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Varsity Pond is a slightly secluded and beautiful part of campus. This spot is ideal for photography shoots or taking a nap on the many surrounding benches, as well as people-watching and fish, turtle, and bird viewing.
Varsity Pond on the first snow of the school year, Oct. 26, 2011. Varsity Pond can be a great spot to relax and enjoy nature. (CU Independent File/James Bradbury)
It only takes a few extra steps on your way to The Hill to pass by Varsity Pond, and it’s always a treat to stop and enjoy the view during the warmer months. Even if you just plan on passing by, the large, colorful shadows in the water might turn your head. Those immense shadows consist of “great carp, coy, huge goldfish, crawdads and who knows what” living in basic pond peace, with no ominous predators that they might otherwise face in the wild to stalk them. More often than not, there are other forms of biodiversity that visit the pond, disturbing its silky surface. Turtles frequent the waters with their snouts turned up to the sky, and flocks of geese can often be seen splashing down–some more eloquent than others–when they need a break from the hot earth or windy sky.
It is not unusual for campus to be a busy place filled with students hustling on the pavements or lounging on the quad, but it is a different scene around Varsity Pond, with the hustling figures not people, but animals. And sometimes, a nice change of scene can do a person good.
These non-human peers are very visible during the spring, summer, and fall seasons, but what happens in the winter? Are the fish taken out of the pond? Do they die and get replaced in the summer? Or do they live in the water, now turned icy, all year long? The latter question is correct, but some may still be asking: how? How do any creatures, those in Varsity Pond or in any lake, survive when their figurative fish bowl gets sealed up with a thick layer of ice?
The answer is simple–they adjust. The dissolved oxygen in the water is taken advantage of, and when used up, it is replaced through the activity of the fountain– at least for the fish in Varsity pond. Other fish, elsewhere, adjust metabolically and stop requiring as much oxygen because they slow down their usual activity levels. Or, if they are a mud skipper, then both dissolved oxygen and oxygen from the air is utilized, a unique ability not frequently found in aquatic fish.
Concerning the freezing temperatures, there is a reverse in the norm when it comes to water in the wintertime. Unlike a hot summer day when you leap into a lake and find that the farther you go down, the colder it gets, the opposite is true in winter. “During winter there’s a bizarre phenomenon that the frigid water actually gets relatively warmer the deeper you descend in a lake” explains Alisa Santiesteban in her “Wisconsin Natural Resources” magazine article. The science behind lake-living species given here is merely a small sampling compared to all the knowledge out there, but, even so, there is still much to know about what goes on under the surface of fresh water and salt water ecosystems, alike.
Though it is winter, and the fish are hidden under their icy ceiling, keep the spot in mind for the warmer months if you’re looking to see some animal action. As students involved in many fields of study that can prevent us from leaving the library or bedroom during the week, we are lucky to have natural diversity right on campus and should take advantage of such luck.
Whether or not you visit Varsity Pond on a biology assignment or during a break in your day, you will find that the choice from your normal routine is well worth it, even if just for a brief glance.
Contact Staff Writer Kitty Winograd at Katherine.winograd@Colorado.edu.
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