Last weekend our lab took a retreat to Algonquin Provincial Park, the oldest and one of the largest (> 7,500 sq. km.) Provincial Park in Canada. After a 4 hour drive North from Toronto and we arrived at the Wildlife Research Station where we stayed in a delightful cabin adjacent to a lake. The lake, however, was completely frozen over and there was still about 2 m of snow! So while technically spring had begun, it was still pretty wintery up there. We spend nearly all the daylight hours snowshoeing around and naturalizing—the land was not exactly bustling with life but nature, as always, did not disappoint. Here are some photos of what we found.
They are commonly referred to as snow fleas (Hypogastrura sp.), but they are not fleas of course, but rather Collembola, a group of arthropods sister to insects. Like most Collembola, they rocket away when disturbed using a spring loaded appendage (hence the common name springtails) on the undersides of their body called a furcula. They can survive on the snow, an impossible feat for most arthropods, partially because of a completely unique antifreeze protein which has been studied quite extensively.
Lichens flourish in the winter extremes—many tree branches are covered in communities of multiple species.
We made our way into the forest where there was some more life around:
I got pretty into photographing the textures of tree bark—a great source of biologically rich colors and shapes in landscapes that can otherwise seem somewhat bleak. This is a paper birch (Betula papyrifera).
I am pretty sure this is a striped maple (Acer pensylvanicum).
Along our travels we saw signs of several other vertebrates including huge excavations in tree trunks from one of my all time favorite birds, pileated woodpecker, the food debris piles of squirrels, and the scat of wolves and moose. It is a bit of a haunting experience walking through a forest where you known wolves are prowling…