I had the opportunity to help monitor a section of beach at Illinois Beach State Park two weeks ago with the Plants of Concern program. After driving about an hour north of Glencoe, I arrived at this magnificent beach:
I could not really believe that this was the same Lake Michigan that I see from downtown Chicago. I was so pleased to be in such a beautiful location on such a perfect day. Although I am focusing on Oenothera perennis for my REU project, I have been trying to go into the field once a week with the Plants of Concern program to help, and learn more about Illinois native plant monitoring. For this excursion, I focused on Ammophila Breviligulata: American beach grass, or marram grass. The grass in the photo above is marram grass. After counting the grass in three transects, we broked for lunch. It was really nice to get a chance to talk with the Plants of Concern volunteers, especially the beach steward. He knew so much about the natural history of the area, I was thrilled to get a mini-lecture on the history of Illinois Beach State Park.
After lunch, we monitored three more transects a little further down the beach. I was starting to get the hang of counting the marram grass cluster, and was getting a little better at differentiating the plant from a few other similar species growing on the beach. Having just toured the beetle collections at the Field Museum, I was really excited when I encountered the insect below:
This beetle was so eye-catching on the grainy sand of the beach. I was really intrigued by its long antennas. I later identified this as a Cottonwood Borer Beetle, Plectrodera scalator.
Beach monitoring has by far been my favorite. Although I enjoyed the ravines, prairies, and woods, there is something about the openness of a beach that is so enjoyable--also the breeze coming off of Lake Michigan. I am really hoping to go back to Illinois Beach State Park for a little camping trip, you should really visit the beach there, it is too beautiful to pass up.