What do rattlesnakes, bats and meteors have in common? Aside from the plot for a post-apocalypse novel I just now thought of, geology unites rattlesnakes, bats and meteors.
Next week at Whitewater State Park, people can explore caves, visit a meteor impact site and learn how unique geology in the Driftless Area serves as a habitat for Timber Rattlers
Whitewater State Park is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. From Oct. 16-19, the park is hosting a geology gathering.
Wednesday’s event begins at 10 a.m. Jaime Edwards, manager of the Whitewater Wildlife Management Area, will show how the rare timber rattlesnakes rely on the unique geology of the Driftless Area for their survival. This time of year, the snakes begin getting less active as they begin preparing to stay in their rocky burrows for the winter. No, there won’t be any hands-on handling of snakes for participants.
If hands-on is more your thing, on Thursday people are invited to explore a meteor impact site. Park officials will lead field trips to the site and to a local cave.
On Friday, prepare to get muddy. People can participate in field trips to see sinkholes and natural springs in the area and visit a cave once more. Due to the region’s unique karst geology, sinkholes are a relatively common occurrence in the area. To go along with those field trips, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources hydrologist Jeff Green will be at Whitewater Friday to demonstrate how the area’s unique karst landscape affects groundwater.
My colleague Brian Todd has written extensively about how karst geology can leave groundwater vulnerable to agriculture and other contamination.
Also Friday, visitors will have a chance to go fossil hunting and caving. The cave is on private property a few miles outside the park but is easy to access. Sarah Holger, Whitewater State Park naturalist advises people to dress appropriately.
"We do get muddy," she said.
Fossil hunters have another chance to explore and find fossils Saturday. Justin Tweet, a paleontologist with the National Park Service, will give a presentation and be on hand to answer questions and offer advice.
Also Saturday, biologists who are researching the impact of White Nose Syndrome on Minnesota's bat populations will give a presentation on the latest findings on the disease decimating the state’s bat population.
People who want to go along for the field trips are asked to register ahead of time. Registration information and full schedule of geology gathering activities are available at: www.mn.dnr.gov/whitewater.
Have a say in environmental policy
The Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources is visiting Rochester Wednesday morning. The LCCMR is a 17-member commission that advises the Minnesota Legislature on environmental spending priorities. Commission members will be at Fiddlehead Coffee, 412 Third Ave. SE, at 7 a.m. to hear from people what issues need funding most from the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund. the event is open to the public.