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Darwin Day lab collecting trip

On February 12, in honor of both Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln’s birthdays, the Frandsen and Nelson labs decided to take a trip up American Fork Canyon to look for Parapsyche caddisflies and winter stoneflies. After having several warm days in Provo, many of us were hoping for warmer weather, but when we reached our first sampling site at the Little Mill Picnic Area, we found a snowy and partially iced-over stream. Luckily, we’d all brought jackets and chest waders, so we were prepared to sample in the cold.

After taking some water samples for eDNA filtration, we used kick sampling to collect parapsyche and other aquatic macroinvertebrates in the stream. This effort proved successful, with several live specimens of Parapsyche and Arctopsyche obtained, along with other specimens preserved in ethanol for future identification and study. Families and genera that were identified included Parapsyche, Heptageniidae, Ephemerellidae, Baetidae, Capniidae (adults), Nemouridae (nymphs), Chloroperlidae (nymphs), Perlodidae (Isoperla and Skwala), and Chironomidae.

Continuing further up the canyon, we hoped to find a sunny place to have lunch and cupcakes to celebrate the aforementioned birthdays. We found a spot with an amazing view of the canyon and set up shop. After snacks were eaten and a raucous chorus of Happy Birthday was sung, we said goodbye to a few people who needed to get back down to civilization as the rest of us decided to make the hike along one of the closed roads to reach another sampling site just past Altamont Campground. The site had been integral in a project about the diversity of invertebrates in the area that was done by a past graduate student of Dr. Nelson’s.

The hike itself was beautiful, and the sunshine made it even better. Along the way, we kept a careful eye out for winter stoneflies and snow flies (Chionea) that had adapted to survive on the snow and ice. Though we didn’t find our quarry, we did get to experience the amazing plant and wildlife present along the trail, even stopping in a couple of streams to find more evidence of aquatic invertebrates.

Overall, it was a fantastic day. I was tired and sweaty by the end of it, but I don’t think there was a better way I could’ve spent that Saturday. I’m looking forward to my next chance to go into the field and collect samples.

- Jessica Wicks