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Ants by the Score

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Biology professor Dan Kjar drove more than 600 miles (about 960 kilometers) from Elmira College with graduating senior Gabriel Sackett to find and number Indiana Dunes' ants. I find both in the Inventory Tent, examining specimens through microscopes and mounting them with pins.

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"We've definitely got 15 species of ants so far, and I'm confident we'll break 20," says Kjar. Most turned up on expeditions he led earlier today to the east on the Ly-co-ki-we Trail and here at West Beach, but "other groups have been bringing theirs ants by too."

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I ask if the duo have made any exciting finds, or if there's something extraordinary they hope to encounter. "No surprises so far," Kjar tells me, "but we're finding everything we should find, and that's good news. What with the rain, we haven't been able to get into the most unique areas yet. But we're keeping an eye out for odd invasives.

"There's a slight possibility we might find a fungus-growing ant. Their range is typically well south of here, but they like sandy environments, and with global warming ... you never know!"

Photographs by Ford Cochran

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