November 26, 1907: Birth of Ruth Patrick; 2015: Thanksgiving and Cranberries

1126 Dr Ruth PatrickNovember 26, 1907: Birth of Ruth Patrick. “Dr. Ruth Myrtle Patrick (November 26, 1907 – September 23, 2013) was a botanist and limnologist specializing in diatoms and freshwater ecology, who developed ways to measure the health of freshwater ecosystems and established a number of research facilities.

Dr. Patrick’s research in fossilized diatoms showed that the Great Dismal Swamp between Virginia and North Carolina was once a forest, which had been flooded by seawater. Similar research proved that the Great Salt Lake was not always a saline lake. During the Great Depression, she volunteered to work as a curator for the Academy of Natural Sciences, where she worked for no pay for ten years. Her work has been widely published and she has received numerous awards for her scientific achievements, including the Benjamin Franklin Medal for Distinguished Achievement in the Sciences in 1993, the National Medal of Science in 1996, the Heinz Award Chairman’s Medal in 2002, and the A.C. Redfield Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006. The Ruth Patrick Science Education Center in Aiken, South Carolina, is named after her.”

Commentary: In 1974, I took a course on biological limnology from this amazing woman. She brought in luminaries such as Luna Leopold noted fluvial morphologist to give lectures as well as providing some of the most interesting classes herself. One anecdote that that was told to me while I was taking her class concerns some work she did during WWII. She was asked to identify organisms from scrapings on the hulls of German U-boats that had been captured. Her knowledge of diatoms was so encyclopedic that she pinpointed the location of the U-boat pens, which helped the Allies destroy them.

Harvesting Cranberries

Harvesting Cranberries

Thanksgiving 2015. A Southerner’s Guide to the Cranberry. Watercrunch. “For $50, you could have an experience not many of us have had. You could spend 2 hours helping to harvest cranberries in a bog. How cool would that be?

Could you imagine wading knee deep in water, surrounded by a sea of red cranberries, reenacting a scene from an Ocean Spray commercial? I would do it. Apparently a lot of other folks agreed with me. All the “Be the Grower” experience slots from Mayflower Cranberries farms in Massachusetts were sold out in October. I am going to have to plan early next year.

Cranberries are a mystery fruit to me. Born out of the swamps and bogs of the Northeast, they show up in our refrigerator this time of year in time for Thanksgiving. If I am ever going to stand in a bog of cranberries next year, I need to start the groundwork now for this epic journey.

I have compiled my simple southerner’s guide to the cranberry this morning with 5 startling revelations (at least for me).”


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