Monday, May 25, 2015

Remote Sensing at Acadia National Park

Posted by Richard B. Primack

“Nature will bear the closest inspection; she invites us to lay our eye level with the smallest leaf, and take an insect view of its plain. She has no interstices; every part is full of life”
-Thoreau (1842) The Natural History of Massachusetts

The snow has finally melted on the mountains at Acadia National Park. Caitlin’s elevational transects and transplant gardens are now paying some unexpected dividends. Two remote sensing specialists, Prof. Crystal Schaaf and grad student Liu Yan from the University of Massachusetts at Boston visited Acadia to determine if these leaf out transects, which go up and down three mountains, will provide the crucial ground-truthing data needed to validate satellite data of spring green-up times. Will the density of sampling along the transects be sufficient? And will the transects exhibit enough spring green-up, despite the abundance of rocks and evergreen trees?

Here Caitlin (on the left) points out some plants that are leafing out in a transplant garden, with Richard Primack, Crystal Schaaf, and Liu Yan (on the right) looking on.

Later, on a walk through the forest, we noticed a strange, shiny, black, highly patterned structure on the ground. The structure was about the size of a grape. But what was it? One theory was that it might be the fruiting structure of a slime mold. Another theory was that it was the egg case of a mollusk. 

What could it be? It had a dense rubbery texture when poked. When the object was turned over, it had two reds spots on the underside. And it smelled slightly sweet. Could it be a candy dropped along a forest path, hundreds of yards from a road?

A visit to the main candy story in Bar Harbor revealed a glass jar full of black raspberry candies mixed up with red candies. Mystery solved!

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