The Conservation Exchange
at Warren Wilson College
Sharing Ideas, Passion and Resources for Innovative Land Stewardship
Spring 2022:v27
A Note from the Dean of Land Resources
With the arrival of spring after what seems to have been a two year winter, it is wonderful to see our campus come alive again and return to the vibrant learning community that has always been the calling card of this place. As our students prepare for graduation, professional internships and summer research, we want to welcome back those of you in our community who are able to take advantage of our hospitality to wander our beautiful forest, birdwatch along our field edges and walk your furry companions. You'll notice several trail improvements taking place especially along the River Trail as well some major renovations going on at the College Garden. While it is great to see and talk with you all, we do ask that you please avoid central campus for a little while longer, keep dogs on leashes and as always stay out of the farm fields, especially when animals are present. I hope you find the following news interesting - and what better way to kick it off than with the announcement of the first in person event we've held in a long time! Stay safe, stay healthy, stay kind.
Sheep Shearing Demonstration
Join us on Saturday, April 9th at 9am for a sheep shearing demonstration at the College Farm. College Farm Manager Blair Thompson will be sheering the wool sheep flock which provide wool for the College's Fiber Arts Crew. The event is free and open to the public and will take place outdoors at the Farm Core. Registration is not required.
Staunch Defenders or Clueless Parents? How Carolina Chickadees Respond to Invasive House Wrens
Recent movement of a small songbird, the House Wren into western North Carolina spells trouble for a resident bird, the Carolina Chickadee. House Wrens have a vicious habit: they intensely compete for nesting cavities by destroying other songbird’s entire set of eggs and even nestlings in areas around their own nests. Carolina Chickadees are particularly vulnerable to House Wrens. The destruction of one set of eggs has a big impact on the chickadee parents who produce on average just two sets of eggs. WWC student Daniel Baron (‘22) investigated this interaction spring and summer of 2021 to determine if local Carolina Chickadees had already evolved a response to defend their nests against these wrens. Through their research, Baron found that a few pairs of chickadees in the population responded to wren intrusions at their nest in a way that could protect their eggs or dissuade wrens from destroying them. This is especially surprising as wrens are new to western North Carolina in the grand evolutionary timeline and it is a quick turnover for the chickadees to have this defensive response. This suggests that our local cavity-nesting birds may be able to weather the impact of the new bird on the block, the House Wren.
Indigo: A Colorful Collaboration between Craft and Land
See one way the Work Program and Land Resources partner to bring experiential learning opportunities to our students.
Welcome Roth Doyle - Campus Conservation Corps Supervisor
Born in the Mississippi Delta, Roth Doyle (they/them/theirs) has been working in ecological landscaping for 13 years in WNC. They are certified in Permaculture Landscaping and Design, which they practiced as owner and operator of Earthseed Landscaping. Roth is passionate about creating outdoor living spaces for humans and wildlife with a focus on edible and medicinal plants, native plants, and soil ecology using organic methods. Roth is enthusiastic about working alongside students in service to the Land and WWC community. Roth believes that deepening our connection to the Land is integral to restoring our health in what can feel like a bleak time. As a transgender supervisor, they are excited to enter a role of mentorship with students and model gender diversity in land-based careers. Visible trans joy and success benefits everyone on a college campus, not just trans and queer students. While their openness about holding a marginalized identity directly benefits students who lack representation, Roth strongly believes that we all thrive when everyone is present. Along with their partner EJ, Roth can be found exploring woods, kayaking local rivers and lakes, devouring science fiction novels, and postulating collective liberation.
The Campus Conservation Corps
The Campus Conservation Corps (CCC) was launched in the Fall of 2022 with the mission of managing the greenspaces that make up the College's central campus. Developed as an experiential learning opportunity through an integration of Work Learning and Land Resources, the CCC implements Ecological Landscape Design practices with an eye towards aesthetics, wildlife habitat and ecological integrity, energy conservation and human wellness and safety. Areas under CCC management include the Formal Garden, pollinator and wildlife gardens, teaching and research greenspaces and aesthetic components that compliment the built environment. In addition to that work, the CCC has also begun an on-site initiative to propagate the majority of plants that will be planted on campus, contributing significantly to the college's overall sustainability goals.
WWC "Guaranteed from Seed" Plants Coming to Local Garden Shop
We are excited to be partnering with The Garden Spot in Fairview, NC to bring sustainably grown forest plants to your gardens. The "Guaranteed from Seed - Never Wild Harvested" Initiative propagates iconic woodland plants from sustainably collected seed in an effort to reduce over harvesting pressure on wild populations of these sensitive species. This year we will have Solomon Seal, Trillium, Wild Ginger, Black Cohosh, False Goat's Beard, Wild Yam, Jack in the Pulpit and Doll's Eye available. Not only are these plants beautiful additions to any shade garden, using natives also provides valuable foraging and cover habitat for pollinators and other wildlife. All this with the added bonus of supporting educational and research experiences in land and species conservation and green enterprise for our students! Plants will begin to be available in mid to late April.
Major Compost Facility Upgrade
The WWC Compost Facility recently replaced its aging compost mixer with a new high volume unit that will significantly increase the efficiency and output of the operation. The facility is managed by the C.O.R.E. (Community Oriented Regeneration Efforts) Crew which is part of the Land Resources Team. C.O.R.E. is working with different compost recipes to produce compost that can be used for various land management applications and has already completed a successful test of incorporating the cafeteria's carry-out receptacles into a recipe. The new mixer is a major step in the sustainability goal of closing the loop on the campus' cafeteria, residential and academic buildings organic materials streams. C.O.R.E. is working to make compost workshops and demonstrations available to the public in Fall 2022.
Spring Wildflower Profile
Cutleaf Toothwort (Cardamine concatenata) is one of the earliest spring flowers to emerge along with Spring Beauty and Bloodroot. Cutleaf Toothwort is a member of the Mustard Family and can be identified by flowers having four pale pink petals arranged on stalks above compound leaves that are typically divided into three sections with jagged edges. The plant gets its name from the tooth-like knobs that line the rhizome, or below ground portion of the plant. Some suggest that the name may also come from the plant's lore as a remedy for toothaches. Cultleaf toothwort grows in rich deciduous forests and is a true spring ephemeral, meaning it emerges and flowers before the tree canopy develops. It has a regional history of being used in a poultice for relieving headaches, as an appetite stimulant and to treat heart ailments. It is pollinated by the Mustard White Butterfly and is eaten by White Foot Mice. Two of the best guides for identifying wildflowers in this region are Newcombe's Wildflower Guide and Wildflowers & Plant Communities of the Southern Appalachian Mountains and Piedmont. For a bit of botanical history, give a read to this wonderful essay on Floriography by WWC Associate Provost, Carol Howard, PhD.
Interested in Giving to The Conservation Exchange?
Your generous gift will go towards helping us maintain and improve the research, education and recreation infrastructures of our land and will support continued outreach opportunities for the Warren Wilson College Conservation Community. To give, go to the link below, choose "Other" and designate "Conservation Exchange" on the form. Thank you for being part of our Community!
Contact: Dave Ellum