Muckraking Mendota: Life on the Rocks

“NO WAY!” I yelled as I pulled up a rock from a creek bed, with a huge smile on my face. “Look! It’s a FRESHWATER SPONGE!”

Why was I shouting? Don’t let initial appearances fool you. Freshwater sponges are indicators of awesome water quality. They often favor submerged wood for habitat. Photo: E. Hilts

Chelsey Blanke, who was watching from the boat, just laughed. She volunteers for the Center for Limnology on Fridays, and has accompanied me for a couple of trips out on Lake Mendota. We actually met earlier this year in an ecology of fishes class, and I was pumped to find out she’d be coming along in the field.
Chelsey gets ready to find some macroinverts! Photo: E. Hilts
Chelsey gets ready to find some macroinverts! Photo: E. Hilts

It’s awesome to share a discovery with someone right when it happens (especially when, like Chelsey, they not only understand, but appreciate why you’re shouting).
We had taken a boat up to Pheasant Branch Creek, a small river that enters Lake Mendota near Middleton, on the lake’s west shore.
I was standing knee deep on shore with a kick-net, used to sample bottom sediments for aquatic insects. The net is shaped like an upper-case D, and the flat edge is placed on the bottom while the user stands upstream to gently kick up sediment, which flows through the net, capturing the little organisms in the mesh. Keep reading –>