Ecology module begins – vegetation survey

|Ecology module begins – vegetation survey

Dear All,

Hello – many greetings. I’m Dino Martins and I am currently introducing the students in the Field School to some of the amazing plants, insects and other creatures around TBI as part of the second module of the course. We have spent the last few days looking at the plant community around TBI. Thanks to a single heavy downpour some weeks ago, the typically bare sands have been transformed into a carpet of wildflowers and grasses.

This is the gorgeous Flame Lily, Gloriosa minor, that has sprouted from the sand...

One of the most striking flowers that has appeared is the Flame Lily or Gloriosa  (Gloriosa minor). This is a classic beauty of northern Kenya’s wild places. The flowers are borne on stalks above the short rosette of leaves.

 

Gloriosa or Flame Lily

Underneath the trees within the TBI compound there are swathes of green grass and dense carpets of ephemerals – lovely, fleeting wildflowers that appear for just a couple of weeks after the rain. The students have been hard at work measuring and describing the plant community using transects and quadrats to compare species compositions and ground cover patterns between sites.

Nikki and Elaine working on their first transect at TBI

Jenna and Alex carefully counting herbs along their transect

Using simple quadrats of 50 cm by 50 cm, we found between 5 and 12 species in these tiny areas, with an average of about 8 species per plot. In some places the grasses and wildflowers are so dense that we just had to estimate the numbers. As we all worked in the sun, one of the camp dogs took a break in the shade…

Ken (aka Blondie) resting in the shade

 

Some of the flowers we found in the shade beneath the trees are tiny, but exquisite works of floral art. Here is one of them, a gorgeous Polygala, that resembles a showy orchid in miniature…

 

Tiny, but gorgeous Polygala - one of the Turkana ephemerals

After doing the transects inside the compound, we walked outside and repeated the exercise. We found that there was less ground cover where the goats had been feeding voraciously. We will be sharing more of what we’ve been finding shortly, so check back here soon!

Archer and Kate ponder the bare ground outside the TBI compound as Roy and Wes count the plants along their transect.

 

By | 2017-01-04T18:05:24+00:00 September 30th, 2011|Field Schools|Comments Off on Ecology module begins – vegetation survey

About the Author:

Hello! I'm Dino Martins, an entomologist interested in how insects keep the planet running, the biology of vectors and more broadly in the evolution of life and our role in a sustainable world. I teach for the Turkana Basin Field School and serve as the Academic Field Director and am a Research Assistant Professor at Stony Brook University.