Have you ever looked back and reflected on your life? That is exactly what we are doing at Kankakee Sands this summer. We have assembled a dedicated group of researchers to accumulate data on the many aspects of restoration and conservation, from the ground to the sky. With the knowledge of how successful our restorations have been since we began 15 years ago, we will be able to better plan our restoration efforts for the future and for the good of the conservation of the plants and animals on which all life depends.
Here are the lead scientists researching at Kankakee Sands this summer:
- Ellen Jacquart and Stuart Orr, The Nature Conservancy (Indiana Chapter), vegetation surveys
- Peter Kovarik of Columbus State University, prairie-dependent ground beetles and ants
- Michael Brittain and Gareth Powell, pocket gopher mound insects
- Dr. Patrick Zollner, Purdue University, small mammals
- Dr. John Dunning, Purdue University, grassland birds
- Karl Gnaedinger, The Nature Conservancy (Illinois Chapter),
- remnant-dependent Insects
- Laura Rericha, Conservation Research Institute, bees
- Jim Vargo, moths
- Dr. Jonathan Bauer, Indiana University, arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi
While the data are still being collected, there are some encouraging results so far.
The plant surveys have found hundreds of plant species distributed through the restoration. Dozens and dozens of Loesel’s twayblade orchids were found in bloom in wet prairie restorations. This is an orchid species that was not planted but has found its way back into these fields.
The small mammal survey crew found a surprise while performing their research. Attracted by the corn used in the small mammal traps, ornate box turtles were found at Kankakee Sands. Importantly, these were young ornate box turtles, our first indication that these turtles are reproducing in the area.
Particularly exciting was the emergence of regal fritillaries this year. This state-endangered butterfly is known to exist in only one site in Indiana – Beaver Lake Nature Preserve, adjacent to the Efroymson Restoration. One of the goals of the restoration was to provide habitat for these butterflies and expand their population. The regal fritillaries emerged the third week of June this year, and every time Kankakee Sands staff saw one, they marked a dot on a big map on the office wall. Within a week, the map was covered with dots! Hundreds of butterflies were seen over almost the entire restoration, a very dramatic representation of the restoration’s success. Our counts determined that it was by far, the most common species on the restoration in early July!