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Hibernation: an appealing way to sleep the winter away

The freezing temperatures of the last few weeks would have just about anybody dreaming they could sleep through it and emerge in the spring.  Hibernation does seem like a pretty appealing option. Rodents such as the thirteen-lined ground squirrel and the groundhog enter states of “true” hibernation each winter.  True…

Arb notes: warming climate incites hot debate

The consequences of rapidly accelerating climate change have put ecologists and conservationists in a moral and ecological pickle.  The debate over assisted migration – whether humans should intentionally plant or move species into areas outside their native ranges – is highly controversial. Climate change has already driven many species out…

Arb Notes: Second nature

Walking through the Arboretum, it’s easy to get lulled into thinking the landscape has always looked more or less the same. But what many people don’t realize is that almost all of the Arb was agricultural land from the time of European settlement in Northfield to the mid-1900s. Extensive ecological…

Mussel memory

If you’ve ever wandered the murky banks of the Cannon River, you may have come across the shells of freshwater mussels. Now considered one of the most rapidly declining faunal groups, there are 297 recorded species native to North America, 213 of which are now endangered or extinct. Over the…

Clues to the origin of life found in the Arb

Did you know that the Arb is home to evidence of early microbial life? A large ancient stromatolite is visible along Spring Creek in the Upper Arb. Stromatolites are microbial reefs created by the activity of cyanobacteria. Microbial mats, or complex communities of microbes (primarily bacteria and archaea) organized into…

Arb notes: pasque flowers arrive

A clear sign that spring has sprung is the annual arrival of the pasque flower on the prairie. The pasque flower (Anemone patens), or prairie crocus, is the first native prairie flower to bloom each spring.  They are an important pollination resource for female bees, and blooming early ensures more attention…

Life in the subnivean zone

Have you ever wondered how small animals such as mice, voles, and shrews survive the winter? Unlike those who migrate and hibernate to avoid the cold, small mammals make their homes beneath the snowpack. The subnivean zone, or the area between the surface of the ground and the bottom of…

For Goodness…. Snakes! Sneaky Slitherers in the Arb

Chances are, if you’ve ventured into the Arb recently, a snake likely crossed your path. The Arboretum is home to the eastern garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis), the little brown snake (Storeria dekayi), and the red-bellied snake (Storeria occipitomaculata), all nonvenomous. Oft misunderstood and underappreciated, snakes are actually quite beneficial to…