I went to the Oklahoma BioBlitz this weekend. For those who missed out on my earlier post, BioBlitz is an event in which biologists, both professional and amateur, convene in a single, usually noteworthy location, like a state park, and spend 24 consecutive hours identifying as many species of life as possible. This year's Oklahoma BioBlitz was at Mohawk City Park up in Tulsa. Mom and I were wondering how good it would really be; city parks aren't exactly known for their diversity. When we got there, we were even more skeptical: we saw lots of solitary trees, lawn and picnic tables, with what appeared to be thin bands of forest. However, as it turns out, it is a very big park, and also contains a lot of, believe it or not, old-growth hardwood forest. There were some oaks out there upwards of five feet thick. The species count was 1063, only 7 down from last year's record count in Okmulgee.
I went up there partly because wandering around outside counting living things is almost exactly my idea of a good time, and also because I hoped to meet some professional mycologists. I love collecting mushrooms, but I can still only identify a small fractions of the ones I collect, and I thought it would be great to have someone there to do the hard stuff. Also, I wanted to learn about microscopic identification of fungus (which is really the only sure-fire way), maybe buy or beg some Meltzer's reagent, and get information about what, if any, schools in the area might be able to get me a master's degree or PhD in mycology.
It didn't turn out that way. Apparently, the state had only two professional field mycologists, one at UCO in Edmond and one in Lawton. The guy in Lawton recently got a job offer in Illinois and moved away; the one at UCO thought that, since it hadn't rained in almost two weeks, it wasn't really worth going. So, instead of learning from an expert, I was
the "expert". I went on two collecting tromps through the woods myself, and other people brought me a few things here and there. Altogether, my "group" contributed 61species to the count. A lot of those were only identified to genus, and as the deadline came, a lot of them simply got a "misc. gilled mushroom." Still, it was exciting and fun, if a bit stressful.
Also, I got bitten by a lot of bugs out there. Saturday morning and early afternoon, as I was trying to feverishly identify all my specimens, I was completely crawling with ticks. The average distance between ticks on my legs was in the neighborhood of 2-5cm. Also, I surely had some run-ins with chiggers and mosquitoes, along with other biting flies. I started counting my bites a little while ago. I got up to 64 on the front of my left thigh. I would put my estimate for my entire body somewhere between 150 and 300. I itch like crazy.
and I went out to the Lake Thunderbird Stone Tool Expo. It's amazing how many people there are around who make stone tools! They were all very friendly, and we sat around for hours talking to them and watching them knap flint and obsidian. It was a little like the Medieval Faire, only it was the Neolithic Fair instead. Mostly what was for sale were arrow- and spear-heads, a few knives, and a lot of raw stone. Nobody was dressed up as neolithic hunters, but they did apparently have a ritual on Saturday night called the Ooga-Booga. They seemed pretty interested in the authenticity of their work, although the majority used simple copper tools to chip the stone, primarily because it is cheaper and easier to maintain than old-school antler and bone tools, or even older-school hammer stones. There were some guys there working with antler and bone, though. Some (most?) of the knappers actually use their stone arrowheads for hunting. It was really interesting to see people doing something that people have done for hundreds of thousands of years. One of them told a story about a place he found when he was out in the hills in Western Oklahoma, and he came across a pile of chert, with a mound of flakes next to it. Obviously, it was a workshop. He sat down and worked on an arrowhead, but broke it. In aggravation, he tossed it away. Afterwards, he went to the place where it had landed and found it full of broken arrowheads. Such continuity!