A fine day for the field

Friday was a welcomed reprieve from the rain, and we took advantage of the good weather to explore field sites. We spent an enjoyable four hours in the field.

We began our bike tour by heading south toward the California Raptor Center until we reached Putah Creek. Because UC Davis owns a long stretch Putah Creek’s the northern (and southern?) bank, we have access to the many interesting habitats that abut the creek.

Slipping and sliding

We spent time slipping and sliding in the muddy shore of the creek and poking around in an adjacent field. The adjacent field was spotted with all sorts of fun fungi as well as patches of flowering black mustard and young milk thistles. Several purple (why purple?) bee hives were in the center of the field. All sorts of interesting finds were made. Some notable finds included a mummified aphid, an earwig, some hairy poop, a clam, and termites inside a stem of a dead thistle. (Though we enthusiastically dissected more stems, no additional termites were found). Another notable observation was that the density of predacious spiders in the field was quite high. Where was their prey?


Our bike tour continued westward on the Levee Road and we were able to get a good view of Putah Creek along the way. Several red-tailed hawks were spotted in the sky. A few remarks about mistletoe, a parasitic plant, were made. We discussed the invasive tamarisk tree and the beetles that have been introduced as to stop the spread of the trees. Interestingly, the introduced beetles are only effective as biocontrol when sourced from a latitude equivalent to Davis’ because they use cues from the photoperiod to time their diapause.

We stopped again by the parking lot of the Putah Creek Riparian Reserve and had a grand time turning over old wooden railway sleepers and logs. A wondrous world of millipedes, beetles, salamanders, and toads was discovered. The hero of the log underworld was a beautiful king snake.

On the final leg of our bike tour we headed further west to the Experimental Ecosystem. The Experimental Ecosystem, a large expanse with varied terrain, borders the UC Davis biodigester to the north and the UC Davis Landfill (which is now defunct according to the UC Davis Office of Sustainability) to the east. The landscape of the area is heavily human modified but diverse in structure. We spent thirty minutes exploring the area. There was a chorus of red-winged blackbirds and beautiful sunset.

On the way back, Mia experienced a tire explosion! Jess graciously lent Mia her bike so that Mia could make her train. We were not able to make it back to the classroom to hold a group discussion so we will reserve some time on Monday to discuss what we saw. This will give everyone some extra time to ruminate!

On Tuesday, if the weather is acceptable, we will hit the field again! If we stay inside due to rain, we will be discussing Friday’s field time and any experimental questions that may have been inspired by the field. Whether we are inside or out, we will hold a group discussion so come with ideas! Feel free to share papers with the group on Slack.

Finally, Louie says, “get ready for a quarter of helmet propaganda!” Only 10.5% of UC Davis undergraduates wear helmets. This is far below the national average (34.9%) of helmet usage by undergraduates. Let’s try to get our class helmet usage above the national average, ideally to 100%! Get a free helmet by signing the “Helmet Hair, Don’t Care” pledge. Sign the pledge online and pick up your helmet in person at the Bike Barn. We are going to need your brainpower for our experiment!


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