Story by Claire B. Dunn; photos by Claire B. Dunn and Wendy P. Osborne
M isty mornings. Scarlet sunsets streaked with gold. Starry nights. Days of rain. Black flies. Mud that sucks your shoes off.
Welcome to ESF’s summer place — the Cranberry Lake Biological Station (CLBS).
“You take the good with the bad. You get beautiful days and you get rain all day, and black flies. It’s wonderful but you have to pay the price.” That’s the assessment of Dr. Melissa Fierke, an entomologist and associate professor in the Department of Environmental Biology. Fierke is director of the biostation.
During the summer of 2017, about 250 ESF students took classes at the biostation on Barber Point, about a 20-minute boat trip from the dock in the town of Cranberry Lake. Another 23 high school students with six chaperones also visited the facility. Filling out the cast of summer characters were 30 instructors, six work–study students, four members of the cook staff, two boat pilots, two physical plant employees and a nurse.
“It takes all of us to make it work,” Fierke said.
The benefit to students, Fierke said, is clear. “It’s so hands-on in the field,” she said. “You’re touching, seeing, smelling. You just can’t get that in the classroom.”
“There’s also the shared experience. You get students helping one another. If they are working on a project, others are volunteering to help them. They get one another through this experience in a way that doesn’t happen during the regular academic year.”
Fierke has watched students make discoveries. Some of them arrive hoping to see Adirondack megafauna, perhaps a black bear, but they end up fascinated by what Fierke calls “this magical, microscopic world” of invertebrates. One student this summer found a tardigrade, aka moss piglet, an invertebrate half a millimeter long. Another found a red-and-white gummy worm thrips, a tiny insect the students examined under the microscope.
Inside ESF visited the biostation at the height of the summer. These photos, taken over the course of a few days during the third week in July, provide a glimpse of the rhythm of life at CLBS.
Scroll down to see them all, or click on any one to launch a slide show.