Saturday, June 6, 2009


Last weekend we went on our annual department field trip. This is partly an opportunity for us to bond as a group (we work in two different locations so these opportunities are rare) and also, importantly, an occasion for collecting various specimens for the live collections at the Museum.

So here we are setting off to do some trespassing er I mean, collecting! We also had a first in that we had a canine member of the group. Speckles was a delight and extremely well behaved except for when she had a face-off with a turkey!
Our first port of call was the Vermilion River to do some seine fishing and some dip netting.

Here is Jamie leading the team out to do some seine netting. An amusing technique to observe from the shore.

Two people hold the net taught and slightly angled while the rest of the team start a crazy, splashing, soft shoe shuffle towards the net. In theory driving the fish in front of them.

Then at the last minute the net is scooped up to trap the fish. We have several tanks of native fish species on display at the Museum and this is how we keep them stocked.

Meanwhile back along the shore Amber was doing some dip netting. This can often be very productive as there are all sorts of cool aquatic invertebrates and larvae hiding out amongst the tree roots.

Like this ferocious looking Hellgrammite Corydalus cornutus who's fearsome jaws you want to avoid at all costs!

There are often good pickings to be had on the waters edge too as various creatures seek out moisture

One of the more impressive being this Ichneumon Wasp. This is not a great photo but the two huge appendages that can be seen curling round either side are actually the wasps ovipositors!

A personal favourite of mine was this Big eyed Toad Bug Gelastocoris oculatus that was hopping around at the waters edge.

All kinds of neat stuff to keep us biology geeks happy!
After we were done at the Vermilion River we headed off to Starved Rock State Park to pitch our tents and get settled in for the evening. Vincent cooked us a delicious meal and we all ate far too much! When we had gotten over our gluttony we went out after dark to collect some amphibians. We managed to get an American Toad, two Gray Treefrogs and a Cricket Frog, all of which will be coming back with us to make their homes at the Museum. When we got back from the amphibian collecting trip Doug had set up his black light and there was plenty to see on it.

I thought this was the adult form of the hellgrammite, a Dobson Fly but not being an entomologist I always like to double check my photos with Bug Guide and it was a good job I did because this is actually a Spring Fishfly Chauliodes rasticornis (shows what I know!!)

And this bizarre looking creature is a Giant Casemaker Caddisfly Ptilostomis spp.

And while we are on the subject of bizarre, this has got to be natures version of a fighter jet design. A Dark-spotted Palthis Palthis angulalis

There were also several of these Sexton Beetles Nicrophorus orbicolis They eat carrion and also provide it for their larvae. When they find a small dead animal they slowly excavate the soil from underneath it so that it gradually disappears underground.

I suppose for some blacklighting is the stuff of nightmares but we all slept very soundly that night.
Unfortunately early in the morning the rain arrived and that pretty much put an end to our collecting. Before heading back to Chicago one day early, we did take a short hike around Starved Rock and got some great views of the Illinois River

It was a rather damp, humid hike but it certainly was nice to be out of the city.

We made one more stop on our way to do some more seine fishing at a nearby stream which proved very fruitful. Vincent tried to keep his feet dry but by this stage it was rather a lost cause!

So we packed our soggy selves into several cars and headed back into the city, leaving severe thunderstorms, seventy mile an hour winds and one inch diameter hail behind us!

Photo Credits - CJT


Rambling Woods said...

A damp humid am so sorry that you got rained out, but I enjoyed learning how you collect some of your specimens and of course learning more about them. Isn't Bugguide great?
Michelle From Rambling Woods

Becky said...

Yikes to the hail but look at all that awesome stuff you found. Thanks for sharing.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

You get to do some fascinating stuff. I'd prefer seeing the mammals instead of those bugs. But I'd join you for a hike, even if it was soggy :)