White Rock Lake nature walk in Dallas, Texas: 6/9/2021

Hello everyone! My family is currently on a trip in Texas, and I have really enjoyed observing the biodiversity here and how it differs from the biodiversity I see at home in Illinois. Another stark difference is the weather! It was a lot more hot and humid on this walk, which led to a lot of mosquito bites (we forgot bug spray :( ) . There was a cool breeze coming off of the water though, and the trees provided some nice shade from the burning sun. My mom and I found a beautiful reservoir called White Rock Lake that was only about 10 minutes from our hotel, and we walked for about 45 minutes around the lake. At home, we really enjoy going for walks together, but never have we took the time to really observe species around us, especially those that are not plants or animals. I can't believe how many times I have walked past lichen and other types of fungi without really knowing what they are and why fungi are so important. Every time I saw a tree with some fungi on it during this walk, I made sure to get really close to it to see what else I could find lingering on the bark. I was also really fascinated by how many snails I could find on the trees. They were so, so small and so easy to miss. I noticed a correlation between the amount of fungi on a tree and the number of snails and/or insects on it-- it seems like the more fungi, the more snails. I learned afterwards that many snails and even some types of insects eat fungi, so this correlation would make sense! In contrast, some areas of the woods seemed so bare. I wonder what makes the beta biodiversity of such a small wooded region so different? Maybe it has to do something with the amount of water plants can get, the light available, or other nutrients in the soil? One of my favorite things about observing fungi in particular on this walk was how diverse they are, both ecologically and morphologically. Some of them looked more mat like (maybe a slime mold and not even a fungus?) and were found on the ground, while others were flatter and stuck off the sides of trees. They also came in many different colors. I really liked the bright yellow Candleflame lichen and how it seemed to "paint" itself a plain brown tree, and the lichen that formed beautiful rosettes on bark. I also liked the puffball mushroom, Lycoperdon, that I found. At first I just thought it was a white rock, then noticed how it seemed to be spiky. Later that night I was watching the lecture about fungi and got pretty excited when I realized that I saw a puffball! I think that it is so cool that they "explode" to spread their spores. Prokaryotic, fungal, and plant reproduction is so interesting to me. I now realize that I had such an anthropocentric way of viewing many things, reproduction being one of them, before starting this class and really taking the time to observe nature. I noticed how distinct the fruiting bodies of the Ascomycota and Basidiomycota are, and how these structures give rise to beautiful diversity. It was also interesting to think about these fungi as being beneficial for the trees they grow on/near. I always thought of fungi as bad and parasitic, but had fun explaining to my mom the symbiosis that are occurring and that without the fungi, none of these large trees and beautiful plants could be here! Another cool finding was leaves that were cut out in seemingly characteristic patterns. After watching the video about leaf cutter ants, it seems like that is what is doing the cutting. In fact, leaf cutter ants are very common in Texas! I love thinking about how this fascinating insect forms a mutualistic relationship with a fungus. I wish I got to see the fungal garden it was growing. I also thought it was kind of funny that I captured a picture of poison ivy without even knowing it. Luckily I didn't touch the plant. That could've been bad! I like learning about how plants and microbes can cause problems for humans, and how we learning about these problems can help the future of medicine. As my mom and I were driving back to the hotel, I told her that I am glad my professor assigned us to go on a nature walk while in Texas. I never would have thought to find a reservoir near Dallas to explore. I also told her that I am now starting to see how ecology and evolution relates to medicine perhaps more than any other science. Exploring microbes in nature is where we find new medicines, learn new gene editing technology, and learn how tightly intertwined microbes are to human well being and disease. Lastly, I loved seeing various beautiful webs on my walk. I saw classic detailed spider webs, and huge balls of webs that I later learned are formed by caterpillars or web worms. These structures are so fascinating because I don't think humans would be able to replicate their strength and intricacy if we tried. They also stand as a beautiful symbol of the web of life that connects all species together :)

On this walk I really started to appreciate aspects of nature that I never appreciated in the past. While my mom and I did get some strange looks for veering so far off the path and climbing through plants, it was totally worthwhile. There is so much more biodiversity that meets the eye. I can't even begin to fathom how rich White Rock is with bacteria, archaea, protists, and other microorganisms that I still couldn't see. It makes me realize how much of a blip eukaryotes are in the tree of life.

Posted by courtney_redey courtney_redey, June 10, 2021 21:07

Observations

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What

Hackberries Genus Celtis

Observer

courtney_redey

Date

June 9, 2021 03:57 PM UTC

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What

Smoky Bracket Bjerkandera adusta

Observer

courtney_redey

Date

June 9, 2021 03:58 PM UTC

Description

Not 100% sure about the species… but they look similar. Found all along one side of the tree.

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What

Gastropods Class Gastropoda

Observer

courtney_redey

Date

June 9, 2021 04:02 PM UTC

Description

The swirl pattern of the shell is so pretty! I never thought to look so closely at trees to find snails.

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What

Chinaberry Melia azedarach

Observer

courtney_redey

Date

June 9, 2021 04:04 PM UTC

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What

Wood Ear Fungi Genus Auricularia

Observer

courtney_redey

Date

June 9, 2021 04:04 PM UTC

Description

This fungi was pretty big on the tree— very cool to see!

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What

Polygyrid Snails Family Polygyridae

Observer

courtney_redey

Date

June 9, 2021 04:05 PM UTC

Description

Not sure about the species… looks like a different one than the other Texas Oval I saw.

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What

Oak Mazegill Daedalea quercina

Observer

courtney_redey

Date

June 9, 2021 04:06 PM UTC

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Observer

courtney_redey

Date

June 9, 2021 04:06 PM UTC

Description

Can’t tell if this is some type of nest or a fungus, but it is cool to look at!

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What

Common Lichens Class Lecanoromycetes

Observer

courtney_redey

Date

June 9, 2021 04:07 PM UTC

Photos / Sounds

What

Common Lichens Class Lecanoromycetes

Observer

courtney_redey

Date

June 9, 2021 04:11 PM UTC

Description

There was a lot going on on this tree! A cluster of webs that looked like ice, some radiating fungi, and snails.

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What

Spreading Hedge-Parsley Torilis arvensis

Observer

courtney_redey

Date

June 9, 2021 04:13 PM UTC

Description

Pretty little flowers by the water. I learned that hedge parsley is a weed. People often hate on weeds but they can be so beautiful.

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What

Slime Molds Phylum Mycetozoa

Observer

courtney_redey

Date

June 9, 2021 04:13 PM UTC

Description

Could this be a slime mold of some sort?

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Observer

courtney_redey

Date

June 9, 2021 04:14 PM UTC

Description

This little guy was hard to capture because it was so fast, but I finally got a picture after it stopped to hide under a leaf.

Photos / Sounds

Observer

courtney_redey

Date

June 9, 2021 04:14 PM UTC

Description

I didn’t know what this was while walking, but I happened to be reading about puffballs in my textbook right after! I looked up a picture of them and got pretty excited when I realized I just saw one.

Photos / Sounds

What

Tent Caterpillar Moths Genus Malacosoma

Observer

courtney_redey

Date

June 9, 2021 04:15 PM UTC

Description

Not really a species but my mom and I were fascinated by this formation. I’d love to learn more about what forms this and why.

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What

Poison Ivy Toxicodendron radicans

Observer

courtney_redey

Date

June 9, 2021 04:19 PM UTC

Description

Well I didn’t realize this was poison ivy…. Good thing I didn’t touch anything. Maybe I should learn what poison ivy looks like to avoid it😂

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What

Mulberries Genus Morus

Observer

courtney_redey

Date

June 9, 2021 04:20 PM UTC

Description

Reminds my of the mulberries my grandma used to grow in her backyard. We loved going to pick them and she makes the best mulberry jam!

Photos / Sounds

What

Short-horned Grasshoppers Family Acrididae

Observer

courtney_redey

Date

June 9, 2021 04:20 PM UTC

Description

I continue to be fascinated by camouflage. It is such a clear example of natural selection in action.

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What

Peas, Vetches, and Allies Tribe Fabeae

Observer

courtney_redey

Date

June 9, 2021 04:21 PM UTC

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What

Sow Thistles Genus Sonchus

Observer

courtney_redey

Date

June 9, 2021 04:22 PM UTC

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What

Myrmicine Ants Subfamily Myrmicinae

Observer

courtney_redey

Date

June 9, 2021 04:22 PM UTC

Description

Ant holes are so pretty to me. It’s crazy what such small creatures can do. As a kid my siblings and I would purposely put food on our sidewalk, wait a little, and then go watch the ants carry it away. They are so strong and their houses are so incredibly complex.

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What

Candleflame Lichen Candelaria concolor

Observer

courtney_redey

Date

June 9, 2021 04:24 PM UTC

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What

Golden-eye Lichen Teloschistes chrysophthalmus

Observer

courtney_redey

Date

June 9, 2021 04:25 PM UTC

Description

Just learned about ascomyota! It’s cool to see their sac like reproductive structures.

Photos / Sounds

What

Pearl Crescent Phyciodes tharos

Observer

courtney_redey

Date

June 9, 2021 04:25 PM UTC

Description

Surprised I got such nice pictures of this butterfly.

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What

Paper Mulberry Broussonetia papyrifera

Observer

courtney_redey

Date

June 9, 2021 04:29 PM UTC

Description

I find it interesting that this plant is native to Eastern Asia yet is now so abundant here.

Photos / Sounds

What

Tawny Emperor Asterocampa clyton

Observer

courtney_redey

Date

June 9, 2021 04:33 PM UTC

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What

Gastropods Class Gastropoda

Observer

courtney_redey

Date

June 9, 2021 04:39 PM UTC

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What

Polypores Genus Lentinus

Observer

courtney_redey

Date

June 9, 2021 04:41 PM UTC

Description

Notes sure of the species of mushroom. Finally saw this “stereotypical” fungus towards the end of my nature walk.

Fungi

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What

Fungi Including Lichens Kingdom Fungi

Observer

courtney_redey

Date

June 9, 2021 04:40 PM UTC

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What

Blue-fronted Dancer Argia apicalis

Observer

courtney_redey

Date

June 9, 2021 04:43 PM UTC

Description

Love the name of this genus. Perfectly fitting as they never seem to stop moving.

Photos / Sounds

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What

Ants Family Formicidae

Observer

courtney_redey

Date

June 9, 2021 04:40 PM UTC

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