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Karen Schik

It's a sign! Giant stonefly found in downtown St Paul

giant stonefly 1.6 inches long

FMR volunteer Maggie Heisterkamp was surprised to recently find this giant stonefly on the Robert Street lift bridge.

This surprise visitor to the Robert Street lift bridge is commonly found in trout streams and is considered an indicator of good water quality.

June 9

'What’s it got in its pocketses?'

Plains pocket gopher

Seldom venturing above ground, the beady eyes and small ears of the plains pocket gopher are reflective of their underground lifestyle.

Fans of The Lord of the Rings will recognize this query of Gollum, the odd underworld creature, as he pondered the riddle of Bilbo’s pocket contents. The star character of this month’s Nature Notes is also a creature of the underworld, seldom seen above ground. And like Gollum, these animals have a lead role in the world they inhabit.

April 10

Misty mornings on the Mighty Miss

Mist rising from the Mississippi on a cold December dawn

Mist rises from the Mississippi just east of downtown St. Paul on a cold December dawn.

Ever wonder why there's a wintry mist on the water in the morning, but not later in the day? Even when it's still quite cold?

January 6

Losing our cottonwoods: What’s at stake?

Installing cottonwood live stakes in the floodplain forest near Hastings

On a recent rainy October morning, volunteers from 3M helped FMR ecologists install over 300 cottonwood live stakes near the river in Hastings. Vital for wildlife and floodplain forests, cottonwoods have not been regenerating along the river. In 2013, FMR began a series of experimental plantings to help restore these imperiled icons. So far, live staking appears to be a promising method.

A key species of floodplain forests, Eastern Cottonwood trees aren't regenerating naturally in the floodplains. FMR ecologists and volunteers are using cottonwood cuttings or live stakes to re-establish a floodplain forest in Hastings.

November 7

Dead man’s fingers found at Pine Bend Bluffs

Dead man's finger found at Pine Bend Bluffs

Dead man's fingers is a fungus found at the base of decaying hardwood trees. (Photo by Karen Schik)

FMR Lead Ecologist Karen Schik found this spooky-looking fungus deep in the oak forest ravines at Pine Bend Bluffs Scientific and Natural Area.

November 7

Creating 'Prairie Park'

St. Paul Park refinery employees and community volunteers installed over 300 native plants at Prairie Park with FMR this summer. The planting was designed to especially benefit pollinators and serve as a demonstration prairie for homeowners interested in providing backyard habitat. Left to right: Eric Folsom, Todd Bjorgo, Dean Stockwell, Ben Joppa (FMR intern), Corb Hopkins, Kathy Schik. (Not pictured: Tom Bell.)

Two phrases not often used together are “prairie planting” and “oil refinery,” but many years ago employees at the St. Paul Park Refinery noticed a small patch of native prairie on company property and they've been taking care of it ever since. Recently, they worked with FMR to expand the natural area and also install a demonstration garden, hoping to inspire even more native plantings for pollinators.

September 12

Blazing blooms!

Arrowhead flowers

The blazing white flowers of the arrowhead plant (Sagittaria latifolia) seem to light up the shoreland areas where they grow.

July and August are the most flowerful months in our native prairies and wetlands. Enjoy a few of the beauties FMR ecologists have recently come across in their field work.

August 9

Mini-mystery revealed: They're caterpillar houses.

The bagworm caterpillar is safe when left in its tiny house.

The vulnerable bagworm caterpillar is safe from most predators inside the case it built around itself. Only its head and forelegs extend as it moves about, then readily retreat if danger threatens. 

The little known, but very abundant, bagworm moth has recently emerged from the protection of the home it built and carried on its back throughout its larval-hood!

July 8

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