Short answer is lots – teaching, research and outreach. From panoramas, to interviews, to trail cameras to some artistic expressions of research and teaching - I've spent a lot of time learning from (and teaching in) the Dairy Bush. With the GigaPan project alone, since 2009; I've spent approximately 1,400 hours in the forest (about 2 months of continuous time!). Below, I've tried to capture some of what I've been up to while there:
GigaPans and the Virtual Forest
I've been taking these large panoramic photos in the same spot in this forest each week since 2009 (here's a LONG ago article about the start of the process: . My hope initially was to "bring" more people to the forest without exposing the forest to more people. We've done this in two ways - the first nearly a decade ago as an online inquiry case for first year Biodiversity (BiOL*1070) that I (often) teach. This case is based in the Dairy Bush and has taught 1000's of first year biology students since 2014 (~2000/year). The GigaPans are a large part of this as they let people zoom in with much detail and make their own observations of what is there (or what we've placed there). The second was during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic when we called this the "Virtual Forest" and opened it up to students all over the world who were (at the time) restricted in going outside. The Virtual Forest certainly been useful during the pandemic - but even in "normal" times - it makes ecological learning "in" the forest more equitable and accessible to those who couldn't get there otherwise. We wrote about this virtual forest in journal article here and there was an At Guelph article about the process
Dairy Bush video interviews and the Online Inquiry Case
In addition to the GigaPans, I filmed and narrated videos for this course as I walked and crawled throughout the forest. I also interviewed lots of folks about the Dairy Bush - including Doug Larson - you can see these Doug videos in this youtube playlist:
You can visit the course content for the online Dairy Bush based inquiry cases below.
Dairy Bush Fox Den
In 2019, I started trail cameras on one fox den that was located just outside the Dairy Bush. In the intervening years, I've added cameras and monitored these fox families grow and feed and snooze in, and just outside, the forest. As we gather data about these fox families, I also actively use them on social media to drum up interest in telling stories about the animals who share their city with us. Sometimes these posts get picked up by local media.
I post species observations using the hashtag #DairyBushFoxDen to YouTube, Twitter and Instagram. Since Musk's takeover of twitter, I’ve stopped my activity there, but all the old videos are there if you use this link - and there's quite a lot on YouTube too. Theres a lot of other species that get captured by the cameras - folks often as specifically about birds, and there's a lot of bird activity considering how low to the ground the cameras are (generally under 2feet off the ground) - even a case of an eastern screech owl in the spring of 2022.
Off the top of my head, we've also seen more than two dozen species at the fox den cameras:
Thermal Ecology of the little things that run the world
My students and I do much of our research in Costa Rica - but we often have a local component that takes place in Ontario, and often that uses the Dairy Bush and the adjacent field. On element is as a natural laboratory for the temperature changes that occur across the forest to the field - summertime air temperature can often vary 5-10 C). How does this affect the species of little invertebrates that we work with across that gradiente? To understand this - we estimate the thermal tolerance (critical high and low temperatures) that species of ants and beetles of the forest and field can endures. Here’s a video of the process that I made for an honours student starting their work in the fall of 2020.
In the image below you can see a comparison of the daily maximum temperature in the forest (lower) and field (upper) where each stripe is a day and the colour is toned by the daily maximum temperature. A play on Ed Hawkins 'warming stripes'.
Below is an image from the field looking south towards the forest in September of 2021. All the small trees within the grass, asters and goldenrod are now about 5-6 feet tall.
Year in a forest
I simplified a year of high resolution GigaPans to 52 vertical lines where each line is the dominant colour in the forest that week. This was 2022. From left to right, you can see the blues of winter, the grey browns of the early spring, the explosion of bright young green leaves as the canopy comes out, the hardening of that green throughout the summer, the explosion of the changing leaves into the blues of winter again on the right.
Fox selfies – When the fox-activated videos capture a perfect image, I'll track down that image and then play with it using digital tools to create single prints or triptychs of the foxes living their lives.
A tired fox at the den after nursing
A fox in the forest
Foxes dancing in the fall
Fox at New Year