Help repopulate white oak forests

From Laura DeWald, Forest Genetics Specialist:

I am at the University of Kentucky (Dept. Forestry and Natural Resources), where I am developing a genetics improvement program for white oak (Quercus alba) to address sustainability of the white oak resource into the future. The eventual goal of the project is to have a sustainable supply of good white oak to support healthy forests and restore the white oak resource. 

The first obvious step in a genetics program is to get germplasm – in this case acorns. Collecting will begin this fall and will occur for at least two more seasons, with the future collections focused on filling in collection gaps in the geographic range. Acorns collected will be grown in the Kentucky Division of Forestry’s state nursery and then outplanted into genetic tests as 1-0 seedlings. 

I need help getting acorns from throughout Virginia. Each individual person only needs to collect from 1-2 trees.

Important First Steps

1. Scout for one or two healthy white oaks now and look for the baby acorns to make sure that tree will produce this fall. That said, you can also watch for mature acorns on the tree–it’s important that they aren’t old ones from years past. Mature acorns will start dropping late September to October, so you will need to act soon.

 2. Contact Laura DeWald (Laura.DeWald@uky.edu | 859-562-2282) for the collection kit and the important instructions you will need to follow before you gather the acorns. Laura will start sending out kits now to those who contact her. Each tree will get its own kit. (You don’t want to mix up the acorns from different trees because they want to sample the parent’s genetics.) Laura.DeWald@uky.edu   859-562-2282

Review of The Songs of Insects

Jerry Nissley

The Songs of Insects by Lang Elliott and Will Hershberger

On September 11, 2019, Friends of Dyke Marsh (FODM) hosted speaker Will Hershberger, co-author of The Songs of Insects (2007). The evening presentation was given in the visitor’s center at Huntley Meadows Park, followed by a night walk through Huntley Meadow’s woods and wetland to actually hear the calls, chirps, tics, and trills of the insects. Mr. Hershberger has been recording insect sounds for many years and has amassed a vast collection of insect images and recordings, first published in his book and now maintained on his fascinating website. He is an avid naturalist, award-winning nature photographer, nature sound recordist, and author. He and his wife, Donna, formed Nature Images and Sounds, LLC, and photograph a wide variety of animals in addition to insects. He is an entertaining public speaker as well.

The presentation explored the world of singing insects and explained how to distinguish individual species of crickets, katydids, and cicadas. I learned a lot about what we hear day and night during each season of the year. What I am hearing at night now, which I thought to be frogs, may well indeed be insects, especially the Snowy Tree Cricket, Davis’s Tree Cricket, and the Northern Mole Cricket. (See Hershberger’s Guide to Species.) You may be as amazed as I was.

My big take-away was something we perhaps all know but don’t think about all the time: Animal songs are seasonal and specific to one predominant purpose–mating. In general, the frog-calling season is late winter through spring, birds carry us through summer, and late summer (now) through early winter is insect time. The sounds we are hearing now are most likely insects. Each season carries some overlap, of course. Birds are the ones we hear most across all seasons but even their calls/songs change. Now is the time of the insects.

Seasonality explains why now I don’t hear frogs during the evening Mason Neck kayak tours, where earlier in the year I couldn’t talk over the frog ruckus. Now I hear the three-part harmony of crickets, katydids, and cicadas. Each sound interesting in its own right, which The Songs of Insects re-enforces beautifully.

Virginia Association for Environmental Education seeks conference proposals, deadline Sep. 27th

2020 Virginia Association for Environmental Education Conference- EE for EverybodEE
Sweet Briar College, Amherst VA
26-28 February 2020

This conference is a celebration of and call of action for efforts to make environmental education in Virginia more equitable and inclusive for all audiences and the diverse field we all know it can be.

Proposals that will suit the following 5 strands are being accepted until September 27:

• Early Childhood EE
• Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for EE
• Action Projects and Citizen Science
• Teaching EE Outside
• EE Best Practices

VAEE offers the following opportunities to present:

• 50 minute sessions
• Half-day Workshops (3 hours)
• Full- day Workshops (6 hours)
• Make and Take Workshop: For this session you will lead the participants in making a product to take with them such as a Bee House or Habitat Cage. Extra fees will be charged on the registration to cover costs. Please indicate suggested costs in your proposal. (3 hour session)
• Interactive Activity Showcase: Do you have a fun and engaging EE activity you’d like to share with others? You will lead other participants in the activity and give them a copy of the activity with directions. (3 hour session – each person will have varying time to present their activity.)

You will be notified as to whether your proposal has been accepted or not by Oct. 31, 2019.

SUBMIT YOUR PROPOSAL

If you have further questions, please contact Sarah McGuire, Page Hutchinson, or Bruce Young. Thank you for your interest in supporting VAEE and environmental education!

Project FeederWatch Workshop, Nov. 9th

National Wildlife Federation
11100 Wildlife Center Drive, Reston 20190
Saturday, 9 November 2019
9 – 11 am

Project FeederWatch is the easiest citizen science you will ever do! From the comfort of your home, you simply count the winter birds that visit your feeders and report your data to Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

This FREE workshop will cover a bit of the history of Project FeederWatch, its purpose, tips for identifying birds, and the protocols to be followed while counting. They’ll spend some time practicing with the birds at the Audubon Society of Northern Virginia feeders. Light refreshments will be served.

Instructor: Carol Hadlock, volunteer extraordinaire and pioneer with the Audubon at Home program, will instruct this workshop.

Although the workshop is FREE, registration is required.

100th NVSWCD Green Breakfast, Sep. 14th

Fairfax County Government Center
12000 Government Center Parkway, Fairfax, VA
Saturday, 14 September 2019
8:30 am

Walking Tour of Fairfax County Government Center Stormwater Infrastructure

To celebrate the 100th Green Breakfast, you are invited to join us for a tour of the Fairfax County Government Center Stormwater Infrastructure.

Please Note: Special Location!
We will meet on the path at the start of the meadow behind and to the left of the main Government Center building, 12000 Government Center Parkway, Fairfax, Virginia 22035. View a map showing the meeting place.

Gather beginning at 8:30 am, the tour begins at 9:00 am
No prior registration required. No breakfast provided this time.

The Green Breakfast will return to its regular location and breakfast on Saturday, November 9, 2019.

If you have any questions, please contact the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District at conservationdistrict@fairfaxcounty.gov.

Ellanor C. Lawrence Park: Part-Time Assistant Resource Technician needed

Agency: Park Authority
Job#: ELT-FCPA-19020
Salary: $10-13/hour
Hours: Up to 900 hrs./year. Hours vary. 15-30 hours per week. Some nights, weekends and holidays required. Note: This is a temporary seasonal position, March-November.

Duties:

Assists with maintenance of 600+ acres of natural and cultural resource based parkland including grounds and trails.
Assists with gardening of kitchen, orchard and landscape gardens.
Maintenance and Janitorial duties in public facilities.
Performs safety and security tasks.
Work with paid and volunteer staff on special projects.
Qualifications: Any combination of education, experience, and training equivalent to high school graduation or a GED issued by a state Department of Education. Must be eligible to work in Virginia, possess a Social Security card, and have access to reliable transportation. Must be physically able to lift 50 pounds. Ability to spend extended periods of time standing, walking, and ability to traverse rough and uneven terrain to inspect remote park areas. Must be able to work in varying weather conditions.

Certificates and Licenses Required: Driver’s license with good driving record. First Aid/CPR/AED certification (provided by Fairfax County).

Note: *This position may not exceed 900 hours per calendar year.

To apply: Please email resumes to Patricia.Greenberg@FairfaxCounty.gov.

Earth Sangha fall open house and native plant sale

Wild Plant Nursery
6100 Cloud Drive, Springfield VA
Sunday, 22 September 2019
10am – 2pm
Click here for the Wild Plant Nursery Species List.

The Fall is really the best time to visit the Earth Sangha nursery. In the Spring, plants are still emerging from winter dormancy, and so they cannot offer as many species. The Fall, as experienced gardeners know, is also the best time to plant! Trees, shrubs, and perennials like the cooler weather and greater rainfall lets them establish robust roots. Late blooming annuals can make great additions to your garden, and many will “volunteer” from seed next year.

All plant sale proceeds go toward local parkland restoration. Last fall, customers helped them raise over $15,600 for local parkland restoration!
Choose from over 275 local-ecotype native species and help them fund the restoration of our area’s native flora.

If you’re interested in volunteering at the sale please email Katherine Isaacson at kisaacson@earthsangha.org. There will be a morning shift (9:45 to Noon) and an afternoon shift (Noon to 2:30).

Ladies and gentlemen, meet Harriet

Marilyn Kupetz

So the bare facts are these: Harriet is a wood turtle (Glyptemys insculpta) who lives in a terrarium at Riverbend Park. Roughly 10 inches long beak to tail, she has the brown eyes of a female and “a rough carapace and pyramid-like raised scutes” (Abugattas, 2017, p. 42). She’s of a certain age, but what that is exactly is unknown given that rescued reptiles don’t come with chips.

Unlike her box turtle peers—Romeo, Tortuga, Pumpkin, and Tojo—Harriet has all of her limbs. She certainly has all of her faculties. Each Thursday morning, when I come to take care of her, she peers up at me from her swimming basin, registers that I’m the behemoth who brings her strawberries, and crawls onto her landing stone to be lifted out, fed, and taken for a walk. After 6 months of this routine, we’re pals. I am lucky to have the privilege of learning about turtles from Harriet.

Harriet sunning in front of the Riverbend Visitor Center. Photo: Marilyn Kupetz

Although she knows what she wants, Harriet ambles to get it. While gazing at the back of this creature thus frequently at rest, I realized that turtle shells exhibit the Voronoi tessellations that, for example, Pixar uses to design scales for their digitally animated reptiles. 

Voronoi growth diagram

Animation by Balu Erti, CC BY-SA 4.0

Imagine two bubbles, or drops or water, or globs of tadpole eggs. When these masses are separate, they are more or less spherical, right? But when they come in contact with one another, their edges form planes and the geometrical shapes typical of the scales or bony plates covering dinosaurs and dragons. And turtles.

Biologists use Voronoi patterns to model cells. The tessellations help scientists understand what happens when cells multiply rapidly, making it possible to visualize cellular behavior so that, for example, doctors can treat illnesses.

Wikipedia reports that ecologists also use Voronoi patterns “to study the growth patterns of forests and forest canopies” and to develop “predictive models for forest fires.” An interesting conceptual shift from micro (cells) to macro (woodland systems).

Who knew that an elderly wood turtle could be such a good gateway to information about the natural world for curious citizen scientists?

Harriet doesn’t just stimulate learning, however. She and her kin offer volunteers a rare type of emotional connection: They show us that they appreciate the attention we give them. How do we know? By observing their uplifted heads as they sun, their ever enthusiastic consumption of fresh fruit and worms, and, yes, their gift of uninhibited deposits as they bathe.

They also enable us to work with other volunteers who, like philosopher Peter Singer, have come “to be persuaded that animals should be treated as independent sentient beings, not as means to human ends.” The Riverbend creatures cannot, alas, return to the wild—they were rescued from danger or abuse and are now dependent on human kindness. But those of us who care for them care about them.

Every 6 months, Riverbend’s Senior Interpreter Rita Peralta and Volunteer Coordinator Valeria Espinosa invite additional volunteers to help attend to not only Harriet and the box turtles, but also the snakes, frogs, and fish living in the Riverbend Visitor and Nature Centers. The always-welcoming Riverbend staff offer training sessions, flexible scheduling, and, best, the chance to nurture, learn from, and teach visitors about the gentle beings inhabiting the wild places that still remain to us in Fairfax County.

Plans for Fall training sessions are in the works. In the interim, here is the county’s description of the work. Please submit an expression of interest to Valeria Espinosa: valeria.espinoza@fairfaxcounty.gov or Rita Peralta: rita.peralta@fairfaxcounty.gov.

Questions? Feel free to ask me anything.

FMN volunteers get credit for volunteering under Service Code: S182: FCPA Nature Center Animal Care

 

 

Reference
Abugattas, A. (2017). The reptiles and amphibians of the Washington, DC metropolitan area. Self-published. Contact author.

Raptor Education and Photo Encounter, Oct. 19th

Mason Neck State Park Picnic Area

Red-tailed hawk

7301 High Point Rd, Lorton, VA 22079

Saturday, 19 October 2019
Two sessions: 10am or 1pm
$65 for either of the two 90-minute sessions

Would you like the opportunity to photograph magnificent raptors from just 10 feet away? Imagine being close to owls and hawks with your camera in a natural outdoor setting.

The Friends of Mason Neck State Park and Secret Garden Birds and Bees are offering a unique opportunity to get up close to some beautiful birds. Participants will be able to photograph raptors up close. At least four raptors, including a Red-shouldered Hawk, a Red-Tailed Hawk, an Eastern Screech Owl and a Barred Owl, will pose for you on a natural looking perch. You’ll hear from Secret Garden Birds and Bees staff about each one of them, making this a learning experience as well.

This is a fundraising event that will help the Friends continue to present programs and work on projects in support of the Park. $40 of each registration fee is tax deductible to the extent permissible by law.

Space is limited to 20 participants per session, so don’t wait to register! Register at  Raptor Photo Session.