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Wildlife Corridors and Crashes: Research and Efforts to Facilitate Safe Wildlife Movement across Roads

Webinar Details

Wednesday, August 28, 2019, 12:00 pm
Meeting Number: 306-718-517
Link to Join: Join Webinar
Link for recordings of this and past webinars: VMN Continuing Education Webinar page

Description

As wildlife move across the landscape or through our waterways, they increasingly find their habitat shrinking or carved up by human development and infrastructure. The road network was built with a focus on providing safe and efficient transport, with little regard for ecology. Roads not only threaten the viability of certain species’ populations, but also pose a substantial risk to driver safety. Virginia is consistently among the 10 states with the highest number of deer-vehicle collisions, with more than 60,000 reported each year.

Today, the transportation and scientific communities increasingly seek to reconnect fragmented habitat and avoid further disruption to wildlife movement. It is now more widely recognized that prioritizing wildlife corridor protection and helping wildlife move safely through the landscape is a benefit to both wildlife populations and drivers.

This webinar focuses on three road ecology efforts underway in the Commonwealth:

  • Wildlife crossing research conducted by the Virginia Transportation Research Council (the research division on VDOT)
  • A newly established Virginia Safe Wildlife Corridors Collaborative that seeks to implement solutions to address driver safety and habitat connectivity, and
  • The development of wildlife corridor legislation to identify corridors in the Commonwealth and encourage the implementation of measures to ensure safe wildlife passage across roadways.

Presenters

Misty Boos received a Master of Environmental Planning degree from the University of Tasmania in 2006 and a BS in Sociology with emphasis on Environmental Studies from Southern Oregon University. She has extensive experience in the non-profit sector working on research projects and in the field for many environmental organizations. She has been an active participant and leader for Wild Virginia outings and completed training as a Virginia Master Naturalist.

Bridget Donaldson is an associate principal research scientist at the Virginia Transportation Research Council. She holds a BS in Ecological and Populational Biology from the University of Colorado and an MS in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of Tennessee. While her research covers a variety of environmental topics, ranging from climate change to roadkill composting, she has been involved in the research and implementation of measures to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions for over 15 years.

Your chance to design 2020 VMN recertification pin

VMN is planning its 2020 VMN recertification pin, and they have decided that the species for the pin will be an aquatic macroinvertebrate.  They would like to invite any VMN volunteer (certified, member or trainee) to submit artwork that could be the basis for the pin design.

Guidelines:

1. Species: You can choose any benthic macroinvertebrate species (for example, species of mayflies, stoneflies, caddisflies, etc.)  The artwork should be of the immature stage of the invertebrate that lives in the water.  Please identify the invertebrate in your drawing at least to taxonomic order (e.g., mayfly, stonefly, etc.)  If your artwork is of an invertebrate from a particular family, genus, or species, please let us know that as well.

2. Drawings or paintings are preferred, as they tend to make a better pin in the end, but photographs will also be considered.

3. Full color is best.  Something that is uniform in color or very dark likely will not show up well as a pin.

4. The drawing or photo can be any size, but the pin is typically going to be about 1 inch in diameter, so keep in mind how the details will look when shrunk down to that size.

5. We plan to have the pin be cut out in the shape of the design (versus an oval or round pin), in the same style of the turtle and frog pins from 2016 and 2017, for example.  Because of that, it is best if the artwork is just the aquatic macroinvertebrate, without any background or other objects.  Try to visualize how your artwork will look cut out all around its edges.

6. The artist or photographer must be a current VMN volunteer (certified, member, or trainee.)

7. If you have been the artist for a recertification pin in a previous year, you are welcome to submit again, but if we have enough submissions that would work well for the pin, we are likely to try to choose a volunteer who has not had the opportunity before.

8. All entries will be recognized in our fall newsletter and at our statewide conference!

For inspiration, see past artwork that we used for the pins at http://www.virginiamasternaturalist.org/recertification-pins.html.We would like to have your submissions by 5:00 pm, Monday, August 26.  Please email a high resolution digital scan of the artwork or digital photograph to me at mprysby@vt.edu.

FMN photo contest winners announced

The second annual Fairfax Master Naturalist photo contest is complete.  With thirty-five entries and six entrants, the judges were overwhelmed with superb choices.  Our  judges were only allowed to chose one photo for each category to forward to the statewide Virginia Master Naturalist contest.  For the statewide competition, the entries will be judged by a qualified group of judges who will select First place, Second place, and Third place for all five categories. Honorable Mention(s) will be awarded as the judges see fit. All entered pictures will be exhibited via a PowerPoint at the Fredericksburg Expo Center for the duration of the 2019 VMN Statewide Conference and Training.

Congratulations and best of luck to our Fairfax Master Naturalist contest winners:

Virginia native wildlife.  Photo by Ana Ka’ahanui.

Virginia native plant and fungi world. Photo (c) by Barbara J. Saffir.

Virginia native landscapes.  Photo by Fred Siskind.

Virginia native macro and night photography. Photo (c) by Barbara J. Saffir.

Virginia master naturalists in action. Photo (c) by Barbara J. Saffir.

VMN CE webinar: Building Cultural Competence

Thursday, 25 July  2019
12:00 pm
Meeting Number: 908-683-587
Link to Join: Join Webinar
Link for recordings of this and past webinars:
VMN Continuing Education Webinar page

This workshop will take an active, participatory approach to building cultural competence. As we walk through the world, our own bias can effect how we interact with people and places. By recognizing our identity, we can increase our ability to create welcoming environments to serve our stakeholders. Building cultural competence can help attract and retain youth and participants from diverse audiences and encourage the Virginia Master Naturalists to expand capacity in their volunteer network to continue managing natural resources and natural areas in their communities.

Dr. Tiffany Drape is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Agricultural, Leadership, and Community Education at Virginia Tech. She conducts research and teaches about program planning and evaluation.

VMN CE webinar: Wilderness Preparation and Safety, July 16th

Tuesday, July 16, 2019
Noon
Meeting Number: 849-499-650
Link to Join: Join Webinar
Link for recordings of this and past webinars: VMN Continuing Education Webinar Page

Have you led a community group on a wildflower walk in the woods, either on trail or off? Hiked off-trail to retrieve a wildlife camera? Been to a remote corner of your county for a bird or frog survey? Some naturalists spend a lot of time outdoors, occasionally in remote places. Whenever you are going into the field, no matter how short or long of a distance, it’s important to plan ahead and prepare to help you and everyone in your group stay safe. In this session, you’ll learn from an expert about how to plan ahead for your field experiences, as well as what safety-related items to carry with you. While this session won’t substitute for an in-person first aid class, it will help you think through likely risks you might encounter in the field and how to prepare for them.

The presenter is Matt Rosefsky,a certified Wilderness EMT and Geo Medic. He has been a wilderness medicine instructor for MEDIC SOLO Disaster + Wilderness Medical School since 2007, teaching more than 200 courses and more than 3,000 students. He is a volunteer with Blue Ridge Mountain Rescue Group and the Medical Reserve Corps. Over 19 years he has led hundreds of outdoor adventures through groups such as Outdoors at UVA, the Sierra Club, and the Outdoor Adventure Social Club. Backpacking is Matt’s favorite outdoor activity.

Nature’s fine methods

Jerry Nissley

I recently attended a family reunion at my cousin’s restored farm house in Southampton County, Virginia. Standing sentinel to the house is a massive eastern white oak (Quercus alba) dramatically adorned with resurrection fern (Pleopeltis polypodioides). I was taken with this newly discovered (if only to me) fern and later sat down to research and write an article about the fern. 

Figure 1 House and oak tree

As I fondly rehashed conversations with the four generations at the reunion about how the land was recently recovered and the house rebuilt, and then discovered facts about the resurrection fern, what was originally an article revealed itself as a story. A story not only about a fern but more so of, well, resurrection—land into a distinguished Virginia farm, a house rebuilt into a home, and the recognition of a great white oak that has witnessed 350 years of history unfold. The symbolism of resurrection was inescapable.

The story parts blend so homogeneously with the first credo FMN students are introduced to: Awareness leads to knowledge which leads to appreciation which leads to conservation.

This story is an allegory of that credo. It tells of an initial awareness of the importance of the land and ensuing knowledge of its man-made and natural elements. It represents the appreciation of the forefather’s vision in developing the homestead and the innate desire of the current caretakers to preserve structures and conserve the beauty and integrity of the land’s natural treasures. One could loosely associate Jared Diamond’s warning about landscape amnesia—where people lose knowledge of how the natural world once was, with each succeeding generation accepting a degraded environment as the status quo (Diamond, 2005). That would not be the case with these people, with this environment.

As FMNers, we all love field trips right? So please, I invite you on a short, figurative field trip. One in which we will briefly discover some Virginia history, celebrate a sentinel oak, and then explore specific details about the resurrection fern.

The House 

We begin our field trip at the house in Southampton County, Virginia. The property has been in the Hart family for over 150 years and is now a registered Virginia Century Farm. Originally the farmers raised livestock on open land; rotated peanuts, corn, cotton, and soybeans to maintain soil quality; and designated large portions for timber.

Even though the property has been continually farmed by the family, as generations passed, the main house and farm buildings were at times rented out to achieve the greatest economic potential. The main house was adequately maintained, but the auxiliary buildings not so much. A few were lost to time and lack of maintenance, but the barn and blacksmith shed faired better.

My cousins, Patricia and Paul Milteer, were able to make the property their permanent home and tirelessly restored the farm house, barn, and blacksmith’s shed. They later applied to the Virginia Century Farm Program, and the farm is now officially registered by the state as The Hart Farm.

As stated on the program’s web-site, the Virginia Century Farm Program recognizes and honors those farms that have been in operation for at least 100 consecutive years and the Virginia farm families whose diligent and dedicated efforts have maintained these farms, provided nourishment to their fellow citizens and contributed so greatly to the economy of the Commonwealth. 

Figure 2 The Milteers’ Oak: Points: 366; Trunk circumference: 19’6”; Height: 100’; Average spread: 120’; Estimated age: 350 years

The family owners of farms designated as Virginia Century Farms receive a certificate signed by the Governor and the Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, along with a sign for outdoor display (Century Farms, n.d.). 

The Tree 

Our field trip continues just out the front door. We can sit on the porch and consider the tree. Once the house and auxiliary buildings were restored functionally and aesthetically, the Milteers were able to focus on the massive eastern white oak standing as gatekeeper to their home. The oak provides home and food to a variety of animals. A barn owl (Tyto alba) nests in the branches and bats take sanctuary in the folds of the bark. 

The acorns take only one growing season to develop unlike those of the red oak group, which require at least 18 months for maturation. They are much less bitter than acorns of red oaks so they are preferred by a wider variety of wildlife. They are small relative to most oaks, but are a valuable annual food notably for turkeys, wood ducks, pheasants, grackles, jays, nuthatches, thrushes, woodpeckers, rabbits, and deer. The white oak is the only known food plant for the Bucculatrix luteella and Bucculatrix ochrisuffusa caterpillars. (Q. Alba, n.d.)

Recognizing the tree’s impressive size, the Milteers reached out to The Virginia Big Tree Program, an educational program within the Virginia Cooperative Extension that started out as a 4-H and Future Farmers of America (FFA) project in 1970. Today the program is coordinated by the Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation at Virginia Tech. Their mission is to increase the care and appreciation for all trees—big and small—and educate the Commonwealth about the value of trees and forests. The Virginia Big Tree Program maintains a register of the five largest specimens of more than 300 native, non-native, and naturalized tree species. The register includes information about each tree’s size, location, and unique characteristics. (Virginia Cooperative Extension, n.d.)

Trees are ranked on a point system measuring height, crown spread, and trunk circumference. The 500-year-old national record holder for Q. alba grows in Brunswick, Virginia and scored 451 points in 2012. The next highest scoringVirginia Q. alba scored 398 (Southampton), 397 (Lee), and 396 (Albemarle) respectively. (Big trees, n.d.)

Byron Carmean and Gary Williamson, volunteers for Virginia Big Tree Program, scored the Milteer’s tree at 366, so it probably will not make the top five (maybe the top ten).

The Fern

Let’s move our field trip just off the porch to contemplate the fern. Field trips don’t get easier than this, folks! 

Pleopeltis polypodioides (Andrews & Windham), also known as the resurrection fern, is a species of creeping, coarse-textured fern native to the Americas and Africa. The leathery, yellow-green pinnae (leaflets) are deeply pinnatifid and oblong. It attaches to its host with a branching, creeping, slender rhizome, which grows to 2 mm in diameter (P. Polypodioides, n.d.). The fern is facultative to North American Atlantic and Gulf Coast Plain physiographical areas.

Figure 3: Resurrection fern

This fern is not parasitic. It is an epiphyte or air plant. It attaches itself to a host and collects nourishment from air and water and nutrients that collect on the outer surface of the host. The resurrection fern lives commensalistically on the branches of large trees such as cypresses and may often be seen carpeting the shady areas on limbs of large oak trees as pictured on the Milteer’s tree. It also grows on rock surfaces and dead logs. In the southeastern United States, it is often found in the company of other epiphytic plants such as Spanish moss (Tillandsia usneoides) and is always found with some type of moss (phylum Bryophyta). The fern has spores (sori) on the bottom of the fronds and sporulates in summer and early fall (Oak and Fern, n.d.). Interestingly, rhizome sections are also viable offspring and can root themselves in new medium.

 The resurrection fern gets its name because it can survive long periods of drought by curling up its fronds and appearing desiccated, grey-brown and dead. However, when just a little water is presented, the fern will uncurl and reopen, appearing to “resurrect” and restores itself to a vivid green color in as little as three hours. Studies suggest these ferns could last 100 years without water and still revive after a single exposure. 

When the fronds “dry” as shown in Figure 4 (2 weeks after the reunion), they curl with their bottom sides upwards. In this way, they rehydrate more quickly when rain comes, as most of the water is absorbed on the underside of the pinnae. Experiments have shown they are able to lose almost all their free water (up to 97%) and remain viable, though more typically they lose around 76% in dry spells. For comparison, most other plants may die after losing only 8-12%. When drying, the fern synthesizes the protein dehydrin, which allows cell walls to fold in a way that can be easily reversed later (Plant Signaling, n.d.).

Figure 4 Dry fronds

Even more life, in forms that aren’t visible to the naked eye, may call the fern a community home. Stems, leaves, and flowers host microorganisms, creating a habitat called a phyllosphere, a term used in microbiology to refer to all above-ground portions of plants as habitat for microorganisms. The phyllosphere is subdivided into the caulosphere (stems), phylloplane (leaves), anthosphere (flowers), and carposphere (fruits). The below-ground microbial habitats (i.e., the thin-volume of soil surrounding root or subterranean stem surfaces) are referred to as the rhizosphere and laimosphere, respectively. Most plants host diverse communities of microorganisms, including bacteria, fungi, archaea, and protists. Some are beneficial to the plant; others function as plant pathogens and may damage the host plant or even kill it. However, the majority of microbial colonists on any given plant have no detectable effect on plant growth or function. Plant phyllospheres in general are considered a hostile environment for microorganisms to live due to the variation in ultra-violet radiation, temperature, water, and nutrient contents. The phyllosphere of P. polypodioides is considered even more extreme due to the mercurial environmental conditions this epiphyte is typically found in and the dry/wet states it cycles through (Phyllosphere, n.d.).

Microorganisms do indeed survive in the phyllosphere of P. polypodioides though, even during its dry periods. In “Changes in the phyllosphere community of the resurrection fern, Polypodium polypodioides associated with rainfall and wetting”, Jackson (2006) found the micro-organism community changes as the resurrection fern moves from a dry state to wet state. Additionally, the researchers found that certain populations of microorganisms increase their enzyme activity after the fern revives. The researchers concluded that these microorganisms are responding to the secretion of sugary organics released through the plant’s surface once the fern is back to its robust, green state. Changes in phyllosphere extracellular enzyme activity are seen first as an initial burst of activity following rainfall and a subsequent burst approximately 48 hours later as additional nutrient sources emerge.

Figure 5 Revived fern

Cultural studies have shown that Native peoples historically recognized the significance of the resurrection fern. It has been used as a diuretic, a remedy for heart problems, and as a treatment for infections. Benefits of the resurrection fern are not lost on the modern pharmaceutical industry. Recent medical research confirming these cultural reports have shown that extracts from the fern have anti-arrhythmic cardiac properties—truly a potential for resurrection of the heart.

Figure 6 Resurrection Fern up close

Thanks in part to the training provided by dedicated FMN program instructors, in this case our resident dendrologist Jim McGlone, I am aware of trees like never before. I see trees, I see what lives in trees, I see ferns, and I see the need for conservation. What I need to see more clearly and we all need to experience is the indelible, spiritual, personal relationship people need to have with nature. People are the caretakers of the gifts we have been given on earth, and people need to be the stimulus for conservation. As John Muir (1911) elegantly journaled, “How fine Nature’s methods! How deeply with beauty is beauty overlaid!” It is inspiring to me that something as small as a fern encouraged awareness, understanding, appreciation and, yes, resurrection of “nature’s fine methods”.

 

Works Cited

Big trees. (n.d.). Retrieved from www.americanforests.org: www.americanforests.org/get-involved/americas-biggest-trees/bigtrees-search/bigtrees-advanced-search/

Century Farms. (n.d.). Retrieved from www.vdacs.virginia.gov: www.vdacs.virginia.gov/conservation-and-environmental-virginia-century-farms.shtml

Diamond, J. M. (2005). Collapse: How societies choose to fail or succeed. New York: Viking.

Jackson, E. F. (2006). Changes in the phyllosphere community of the resurrection fern, Polypodium polypodioides, associated with rainfall and wetting. FEMS microbiology ecology 58.2, 236-246.

Muir, J. (1911). My First Summer in the Sierra. Boston: Houghton Miffin.

Oak and Fern. (n.d.). Retrieved from www.sciphotos.com: www.sciphotos.com/2016/01/oak-tree-resurrection-fern.html

P. Polypodioides. (n.d.). Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pleopeltis_polypodioides

Phyllosphere. (n.d.). Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phyllosphere

Plant Signaling. (n.d.). Retrieved from www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3256378

Q. Alba. (n.d.). Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quercus_alba

Virginia Cooperative Extension (n.d.). Virginia Big Tree Program. Retrieved from ext.vt.edu: http://ext.vt.edu/natural-resources/big-tree.html

2019 Virginia Master Naturalist program awards nominations open, due Aug. 9th

VMN encourages you to send in nominations for:

  • Volunteer of the Year,
  • Project of the Year (with Education, Citizen Science, Stewardship, and Chapter Administration subcategories), and
  • Chapter Advisor of the Year.

Complete information on each category and what to include in the nomination is available at http://www.virginiamasternaturalist.org/home/seeking-nominations-for-virginia-master-naturalist-program-awards.
Nominations are due August 9. Please contact mprysby@vt.edu with any questions.

A regional request for volunteer help with a study on the Bradford pear 

Question 1: What is the most recent invasive tree added to Director of Conservation & Recreation’s invasive plant list?
Answer: Callery Pear, aka, Bradford Pear: Pyrus calleryana Decne

Question 2: What can we do about it?
Answer: Support a regional research project by collecting leaf samples.

Callery pear is one of the most rapidly-spreading invasive plants in the eastern U.S. This plant stems from cultivars of ornamental pears, most commonly the Bradford pear. Callery pear can have long thorns and grows singly or in thick patches in old fields, roadsides, or forested areas.

The Callery pear population genetics study, under the direction of Dr. David Coyle (Clemson) and D. Hadziabdich-Guerry (University of Tennessee), is determined to better understand the genetics of this cultivar to inform future management tactics. To this end, foliar samples are needed from Virginia. The protocol is simple and the only cost is time.

Detailed information and how to send the samples is in the attached pdf, which can also be found on the study’s website.

Summary of the basics

  • Find one or more patches of “wild” callery pears of at least 10 individuals (different sample/patches locations should be at least 15 miles apart).
  • From each individual tree (10 trees total/site), collect 10 leaves. (Ten trees in a patch are required.)
  • Put all 10 leaves from each tree into its own envelope with the GPS location noted and if the tree is thorny or not.
  • Put newspaper in between the leaves – this helps them dry out and ensures they don’t mold on the way to UT.
  • Therefore, each sampling site would have 10 envelopes (1 per tree) to send in together.
  • Envelopes can be FedEx’ed to UT (for free!) Details given in information sheet attached.

Questions?  Contact Dr. David Coyle: dcoyle@clemson.edu

Call for entries: Virginia Master Naturalist Photo Contest

Were you taking your family on a bluebell walk and took a perfect photo of light filtering through the tree canopy? Were you documenting a citizen science project and snapped a great blue heron as it took off from the shoreline? We want your photos!

The  Virginia Master Naturalist program is sponsoring a statewide photo contest. Each chapter may submit one photo in one of five categories:

Virginia Native Wildlife (Category Code: Wildlife)

Virginia Native Plant and Fungi World (Category Code: Plant)

Virginia Native Landscapes (Category Code: Landscape)

Virginia Native Macro and Night Photography (Category Code: M&N)

Virginia Master Naturalists in Action (Category Code: VMN)

Simply upload your photos to Facebook, Instagram or Twitter with the hashtag #FMNphotos19.  In the alternative, photos may be emailed to vmnfairfax@gmail.com.  Please include the category for which you are submitting the photo and your name in the photo identification.

Our Fairfax Master Naturalist (FMN) chapter will accept entries from our members in good standing until 11:59 pm on Friday, 5 July. Winners will be notified by Friday, 19 July. The photographers of the four winning entries must forward their entries to the statewide competition by 11:59 pm on Friday, 9 August. Participants agree that all images submitted may be used by the FMN program for our website, newsletter, social media and other promotional purposes. Photographers will receive a photo credit.  See the 2018 VMN winners here.

Photo Editing
Permitted modifications:

  • Cropping, resizing, and rotating photo
  • Red-eye removal
  • Corrective functions to improve the natural appearance of the image, such as white balance, brightness, contrast, levels, color balance, saturation, sharpening, noise reduction

     Modifications not permitted:

  • Adding, removing, or replacing elements
  • Artistic filters
  • Added borders or frames

Photo sizing: All photographs must be high resolution digital JPEGs and winning images will be sized for optimum viewing in a PowerPoint presentation.

See the complete rules here.

For questions, contact us at vmnfairfax@gmail.com with the subject line: FMN Photo Contest

 

Virginia Master Naturalist Statewide Conference and Volunteer Training

The 2019 conference will be Friday, September 20-Sunday, September 22.  Pre-conference field trips and activities will take place during the day on Friday, and the main event will run Friday evening through Sunday mid-day.

In 2019, the VMN-Headwaters Chapter welcomes VMN volunteers from across Virginia to the Shenandoah Valley. The event will be based at the Massanetta Springs Camp & Conference Center, five miles from downtown Harrisonburg.  From there, it is a short trip to terrific field trip sites, including Shenandoah National Park, George Washington National Forest, several Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation Natural Area Preserves, the Edith J. Carrier Arboretum, and more.

Registration Dates and Types

Early Registration will open in mid-July and Regular Registration will open in mid-August, specific dates TBA.

Two registration types in 2019:

  • Full Conference – $185 during Early Registration, or $200 during Regular Registration
  • Saturday Training Only (price includes Saturday lunch) – $75 during Early Registration, or $85 during Regular Registration

Information on the agenda and lodging