Recently, this author attended the New England North American Lakes Management Congress in Massachusetts, held at Worcester State College. I was attracted by two particular workshops-one on Pre-Invasive Freshwater Fish in New England-An Archeological approach”, the other on “Zooplankton for Everyone”, led by Dr. Jim Haney of UNH.
I was not disappointed by either. The workshop on fish archeology was led by Dr. Dave Halliwell, a biologist from Maine’s Dept. of Environmental Protection, and Dr. Art Speiss, an archeologist from the Maine Historical Preservation Commission. In the workshop, we were introduced to pre-historical evidence of fish species in New England as well as the current techniques of investigation. It turns out that pre-European campsites made wonderful excavation sites. The reason is that the people at that time would cook the fish (and other edibles) over their campfires, and consume them there as well. A key point is that fish bones are better preserved when burned or calcined. The findings of this team date back quite frequently to 3000-5000 years past. The second group of research sites are onshore “middens”, basically trash heaps along the coast. These piles include a large amount of shell and fish material. In the workshop, we “students” examined rubble from one site with tweezers. An appreciative, lusty yell would go up when someone found a fish vertebrate or rib; pottery or plant remnants. The next step was to identify the species of fish—possible with references and examples of various species bones.
The zooplankton workshop, led by Jim Haney, was a show of micro-biology critters, usually not seen by lay people, as a microscope is needed to see these little guys up close. There are over a hundred species of “zoop”, but all fit into four groups. Much about a water body’s biology can be inferred from which types of “zoop” are present. Some zoop live only in the edges (littoral) of lakes and ponds, others prefer deep water. How many, what kind, and what size of zooplankton are present will yield information about how many and what types of fish are present-too many, big fish, “pan” fish, etc. Zooplankton are also the unheralded filters of a water body. And they are adaptable; for example, daphnia will swim away from the shoreline, when fish are small, so as to escape from being eaten. Others will swarm together when heavily predated. Much more can be learned at UNH’s online image-based zooplankton “key” at: http://cfb.unh.edu/cfbkey/html/index.html.
The infectious enthusiasm of these knowledgeable presenters was palpable. They each took immense pleasure in working around lakes and ponds. In 1854, HD Thoreau, father of the Transcendentalism Movement, wrote: “A lake is a landscape’s most beautiful and expressive feature. It is earth’s eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature.” Robert Thorson, a professor of geology at Univ. Conn., reminds us that Thoreau thought of swimming as a “religious exercise”. This from an atheistic nature writer! But Thoreau was also a spiritual individual and “clearly nothing inspired him more than a view of the lake.”
Another nature writer and thinker, Daniel Botkin, indicates: “Today, we view scientific research and religious inspiration as completely separate. ...One of the beliefs of Thoreau’s Transcendentalism was that the connection between people and nature had to be strengthened and science (as well as the process of doing science) was linked to the strengthening of this relationship.”
This may be said of many of us who are fortunate to be in the Lake Sunapee area: knowing the peaceful quiet of early morning fishing or enjoying shoreline scenery, the closeness of the water surface if kayaking or canoeing, the literal feel of the wind and water while sailing. Our inspiration may come upon looking at or through the water’s reflections, or reading while listening to the waves. These days, nothing must be taken for granted. We all must reach down into our own affinity for the water and feel the soulful connectedness. Only then will we acknowledge our commitment to lakes and ponds.
Date published on web site: