Naturalists’ Week at Bearnstow 2012

Held August 2628

Download the 2013 Natural History Week brochure (PDF)

Peter Warny (ecologist, New York City) and Alene Onion (invertebrate biologist, New York
State Department of Environmental Conservation) at the Naturalists’ Week at Bearnstow

Peter Warny, a former ecologist with the Nature Conservancy and National Audubon Society, travels extensively across America, focusing on wetlands habitats and documenting changes in the food webs composed of aquatic insects, fish, amphibians, and reptiles. Peter led nature walks around the camp to examine plants, animals, and the geology of rocks and minerals. During evening presentations, Peter spoke about recent field surveys to Louisiana marshes and the Florida Gulf of Mexico as well as current eco-phenomena in the Northeast, in both urban and rural landscapes such as New York, Cape Cod, and Pennsylvania.

The slide show gives highlights of the August 28 nature walk at The Ledges and along Uncle Daniel’s Brook, led by Pete Warny. Photos by Dasha Chernova

Alene Onion with her daughter
on the Hudson River

Alene Onion is the coordinator of the New York State WAVE program, which stands for “Wadeable Assessments by Volunteer Evaluators” and harvests the effort of numerous volunteers to define the water quality in New York State. Aquatic macroinvertebrates are small invertebrates visible by eye that live solely in aquatic ecosystems. Scientists and habitat managers use these organisms as bioindicators—“canaries in the coal mine”—to tell us if the water body has been impacted by a pollution event. Healthy water bodies will have an abundant diversity of aquatic macroinvertebrates, whereas polluted systems will have only the most robust creatures.

Alene is an employee of the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation. She lives in Albany, New York, with her daughter and husband and frequently travels to her family’s home on Parker Pond. As a child she regularly attended day camp at Bearnstow.

On Monday, August 27, Alene brought us to the sandy beach at the cove, and our group found and identified numerous invertebrates in the sand and under rocks. The verdict: Parker Pond’s water quality is excellent.

Bearnstow lies on 65 acres of nearly pristine woodland alongside 2,400 feet of Parker Pond’s rocky shoreline. In a walk along the trails beside the lake and the brook, we can see a vast variety of vegetation—according to one state forester, “more than any other site I have visited.” Since 1922 the property has been carefully protected, first by Colby College biology professor Webster Chester, and then by Bearnstow.

We have a registered State of Maine “Big Tree” (an Alleghany service berry), erratic boulders, clay subsoil, ground pines, trailing arbutus, five kinds of native evergreens visible from one vista, reindeer moss, and lichen once used to make lavender dye. The pure water of Parker Pond is phenomenal: over the years it has never failed to test drinking safe.