The Conservation Exchange

at Warren Wilson College

Sharing Ideas, Passion and Resources for Innovative Land Stewardship

Winter 2023:v33

A Note from The Dean of Land

Thanks to all of you who take the time to read about the College, the land we are privileged to steward and the good works of our students. I especially want to appreciate those of you who contribute to The Conservation Exchange, supporting positive student outcomes and the sustainable management of this beautiful place in the Swannanoa Valley. The next time you visit this space it will look much different, as we will be introducing The Center for Working Lands at Warren Wilson College. Until then, I hope you will join us for some of the upcoming events and continued learning opportunities, beginning with the Ian Robertson Distinguished Lecture in Inspired Work.

Why should there be hunger and deprivation in any land, in any city, at any table, when man has the resources and the scientific know-how to provide all mankind with the basic necessities of life? There is no deficit in human resources. The deficit is in human will.”

Experience Warren Wilson College

Ian Robertson Distinguished Lecture

in Inspired Work

February 26th, 2:00-3:30pm - Canon Lounge

Free and Open to the Public

Karen Washington has lived in New York City all her life, and has spent decades promoting urban farming as a way for all New Yorkers access to fresh, locally grown food. Since 1985 Karen has been a community activist, striving to make New York City a better place to live. As a community gardener and board member of the New York Botanical Gardens, Karen worked with Bronx neighborhoods to turn empty lots into community gardens. After a 30-year career as a physical therapist, she started Rise and Root Farm in the Black Dirt region of Orange County, NY, in the lower Hudson Valley. Rise and Root Farm is a five-acre farm, run cooperatively by four owners who are women, intergenerational, multi-racial, and LGBTQ. The farm is rooted in social justice, and through the healing power of food and farming they work to build a more equitable food system.

Food Justice at the College Garden

Food Justice has long been a passion of our students and a mainstay of the College's experiential learning through academic, community engagement and work programming. The WWC Garden is committed to serving as a community hub focused on developing and promoting accessible and equitable food systems. As part of this commitment, the College Garden has developed three new student leadership positions. Kyra Collins (L to R) is a sophomore majoring in Environmental Studies with a concentration in Sustainable Agriculture and will be serving as Community Garden Coordinator. Catherine Tsarouhtsis is a junior majoring in Environmental Studies with a concentration in Environmental Education and will be serving as Community Engagement Coordinator focusing mainly on building collaboration with the Eastern Band of the Cherokee. Anni Jaffe is a junior majoring in Expressive Arts Therapy and will be serving as Community Engagement Partnership Coordinator. We are excited about the leadership these students will bring to addressing food justice and food security in the region.

WWC + Pearl Jam + Agrivoltaics = Climate Forward Agriculture!

We are investigating an exciting new opportunity around solar energy innovation through a partnership with the band Pearl Jam. What are agrivoltaics, you ask? Agrivoltaics integrates solar panels and energy storage into an agricultural system. The solar panels are installed at densities that allow for continued grazing, cropping and pollination while supplying the energy needed to run the entire agricultural system — essentially, farming the sun twice. WWC has been working with Critical Services Microgrid Group, a pro bono organization that has identified WWC as the ideal location and institution for a southeast region agrivoltaics research station. If implemented, the facility would provide cutting edge experiential learning and research opportunities for our students and provide clean energy to the campus at substantial savings. It would also serve as a demonstration and outreach platform for regional farmers who are looking to increase economic returns while cutting carbon emissions. We have secured a gift from Pearl Jam to explore the agrivoltaics project. The gift is one component of the band's environmental and sustainability commitment, which also includes funds for projects related to the protection of indigenous territories in the Amazon, sustainable aviation fuels, coastal U.S. rainforest protection and electric buses. These funds will be used to conduct an extensive feasibility study during spring 2023.

WWC Professor Publishes New Book

Environmental Studies and Outdoor Leadership professor Mallory McDuff's latest book tells the stories of 50 women, one from each state in the US, working for climate justice. The book features climate leaders of diverse ages and backgrounds who are poets, scientists, farmers, sculptors, community organizers, teachers, students and more. An essay on themes from the book can be read at Shondaland. Preorder a signed copy from Malaprop's Bookstore: Love Your Mother: 50 States, 50 Stories, & 50 Women United for Climate Justice. 

Experience Warren Wilson College

Mountain Term at WWC

We are thrilled to announce that registration for Mountain Term courses this May is now open! These are week-long intensive adult short courses taught by Warren Wilson faculty on our beautiful campus. This year’s courses include topics in creative writing, blacksmithing, Appalachian studies, fiber arts, and fine woodworking. The priority registration deadline is April 15th, but courses may fill earlier. 

Click here to see the full slate of courses and to register!

Black Vultures in Asheville

Over the last few years, Black Vultures (Coragyps atratus) have become a more common sight in the Asheville area. While the exact driver behind increased populations is not known, these beautiful birds may be problematic for livestock farmers in the region. Black Vultures can cause stress to birthing cows and may even prey on new born calves. Warren Wilson students, natural science faculty and land managers have teamed up to conduct preliminary research to better understand livestock vulture conflicts. Results of this research will inform management practices to reduce the conflicts without harming the vultures and insights will be shared with regional farmers and conservation groups. Black Vultures are best differentiated from Turkey Vultures by their black head and neck, and a white "window" on the underside of their wing tips. If you drive by our fields and notice an upside down bird hanging from the haycart, it is fake and we are testing if it will keep live vultures away!

Spring Seedling Sale

If you are anything like us, this crazy weather has you thinking about your spring gardens! We'd love to help you fill your gardens and in turn you can support our Garden Crew students. Come by our 1st annual seedling sale at the College Garden. We'll have vegetable and herb starts as well as our "Guaranteed from Seed" forest medicinal and ornamental plants. All of these plants are propagated and tended by our students. We'll also be conducting hands on workshops in our beautiful garden space.

Winter Wasps

Some may enjoy the distinct lack of wasps on these cold winter days. I find myself longing for the greener months when the spectacle of our over-wintering friends is on full display. Inquisitive Polistes, the “city-builders,” fly down for a quick visit to your brightly colored shirt. Gentle giants, the European Hornet (Vespa crabro) are out looking for rotting apples. Countless tiny stingless parasitoids emerge from their hosts; bright green chalcids hunt for the sweetest flower nectar. Most equate wasps with their sting. While being stung can undoubtedly leave a lasting impression, most of our petiolate friends are stingless. All male wasps, as well as the parasitic Hymenoptera, cannot sting you. Many “stinging wasps” in the Aculeate groups can sting but would rather not. Most of these buzzy, hamulate characters use their specialized “stinging” apparatus for laying eggs on (or in) other arthropods, providing a significant resource for their growing offspring. So, while the paper wasp gynes, the European Hornet queens, and all the parasitoids tucked into their hosts start to stir, be mindful and fear not. If you do find yourself in the compromising position of staring down the opening of the underground nest of one of our more territorial neighbors, the Yellowjackets (Vespula spp.), move away slowly and hold your breath as they sense the increased CO2 and movement as a direct threat to the young they are so diligently rearing. They are protecting all they have made since early spring when their winter queen emerged and founded their colony.

-Dr. Josh Arnold, WWC Entomologist Extradinaire.

Interested in Giving to The Conservation Exchange?

Your generous gift will go towards helping us maintain and improve the research, education, aesthetic 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 Conservation Community!

Give to the Conservation Exchange
Contact: Dave Ellum