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An Interdisciplinary Walk

Srucara's picture

During our interdisciplinary Ecological and Geological ramble with the EcoLit Esem group, I had acquired a new awareness of the physical region that is the Bryn Mawr College campus. We had walked through the campus and identified some of the rock types which were used to build the buildings (Taylor built out of Baltimore Gneiss, the Pem’s built out of Wissahickon Schist, a rock which is abundant in the area). Both types of rock had distinct specifications and one was more grainy and darker than the other. On the stones making up Pem Arch, we found the rock to be home to some dark green moss as well (perhaps remnants of the ivy and other vegetation which once grew there a while ago?). I learned that Taylor is the highest point of the hill and “Bryn Mawr” – which means “big hill” inevitably must have haven created with Taylor Hall as the centermost point, on top of the big hill – in the middle of everything. This still stands true to this day as much of the campus extends in all directions out of Taylor Hall. It was a glorious sight to walk down from Taylor towards the hill directly atop the gymnasium and looking at the view towards the valley and the slopes that surrounded us. I noticed the immensity of the slopes and hills that make up Bryn Mawr’s campus unlike any other time (I’ve only lived in Brecon so far, so I walk through numerous hills every day multiple times just to get to the main campus). It was evident that slopes are a big part of the campus’s make up. Furthermore, we discussed the identity and history of Rhoad’s pond. Rhoad’s pond is essentially a basin for runoff from parking lots and was once used as a chemical dump site for the science departments. Although chemicals are no longer physically being dumped into the man-made basin, it is indeed a site for scientific study – namely an ecology course which uses a boat to explore the biology of the site as the pond is over 1-2 meters deep in some points! We moved towards Park Science and noticed the distinction between Park Science and the remaining portion of the campus – it was readily apparent that this was a relatively recent building however still outdated with respect to modern times and more modern science buildings (generally large and made of glass). We reached a point near the edge of campus to the side of the parking lot behind Brecon and saw a locale filled with extra rock used by facilities to repair buildings. Wissahickon schist, brick, and various stones plates were located in piles in this area and it was interesting to see these rocks up close and feel the pieces with which the campus buildings were built. We next walked towards Mill Creek and found a small section of it behind a structure that once seemed to be a home. We discussed the flooding that occurs annually and the increased frequency of this flooding in the region and how as this rate of flooding of Mill Creek increases, the geographical changes that may take place. I also wonder how this would affect nearby buildings. Brecon is on a hill but Batten house and other neighboring buildings surrounding the creek cannot sustain being affected by annual floods. This creek is quite long and we speculated that it may perhaps empty into the Schuylkill river (located through Conshohocken and traveling through/towards Philadelphia).

During our ecological portion of the tour, we had noticed some Tulip and Beech trees on campus and noticed the Oak trees that made up senior row. We ventured into the Morris Woods as well to experience and understand the ecological diversity that makes it up. As we learned about the vegetation, imposter species (Privet – a weed), and smelled viburnum and spice bush leaves, we encountered a family of deer. Although the deer were about 10 meters away, it was quite apparent that the male deer was fully aware and cautious of our presence. While the doe and the baby deer had wandered away after a few minutes, the male deer with large antlers remained for some time, observing us, and then proceeded to travel in the opposite direction rejoining his pack. This experience was both intriguing and slightly frightening at once as the sun was setting and it was getting dark (adding to the spookiness factor of the experience). While in the Morris Woods, we also spent time familiarizing ourselves with the texture of Beech and Tulip trees and noticing the vines that grew alongside them and discussed their roles in the ecosystem of Morris Woods.

Finally, we ended our ramble with a discussion about what we had experienced and musings on our learnings. We discussed species being native or non-native and how separation of species by association with a specific landmass per a specific time may be relevant or irrelevant to the globe at large – which was once known to be a single connected landmass identified as Pangea. The distinctions with which we easily separate native vs. non-native species of plants are not as easily transferrable to humans as beings on the planet (in fact, it may be quite offensive to do so). Thus, it may be best to conclude that – as in modern times travel across continents is commonplace and various species of similar characteristics are found all over the world, it is no longer feasible to deem something as “native or non-native” with respect to geography. Our world is now an eclectic mix and this integration of cultures, species, and beings add to the music of existence on our planet Earth.