December 10, 2021
By Erica

Hello everyone! My name is Erica Black — I am the Driftless Area BioBlitz Coordinator (DABB Coordinator) and I will be taking over the DABB Bytes — a blog about the natural world of the Driftless Area.

First, I would like to thank Brooke Wehseler for all of her help this fall! She did a wonderful job assisting with our fall bioblitzes, including “Insects” with UWL Biology professor Barrett Klein (photo below), as well as analyzing data on iNaturalist, and creating fun and educational blog posts! Below is Brooke’s reflection on her experience:

“I am extremely grateful for the time I spent working with the Driftless Area BioBlitz (DABB). It was a great experience that allowed me to gain valuable technical and professional skills pertaining to research within my undergraduate degree.  I am excited to continue to watch the project progress this upcoming spring! I am so thankful to everyone who continues to work to promote the project, whether that be our community members working within the project itself, or anyone acting as citizen scientists by contributing their own data. For now, this will be my final ‘Happy BioBlitzing!’”

A little bit about me (photo below): I’m an upper Midwest gal with a dog named Gizmo, currently residing in La Crosse, WI. Although I have a Bachelor’s degree in Conservation Biology and a minor in Environmental Studies from UW-Madison, my main employment is as a Salon Coordinator at a salon & spa in downtown La Crosse. My degree is my passion, so luckily I “found” this part-time volunteer position helping Strive 2 Thrive Coulee Region’s founder, Vicki Miller (Vicki and I go WAY back–to 2007! — so she knew right away who to call to be the DABB Coordinator!)  I also volunteer my time for other local sustainability efforts. One such effort is the annual Earth Fair in La Crosse, of which I have been involved all 14 years! When I am not working, I enjoy riding my bicycle, hiking, doing puzzles, being with friends and family, cooking, and just being outdoors in general!

This week’s topic is Muskrats! These stinky medium-sized rodents and their dens are a fairly common year-round sight in the Driftless Region. Muskrats can weigh up to five pounds, and have two different kinds of fur to help them adapt to their mostly aquatic lifestyle. Propelled by their vertically-flattened rudder-like tails, they can stay under water up to 17 minutes! These cuties are also ecologically important to their wetland habitats, as their diets can determine which plant species make up a certain area. Muskrats have adapted fairly well to the human encroachment on their wetlands, as they can inhabit irrigation ditches, retention ponds,  and the like, but can also be  a nuisance to property owners. Our iNaturalist project currently has 22 muskrat observations, but I have yet to snap a picture of one myself. I have included a photo of a muskrat den from the La Crosse River Marsh in early December, and a picture of a muskrat I found on the internet.

THANK YOU for continuing to be a citizen scientist and upload your observations to iNaturalist! Please check back at the end of the month for a post about Strive 2 Thrive’s founder Vicki Miller, the history of the Driftless Area BioBlitz, and about the DABB Partner organizations.