19 hours ago
Saturday, January 31, 2009
Louisiana in January
It seems every year I get tired of the cold (and for me cold = temperatures less than 60 degrees F) I rejuvenate by simply getting on my bicycle and realizing the beauty of Louisiana in the 'winter' months. As most of you know, I try to bike to school everyday. It takes about 20 minutes and the majority of this bike ride is on a poorly maintained path around the LSU lakes. These lakes are man-made but quite beautiful. They support a wide array of birds, turtles, and plant life. Often times biking to and from campus I had some of the best 'eureka' moments concerning my dissertation. It helps that my study site (Catahoula Lake), the largest, natural freshwater lake in Louisiana, is about 2.5 hours north of Baton Rouge. So all in all the vegetation is not so different from the vegetation I see around the LSU lakes everyday. Now Catahoula Lake has this fluctuating hydrology that causes the lake to drawdown and expose the lakebed on a yearly cycle. The LSU lakes on the otherhand have relatively stable lake levels. There are areas, however, that over the duration of my time spent working on my dissertation, have periodically dried up due to short periods of drought. When this happens I am able to watch and observe the changes that occur with regards to the vegetation.
For example, in this area there is a stand of Taxodium distichium (bald cypress) trees. These trees grow in an area that periodically floods and has standing water. This standing water has decreased the presence of a permanent grassmat and has also encouraged Salix sp. (willows) and algae to grow on the saturated ground. As most people know, my research consists of reconstructing vegetation based on the presence of pollen assemblages. So when I look at this area I see visions of pollen grains floating in my head and often use this 'modern analog' as a way to interpret the pollen I see in my lake cores. I won't bore anyone with the details, but let's just say I love that when I look at these things everyday it causes the wheels to turn in my brain and makes me appreciate the surrounding environment and the subtle changes more than usual.
So in short, I just love this about my bike riding and about my research. So as I spend the last few weeks biking in Baton Rouge I may use this as an opportunity to document the things I see everyday. This will serve as a remembrance to me of my time spent surrounded by the beauty of Louisiana and also possibly inspire others to bike to work and notice the small changes that occur everyday and the things that stay the same.