabitats for certain plants and animals.  Therefore, the goals of this project were to create an online calculator for landowners to determine if collecting the CWD after a timber harvest is worth it, and to analyze the effects of removing CWD on communities of salamanders, moths, and beetles.  For some preliminary results, see the Powerpoint here:

And here is a reminder for me to add a link to the online calculator, as soon as it’s available publically.  🙂