The Nina Mason Pulliam is a 75-acre natural area on the Marian University campus that is open to Marian students and the Indianapolis community. We work year-round to restore the native wetlands, prairies, and forests found on our property. The EcoLab is a highly biodiverse area with rare wetland habitats and threatened animal species all within a few miles of downtown Indianapolis. Our goal is to restore and protect these lands so current and future Indianapolis residents are able to experience the beauty and wonder of Indiana’s native landscape.
We want to instill a love for nature into the hearts of Indiana’s future leaders: students. We offer a one-of-a-kind field trip system to 6-12 grade students where they will learn concepts from local environmental experts at Marian University. Upper level high school students also have the opportunity to experience the rigor of college-level curriculum and participate in active research projects. For current Marian undergraduate students, we offer paid internships through our decade-old internship program. The Ecolab also hosts several collegiate level-research projects from various Marian professors and students. We do all of this to fulfill the mission of the EcoLab: to create more and better environmental citizens.
Indiana residents of all ages are welcome to participate in the EcoLab through social media, community event days, and volunteerism. We post content of our restoration efforts, scenery, and fun events happening year-round. The EcoLab hosts educational events for the entire Indianapolis community on a variety of topics. Whether you volunteer for one day or a whole season, you become part of the EcoLab family and become an active participant in the conservation of our Indiana environment. We truly rely on the community’s support and we appreciate your desire to make a difference.
So, what are you waiting for? Visit today!
Check back in May for our Summer Community Events calendar!
By Abigail Riehle, Elementary Education and History, ‘22
As I mentioned in my previous blog “How Do Animals Survive the Winter?,” the Nina Mason Pulliam Ecolab is home to a beaver colony. They make dams and clog up some of the drains in the Ecolab, which can be a challenge, but in doing so they create and maintain these highly diverse ecosystems. I have heard about the beavers during tours of the Ecolab, and wondered, what else do they do? Why do they make dams in the first place?
First a general description: beavers are the largest rodent in North America. Adult beavers can be around four feet long and weigh 30 to 70 pounds. A beaver’s back feet are webbed for swimming. Another special feature of their hind feet is that the second toenail is split and used to groom their fur.
This was an interesting feature found that I never heard of before! Beavers also have a flat tail. This tail is used for multiple purposes. It propels the beaver to swim faster and acts as a rudder. When a beaver is chewing a tree, the tail helps prop the body steadily on the ground. The tail is also a form of protection. A beaver will slap the water in order to warn others of a possible nearby predator. Not only does the beaver stay protected by warnings, but it can also submerge itself underwater and can remain submerged for up to six minutes!
Beavers are known for making dams. They do this to maintain water levels in the wetlands they inhabit. A beaver’s home is called a lodge, and it can have multiple rooms to house the entire beaver family which consists of the parent, babies from this year, and babies from last year. The entrance is underwater, which would come in handy to escape from predators. The home is also warm due to the thickness of sticks and muds used to make the dam, which helps them keep warm during winter, since they do not hibernate.
Beavers were once rare in Indiana. This was due to overharvesting most likely due to the popularity of their furs for clothing.
In 1935, a few pairs of beavers were brought in from Wisconsin to repopulate the state. Beavers can now be found in almost every county of Indiana. As a keystone species, beavers are important in helping to create and maintain important wetland habitat. These wetlands help almost half of the endangered and threatened species in North America! Their dams influence creek flow and create ponds. The ponds then become home for fish and other animals that rely on water and wetland habitats. The dams also help slow flood waters, which benefits us as well! Indiana has lost over 85% of its wetland habitats, so we need beavers to help maintain what is left and restore what has been damaged. Wetlands are highly diverse ecosystems that not only provide a home for many different types of wildlife, but also provide a lot of ecosystem services for us, such as flood control, water filtration, and groundwater recharge.
If we do not care for the beavers, they may become rare once again. By keeping waterways clear of trash and toxic substances, and by protecting precious wetland habitats, we can help them and other wetland wildlife stay healthy. If you want to see some of their handiwork, come take a walk in the EcoLab! Their lodge is visible along the Jensen North Shore trail, and evidence of their presence is seen all around the pond and along Crooked Creek.
Beavers Belong! (2018, November 26). Retrieved November 11, 2020, from https://apnm.org/what-we-do/promoting-coexistence-with-wildlife/beavers-belong/
Beaver. (n.d.). Retrieved November 08, 2020, from https://www.in.gov/dnr/fishwild/3381.htm
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