Scott Deringer's Summer '98 Research Page

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The purpose of this page is for me to post my summer '98 earth science research project on the web.  For my project, I will plan a self guided science walk in Lakeland County Park.  Lakeland County Park is a state designated wildlife preserve located on Johnson Avenue in the Village of Islandia, NY.  Although situated in the middle of a residential community, Lakeland Park is largely undisturbed.  The south side of Lakeland Park abuts Connetquot River State Park, also a state designated wildlife preserve, consisting of roughly 3,475 acres.  Together the two parks comprise an extensive natural corridor supporting diverse wildlife and vegetation.  The Lakeland County Park ecosystem encompasses both wetland and pine forest communities.  The Park contains the headwaters (source area) of the Connetquot River, the water flows over a bed of sand and glacial till toward the River's mouth at Great River.  The science walk I am developing will incorporate the geology, biology, and ecology of the area into an enjoyable ramble with the idea that learning can be fun. 
Trail Map of Lakeland County Park


 Location of Lakeland County Park

Directions:  Old Nichols Road is exit 58 off the L.I.E.  Proceed south on Old Nichols to Johnson Avenue make a left heading east.  Go down roughly one mile and you will see the Park entrance on your right.

    Geology of the Area
      Some 22,000 years ago, during the Pleistocene epoch, a glacial ice sheet partially covered Long Island.  This ice sheet or Continental glacier sculpted Long Island creating the hilly topography characteristic of the north shore and the virtually flat topography seen on the south shore. (For more about glaciers click here)   
     A moraine is a term applied to a land form composed primarily of glacial till.  There are several types of moraines each determined by the type of deposition and the direction of glacial movement it applies.  The Ronkonkoma moraine is a terminal moraine marking the outermost limit of glacial advance.   
     At the same time the terminal moraine is forming glacial meltwaters carry some of the till out over the top of the moraine.  The result is a broad flat area composed of stratified glacial drift called an outwash plain.  Lakeland County Park lies in the outwash plain located south of the Ronkonkoma moraine.   
     Lakeland County Park contains the headwaters of the Connetquot River.  The Connetquot River flows from north to south meandering its way  to the river's mouth at Great River.  In the past the headwaters of the Connetquot extended much further north then they do in present day.  Residential construction and the Long Island Expressway  currently overlie what used to be the start of the watershed.  
     Examination of a topographic map (Central Islip Quadrangle) shows that the Connetquot River watershed begins in a large gap in the Ronkonkoma moraine.  Geologists believe that meltwaters from a proglacial lake cut this meltwater channel in the Ronkonkoma moraine. 
     Today, the meltwater channel contains the Connetquot River in the south and the north flowing Nissequogue River to the north.  The lowland these two rivers share represents a glacial meltwater channel that once carried water from a proglacial lake in the vicinity of Long Island Sound southward across Long Island (Sirkin, 1996). 
      My 1998 summer  project was to develop a self-guided science walk through Lakeland County Park.  The goal of the project was for me, an aspiring Earth Science teacher, to become familiar with planning activities that I could use as teaching tools outside the classroom.  Science is all around us and if as a teacher I can just tune into it and be a little creative then my teaching will extend beyond classroom walls into everyday life.  I recently watched a television show abouttwo Physics teachers who arranged trips to a local amusement park and used various rides to illustrate the principles of physics.  The kids loved it and really seemed to develop an understanding for the subject matter.  Throughout my education the teachers that I have admired and learned the most from were those who could bring the real world into their classroom.  As a teacher I will strive to bring the real world into the classroom by incorporating everyday examples to illustrate concepts discussed in class.  I look at this project as an exercise in creative teaching.  Here a common community park is the narrative for a discussion of various scientific topics.  The topics include concepts in geology, ecology, and general science. 
     Initially, I began by surveying the park and taking inventory of plants, animals, and geology of the area.  Wetlands dominate the trail at Lakeland Park so it is the theme around which I developed the walk.  I decided to point out the various wetland communities found in the park by designing a stop at each one.  The walk consists of eleven stops.  Each stop corresponds to a number in a trail guide which I created to accompany the person on his or her walk.  In the trail guide the text points out what I want the person to see at the particular stop.  Sometimes I pose a question for the reader to ponder.  Sometimes I compare and contrast the stop with a previous one.  At one stop there is an activity involving plant identification and a taxonomic key.  I designed the walk to correspond to an eighth grade level since that is what I hope to be teaching.  This level is also appropriate for an average adult with a non science background. 
Trail Guide for Self-Guided Walk
The forest is a place of wondrous things.  If you proceed quietly, looking carefully, some of these wonders may be revealed to you.  Watch out for poison ivy, look for three shiny leaves.  "Leaves of Three, Let it Be"  

    Geologists believe Long Island underwent two periods of glaciation with the most recent period occurring 22,000 years ago.  During this period a glacier partially covered Long Island.  Look around you and try to imagine what the area right where you are standing might have looked like.  How far South do you think the glacier traveled?         
   By mapping out the features left behind by a glacier geologists can reconstruct a glacierís path.  For example, as a glacier moves over land it grinds up surface rock incorporating it into the ice.  When the glacier melts this ground up rock debris, called till, deposits out forming a ridge feature called a moraine.  An end moraine forms at the point of a glacierís farthest advance.  The Ronkonkoma moraine represents an end moraine extending   from central Long Island to Riverhead.  Considering this and other evidence we know that the glacier came from the North (Connecticut) and moved South across Long Island advancing to just about where you are currently standing.    
   The glacier receded when the ice began melting faster than it was accumulating.  The meltwaters from the receding glacier cut meandering (bending) channels South across Long  Island.  At some point, possibly due to a period of rapid melting, one such meltwater channel burst through the Ronkonkoma moraine creating a distinct gap in the ridge of till.   Lakeland County Park lies in this gap in the Ronkonkoma moraine. 

    Lakeland County Park covers roughly 80 acres consisting of wetlands surrounded by forested woodlands.  To the Southwest, Lakeland abuts the 3,475 acre Connetquot River State Park.  Together the two parks comprise a continuous wildlife corridor extending all the way to Long Islandís South Shore.   
     This trail guide will serve as your narrator guiding you on a walk through the park.  Each stop corresponds to a green and white trail marker.    Use the map on the back  of this brochure to guide  you through the 11 stops.  Have a great day!    
     You are looking at a forested wetland which means hardwood trees and shrubs are the dominant species.  Red Maple, Pitch Pine, Sassafras, and White Oak make up the dense canopy overhead.  Underneath you find a variety of shrubs including Sweet Pepperbush, Spicebush, Arrowwood, and Maple-leaved Vibernum.  Do you think it is wet here all year round?  Why or why not?  Where does the majority of the water here come from? 
    When it rains or snows water can take a number of possible paths.  It can runoff the surface eventually ending up in a pond, a basin, or the ocean.  Water can evaporate or be absorbed by plants which later release it to the atmosphere in a process called transpiration.  Evaporation and transpiration are combined into the term   evapotranspiration.  Water can sink into the ground by moving through pore spaces in soil, sand, gravel, or rock in a process called infiltration.  These processes are all parts of the water cycle.  
    Water is a valuable resource which many of us take for granted.  When people have something of value they store it in a safe or a vault.  Here on Long Island you can think of our drinking water as stored in an underground vault called an aquifer.   An aquifer is an underground formation that can hold sufficient water for either domestic or industrial use.  The upper boundary of underground water saturation is called the water table.  When  the water table intersects the land surface you get a pond, a stream, or a wetland.  What inference can you make about the water table in this location?  How does rain water that sinks become part of the water cycle again?  


    The park contains the headwaters (start) of the Connetquot River.  The water flows South from here over a bed of sand ultimately reaching the riverís mouth at Great River.  Look at the stream channel.  Is it well defined?  What do you think caused the channel to look the way it does?  Is the channel straight or does it bend (meander)?    
Compare this location to Stop 1.  Is it similar r completely different?    
    Unlike the previous stop, here you get a sense that the water is flowing.  Do you see plants here that you did not see at Stop 1?  Look around and find the low plant  with the big leaves.  When   crushed it emits  foul smell hence the name  Skunk Cabbage. 

    Look at the submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) consisting of grasses and underwater plants.  Usually found in shallow water, SAV is a primary indicator of good water quality.  SAV is very important to the Connetquotís ecology and living resources.  Can you think of some reasons why these plants and grasses are important?  
    Although they are primarily nocturnal, if you are quiet you just might see a muskrat swimming around nibbling on various water plants and woody vegetation.  Muskrats are herbivores which means they feed on plants.  Many people confuse muskrats with beavers.  It is easy to see the difference when they swim.  The muskrat has a long, thin tail that you can see moving back and forth in the water when they swim.  The beaverís tail is large and flat and cannot be seen when it is swimming.  

    Simply, wetlands are just wet places where land and water come together creating a diverse assortment of habitat types.  Look around you.  Can you see the various habitats?  Do you see the wetland?  Do you see the upland (dry land)?  Can you find the transition zone?  
    Each plant species, through evolutionary processes, has become something of a   specialist.  Each lives in a certain type of place thriving under certain climatic, soil, and water conditions.  What plants and   


and water conditions.  What plants and trees do you see in both wetland and upland?  Which plants do you only see in one or the other?  The Red                 Maple is a facultative plant      which means it is equally likely to occur in  wetlands or uplands.       
    In the past, people considered wetlands insect-ridden, unattractive, and useless areas.  However, in recent decades we are realizing that the truth about wetlands is quite the opposite.  Wetlands are highly productive ecosystems capturing large amounts of the sunís energy and converting it to useable energy though photosynthesis.   
    Pictured, the Black-capped Chickadee 
is a common songbird found here in the park. 
    The subject of this stop are the ferns on either side of the boardwalk.  Ferns grow in a variety of habitats from woods to swamps.  Ferns are the simplest vascular plants.  Vascular plants have tubes inside their leaves, stems, or roots.  Water and food move through these tubes to all parts of the plant.   
    Each stalk, called a stipe, has a leaf called a frond.  Ferns reproduce by spores which appear on the underside of fertile fronds.  The spores are in cases that look like small brown bumps.  When the cases burst open, spores fall to the ground eventually growing into new plants.  Look at the cluster of ferns all around you.  What evidence do you see that would correspond to this type of reproduction?  Hint: Ferns are usually found in groups.  Your assignment is to become a plant detective and using the key on the next page identify this mysterious fern. 

NOTE:  Feel free to touch and look at the ferns closely but handle them with care in order to avoid damaging them!   


If the blade (the green leafy part of the frond) is once divided (see above) choose A.  

If the blade is more than once divided choose B.  

                   A                                        B  
If most pinnae (see above)            If the blade is twice  
are opposite your plant is             divided choose C 
a Sensitive Fern 

If most pinnae are alternate          If the blade is three times 
your plant is a Netted Chain         divided go to D. 
                 C                                          D  
If the green frond is interrupted     If pinnules (see above) of the 
around the midsection by            green frond are cut to the  pinnae that look different from      midvein of the pinnae and  
the rest your plant is a                deeply toothed your plant is a Interrupted Fern.                         Lady Fern.  

If your frond is not interrupted      If frond is lacy and has an   
then your plant is a                    odor of hay then your plant  
Cinnamon Fern.                         is a Hay-scented Fern.  

       (Answer is on back page under trail map 

    Look into the water.  What do you see?  Does this look like a healthy flourishing wetland?  You are looking at a swamp wetland on the verge of becoming a bog.  Can you detect an 

odor?  What you are smelling is organic material in various stages of decay.  When roots, stems, and leaves accumulate, as they have here, conditions become highly acidic.  Highly acidic conditions are unfavorable to the organisms in charge of decomposing and recycling material.  As a result, decomposition slows down, partially decomposed organic material called peat builds up, and a bog develops.  
    A bog is just another step in the succession of a wetland.  Succession is a process whereby plant communities pass through various stages in response to changes in their environment.  Lakeland Park provides a good example of succession.  For example, at Stop 1 you observed a forested wetland.  Simply, a forest flooded by groundwater.  The flooding causes anaerobic or low oxygen conditions in the soil.  These two things change the ecology of the community.  Further change occurs as leaves from trees accumulate in the water.  The community evolves into a swamp and possibly at some later time a bog.  
    Succession is a long process that takes many years.  The real key to succession is that plants and animals change the environment in which they live.  What about peopleís impact on their environment?  How many ways do your daily activities affect the natural environment around you?  

    The focus of this stop is the pondís sandy shore. The sand is most likely an alluvial deposit.  Alluvial refers to material, most often sand, deposited by a stream or river.  Look around you.  Do you see any large boulders?  Why?  Would you expect a stream or river to deposit large boulders?  What about water melting from a glacier?  Sediment deposited  by a stream or a river is usually well sorted (meaning of similar size).  The sediments most often consist of sand, gravel, and small rocks.  Like the stream, water melting from a glacier also deposits smaller, well-sorted sediments.  The glacier itself not the meltwaters deposits big boulders which geologists call erratics.  
    Bend down and pick up a handful of sand.  Are the sediments that you do see

well sorted (meaning of similar size) or poorly sorted (meaning all different sizes)?  Most sands consist mainly of the mineral quartz.  Quartz has a glassy luster.  Can you see it?  Quartz is the second most abundant mineral in the earthís crust.  Can you name the most abundant mineral in the earthís crust?  Hint: It is really a family of minerals whose name is of German origin meaning a rod or a spear.                   (Answer is on back page under Parks logo) 

    Honeysuckle Pond is a shallow body of water ringed with reeds, cattails, highbush blueberries, and honeysuckle.  During mid to late summer if you look carefully you will see buttonbush flowering.   The flowers of the buttonbush are white balls with many           protruding spokes.  These flowers are  

especially appealing to pond's mallard ducks.    
     The pondís muddy bottom consists of sediment and years of decaying organic matter.  The rich bottom of this pond provides shelter for many animals throughout the year.  If you are lucky maybe you will meet some of the pondís inhabitants on your walk.  Some are quite shy and some are not.  The largest native turtles on Long Island are the snapping turtles.  Honeysuckle Pond is home to a couple of large ones.  

    On the side of the boardwalk opposite the pond, is a marsh.  Marshes represent emergent wetlands.  Emergent means an aquatic plant that extends partially above the water.  Cattail, Tussock Sedge, and various wetland grasses are the dominant species here.  Tussock Sedge looks like a big clump of grass, however a sedge is not a grass.  Sedges have solid triangular stems with no 

joints whereas grasses have hollow stems with joints or bulges.  Can you see the difference in vegetation between the pond side of the boardwalk and the marsh side?  
     Look around and find the plant that looks like a soft green carpet.  This plant is a type of moss.  Unlike ferns and most other plants, mosses are a type of nonvascular plant.  Nonvascular plants do not  have tubes inside them for moving food and water.  In mosses water moves from cell to cell in the same way a paper towel absorbs water.  Consequently, mosses must live where there is plenty of water.   Why do you think these plants do not grow tall?  Hint: Non vascular plants have no tubes for moving water.  Mosses are pioneer plants.  They grow in poor soils and enrich the soils for plants that will follow.   

    You have now made the transition from wetland to upland forest.  Look around at the trees that surround you.  Just like people, each one is different.  Gently touch the bark of one of the trees.  Think of three words that describe its feel.  Each species of bark has its own unique pattern of stripes, cracks, or dots.  Can you think of any properties to identify and differentiate various trees in the winter when all their leaves are gone?   
    Conifers are trees with needles and  

cones.  What is the difference between a conifer and a deciduous tree? Hint: Another   name for a conifer is an evergreen.  The needles of conifers occur in bundles and may be short or long, flat or round.  Conifers can be classified based on the number and size of the needles in each bundle.  The two conifers in this stand of trees are different.  Search the ground under each tree and find a fallen bundle of needles.  How many needles in each bunch?   The conifer with five needles in a bunch is Eastern White Pine.  The conifer with three needles in a bunch is Pitch Pine.      
Enjoy the rest of your day! 
Please return trail guide when finished.

 Robert J. Gaffney                        Michael R. Frank  
County Executive                          Commissioner 

Developed for Suffolk County Parks by W. Scott Deringer; 1998
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Date Last Modified: 7/12/98