Newsletter of the Foundation of the State Arboretum Summer 2019
Students Arrive for a Summer of Research
Blandy Hosts Two Researchers from University of Puerto Rico
By Kyle Haynes
Associate Director, Blandy Experimental Farm
This summer, we have the pleasure of hosting two undergraduate students from the University of Puerto Rico - Humacao: Madaris Serrano Perez and Adalberto Luis Ubi
as Romero. Though it is a fairly small university, UPR - Humacao offers an impressive variety of science majors including Biology with four different concentrations including Wildlife Management and Coastal Marine Biology. Sadly, Adalberto reports that the university's infrastructure was badly damaged in Hurricane Maria.
Humacao itself is a "small heartwarming town," says Madaris.
It sits along tropical beaches on a coastal plain, with a backdrop of green mountains. Not surprisingly, Humacao and its surroundings attract many tourists. But for residents like Madaris, it is a place where generations of relatives enjoy
living together as neighbors.
Adalberto and Madaris both came to Blandy already having gained hands-on research experience in Puerto Rico. Adalberto studied how the colonization of
, a native deciduous shrub, by bark beetles affects subsequent colonization of the shrub by other insects and invertebrates. Madaris has worked on a variety of research projects including a study of the effects of climatic disturbances on reptiles and amphibians.
Both of them aspire to earn advanced degrees. Adalberto hopes to earn a Ph.D. in the field of ecology and evolution and become a professor with expertise in invertebrate adaptation. Madaris is considering a wide range of career paths including the study of animal behavior and competition, to wildlife management, or the care of injured or sick animals.
Adalberto has chosen to investigate whether unusual behaviors exhibited by some bumble bees, such as spending the night outside of their colonies, are adaptations to deal with parasite infections. Madaris is exploring whether light pollution might impact monarch butterflies by altering the feeding behaviors of the caterpillar life stage. As they work to get their research projects under way, both students are excited not only by the science carried out at Blandy, but also by the opportunity to share what they have learned with visitors to Blandy, including the children enrolled in Blandy's Summer Nature Camp.
Adalberto and Madaris are two of 10 undergraduates participating in the Research Experience for Undergraduate (REU) program at Blandy.
The others include Shalom Entner, Howard University; Stephanie Gastelum, Northern Arizona University; Emma Grover, University of Virginia; Kiera O'Neil, Washington and Jefferson College; Olivia Ruffins, Beloit College; Monica Velasco, California Baptist University; Emma Jean Wilkin, Howard University; and Ben Wolf, Chatham University.
Annual Meeting Update
FOSA Members Elect New Board of Directors
By Robin Couch Cardillo
Director, Foundation of the State Arboretum
Beginning July 1, the Foundation of the State Arboretum enthusiastically welcomes five new board members with strong ties to FOSA, the environment, or both. Each has committed to joining FOSA committees, bringing their fresh ideas and unique perspectives.
is a familiar name to many in this area. He actually grew up at Blandy, where his father spent 16 years as a professor, manager, and eventually Curator of the Arboretum. Thom spent his career as a research physicist in the Washington-Baltimore area and
now retired to Bridgewater, Va. He recently created a generous endowment at Blandy in honor of his father to support the scholarly pursuits of the Arboretum Curator, who will be known as the Walter S. Flory, Jr. Professor of Environmental Sciences.
Celie Harris has lived in Clarke County for 30 years. She's a University of Virginia graduate, conservation chair for the Winchester-Clarke Garden Club, and currently serves on the Conservation Committee of the Garden Club of Virginia and previously on the Garden Club of America's Conservation Committee. Celie also had stints locally on the boards of Belle Grove Plantation and Powhatan School, and is currently an associate trustee of the latter.
Alex Newhart worked 28 years in the medical device industry, most of the time for Roche Diagnostics. He and his family moved to Clarke County in 2006. Alex joined the Shenandoah Chapter of the Virginia Master Naturalist program in 2013 and has served consistently in leadership positions for the group. In 2017, he was recognized as the Shenandoah Chapter's Volunteer of the Year and earned recognition from the state organization for achieving 2,500 hours of volunteer service. Alex's volunteer work focuses on entomology and pollinator species.
Regina O'Brien was the first Executive Director of the Youth Development Center in Winchester, building it into a community resource center for non-profits, adolescents, and families. She retired from that position in 2018. Under her leadership, the YDC expanded by 10,000 square feet following a $1.2 million capital campaign in 2004. Today, she serves part-time with the International Rhino Foundation in Strasburg.
Tracy Smith lived in Washington, D.C. and worked at MCI before becoming a full-time, stay-at-home mother. She discovered Blandy not long after she adopted a dog and began walking her at Blandy after she dropped the kids at school. Over the past 10 years, she has spent many hours volunteering at Blandy, including taking part in the bluebird monitoring program. Tracy serves on the Clarke County Parks and Recreation Advisory Board and routinely assists with the Art at the Mill art show.
The new board members were officially elected at the June 1 Annual Meeting and will serve three-year terms.
FOSA also sends a warm thank-you to our hard-working, outgoing board members: Chris Oldham, Mary Olien, Roma Sherman, and Bob Wever. We appreciate that they've shared their expertise for several years and know they'll stay involved on some level.
FOSA Officers Named for 2019-2020
Following the election of new members to the FOSA Board of Directors, the board named new officers for the coming year.
Steve Bauserman, of Winchester, will return as the President of FOSA. This will be Steve's third year in this leadership position. Long-time FOSA member
Jolly de Give, of Delaplane, steps into the Vice President slot and will succeed Steve when his term is complete.
Anne Heacock, of White Post, will continue to serve in the Treasurer role. And
Heather Dudley, of Upperville, becomes Secretary. A hearty welcome and thank you go to the FOSA officers, who generously volunteer their time to move the Foundation forward!
Although it looks like a bee, this is actually a bumble bee moth.
Summer Programs Highlight Our Six-legged Residents
Insects are an Important Wildlife Food Source and Pollination Partner
By Steve Carroll
Director of Public Programs
An increasing number of articles and news items are reporting a noticeable decrease in insects, which are vitally important as a food source for songbirds, bats, and other wildlife.
There may be fewer insects on your windshield, but there are more
than ever before
on Blandy's program calendar.
||Click the image for the Summer Programs brochure.
With our eighth annual family firefly festival behind us, why not join us for these upcoming programs:
- On Friday, July 26 (9-10 p.m.), Master Naturalists Emma Schneider and Willow Lovecky will offer our first Family "Mothing" Party. We will attract these night-flying insects using ultraviolet lights and hanging sheets. After we have a chance to examine these often beautiful but hidden backyard residents they will be released.
- On Saturday, Aug. 10 (9 a.m.-Noon), FOSA, Sustainability Matters, and Virginia Cooperative Extension will co-host "Bad Bugs: A Backyard Bestiary," a half-day workshop on problem insects such as spotted lanternflies, emerald ash borers, stinkbugs, cicadas, and others. Multiple presenters will share their experiences in studying and managing these organisms, and we will end with a walk to observe insects and insect damage. Bring securely bagged specimens for identification.
- As a counterpoint to our moth program, on Wednesday, Aug. 21 (10-11:30 a.m.), Master Naturalist, entomologist, and FOSA board member Alex Newhart will offer "The Butterflies in Your Backyard." After an illustrated introduction in the library, we will go in search of butterflies in Blandy's gardens.
Summer programs will also offer plenty of opportunity to explore and appreciate the Arboretum.
Come out and enjoy an
Arboretum Walking Tour
Tuesday, July 2 (9-10:30 a.m.).
Full Moon Walks
will be offered Tuesday, July 16 (8:30-9:30 p.m.), and Thursday, Aug. 15 (8-9 p.m.); weather permitting, we will watch the moon rise over the Blue Ridge Mountains. And for a more reflective experience, join Shell Fischer for "Mindfulness in Nature:
Guided Walking Meditation
" Friday, August 16 (6:30-8:30 p.m.).
See something interesting? Visit blandy.virginia.edu for details, and click on "Register for Programs Here" to pay by credit card, or call 540-837-1758 Ext. 224 M-F, 1-5 p.m.
Second Annual Nature Nurtures Festival is Sept. 14
Mark your calendars and join us at Blandy for the second annual Nature Nurtures Festival, Sept. 14,
a unique one-day event
highlighting uses of the natural world to improve and sustain a healthy quality of life. Nature Nurtures
will feature a variety of vendors, walks, talks, and demonstrations. This family-friendly event will once again invite children of all ages to create fairy and woodland creature houses in the "enchanted forest" and enjoy crafts that will connect them to the natural world.
Nature Nurtures will feature:
Herbalists for you and your pets
Fresh Local Cuisine Cooking Demonstration
Yoga in Nature
Please join us Saturday, Sept. 14, 9:30 to 4:00. Admission is $5 per car.
This unique event is a wonderful opportunity to showcase how Nature does indeed Nurture us in so many ways!
Nature Nurtures is Underwritten by the Bank of Clarke County; our
Media Sponsor is iHeart Media and Q102. We appreciate their support!
What the Heck is a Bee Wall?
New Structure Provides Habitat for Cavity-Nesting Bees
By T'ai Roulston
Blandy has new digs but, unless you weigh less than a paperclip and eat stunned bugs or pollen, don't break your lease and line up at the main office. Blandy's new high rise provides nesting habitat for solitary bees and wasps. Capped with an undulating clear roof, it rises out of the weeds beside the community garden and beckons to homeless insects to stake a claim and dig in. There are two main features to the habitat: a u-shaped wall made of cob (a traditional adobe-like building material of clay, sand, straw and water) and an observation cabinet in which nesting insects can be viewed in their domestic activities.
Many solitary bees and wasps do not excavate nests but search for existing linear cavities that they can transform into a series of chambers to rear their offspring. The observation cabinet, which also includes integrated headphones for listening to insect activities, provides a series of such cavities but with a Plexiglas wall on one side so that we can look into their nests. And what might we see? In a bee nest, the female (the male typically does not use a nest) goes back and forth to the fields collecting pollen and nectar and depositing them into a well manicured pile in the nest. When there is enough food to rear a bee from egg to adult, she lays an egg on the pile, creates a partition out of leaves, mud or resin, and then starts a new one. She does this over and over until the nest is complete or she is dead. E
ither way, she will never see her offspring -- she will die before they become adults. When the egg in the chamber hatches, the larva eats all the food and becomes an adult later, either the same or the following year.
The story is similar for solitary wasps, creating a series of brood chambers for offspring they will never see, but the food is quite different. No dining with genteel vegetarians here: the wasps paralyze their prey and pile them up for their offspring to consume live. Mud dauber wasps (relatives of the common ones under bridges and barn roofs) load up their nests with paralyzed spiders. Mason wasps harvest caterpillars, grass-carrying wasps catch crickets and katydids, and aphid wasps stuff their chambers with aphids. So, community gardeners, you may have already known to thank the bees for pollinating but don't forget to thank the aphid wasps and the mason wasps for consuming your pests.
The cob wall, which is the most prominent feature of the installation, is also nesting habitat. Although the wall is extremely hard (it feels like concrete), there are a couple of groups of bees that naturally nest in similar substrate, such as sandstone cliff faces and highly compacted clay soils. One of these groups of bees is the digger bees
(Anthophora), which are active in early summer. To burrow, they find a water source, return with a mouthful of water, and use it to soften the extremely hard substrate so they can create a tunnel through it. Over time, such areas can become thriving cities of bees going in and out. And once the tunnels have been created, they can become available for other insects that use cavities as nesting substrates but are incapable of creating their own.
This exhibit, officially titled "Dwelling: Shenandoah Valley, A Nest Site for Solitary Native Bees and Wasps" is the creation of the artist Sarah Peebles as part of a series of installations called
Sarah came down from her home in Toronto and spent several weeks last fall and this spring designing the exhibit and overseeing its construction. She has been working on designs for exhibits like this for several years, but this is her second public installation. The first was at the University of Maryland, where it
. The project was funded by the University of Virginia, as part of its Bicentennial celebration, and Sarah Peebles herself. So, when visiting Blandy, make sure to wander over by the community garden and check out the new digs. It is quite an impressive structure to behold, and you can learn some cool things about insects while you're at it. Even if you don't actually like insects, you could lure yourself to the exhibit hoping to see some of the insects you like least lying paralyzed in a transparent chamber with a wasp larva eating them alive.
An Investment in the Future
FOSA, Blandy Provide Crucial Support to Grad Students
By David E. Carr
Director, Blandy Experimental Farm
Graduate training is at the core of Blandy's mission. Most of the graduate students who conduct research at Blandy are enrolled in the Ph.D. program in the University of Virginia's Department of Environmental Sciences and are mentored by Blandy faculty. Typically Blandy provides academic year support that includes a half-time research assistantship, half of the tuition remission, half of the student's benefits, and full support for the summer. The Department provides a half-time teaching assistantship and the balance of the tuition remission and benefits. All told, Blandy's investment in a Ph.D. student is $22,672 per year. For many years, the Foundation of the State Arboretum has provided the funding for support for one or two graduates students each summer, most recently through the FOSA Graduate Award endowment.
Earning a Ph.D. is no easy task. Most of the course work for the degree in our department happens within the first two years. Each student is required to take a graduate-level course from each of the major disciplines in the department (ecology, geology, hydrology, and atmospheric science) and an additional advanced graduate course in one of the disciplines. Most students pick up a number of other graduate electives along the way. With their coursework nearing completion in their fourth semester, students must pass written and oral comprehensive exams that cover their area of expertise and the broader field of environmental science.
The Ph.D. degree focuses on original
research, and Blandy graduate students usually begin their projects in their first summer. This usually involves a lot of trial, error, heartbreak, and frustration, but this early stage of research eventually evolves into a formal proposal that is defended before the student's doctoral committee
completion of the comprehensive exams. With the proposal defense complete, the focus becomes almost entirely on the student's research project, with most of our students defending their completed dissertation after their fifth year in the program.
The research that graduate students conduct here is a huge part of Blandy's research productivity. Of the 36 peer-reviewed journal articles produced by Blandy researchers over the past four years, 72 percent include a graduate student as an author.
The production of the next generation of scientists and educators is just as important as the research itself, however.
The four most recent Blandy graduate students to successfully defend their dissertations and graduate from UVa include Ariela Haber, Gerry Woodworth, Ariel Firebaugh, and Brynn Cook. Dr. Haber completed her dissertation on the role of floral scent in the foraging decisions made by bumble bees in 2017, and moved from my lab to a postdoctoral position working on honey bees at the University of Maryland. She is now working at the USDA on insect pheromones. That same year, Dr. Woodworth completed his dissertation with me on the interactions between deer and invasive species, and he is now a Professor of Biology at Mid-Atlantic Christian University in North Carolina. Dr. Firebaugh studied the effects of light pollution on fireflies with Kyle Haynes. After graduating in 2018, she is now a Howard Hughes Medical Institute postdoc at Radford University, where she is designing inquiry-based entry level courses for their biology program. Dr. Cook is our most recent graduate, finishing her degree with T'ai Roulston on the effects of ozone pollution on chemical communication between plants and insects in spring 2019. Brynn just accepted a California Council on Science and Technology fellowship to advise lawmakers on environmental issues in her home state.
In 2017 (the most recent year with available data), universities in the United States awarded over 40,000 doctorates in science and engineering fields. This is about twice the number of doctorates awarded by the second-place country. This edge in the production of human capital gives the U.S. an advantage that has helped to maintain its historic status as the world's leader in innovations that grow our economy and make our lives better. It is not an edge that should be taken for granted, however, and it will require more investment to maintain. This is why Blandy and FOSA have been working hard to grow that investment in our local graduate students in recent years.
A Chesapeake Bay waterman invited teachers onto his boat to check crab traps.
Clarke County Teachers Explore the Chesapeake Bay
Group Learns About Decisions That Affect Natural Resources
By Candace Lutzow-Felling
Director of Education
Did you know that fiddler crabs, because they build burrows in the marshy mud flats of the Chesapeake Bay, are important sources of oxygen for the roots of marsh plants? Ten Clarke County Public School teachers learned this fascinating fact while watching numerous crabs scurry along the flats at low tide and dip into the safety of their burrows if we got too close.
These Clarke County elementary, middle, and high school teachers spent a long weekend, May 3-5, at the
University of Virginia's field ecology research station
on the Eastern Shore. We were there to experience the Chesapeake Bay: its environs, history, culture, and economy; and to explore ways to share aspects of this experience with Clarke County students. Cora Johnston, the UVA Anheuser-Busch Coastal Research Center Site Director, was our host. Because the Eastern Shore is narrow, about four miles across, we were able to walk an entire watershed, exploring the soils, plants and animals, and collecting water samples at various locations along the way. As we explored, we recorded observations in our field journals. Back in the lab, we tested the clarity, sediment and salinity levels of our water samples and discussed various factors that may increase or reduce sediment in the Chesapeake Bay.
Our first evening at the Eastern Shore field station we rode into Cape Charles to witness the annual "Blessing of the Fleet." Watermen from all over the Chesapeake Bay gather to have their boats and lives blessed in advance of the spring fishing season. While there, a generous waterman named Scott invited us for an excursion on his boat to check some of his crab pots (crab traps). Scott explained how healthy water, with good oxygen levels and clarity, are vital to his livelihood as a waterman.
The next morning, as we walked through the maritime forest of Savage Neck Dunes Natural Area Preserve, we engaged in a "soundscape" activity, listening to the changes in the wind and animal sounds as we moved from forest to dunes to beach habitat. Along the Bay beach, with no other people in sight, we explored the rich diversity of aquatic plant and animal life washed up on the shore. This led us to contemplate the vastness of the Chesapeake Bay, and how our land use activities, even in Clarke County, contribute to Bay water quality.
Joining us to explore the Savage Neck Preserve were Elise Trelegan, NOAA Chesapeake Bay B-WET Program Coordinator and Andrew Larkin, Senior Program analyst for the NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office. During lunch, Ms. Trelegan helped us understand how our land use actions can impact water quality locally, downstream in rivers, and ultimately the health of the Chesapeake Bay. She explained why NOAA invests in environmental science education for teachers and students-because our individual and collective actions affect Bay health.
We asked our teachers: "Was this learning experience valuable?" This is what some of them said:
"The Bay is AWESOME and my experience will definitely help with content knowledge. I loved seeing the people and business and fishing. This made the area a little more personal so that we could put a face to the impacts we make upstream. "
"I feel I can explain the watershed, the components, and the importance and impact so much better and with passion."
"Even in Clarke County, we impact the Bay!"
"We matter up stream. We need to strive to make the Bay the BESTuary in the world."
This visit to the Eastern Shore was part of Blandy and Clarke County Public School's Clarke to Bay watershed project funded through the NOAA B-WET Program (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Bay Watershed & Education Training Program), a grant awarded to Blandy Experimental Farm and Clarke County Public Schools. We just completed year one of this three-year project. Stay tuned for more exciting updates!
New Faces Join Blandy Staff
Jack Monsted, Assistant Curator
Jack Monsted is the new assistant curator at Blandy, and has taken over the development and management of the Nancy Larrick Crosby Native Plant Trail.
He comes to us from Athens, Ohio, where he received his M.S. degree in Plant Biology from Ohio University in December of 2018. His master's thesis was in the field of forest plant ecology, with a special focus on how native plant communities respond to historical human land use.
Prior to that, he worked as an organic crop inspector for the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association for four years, performing annual inspections for organic farms throughout the mid-Atlantic region. He received his B.A. in environmental geography from the Ohio State University. He grew up near Harrisburg, Pa., and is an avid hiker and rock climber.
Chris Youngs, Grounds Coordinator
Chris Youngs is the new grounds coordinator, and is responsible for vehicle maintenance as well as upkeep of the Arboretum grounds.
Chris earned his B.S. degree in agricultural science from Virginia Tech. The Clarke County native graduated from Clarke County High School in 2010 before obtaining an associates degree from Lord Fairfax Community College.
Most recently Chris worked at White Post Restorations, an internationally recognized classic car restoration business, where he rebuilt brake components. Prior to that he worked at Shenandoah National Park. Chris has extensive volunteer experience, including organizing FFA students for FOSA's annual Garden Fair.
We welcome both of these new employees to the Blandy family; be sure to say hello on your next visit.
Caroline Bowman is FOSA's 2019 Public Garden Intern
Thanks to a generous contribution from the Fauquier and Loudoun Garden Club,
Caroline Bowman will be spending the summer at the Arboretum as FOSA's Public Garden Intern.
Caroline is a rising junior in Environmental Science at Virginia Tech. She is originally from Alexandria. She is working alongside Carrie Whitacre, Assistant Curator of Herbaceous Gardens and Jack Monsted, Assistant Curator of the Native Plant Trail. Additionally, she will assist with Blandy's summer camp for children.
Caroline is also working with T'ai Roulston, Arboretum Curator, to locate and map trees in the collections using GPS. This mapping will enable visitors and staff to locate these collections from Blandy's website.
Native Plants Help Create a Sense of Place
Even the Troublemakers are Essential in the Environment
By Jack Monsted
Assistant Curator, Virginia Native Plant Trail
To the naturalist or outdoor enthusiast, plants are what define our sense of place. They reflect unique environmental cues and connect us deeply to a landscape. Whether it's a shady forest, a sunny meadow, or even a tree-lined city street, the plant species growing in a location form its ecological backbone - imbuing it with life and a unique sense of character. And while many gardeners and landscape designers (perhaps rightfully) delight in the showy flowers of ornamental shrubs or stately foliage of grandiose landscape trees, it is the wild, unassuming beauty of our native flora that interests me the most.
I have a long relationship with our native plants. I've lived in the middle Atlantic region my entire life, roaming the hillsides and valleys of the Appalachian mountain range throughout Pennsylvania, southeast Ohio, Maryland and Virginia. I began learning to identify the plants of the region as a teenager, and as my knowledge of the plants around me grew, so did my appreciation for them. Now, more than a decade after beginning my journey, the native plants of the eastern U.S. have become like a sprawling family of 10,000 relatives, each with its own virtues and quirks.
Some of them are dear, yet ephemeral, friends who only visit for a few weeks each year, but never fail to make me smile. The diminutive blue phlox, trillium, bloodroot, and Virginia bluebells are some such friends - they carpet the forest understory in pastel colors each spring before wilting away by summer's onset. Others - like the hearty red maple and shagbark hickory trees - are reliable parent figures who remain strong and steadfast in the landscape week after week, year after year. They turn the hillsides brilliant shades of red and yellow each fall and provide both shelter and food for numerous birds and mammals. Most native plants are a delight to come upon, but as with any large family there are invariably a few antagonistic cousins who love to cause trouble and are best met at a distance. Whether it be the poison ivy whose unassuming leaves never fail to give me a rash as they brush my ankles in the summer undergrowth or the smilax bramble that goes unnoticed until I'm knee deep in its sharp thorns, these plants often annoy but are nonetheless an essential part of the rich family tapestry that makes up our native plant community.
In the end, no matter my precise relationship with them, they all feel like home. Even though I'm new to Blandy and Virginia, all of these old friends were growing happily along the Native Plant Trail when I arrived, ready to welcome me with their colorful flowers and familiar shapes and scents. I'm already settling in here at Blandy, and I earnestly look forward to stewarding the Native Plant Trail and helping it become the most diverse, beautiful place it can be. I hope you'll join me on this journey - it might make you feel a little more at home as well.