Hands on Stoneflies and Sculpin

Hands on Stoneflies and Sculpin: Exploring the Logan River Courtesy & Copyright Edith Bowen Laboratory School (EBLS) Experiential Learning Eric Newell Director & Photographer https://edithbowen.usu.edu/
Exploring the Logan River
Courtesy & Copyright Edith Bowen Laboratory School (EBLS)
Experiential Learning Eric Newell Director & Photographer

Benthic Macroinvertebrate Harvest Courtesy & Copyright Edith Bowen Laboratory School (EBLS) Experiential Learning Eric Newell Director & Photographer https://edithbowen.usu.edu/ Benthic Macroinvertebrate Harvest
Courtesy & Copyright Edith Bowen Laboratory School (EBLS)
Experiential Learning Eric Newell Director & Photographer

Merriam-Webster Benthic: of, relating to, or occurring at the bottom of a body of water

Student with a Stonefly Nymph Courtesy & Copyright Edith Bowen Laboratory School (EBLS) Experiential Learning Eric Newell Director & Photographer https://edithbowen.usu.edu/ Student with a Stonefly Nymph
Courtesy & Copyright Edith Bowen Laboratory School (EBLS)
Experiential Learning Eric Newell Director & Photographer

Stonefly Courtesy & Copyright Edith Bowen Laboratory School (EBLS) Experiential Learning Eric Newell Director & Photographer https://edithbowen.usu.edu/ Stonefly
Courtesy & Copyright Edith Bowen Laboratory School (EBLS)
Experiential Learning Eric Newell Director & Photographer

Sculpin Courtesy & Copyright Edith Bowen Laboratory School (EBLS) Experiential Learning Eric Newell Director & Photographer https://edithbowen.usu.edu/ Sculpin
Courtesy & Copyright Edith Bowen Laboratory School (EBLS)
Experiential Learning Eric Newell Director & Photographer

I remember my father on wintery Saturdays mounting his fly tying vice on the kitchen table, and then, from the cavern under the stairs, he’d emerge with his hooks, pheasant and peacock feathers, and other magical threads. I’d watch him spin intricate flies but never realized as a child that they were imitations of creatures I would meet and teach in the wild. When he took me to lakes and rivers to fish, we just used worms and pink marshmallows.

On an animal adaptation learning journey at Wood Camp along the Logan River this fall, our Edith Bowen Laboratory School first graders turned over river rocks, sweeping up all sorts of aquatic critters with nets and buckets to then probe playfully with tweezers and bare fingers. Trip Armstrong, Assistant Director of the National Aquatic Monitoring Center at Utah State University’s Department of Watershed Sciences, led our young investigators and several adult volunteers in identifying these benthic macroinvertebrates, especially the stonefly nymphs we found in every scoop.

These especially intrigued the children because they resemble something from outer space scurrying about on six legs. Stoneflies, both the nymphs and the adult insects, are large compared to mayfly and other critters you find in a river sample, so they stand out in a crowd. The adults have long wings, thus the Greek name Plecoptera meaning “braided wings,” but they are known to be poor fliers. The larvae have two tails or what biologists call cerci, while mayflies have three. Stoneflies have two hooks on their legs; mayflies have one. Stoneflies like oxygen-rich water flowing through their gills along their thorax and under their legs. We noticed some doing push-ups in the bin of river water, indicating it was time to return them to their habitat. Both mayfly and stonefly nymphs are pollution-sensitive, so finding them in such large numbers indicated that this part of the river was very healthy.

When a student approached from the river’s edge with a larger specimen cupped in her hands, I was stunned and a little spooked. “It’s a sculpin,” Armstrong said. These are bottom-dwelling fish that some say are basically big mouths with tails and have unflattering nicknames like “double uglies,” yet I learned later they are quite common. I’d just never met one. In fact, although biologists have determined that the Utah Lake sculpin has been extinct since the 1930s, the native Bear Lake sculpin and sculpin living in the Logan River are sources of food for the Bonneville Cutthroat and other trout.

I guess the lesson, as a wise first grader reminded me this week during our opinion writing session, is “Don’t yuck somebody’s yum.” Stoneflies and sculpin: flyfishers and bigger fish love them. I’m thankful for opportunities to teach in Utah’s wild places because every time I do, I learn something new.

I am Shannon Rhodes, and I’m wild about Utah.

Credits:

Images: Courtesy & Copyright Edith Bowen Laboratory School (EBLS)
Experiential Learning Eric Newell Director & Photographer https://edithbowen.usu.edu/
Audio: Courtesy & © J. Chase and K.W. Baldwin
Text: Shannon Rhodes, Edith Bowen Laboratory School, Utah State University https://edithbowen.usu.edu/https://edithbowen.usu.edu/
Additional Reading Links: Shannon Rhodes

Additional Reading

Beaudreau, Andrea. 2017. Why I Love Sculpins (and Why You Should Too). Coastal Fisheries Ecology Lab. https://annebeaudreau.com/2017/09/05/why-i-love-sculpins/

Bouchard, R.W. Jr. 2004. Guide to Aquatic Invertebrates of the Upper Midwest. 2004. https://dep.wv.gov/WWE/getinvolved/sos/Documents/Benthic/UMW/Plecoptera.pdf

Curtis, Jennifer Keats with Stroud Water Research Center. 2020. Arbordale Publishing. https://www.arbordalepublishing.com/bookpage.php?id=CreekCritters

Dickey, Amy. Water Quality and Macroinvertebrates. https://deq.utah.gov/communication/news/water-quality-macroinvertebrates

Larese-Casanova, Mark. 2013. Aquatic Insects, Harbingers of Health. Wild About Utah, https://wildaboututah.org/aquatic-insects-harbingers-of-health/

Leavitt, Shauna. 2017. Bear Lake Sculpin. Wild About Utah, https://wildaboututah.org/bear-lake-sculpin-cottus-extensus/

National Aquatic Monitoring Center. https://namc-usu.org/

Pennsylvania League of Angling Youth. 2006. PLAY. https://www.fishandboat.com/LearningCenter/PennsylvaniaLeagueofAnglingYouthPLAY/Documents/AquaticMacrosEnaElpaMayflyPondstream_Allpages.pdf

Stroud Water Research Center. Macroinvertebrate Resources. https://stroudcenter.org/macros/

Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. Five Aquatic Species You May Not Know Live in Utah. Mottled Sculpin. https://wildlife.utah.gov/guidebooks/962-r657-29–government-records-access-management-act.html

Utah State University Extension. Bugs Don’t Bug Me. https://extension.usu.edu/waterquality/files-ou/Publications/AllBugs.pdf

Zarbock, William. 1952. Life History of the Utah Sculpin. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1577/1548-8659%281951%2981%5B249%3ALHOTUS%5D2.0.CO%3B2

Haunted in the Forest

Haunted in the Forest: Witchy Ghost of a Plant Courtesy & Copyright Shannon Rhodes, Photographer
Witchy Ghost of a Plant
Courtesy & Copyright Shannon Rhodes, Photographer

Leaf Skeleton Courtesy & Copyright Shannon Rhodes, Photographer Leaf Skeleton
Courtesy & Copyright Shannon Rhodes, Photographer

Jaw Bone Courtesy & Copyright Shannon Rhodes, Photographer Jaw Bone
Courtesy & Copyright Shannon Rhodes, Photographer

Tree Canker Courtesy & Copyright Shannon Rhodes, Photographer Tree Canker
Courtesy & Copyright Shannon Rhodes, Photographer

Costume Change Chrysalis Courtesy & Copyright Shannon Rhodes, Photographer Costume Change Chrysalis
Courtesy & Copyright Shannon Rhodes, Photographer

When life throws scary at you, what do you do? As we increasingly consider mental and emotional health issues and strategies, I find that my answer is that I go to the forest. Of course, I go there when things are going smoothly too, but I agree with Henry David Thoreau when he wrote, “When I would recreate myself, I seek the darkest wood.” He, in fact, recommended the “most dismal swamp,” but that is a little too slimy for me. I will stick with solid soil.

A few weeks ago I spied a bat dangling from the bricks on my front porch as I gazed at the moon just as I had asked my young students to do. It reminded me of how in Janell Cannon’s picture book Stellaluna, a young bat survives a predatory owl’s attacks, falling “down, down…faster and faster, into the forest below.” She clings to a branch until her strength gives out, then “down, down again she dropped” into an unlikely predicament. Bats and harvest moons are iconic figures of this season, and as I ventured out for a sanity walk in the Cache National Forest, everywhere I looked I saw more.

Fall forests are full of chilling scenes, and I was first struck by a gruesome sap bleed from a gaping evergreen canker. The yellow ooze seeping seemed beautiful somehow. I don’t remember ever being so captivated by a wounded plant, and because I lingered, I also spotted a chrysalis containing a caterpillar’s costume change on a neighboring tree. Next to that were the witchy remains of other withering forbs.

Beneath my hiking boots was a toothy jaw grinning amid fragile leaf skeletons scattered on the forest floor. Even as I swapped away the cobwebs I didn’t see ahead until it was too late, the eerie beauty of nature eased the tormenting worries in my life. There’s a Chinese Proverb that says, “You can only go halfway into the darkest forest; then you are coming out the other side.”

A good walk outside is great for the distressed heart and mind. I needed to find the unlikely power in autumn icons. As Mary Shelley wrote for Frankenstein, “Beware; for I am fearless, and therefore powerful.” Next time you are frightened by the unknowns or scarred by the realities, consider falling into a forest.

I’m Shannon Rhodes, and I’m wild about Utah.

Credits:

Images: Courtesy & Copyright Shannon Rhodes, Photographer
Text & Voice: Shannon Rhodes, Edith Bowen Laboratory School, Utah State University https://edithbowen.usu.edu/
Additional Reading Links: Shannon Rhodes

Additional Reading

Wild About Utah Posts by Shannon Rhodes https://wildaboututah.org/author/shannon-rhodes/

Cannon, Janell. 1993. Stellaluna. New York: Harcourt Brace & Company. https://www.amazon.com/Stellaluna-Janell-Cannon/dp/0152062874/ref=sr_1_1

Shelley, Mary Woolstonecraft. 1818. Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus. https://www.gutenberg.org/files/84/84-h/84-h.htm

Thoreau, Henry David and Brooks Atkinson. 2000. Walden and Other Writings. New York: Modern Library. https://www.amazon.com/Walden-Other-Writings-Modern-Library/dp/0679600043

Inside Look at Fire, Water, Wind

Inside Look at Fire, Water, Wind: 2022 SAQA Quilt Exhibition: WILD! Brigham City Museum of Art & History
View exhibit brochure in a new window:
2022 SAQA Quilt Exhibition: WILD!
Brigham City Museum of Art & History

Kodachrome Reflections Quilt Art Copyright Kimberly Lacy Courtesy Mary Heers Kodachrome Reflections
Quilt Art Copyright Kimberly Lacy
Used By Permission
All Rights Reserved
This Image Courtesy Mary Heers

A Terrible Beauty, Quilt Art & Image Copyright Sara Lamb, Photographer & Quilt Artist All Rights Reserved, This Image Courtesy Mary HeersA Terrible Beauty
Quilt Art & Image Copyright Sara Lamb, Photographer & Quilt Artist
Used By Permission
All Rights Reserved
This Image Courtesy Mary Heers

The Untamed Wind Quilt Art Copyright Jeannette Schoennagel, All Rights Reserved This Image Courtesy Mary Heers The Untamed Wind
Quilt Art Copyright Jeannette Schoennagel,
Used By Permission
All Rights Reserved
This Image Courtesy Mary Heers

One of the most important lessons I learned during last summer’s long hot afternoons was that the best place to appreciate Utah’s natural beauty can sometimes be inside an art museum.

As I stepped off the blistering hot sidewalk and through the doors of the Brigham City art and history museum, I breathed a sigh of relief. Not too hot, not too cold. Just right. A magical place where I could go inside to commune with nature. I had arrived at “Wild,” a juried quilt exhibit featuring some of the best work of fiber artists in the Intermountain West.

A quick glance around the room and I was immediately drawn to a silhouette of a mountain cabin Sunrise I thought, with the brilliant yellow and orange sky. Each quilt came with a typed note from the artist about the piece. I started to read. This was her cabin in the woods. Then came the shock. She had watched the breaking news on tv as wildfire licked the edges of her cabin and then engulfed it in flames. Suddenly the velvet strip running along the edge of the piece looked red hot. The bits of black yarn hand stitched off the nearby tree practically crackled with heat.

Somewhat cautiously I approached the next quilt. What looked like a kaleidoscope of soft sunset colors on a quiet pond turned out to be just that. I breathed a sigh of relief. The freehand swirling of the stitching made the water ripple. The setting sun bathed the air and water in deepening shades of pink. I actually had to resist the urge to run home, grab my fishing pole, and cast my line into the quilted watery pool.

Making the final turn around the room, I saw the piece I liked the best. Here was a tree with a painted white bark with bits of confetti leaves flying off. The rolling waves of stitching created a windy look that practically breezed through my hair. This piece was festive – the leaves dancing their way from one season into the next.

Fire, water and wind. I had felt the presence of these three cornerstones of the natural world inside this cozy museum.

But before I could get too comfortable, I heard a warning cry from one last artist. Her quilt was a strange patch of peacock blue in the middle of a rubbly hillside. Puzzled, I read her story. She loved to romp with her dog up and down this hillside close to her home. Then the patch of blue appeared. She approached it and discovered it was not an exotic bird. It was a stake driven into the heart of the hill. Within weeks the bulldozers and front end loaders arrived and ripped the earth apart.

As I stepped back into the hot outside world, I shouted out three small cheers for all the art museums that help us savor the natural beauty of our open spaces – and remind us to keep working to preserve them.

This is Mary Heers and I’m Wild about Utah

Credits:
Photos: Courtesy Mary Heers, Thank you to Kimberly Lacy, Sara Lamb and Jeannette Schoennagel for permission to display their artwork on this site and upr.org
Featured Audio: Courtesy & Copyright © Friend Weller, Utah Public Radio upr.org
Text: Mary Heers, https://cca.usu.edu/files/awards/art-and-mary-heers-citation.pdf
Additional Reading: Lyle Bingham, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/

Additional Reading

Wild About Utah, Mary Heers’ Wild About Utah Postings

2022 Quilt Exhibition: WILD! Brigham City Museum of Art & History, June 25-September 17, 2022https://www.brighamcitymuseum.org/2022quiltshow
Tel:435-226-1439, museum@bcutah.org
Address: 24 North 300 West, Brigham City, UT 84302

International Art Quilt Exhibition and Layered Voices Exhibition, Now Playing Utah, Utah Cultural Alliance, https://www.nowplayingutah.com/event/international-art-quilt-exhibition-and-layered-voices-exhibition/

WILD! (SAQA Regional), Studio Art Quilt Associates, Inc, Jun 25, 2022-Sep 17, 2022, https://www.saqa.com/art/exhibitions/wild-saqa-regional
View WILD! on ISSUU, Jun 20, 2022, https://issuu.com/saqaart/docs/wildfilp1-compressed/

Dunetts, LaVonne M, Wild!: SAQA CO/UT/WY, May 31, 2022, https://www.amazon.com/Wild-SAQA-CO-UT-WY/dp/B0B2WLQG4C/ref=sr_1_1?

Brigham City Museum of Art & History on FaceBook: https://www.facebook.com/BrighamCityMuseum/

Desert Desserts

Desert Desserts: Sacred Datura Moon Flower Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer
Sacred Datura Moon Flower
Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer

Prickly Pear Cactus Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer Prickly Pear Cactus
Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer

Mormon Tea (Ephedra) From Comb Ridge Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer Mormon Tea (Ephedra) From Comb Ridge
Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer

Limestone Crinoids Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer Limestone Crinoids
Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer

My proofreader’s eye has often spotted “dessert” misspelled as “desert,” and to some, those two concepts couldn’t be more dissimilar. During my three days in and along a short 27-river-mile stretch of Utah’s San Juan River this month though, I marveled at the menu.

Terry Tempest Williams captures what she calls “small devotions of the desert alphabet” in her book “The Illuminated Desert.” She lists lizards languishing in desert heat, ravens and rattlesnakes amid the red rocks. A fascinating one, the Sacred Datura, blooms only at night and attracts pollinators like the hawkmoth with its showy white blossoms in the moonlight. If it is food you are after, however, avoid this poisonous temptation. Instead, try a juicy prickly pear cactus pad once you have removed the long, sharp spines. Some say it tastes like watermelon, but it tastes like a banana to me.

Along the path to San Juan Hill atop Comb Ridge, I also find ephedra, a shrub that carries out photosynthesis in its green branches, that has traditionally been said to have been used medicinally and brewed, hence the common name Mormon tea. Some, like Brock Cheney who has researched the claim that Brigham Young advocated drinking tea made from boiling the stems, argue that Young’s “composition tea” was not made from the Mormon tea plant, and once you try it, the bitterness will tell you why. Having not ever had a sip myself, I can say that the Mormon tea shrub does sprinkle brilliant green to the landscape like a garnish.

“Lie down on your backs and try to feel what is special about this place.” That’s the challenge in Joseph Cornell’s book “Sharing Nature with Children,” but it is equally rewarding to do as an adult. Lounging in the raft as another rows, I look from the sediment-laden river that reminds me of watery chocolate pudding thanks to recent rainstorms, to the great blue heron standing as a guide, flying ahead and waiting for us to catch up, just to fly ahead again. I watch with wonder as the western tanager males, songbirds with yellow bodies and black wings, heads aflame with red-orange, flutter among the salt cedars.

This oasis offers a promise of quiet away from the commotion of my city life as the desert bighorn sheep nod from the coyote willow. Even after studying the scorpions in the sand illuminated by flashlight, I stretch out and nibble at the buffet of constellations above me in the sky.

The crinoids encased in the limestone boulders along the riverbank the next morning remind me that this place was once for millions of years, actually, an ancient inland sea. I find deliciousness here in the dry heat, the muddy grit, as a guest who will return, hungry for more.

For Wild About Utah, I’m Shannon Rhodes.

Credits:
Images: Courtesy & Copyright Shannon Rhodes, Photographer
Audio: Courtesy & © Kevin Colver https://wildstore.wildsanctuary.com/
Text:     Shannon Rhodes, Edith Bowen Laboratory School, Utah State University https://edithbowen.usu.edu/
Additional Reading Links: Shannon Rhodes

Additional Reading:

Cheney, Brock. 2009. Mormon Tea! Plain but Wholesome: Adventures in Mormon Pioneer Food. http://pioneerfoodie.blogspot.com/2009/02/in-news-mormon-tea.html

Cornell, Joseph. 1998. Sharing Nature With Children. DAWN Publications. https://www.sharingnature.com/sharing-nature.html

Eldredge, Sandra. 1992. Geologic Resources of San Juan County. Department of Natural Resources Utah Geologic Survey. https://ugspub.nr.utah.gov/publications/public_information/PI-14.pdf

Larese-Casanova, Mark. 2011. Amazing Adaptations of Utah’s Desert Plants. https://wildaboututah.org/amazing-adaptations-of-utahs-desert-plants/

U.S. Forest Service. Sacred Datura. https://www.fs.usda.gov/wildflowers/beauty/Sky_Islands/plants/Datura_wrightii/index.shtml

https://www.fs.usda.gov/wildflowers/ethnobotany/Mind_and_Spirit/datura.shtml

Utah State University Extension. Salt cedar and coyote willow. https://extension.usu.edu/rangeplants/shrubs-and-trees/Saltcedar

https://extension.usu.edu/rangeplants/shrubs-and-trees/CoyoteWillow

Williams, Terry Tempest. 2008. The Illuminated Desert. Canyonlands Natural History Association. https://www.amazon.com/Illuminated-Desert-Terry-Tempest-Williams/dp/0937407119