Newsletter of the Foundation of the State Arboretum                  Summer 2018
These 10 undergraduates, along with program coordinator Patrick Crumrine (top right), are the Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Class of 2018. They are among about 40 researchers who will pass through Blandy this summer. Click the image for a larger view.
Blandy is a Busy Place This Time of Year
Students Arrive for a Summer of Research
By David Carr
Director, Blandy Experimental Farm
A core part of the mission of Blandy Experimental Farm is to serve as a resource for environmental science researchers from the University of Virginia and around the region. We have been working hard to improve the infrastructure needed to support research here, and we have been working hard to recruit new researchers. This summer over 40 researchers will pass through Blandy, with most of those spending the full summer in residence in our dorms, houses, and cottages. These researchers range from university professors to high school interns, who are getting their first taste of scientific research.

Dr. Daniel Hanley from Long Island University is one of the new faculty at Blandy this summer. He arrived in early May to begin a study on brood parasitism in birds. This was not his first visit to Blandy. Dr. Hanley took part in our Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program in 2002 when he was an undergraduate at Skidmore College. After that summer at Blandy, he transferred to Cornell University to finish his bachelor's degree before moving on to graduate school. Now a professor, he has returned to Blandy to serve as an REU mentor for one of our summer students.

Brown-headed Cowbird (top), Gray Catbird (bottom).
He and his student are studying the ability of Gray Catbirds, Northern Mockingbirds, and Wood Thrushes to recognize and reject the eggs of the Brown-headed Cowbird. Cowbirds are brood parasites that lay their eggs in the nests of other species of birds. If the host of these cowbird eggs fails to recognize these eggs as foreign, they will end up raising a baby cowbird, usually at the expense of their own babies.

Bird eggs contain only two pigments, biliverdin (responsible for blue) and protoporphyrin (responsible for brown). The blueness or the brownness of an egg is determined by the balance of these two pigments. Eggs without pigment are chalky white from the calcium carbonate in the shell. Dr. Hanley has recently shown that birds may be biased in their ability to recognize eggs that are different from their own. The species that he has studied seem to be better at recognizing and rejecting eggs that are browner than their own eggs, but not so good at recognizing eggs that are bluer.

Different species of birds also vary greatly in their ability to recognize and reject cowbird eggs. Some like the Gray Catbird seem to be experts, but others like the Wood Thrush seem to be largely clueless. Mockingbirds are somewhere in the middle. At Blandy, Dr. Hanley and his REU student will be testing whether the same blue versus brown bias occurs in each of these species and whether the lighting environment around the nest affects their perception of egg color enough to influence their ability to recognize a foreign egg. To do this, they have created model eggs using a 3-D printer. They then paint these plastic eggs to an exact hue of blue or brown. These egg models are then placed into a bird's nest among their real eggs. The student will monitor the nest for a week to see if eggs are rejected or not.

It is great to have new research and new researchers at Blandy. It is even more exciting to see scientists who were trained here at Blandy, returning and helping to train the next generation of scientists.
You Are Here
Seven New Orientation Signs in the Works
By Steve Carroll
Director of Public Programs
  We at Blandy have long known we need a new map that is drawn to scale and that more seamlessly incorporates continuing changes in our landscape and infrastructure.
Click the image for a larger view.
Our current map, a watercolor painted by artist Mark Poole, is creative and attractive but is not to scale, making navigation and estimating distances a challenge. Although new features have been added to this map over the years through the magic of computer software, each change brings its own challenge. Furthermore, although these changes can be made on the versions of the map on our website and in our brochures, the 2' x 3' wayfinding panels located on the property become more and more outdated with each passing year.
Since the unveiling of our watercolor map in 2002, changes at Blandy have been numerous: the construction of Wilkins Lane Loop Drive with its several parking areas and interpretive panels; construction of a research lab and greenhouse; the addition of two new cottages in our research village; creation of our community garden and community forest; establishments of chestnut test plots; significant redesigns of the pollination garden, native plant trail, and iris garden; and on and on...
In developing our new map I leaned heavily on Blandy staff and FOSA members, particularly members of the Enhance User Experience (EUE) strategic planning committee. And always at the center of this project have been Matthew Bartley (Geospatial Engineering Technician in UVa's Facilities Management department) and Blandy Public Relations Coordinator, Tim Farmer, who have served as the "brains" of the operation.
Our new map will be used in several ways, including in new wayfinding panels that are being manufactured as I type this. These panels will be placed at strategic locations in the arboretum and will include "you are here" locators, something our current panels lack. Production of these panels using our new map was possible thanks to much-appreciated financial support of Elaine and Childs Burden through the Helen Clay Frick Foundation.
Once our panels are installed, visitors should be able to navigate easily from one garden, collection, or landscape feature to the next.
Be sure to take a look the next time you are here!

VMN volunteers Alex Newhart and John Crandell assist 3rd grade students in finding descriptive clues about snakes during our Snake Savvy program.

  Maintaining Excellence Through Creative Solutions
...And a Little Help From Our Friends
By The Blandy Education Team
During her June 8 farewell speech to the Board of Visitors, outgoing President Teresa Sullivan reviewed UVA's ongoing tradition of tackling the pervasive "either/or" problem -- either accept mediocrity as a necessary compromise when faced with unexpected challenges or to rise to the challenges and strive for excellence -- by seeking creative solutions to ensure continued high quality programs.

Our education programs were faced with an "either/or" challenge when, one week before the beginning of our busy spring season, our newest education team member announced her immediate resignation. This "either/or" problem prompted several questions for how to proceed with our spring programming:
  1. Because of the caliber of our programs, groups of more than 60 students require three Blandy educators; therefore must we cancel all the programs with 60 or more students?
  2. Can Director of Education Candace Lutzow-Felling step in as the third educator? If so, what will be the impact on her other obligations: for example, education leadership, crucial state and regional conversations, grant program outreach to schools?
  3. Can visiting teachers teach one of the activities? Are they willing to do so?
  4. What would be the impacts if the Blandy Education team were forced to cancel many of its spring programs, withdraw from leadership obligations, or ask teachers to step into the role of an Education Team member?
A careful review of our spring calendar revealed that from mid-March to mid-June we had 50 days (the equivalent of 10 work weeks) booked with programs to serve more than 3,700 students. Large school groups were expected thirty-five of these days. For the past several years, we have worked hard to build our reputation as a school partner providing excellent outdoor-based programs that complement and enhance lessons taught at school. Cancellation of so many programs would threaten to erode our reputation. 

The triage response was for Candace to step in and teach on the days that large groups were scheduled. We knew that this would necessitate cancelling or placing on hold other responsibilities Candace normally assumes such as representing Blandy at state and regional meetings, working on state and regional educational education initiatives, and leading education programs and professional development at schools involved with our grant projects.

VMN volunteer Liz Harrington helps a young student create a seed necklace during a
Let's Sprout program.
One of our professional philosophies is that challenges represent opportunities for innovation. A day after receiving the resignation news, Environmental Educator Lil Ledford attended the Virginia Master Naturalist (VMN) Shenandoah Chapter training class and shared our education dilemma. To Lil's delight several Master Naturalists volunteered to help teach our spring programs. The next day, Lil submitted a plan to develop a four-hour training for these wonderful volunteers. Two weeks later seven VMN and two retired teachers arrived for training in Blandy's education programs. The training included an overview of safety procedures, program logistics, tips for teaching outdoors, some hands on practice for the activities our volunteers would help teach, and a discussion of our teaching methods. All volunteers registered with FOSA, and underwent background checks through UVA prior to working with students. 

Emily Ford developed our strategy for recruiting assistance. After assessing which programs required at least three educators and those where an additional educator would be helpful but not critical, she used an on-line tool to create a sign-up sheet for the volunteers. After the initial flurry of signing up, the online tool allowed the volunteers to fill in areas of continuing need. Volunteers new to an activity took advantage of opportunities to pair with an experienced volunteer or a Blandy Education Team member to rehearse the activity on days where they were not needed elsewhere. Collaboration between Lil and Emily kept the volunteer coordination running smoothly: emails were sent prior to the volunteering date confirming the sign-up and including any updates sent from the school; volunteers were briefed prior to every session; and follow-up emails and surveys provided valuable feedback on the activities, visiting students, and volunteer experience.

The increased responsibilities of volunteer coordination were well worth it. In total, our volunteer educators signed up for 30 days of programming and contributed an estimated 135 volunteer hours to our programs! Because of their generosity, over 3,500 K-12 students were able to participate in our programs this spring; Candace taught only 10 out of the originally projected 30 days; and we were able to maintain our education leadership reputation and most of our local, state, and regional responsibilities.
When presented with the choice to either accept a slip in our reputation, leadership and quality, or to seek innovation out of adversity, we reached out to our volunteer community. We met our challenge with excellence due to their generous help!
Search Begins for New FOSA Director
By David Carr
Director, Blandy Experimental Farm
Martha Bjelland
At the close of business June 22, FOSA Director Martha Bjelland ended her eight years of service to the Foundation and Blandy Experimental Farm. Martha arrived as the University required a radical change in the way FOSA conducted its finances, and she worked for years to restructure and adopt new fiscal policies that brought the Foundation in compliance with that new landscape. 

During her time as Director, Martha worked with the Board to better align FOSA and Blandy strategic goals and set priorities to meet them. She worked to establish better relationships between FOSA and the University and raised the Foundation's profile in Charlottesville. In her penultimate year as Director, she secured the most transformative private gift in FOSA's history, the endowment of the Walter S. Flory Jr. Professorship in Environmental Sciences.  Her eight years served to increase Blandy's capacity to serve all of its audiences.
Thank you, Martha, for your hard work and dedication to the common cause of FOSA and Blandy.
Two New Arboretum Assistants Join Staff
Sabrina Hartley
Sabrina Hartley and Jared Manzo are the latest additions to Blandy's Arboretum maintenance staff. These positions fill vacancies created when Arborist Bob Arnold retired late last year, and Arboretum Assistant Chris Schmidt assumed his duties.

Sabrina started working at Blandy in April 2018, with a vast horticulture background that includes fine estate gardening, vineyard management, and chainsaw wielding. At her home in West Virginia she spends her time growing cut flowers, and converting school buses into recreational vehicles with her partner. You can find Sabrina pruning her way through the
Jared Manzo
Boxwood Memorial Garden or in the far reaches of the arboretum staring at a tree she wants to cut down.

Jared is an arborist by trade with eight years of experience, and most recently, worked as an urban forester for Nine Mile Run Watershed Association in Pittsburgh, Pa.  

He also holds a bachelors and masters degree in Forestry from West Virginia University.  Jared is excited to help steward the arboretum's various historic collections and enjoys seeing the cut-leaf black walnut in the early morning sun.
Cara Potter is FOSA Public Garden Intern
Cara Potter
Cara Potter will be spending the summer with her hands in the soil as FOSA's Public Garden Intern. 

Cara works alongside Carrie Whitacre, Assistant Curator of Herbaceous Gardens, and Kim Strader, Assistant Curator of the Native Plant Trail, to maintain and manage gardens surrounding the Quarters. Additionally, she will assist with two of Blandy's summer programs for children: Wildlife Detectives and Phenomenal Plants and their Animals. Lastly, Cara has been working in collaboration with T'ai Roulston, Arboretum Curator, and Chris Schmidt, Arborist, to create a proposal for expanding the Dogwood (Cornus) collection located between the Pollination Garden and Native Plant Trail. This internship was made possible by Christine Perdue and the generous contribution of the Fauquier and Loudoun Garden Club.
Kids Become Scientists and Explore the Natural World
Blandy Summer Nature Camps Under Way

Summer is a time to be outside looking for insects, turning over logs, and listening to birds, and Summer Nature Camps at Blandy are here to help.
Blandy will once again offer three summer nature camps, allowing participants to experience the wonders of nature under the guidance of area teachers and environmental educators. We offer two camps for rising 2nd-4th graders and a more advanced experience for rising 5th-8th graders.
In "Wildlife Detectives" (June 25-27, 9 a.m.-3 p.m.) rising 2nd-4th graders will use all their senses in their search for mammals, birds, insects, and more. We will look for tracks, evidence of feeding, calls from the treetops, and other clues that we are not alone out there. (Note this camp is FULL.)
"Phenomenal Plants & Their Animals" serves the same age group but meets for five shorter days (July 9-13, 9 a.m.-Noon). We will start with the arboretum's amazing assortment of plants and discover the sometimes hidden world of animals that use plants for food, shelter, and nest sites.
Both camps include theme-based crafts, activities, games, and snacks.
Our third camp, "EcoExplorers" (July 16-20, 9 a.m.-Noon), for rising 5th-8th graders, is investigative. Campers work in pairs to ask a research question about the natural world, and with help from group leaders, they design an experiment and collect and analyze data to answer their research question. Participants present their results to parents and Blandy students and staff on the final day.
All camps benefit from experienced leaders and from hands-on activities led by college research students in residence at Blandy through a program funded by the National Science Foundation.

For assistance call 540-837-1758 Ext. 224 M-F, 1-5 p.m. Cost per camp is $110 for FOSA members and $130 for nonmembers ($100 and $120 if registering for more than one child or camp). Scholarships are available; call 540-837-1758 Ext. 287 to inquire. Preregistration and payment are required.
Come get your nature fix at Blandy!
Put on Your Walking Shoes and Join Us
Summer Features Workshops, Walks, and More 
By Steve Carroll
Director of Public Programs
Click to see the full brochure
As the calendar turns to July, it's time to put on comfortable shoes, as walking is part of several of our summer public programs.
On July 12th we offer a walking tour of the Arboretum's gardens and collections. We'll see trees, shrubs, wildflowers, and visiting insects as the summer season gains momentum. Be sure to dress for the weather.
Full Moon
Do you prefer walking in the evening? If so, join us for slower and quieter full moon walks on July 28th (8:30-9:30 p.m.) or August 26th (8:00-9:00 p.m.). If all goes according to plan, we will be in the warm-season grass meadow in time to watch the moon rise over the Blue Ridge Mountains. Exploring the arboretum at dusk and after dark is a special experience; we never know what we might see or hear.
Does all this sound too purposeful for you? If so, join Shell Fischer for Mindfulness in Nature: Guided Walking Meditation on August 8th. Shell will introduce you to mindfulness, then guide you as you slowly walk through the arboretum's native plant woodland.
The summer also brings hands-on workshops featuring plants (Basic Botany for Gardeners and Naturalists, July 24th), butterflies (Butterflies in Your Backyard, led by Alex Newhart on August 21st), and trees (Introduction to Tree Identification, August 30th). These workshops will help you better understand and appreciate the plants and animals around you -- and will enrich your many walks here at Blandy!
Click here to register and pay for programs, or visit and click on "Register for a Program or Event Now." For assistance call Robin 540-837-1758 Ext. 224 M-F, 1-5 p.m.