Sunday, June 23, 2013

Land o' the pines

I’m in the Big Bend region of Florida for a month or so, working in the Apalachicola National Forest.  It’s my second field trip to the forest, which is shooting toward the top of my favorite field sites.  Every day brings a new discovery or humbling natural encounter, in one of the most aesthetically pleasing landscapes I know.  The forest is a mosaic of pine savannas, wet prairies, live oak forests, and pond cypress swamps—a dynamic blend of fire-dependent grasslands and dark wet forests.

Longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) savannas are a mix of prairie and forest, maintained by frequent natural fires

Apalachicola's extensive pine savannas host the world’s largest population of endangered red-cockaded woodpeckers (Picoides borealis)

Different habitats swirl together in the Apalachicola, their boundaries varying with water table and fire frequency.  Here a pitcher plant (Sarracenia sp.) prairie meets a pond cypress (Taxodium ascendens) swamp and a longleaf pine savanna.

An experimental physicist, Aaron, has joined me for this project.  Dr. Walter Tschinkel has allowed me to use his field sites.  We’re performing experiments to understand how fire ant queens fly and move across a landscape.  And, as always, I will learn and experience.

Aaron is helping me study how fire ant queens fly to new places, and we hope Apalachicola holds the answer

So here we are—a biologist and a physicist—with a month to explore a 600,000 acre natural playground.

This is going to be a great month.


  1. how is the weather out there?

  2. The weather has been great, but a little hot... Nothing to complain about!