Say you are on a hike and feel dehydrated and run out of water, but you come by a reasonable water source. You gather some water in your water bottle and replenish your thirst. In a couple of hours you get an upset stomach and pass the amoeba-infested water by diarrhea and feel better shortly afterward. This is a natural process of a parasitic relationship. Both animals and plants can be involved in this kind of relationship. If you have ever seen an abnormal-looking part of a plant that resembles a tumor, you are not seeing things. These strange formations are called “galls,” growths on plants that are caused by parasitic organisms. More specifically, the plant tries to separate the parasitic larvae from the rest of itself by forming this tumor-like cavity where the larvae can live and grow. The gall-maker gets protection and food from the gall, while the plant spends its tissue and energy forming this gall. There are over 1,000 species of gall-forming insects, mites, nematodes, bacteria, and fungi that produce these formations as part of their regular life cycle. The galls can be formed on any part of the plant, including roots, stems, fruits, and leaves. While scientists are still studying how the organisms cause the plant cells to divide abnormally to make the galls, biochemical secretions are believed to play a crucial role in gall formation.
You may have noticed a sudden increase in the amount of storms gathering around the Reno area. What causes these storms, and why do they always appear around the same time of year.
Summer storms are the result of heat and moisture. On a hot day, the sun heats the ground and surrounding air enough to cause that air to rise extremely quickly; and with it, all of the moisture that is contained in that air. Once the hot air rises high enough to reach the cooler regions of the atmosphere, it condenses to form clouds. Although this process occurs throughout the entire year, the mid-afternoon heat along with the high heat of the later summer months combine to cause this process to occur so quickly that the clouds don't have time to disperse. The result is storm clouds, or thunderheads.
Thunderheads, like the one pictured, can be spotted from a distance and usually indicate an incoming storm. They are identified by the large column of "cloud" rising vertically (as oppose to spreading out horizontally).
As the clouds sweep across land, pushed along by the wind and gathering moisture, they also gather "charge" which builds up and is eventually dissipated by a lightning strike. The same phenomenon can be observed when you touch a metal door knob after walking around on carpet.
Now that you know a bit more about storms, try predicting if this afternoon is going to yield some thunder! If it is a hot day, and you notice thunderheads already building up over the mountains by early afternoon, it's likely that a thunderstorm is approaching.
Bats are nocturnal flying mammals. In Nevada we have 23 bat species, some of whom live alone in places like trees and bat boxes while others live in colonies in caves. These wondrous creatures are a vital part of many ecosystems and contrary to popular belief only less than 0.5% of bats contract rabies (Nevada Department of Wildlife). Most bats only bite out of self-defense, unless they are one of the three species of vampire bats out of 1,000 of other bat species. Bats often try to avoid people and other animals to protect themselves and in turn don’t easily contract diseases like rabies. Still, never handle a bat; they are delicate, vulnerable creatures that will be afraid of you and might try to bite, and regardless, they probably just don’t want to be held.
Most bats are insectivorous, eating mosquitos, moths, locusts, beetles, and grasshoppers. Without them we would have to add more pesticides to crops to fight off insects, and people would be more susceptible to diseases that are carried by mosquitoes. Possibly worst of all, imagine summer camping trips with 20% more mosquitos. Bats also pollinate crops, flowers, and other plant species; your favorite fruit was most likely pollinated by a bat. Out of the 23 bat species in Nevada only one is currently listed as threatened through the Endangered Species Act; the Spotted Bat (Euderma maculatum). Unfortunately, 50% of the United States bat species have declined or become endangered (Nevada Department of Wildlife) and Nevada is no exception. To protect bats in the United States, organizations like Bat Conservation International have been protecting and restoring bat habitats, finding solutions to White Nose Syndrome, a deadly fungus for bats brought into caves by miners and explorers, monitoring populations of bats, and educating the public. You can get involved by building a bat box in your backyard (basically free insect control!), participating in bat-monitoring surveys, or learning more about bats and threats to bat species and sharing this information with friends and family.
NV Bat Brochure
Bat Conservation International Bat Box Information
People from indigenous communities have been one with the land for thousands of years. They have learned not only how to survive in nature, but also how to thrive. Part of being able to thrive is integrating art within your lifestyle.
Weaving is not only used as a tool for indigenous people but also as a way to express oneself through art. Being able to strategically integrate the fibers of a plant into another form is what makes the art of weaving so useful. The Washoe people were able to find and use many different plants to weave with. One plant that they commonly used was sagebrush. The art of weaving can result in a lightweight form of containers, clothes, shelter and more.
Dat-So-La-Lee (a native Washoe woman) is famous for her basket weaving abilities. After meeting Abe Cohn in 1895, he began to sponsor her and manage her baskets. Dat-So-La-Lee is still known for her beautiful handcrafted woven baskets today.
This blog is managed by the staff and volunteers of Galena Creek Visitor Center. We write about parts of the natural world that we find fascinating and want to teach others about, as well as keeping you updated on the Visitor Center and park. If you want to learn more, please sign up for our monthly newsletter, where we share upcoming events, updates on the ecology of the park, and highlights from each month.