The Conservation Exchange
at Warren Wilson College
Sharing Ideas, Passion and Resources for Innovative Land Stewardship
Summer 2022:v29
A Note from the Dean of Land Resources
As we start a new academic year, I want to give a shout out to the folks who do the real work on the land - Alisha, Blair, Corinna, Elias, Elsa, Erik, Kelly, Lilah, Pete, Roth, Sienna and of course all the student crew members. This team tends our animals, grows healthy food, conducts research, manages our forest, reduces our waste footprint, beautifies our campus, builds welcoming spaces and tells our stories. On top of all this, they are some of the most impactful educators, mentors and role models for our students. A sense of place not only comes from the land we walk on, but also the people who steward that land. We are lucky to have these folks in our community doing the good work everyday.
"Sometimes I wish I could photosynthesize so that just by being, just by shimmering at the meadow's edge or floating lazily on a pond, I could be doing the work of the world while standing silent in the sun.”
Dr. Robin Wall Kimmerer
WWC Hosts Fire Fair Saturday, September 10th
Do you have questions about fire in the Southern Blue Ridge Mountains? Join us for the Southern Blue Ridge Fire Fair, a free event for landowners and community members interested in learning more about the role of fire in our region. We will hear from Dr. Tara Keyser, Research Forester and Director of the Center for Hardwood Restoration and Management with the United States Forest Service on the role and importance of fire in our region. This will be followed by a networking event with local natural resource professionals focusing on prescribed fire and wildfire mitigation for landowners and homeowners who want to learn more about funding opportunities, technical assistance, and other available resources. Then hear about upcoming opportunities to gain experience and training on educational prescribed burns this fall! We will wrap-up the day with a free lunch provided by The Conservation Exchange and an optional tour of a prescribed burn unit on the Warren Wilson College Forest. The event will be held in 110 Boon Hall and will begin at 9:00am. The event is free. Register here.
WWC Students Contribute to International Effort to Save Salamanders
A class at WWC is helping to conserve our amazing salamanders! WWC is lucky to be nestled in the Southern Appalachians, home to a rich diversity of salamander species. Unfortunately, they are threatened by the loss and degradation of their habitats, climate change, and now by the spread of an invasive pathogen called Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal). Currently spreading through the amphibian pet trade in Europe, Bsal has conservationists worried that it will have dire consequences for wild salamanders here. But WWC professor Dr. Olya Milenkaya has been working with colleagues across Canada, Mexico, and the USA to develop a new program called SNAPS: the Student Network for Amphibian Pathogen Surveillance. Through SNAPS, college students across the continent are surveilling for Bsal as part of their classes, and providing this essential information to conservationists, scientists, and policy makers. Olya’s class participated in this international surveillance effort by catching and swabbing 20 Eastern Newts before releasing them unharmed. A USGS lab analyzed the samples and no Bsal was detected, which is great news for salamander conservation! You can also help salamanders: enjoy but do not touch wild salamanders, be an ethical pet owner by never releasing your pet (or tank water) into the wild, and conserve salamander habitats including forests, rocky streams, wetlands, and ponds.
Mobile Microgrid Work Vehicles Roll Onto Campus!
Land Resources and WWC Facilities Management are working with the Critical Services Microgrid Group to bring innovative solar energy projects to campus as part of WWC's sustainability programming. Our first project is a collaboration with UNCA Mechatronics and NCSU Engineering to develop mobile microgrids by upscaling "junk" golf carts and converting them from lead acid batteries to lithium iron phosphate batteries. These Mobile Microgrid Work Vehicles carry their own solar panels so they never need to be plugged into the grid to recharge. Not only do they move people, they also incorporate AC inverters giving them the ability to run power tools, AV equipment, air compressors, etc. at remote work, event and educational sites. And, when a power outage occurs, a fleet will be able to run critical building services such as Gladfelter Cafeteria or Bannerman's IT Services. We currently have three MMWV's completed and are raising capacity to create a fleet of 20 to be deployed across campus during the current academic year. If you are interested in seeing one of the first models in action, come by Gladfelter Cafeteria between 11am-1pm on Friday, 9/16 for a demonstration.
News from our Agriculture Crews!
The College Garden had a bountiful summer growing for the CSA and cafeteria, making infrastructure upgrades and testing some new cover cropping techniques. Sunflowers are being mixed into our summer cover crop along with Sudan grass, millet, and cow peas to create a plant-diverse and nitrogen rich cover that protects our soil from the sun and erosion while producing large amounts of biomass that increase soil organic matter and fertility. This past season we collaborated with the College Farm to run sheep through the cover crop, offering nutrition for the sheep and in return they spread manure naturally. Fossil fuel use was replaced with animal powered mowing to get a second growth before integrating it back into the soil. Our flowers and produce can be purchased through online sales and at our in-person markets at Gladfelter Cafeteria including Parent Weekend and Homecoming, Sept 16th and Sept 30th from 11am- 1pm.
This summer on the College Farm was as full as ever, but with a major change in our regular summer workload. We made no hay! We are making a more complete turn in our operation to "stockpiling" winter forage as the backbone of winter feeding for our ruminant animals. This means a different approach to grazing all year as we look to extend recovery days between grazing events and invest in the biological processes at work in our soils. We set aside 1/3 of our grazing acres this summer and will do the same this fall as we work to have standing forage ready for the cattle deep into the winter. We're excited about what this means from more productive water, nutrient and carbon cycles, to less diesel use, to more focused education on agricultural models that are resilient in our changing world. It's an exciting turn to make in our production system and one that we know will present a whole new host of challenges and opportunities.
WWC Welcomes New
Ecological Forestry Faculty
Dr. Eric Griffin is our new Assistant Professor of Ecological Forestry. He grew up in northeastern Georgia where he fell in love with the Eastern deciduous forest. He had the opportunity to work in tropical forests in Latin America as a graduate student at the University of Pittsburgh, experimental forests as a postdoc at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, and most recently New Mexican conifer forests in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. His research focuses on forest trophic dynamics and processes, specifically those involving plant-microbe interactions. Ultimately, he believes that working on cryptic interactions in forest ecosystems will have important implications for management strategies to increase forest productivity and native diversity, decrease invasive species proliferation, and buffer forests from the negative impacts of climate change. Eric is an avid hiker and is happy to be back in the southern Appalachians where you might see him on trail with his dog Obi Wan!
CORE Crew Makes Some New Friends
The CORE (Community Oriented Regeneration Efforts) Crew recently started a Black Soldier Fly Larvae (BSFL) operation as an additional component of the College's efforts to close the loop on the campus's organic waste stream. BSFL are extremely voracious insects, with the capacity to consume 5x their bodyweight in a single day. The larvae can consume virtually any organic matter, and the mature larvae are rich in protein, calcium and healthy fats, making a great feed for livestock. Their excrement can be used as a high quality plant fertilizer. These native insects are being fed campus food waste from our cafeterias, academic and administrative buildings, dorms and staff housing - talk about circular economies! CORE's primary mission is to serve as a community-based sustainability education center for the campus and community, and the BSFL are helping us achieve this mission by offering folks the chance to interact with an exciting, wriggly alternative to traditional composting!
For more information on the BSFL operation contact CORE Supervisor Elias Goldstein.
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