UW Kemp Research Station

Recently the Steffan lab went on the first-ever annual Steffan lab retreat at the Kemp Research station in Woodruff, WI (http://www.kemp.wisc.edu).  It was AWESOME.  Situated on the picturesque Tomahawk Lake, we were able to enjoy the beautiful Wisconsin wilderness and check out wild cranberry.  Led by our fearless leader for the weekend, Kyle Johnson—a Lepidoptera and bog expert—we got to see some really cool stuff. 
 
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View from the back deck.
 
We visited a few different wild sites.  The first was an oligotrophic bog, which means nutrient poor.  Here the plants receive nutrients from the air instead of the ground.  The flora found here is unique to these types of highly acidic ecosystems, which is a relatively rare environmental condition so these are not plants one would come across often.
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Fruiting wild cranberry (Vaccinium oxycoccos) among a bed of moss.
 
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This was what the ground looked like, which was like walking across a spongy mat.
 
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Wild cranberry harvest.  
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Tamarack tree, a common bog tree.
 
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Kyle collecting berries.
 
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 Lepidoptera on leatherleaf.
 
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Lichens!
 
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More lichens (British soldiers)!
 
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Kyle’s pet wolfspider.
 
Next stop was to pick up some wintergreen leaf with which to make tea to warm us up back at the station.  The ground here was pretty much covered with the stuff.

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Wintergreen, leaves and berries.

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Across the road from the wintergreen we came upon these little guys, Lycopodia.  This is where we discovered the Lycophile among us – Janet.  This is her favorite group of plants, and after finding out why the rest of us have to agree that they are in fact,  very cool.  Fun Lycopodia fact #1, these plants are as ancient as the dinosaurs when they grew into massive trees.  Fun Lycopodia fact #2, early photographers would ignite spores of the Lycopodia plant, which were naturally flammable, to create a flash for their photographs.

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Slime mold.
 
Our last stop was this place, which felt like how we imagine entering an enchanted forest would be.  These mossy hummocks were so cool and so beautiful.

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Close-up of a hummock.  There was more of the sphagnum moss, like at the wild cranberry bog, but then also this delicate-looking little vine plant, snowberry.

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And in case we ran out of wintergreen tea, we picked up this to make Labrador tea.  This plant was so aromatic it was just in the air, which was downright lovely and contributed to the “enchanted forest” feel of this setting.

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Cranberry sauce made from our wild harvest, which was delicious. 

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Perusing around the station Annie came across this leaf gall.

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Kerry, being a trooper.

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Exploring around the station.  While this doesn’t look strange, the ground they are walking on is essentially floating so it feels as if they are walking on a water bed.

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Group shot.
 
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We decided if we were a band this is the photo we would use for our album cover, and we would be called “The Oligotrophics.”
 
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Sunset on Lake Tomahawk.
 
Thanks again, Kyle, for inspiring and spearheading a really educational (and really fun!) weekend.