On Friday, June 3rd and Saturday, June 4th, Skidmore Alums embarked on faculty-led tours of the North Woods. Kim Marsella, Program Coordinator and Lecturer of the Environmental Studies Program, led the Friday tour, which focused on the geological and cultural history of the Woods. Josh Ness, Assistant Professor of the Biology Department, led the Saturday tour, which focused on plant and animal interactions and invasive species.
Kim discussed geological points of interest in the Woods, such as Whale Rock in the Spirit Trail. Whale Rock, one of the most notable boulders in the Woods, is evidence of our glacial history. Kim surprised visitors when she said that the glaciers that covered Saratoga Springs were 1 mile thick!
The geology of the Woods helps explain other parts of its landscape. The rocks in the North Woods are dolostone, a type of carbonate. Kim explained that sinkholes (areas of land subsidence), such as the one on the Orange Trail, are typical in carbonate geology. Dolostone is also indicative of underground caves! Though Kim mentioned that it is possible for caves to exist under the Woods, there are no entrances from the surface. However, there is a “disappearing stream” that descends into a cave.
In the above clip, Kim begins her tour with a fun fact about the region’s geologic history: the North Woods was once covered in a shallow, tropical ocean. She also tells the Alums about how Skidmore uses geothermal energy to heat and cool many of its buildings.
Josh discussed a number of invasive species that have proliferated in the Woods. Invasive species are those that are not native to a habitat, and whose population is able to flourish because there are no natural predators in that habitat to counter the exotic (non-native) species. One of those species, the Japanese Knotweed, has grown so extensively that it blocked out portions of the Red Trail! See the pictures below to get a sense of the enormity of the bamboo-like plant. Visiting Alums ducked their heads to get through the obstructed path.
In the video below, Josh talked about the impacts of geology on the plant communities of the Woods. The diversity of soil-types and rock-types underlying the trails has led to the wide breadth of plant species in the Woods. Josh also discussed the remarkable similarity between the modern-day trails and the historical trails of the North Woods. The way in which these trails have been laid has, also, impacted the types of plant species in the Woods. Never discount the role that an area’s cultural landscape can play in the present-day ecology of a region.
Stay tuned for information on future tours!