A Day at the Lake

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.

“It’s so hands-on in the field. You’re touching, seeing, smelling. You just can’t get that in the classroom.” – Dr. Melissa Fierke

Cranberry Lake 5am
5 a.m.: A new day dawns at the Cranberry Lake Biological Station.
Cranberry Lake 5:15am
5:15 a.m.: Morning mist rises from the lake as two members of the cook staff, Peggy Trembley, left, and Roxy Baker, arrive at the biostation via boat. They start work before most of the camp is awake.
Cranberry Lake 5:40am
5:40 a.m.: Work-study student Erin Beiter, a junior majoring in wildlife science, prepares the food stations where students, faculty and staff make their brown-bag lunches.
Cranberry Lake 7am
7:00 a.m.: Breakfast is devoured quickly in preparation for a busy day. In foreground are sophomores Connor Groff, left, and Tristin Houck.
Cranberry Lake 8am
8 a.m.: Classwork begins at 8 a.m. for these students who are pulling trap nets from a quiet bay as part of a lesson in aquatic sampling techniques.
Cranberry Lake 8:30am
8:30 a.m.: Savannah Bartlett, a junior, holds a snake she and her teammates caught outside the administration building. It was one of seven snakes collected by students in a herpetology class taught by Visiting Instructor Mary Beth Kolozsvary, who earned her bachelor’s degree from ESF in 1988 and now teaches at Siena College through the academic year. The snakes were examined and released back to the location where they were caught.
Cranberry Lake 8:45am
8:45 a.m.: Morning sun provides an opportunity to spread out nets to dry on the quad.
Cranberry Lake 9:30am
9:30 a.m.: Sucker Brook is a short walk from the center of the biostation but it’s a rich place to search for aquatic insects. Sophomore Lorenzo Natalie, left, and senior Jen Ferlenda searched this morning for macro invertebrates. Natalie works on a pollinator research project for Dr. Melissa Fierke, who is director of CLBS; Ferlenda spent part of the summer at the biostation as a work-study employee and some as a student in class.
9:40 a.m.: Students go in search of aquatic organisms in Sucker Brook, a short walk from the heart of the Cranberry Lake Biological Station.
Cranberry Lake 10:44 a.m.
10:44 a.m.: Dr. Melissa Fierke works with a student.
Cranberry Lake 11:23am
11:23 a.m.: Sarge Boss, a boat pilot, sorts life jackets in the boathouse. Earlier in the day, he had taken two trips out on the lake in the Forester, which also ferries students and staff back and forth to the mainland, to do field work.
Cranberry Lake Noon
Noon: The quad is a great place to relax with lunch.
Cranberry Lake 12:15pm
12:15 p.m.: Chris Nack (in tie-dye T-shirt) teaches a class in aquatic sampling techniques with Dr. Stephanie Johnson. Both are ESF alumni. Johnson earned her Ph.D. with Dr. Neil Ringler in 2013 and now works with the Onondaga Environmental Institute. Nack, who earned his master’s degree in 2013, is working on his Ph.D. with Dr. Karin Limburg.
Cranberry Lake 12:55pm
12:55 p.m.: In the foreground, sophomores Christa Dock, left, and Danielle Browne study the fish so they can memorize their Latin names as part of an aquatics class.
Cranberry Lake 1:00pm
1:00 p.m.: Sophomores Alexa “Lexi” Pedneault, Nicole McCoy and Alyssamarie Kess head back toward the classrooms after an afternoon session spent doing fieldwork in an aquatics class.
Cranberry Lake 1:20pm
1:20 p.m.: Senior Gabrielle Dalton gets ready to launch a canoe for an afternoon lesson in aquatics sampling.
1:45 p.m.: The biostation boat fleet gets put to use as students head out on the water to set trap nets as part of their aquatics lessons.
Cranberry Lake 2:40 P.M.
2:40 p.m.: Senior Joseph Benz takes a close look at leaf litter in search of invertebrates.
Cranberry Lake 3:27 P.M.
3:27 p.m.: Junior Devan Wade, left, senior Ryan Goodman, sophomore Christa Dock and sophomore Dominic Castiglia head out in a motor boat to check trap nets.
Cranberry Lake 3:30pm
3:30 p.m.: Laura Pickering, left, and Breanna Reilly take advantage of a quiet moment to soak up some sun on the dock.
Cranberry Lake 4:00pm
4:00 p.m.: For some students, late afternoon means time for swimming or simply relaxing on the rock near the swimming area.
Cranberry Lake 5:33pm
5:33 p.m.: Dinner’s almost ready and the dining hall is a good spot for socializing and reviewing the day’s notes. Sophomores Connor Groff and Alyssamarie Kess get some work in before the dinner bell rings.
Cranberry Lake 5:57pm
5:57 p.m.: It doesn’t all happen outside. Students gather in Class Room 1 to review the day’s work.
Cranberry Lake 6:30pm
6:30 p.m.: Senior Gabrielle Dalton uses her cell phone to document finding a luna moth on a window.
Cranberry Lake 6:45pm
6:45 p.m.: The early evening light casts the biostation in a warm glow.
Cranberry Lake 7:30 P.M.
7:30 p.m.: Classes are over, the hammock is hung and the cell phone is being checked.
Cranberry Lake 7:40pm
7:40 p.m.: In the foreground, junior James DeRosa, left, and sophomore Katherine “Katie” Rupp pick a prime spot to watch the sun set over the lake. The sunset brings students to the dock to watch the sky light up in the evening.
Cranberry Lake 8:00pm
8:00 p.m.: There is still time – and enough light – for volleyball on the quad. Sophomore Danielle Browne, behind the net, watches junior Max Hermanson and sophomore Dominick Castiglia demonstrate some teamwork in a volleyball game.

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