Who would have dreamed that bog lemmings live at Goose Pond?
The small rodent is found in grassy openings in forests and forest edges, especially where sedges, ferns and shrubs grow, and not in corn and soybean fields. Somehow, the hardy little mammals survived a century of draining, plowing, row crops, pesticides, fertilizers and bulldozing during wetlands restoration.
The critter was one of thousands caught and cataloged July 16 and 17 during the first Goose Pond Biodiversity Survey.
The newly restored, 8,000-plus acre state fish and wildlife area is teeming with life. The bird species the wetlands have attracted have been well documented and jaw-dropping at times. But what else is out there?
Scientists from across the state and beyond joined forces to address that question. Organized and co-sponsored by the Indiana Academy of Science and Friends of Goose Pond, 82 biologists, including botanists, ichthyologists, lepidopterists and other entomologists, herpetologists, mammalogists, ornithologists and biogeochemists went into the fields and marshes in an attempt to paint a two-day, summertime picture of all life forms present there.
While the lemming was a shocking find, many scientists were more impressed with the sheer numbers of organisms found.
“We didn’t find anything exceptional, but the abundance is phenomenal,” said herpetologist team leader Daryl Kerns, with the IAS and a biology professor at Hanover College. The school’s Rivers Institute was also a key player in organizing the event.
Goose Pond property manager Brad Feaster provided some preliminary results:
• Vascular plants: more than 400 species identified so far
• Beetles: 79 species and counting
• Butterflies: 47 species
• Moths: 41 species and counting
• Dragonflies: 22 species
• Reptiles and amphibians: 19 species
• Birds: 123 species.
Many reports and final tallies are still to come from the 13 teams that were in the field that weekend. Team leaders have until Aug. 16 to submit their results, and some will spend a month sorting, identifying and counting.
The entomologists collected literally buckets of bugs that will take weeks to identify. Some set up bright lights in fields at night, and the insects dove by the thousands onto collecting sheets.
The final results will be published in the Proceedings of the Indiana Academy of Sciences and will also be made available to the public. Such a list already exists for birds on the web at www.in.gov/dnr/fishwild/3094.htm.
Other species likely or known to be at Goose Pond will not show up in the survey because they are dormant this time of year, or simply weren’t found on the two-day search.
Feaster said. “This one event will significantly expand our knowledge of the biota at Goose Pond Fish and Wildlife Area,” Feaster said.
Barbara Simpson, a member of Friends of Goose Pond and key organizer of the event, said publishing the results will encourage nature lovers to document additional species there. “It will be like an on-going treasure hunt,” she said.
Simpson said the success of the survey includes more than species tallies, but also the enthusiastic participation of scientists, students, nature lovers and volunteers, all of whom donated their time and expertise to the project, including travel expenses.
In return, they got free meals and lodging, a chance to socialize with like-minded biologists, and an opportunity to explore the re-established wetlands.
Goose Pond is “well-managed for diversity, and suitable to become a world-class natural resource,” Kerns said.