Newsletter of the Foundation of the State Arboretum                        Summer 2014
FOSA Members Elect New Directors
Members of the Foundation of the State Arboretum elected new directors and officers at the FOSA Annual Meeting Friday, June 20.
FOSA dedicated a bench to longtime volunteer and former FOSA president Jim Wyatt.
 
Three new directors were elected to the Board of Directors. They are Jolly de Give of Delaplane; Frank M. "Hank" Hartz of Oilville; and Elsie Wilson Thompson of Charlottesville. Steve Bauserman of Winchester, Joan Fine of Millwood, and David Look of Winchester were re-elected to the Board. Susie Chatfield-Taylor and Joe Metz will be going off the Board.
  
The slate of officers for the fiscal year are Bob Wever, president; Bob Lee, vice president; Donna Wilkins Downing, secretary; and Kathy Clark, treasurer. Sylvia Wilson is immediate past president. 
 
Following the business meeting, FOSA hosted a dedication for a bench honoring Jim Wyatt, a past FOSA president and longtime volunteer. The bench is placed atop the highest point on the Arboretum grounds, at the northwest corner of the property. It has sweeping views of the grounds and the Blue Ridge Mountains to the east, and is shaded by a Chestnut Oak. 
Students Arrive for a Summer of Research
Grads, Undergrads Live and Work at Blandy
By Kyle Haynes
Associate Director
NSF Logo
The REU program is supported by the National Science Foundation.
Approximately 30 undergraduate students, graduate students, and others are spending time at Blandy this summer to carry out ecological and environmental research. Ten of the undergraduates are here to participate in the Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Program. The program, funded by the National Science Foundation, primarily admits college students from institutions where the student has little or no opportunity to conduct research. Students flock to Blandy for the REU program from all over the country, but this year midwesterners were particularly successful at gaining admission to the program, with two students joining us from schools in Iowa (Luther College and Buena Vista University) and one from Indiana (Earlham College). Students hail from other distant locations including University of Puerto Rico at MayagŁez, University of North Georgia, and Canisius College in Buffalo, NY. Joining them are three students from schools occupying more familiar territory - Howard University, St. Mary's of Maryland, and the University of Virginia.

 

Eight graduate students working on master's and doctoral degrees at University of Virginia are performing research at Blandy this summer. They come to Blandy for several reasons. One big reason is that Blandy provides them access to biologically diverse organisms living in a variety of habitats - forests, meadows, and ponds - as well as excellent laboratory facilities. The draw of Blandy's people shouldn't be underestimated though. On a daily basis, students interact with members of the public, Blandy staff, and fellow scientists. As a result, living and working at Blandy allows students to develop strong social and professional networks.

 

Ariel Firebaugh
Ariel Firebaugh

The graduate students are tackling a variety of important issues. For example, Ariel Firebaugh will be investigating whether light pollution of the night sky impacts fireflies. Through a process known as bioluminescence, fireflies glow in the dark while flying in intricate patterns to attract potential mates. Ariel wants to know if artificial lighting of the night sky is disrupting firefly mating and decreasing their numbers. In a very different project, Brynn Cook is investigating if the presence of a distinct form of nitrogen (the isotope N-15) in native bees can be used to track where bees forage for pollen. Unlike honeybees, which beekeepers maintain in colonies to pollinate agricultural crops, little is known about native bees and the importance of pollen collected from crops as opposed to native plants. Because N-15 is more common in crops than native plants, studying its concentration in native bees may provide many answers and lead to improved strategies for conserving these bees.

Blandy Supports Variety of Research Projects

Field Sites Offer Diverse Habitats for Study

By Dave Carr

Director, Blandy Experimental Farm

Although many of the researchers at Blandy Experimental Farm are from the University of Virginia, Blandy plays an important role as a resource for students and faculty at other institutions from all over the country. Our most prominent national program is our long-running Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU), and about 90 percent of the students who have participated have come from institutions other than UVa. We also have a long tradition of supporting graduate research from other institutions by providing summer fellowships for students who are in residence at Blandy during the summer. Recent summer fellows have been from Virginia Tech, Virginia Commonwealth, the University of Maryland, and the University of Toronto.

 

Blandy also supports research from outside students and faculty on a shorter term basis.  Many of these researchers use Blandy as one of many field sites in the region and visit Blandy briefly as they travel from site to site. Others are conducting studies at Blandy that require only one or a few visits during the field season. Blandy supports these researchers by providing overnight accommodations, access to field sites, and laboratory space. Because they come and go quickly, they aren't as visible as our resident researchers, but they connect Blandy with other new, exciting, and diverse research fields.

 

Last week a number of people asked me about the large basket-like structures hanging amid the Chinese chestnuts (Castanea mollissima) in the Arboretum. Those are insect traps set up by Smithsonian research entomologist, Dr. Robert Kula. He is interested in understanding which species of insects that historically were part of the community that interacted with American chestnut (Castanea dentata) have switched to Chinese chestnut. The American chestnut largely disappeared from the Appalachian forests in the early part of the 20th century due to the devastating chestnut blight, a disease that was introduced into the U.S. with Chinese chestnut. With its collection of both old American and Chinese chestnuts, the State Arboretum of Virginia is a perfect place to study potential shifts of insects from their native host to this new Asian host.

 

Asclepias syriaca

Several times this summer, Blandy will be visited by a crew of researchers from the College of William and Mary. Dr. Harmony Dagleish , Dr. Abigail Kula, and a group of undergraduate field technicians are following patches of common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), their pollinators, and insect herbivores. Milkweeds are familiar species of fallow fields in our area and are the most important host plant for monarch caterpillars. Dr. Dagleish is interested in how the community of insects associated with milkweed combines to determine the growth or decline of milkweed populations.

 

Project Baseline is a collaborative effort among researchers at Fordham University, the University of Minnesota, and the University of California to create a collection of seeds from all over the country. This unique collection will serve as a resource for future researchers to understand how plants are responding to anticipated climate and other environmental changes over the next 50 years. Dr. Jenn Weber and her field technicians from Fordham will be visiting Blandy several times this summer to collect seed from many of the species growing wild here.

 

These are just a few examples of the type of research that visiting scientists are conducting at Blandy this year. Every year we get new requests, and we always do our best to accommodate. From its earliest days, Blandy has aspired to be a national resource, and these interactions with the broader scientific community increase our value to the University of Virginia. They create new discoveries, bring fresh new ideas and perspectives to Blandy, and inspire our own researchers.

Summer Programs Take Flight
Birds, Bats Wing Their Way to Blandy

By Steve Carroll

Director of Public Programs

Summer public programs will cover a lot of ground, literally in a few cases. Returning favorites include a celebration of fireflies, our 15th full moon walk, and an introduction to mindfulness. These programs are likely to fill quickly, so don't procrastinate! (Complete details are in the Summer Programs brochure.)

 

On July 10, Grant Sizemore, from the American Bird Conservancy, will speak on threats to native birds, particularly from cats. We will see birds in a different context in a program co-sponsored by the Blue Ridge Wildlife Center. "Fly-by-Night Creatures: Up Close and Personal with Bats, Owls, and Swifts" will include an illustrated program, live bats and owls that are being rehabilitated, and chimney swifts overhead as they catch insects on the wing. July ends with "A Cook's Herb Garden" and "Introduction to Mindfulness."

 

August offers three new programs: a presentation by area poets who will bring to life the power and beauty of nature through written and spoken words; a workshop by Carrie Blair in which she will share tips and tools for identifying trees; and a program by National Capital Lyme and Tick-Borne Disease Association members that will bring us up to date on prevention, treatment, and research related to Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases.

 

Public programs this summer range from tastes and tours to ticks and trees. Check out the schedule and register now!

Blandy Receives Grant for Teacher Training Project

Effort Will Strengthen Link Between Math and Science 

By Candace Lutzow-Felling

Director of Education

Candace Lutzow-Felling, Blandy's Director of Education, received a $203,108 award for her project, Developing Teacher-Leaders in Integrated Math and Science for Inclusive Classrooms. This project is a partnership between Blandy and six regional school divisions (Clarke, Fauquier, Frederick, Shenandoah, Warren, and Winchester) and two private schools (Riverfront Christian in Front Royal and Scared Heart Academy in Winchester). Three education faculty from UVa's Curry School of Education are serving as co-principal investigators on the project (Frackson Mumba, Robert Tai, and Michael Kennedy), a UVa Department of Mathematics professor is serving as a math advisor (Michael Hill), and all of  Blandy's research faculty (David Carr, Kyle Haynes, and T'ai Roulston) are serving as science advisors to the project. 

 

The purpose of this project is to help teachers learn ways to expand beyond the traditional discipline-bound methods of instruction and develop skills to explicitly link mathematics and science by experiencing and then developing hands-on, discovery-based lessons designed to reach all learners in their classrooms.  Teachers from our partner school divisions and private schools will participate in an innovative, sustained professional development that will include two weeks this summer, June 16-20 & June 23-27; continued professional development during the 2014-15 school year; and a one-week follow-up professional development in summer 2015 which will include an all-expense paid overnight stay at beautiful Carter Hall in Millwood. Lord Fairfax Community College, Middletown Campus, is generously providing the classroom space for our summer professional development sessions.

 

The 35 grade 3 through 6 teachers participating in this project will not only gain skills in developing and teaching integrated math and science lessons designed to meet the diverse learning needs of all the students in their classrooms, but they will also gain new friendships and professional networks. Blandy's benefits are strengthened partnerships among our regional schools and school divisions, and our new partnerships with Curry School of Education and Department of Mathematics faculty, and with Lord Fairfax Community College.

Grant Will Continue Planting Community Forest

Clarke County 3rd Graders Offer Helping Hands

By T'ai Roulston

Curator

The diverse community that comes to Blandy is helping us build a Community Forest. 

 

For the past few years, school and civic groups have pitched in to plant trees in the grassy expanse near the front entrance, building the forest of the future. A previous grant from the Virginia Department of Forestry got the effort started. Now a new grant from the Tree Fund to Candace Lutzow-Felling, Blandy's Director of Education, and the Foundation of the State Arboretum will keep the effort going. 

 

The grant-supported program will engage the entire 3rd grade of Clarke County Public Schools in an educational program on tree biology and forest ecology. The program will train Clarke County educators in outdoor teaching methods, teach students about tree adaptation and the ecological importance of forests, and give them the chance to continue planting the Community Forest at Blandy. It is very fitting that this work is sponsored by the Tree Fund. The first major planting in the Community Forest was carried out by 60 bicyclists in 2011 who came to Blandy as part of a fund-raising ride (the Stihl Tour des Trees) for the Tree Fund. In about 30 minutes, the traveling tree stewards planted 35 trees before heading out to continue their long bike ride. 

 

The number of trees planted in that area by civic groups and students has risen to 272, with almost as many people involved as trees planted. That means lots of trees, lots of people learning about trees, and lots of people with both metaphorical and actual Blandy dirt under their fingernails. So as you enter Blandy, look to your left and see the spires of new trees poking out of their cages. There you will see the Community Forest; there you will see the work of the Rappahannock High School Horticulture Group, the Nysmith School for the Gifted, the Flint Hill School, the Master Naturalists, the Front Royal Tree Stewards, Saplings Inc., and the future handiwork of the entire Clarke County 3rd Grade.

Kids Can Become Scientists at Summer Nature Camp

Weekday Camps Explore the Mysteries of Nature

By Steve Carroll

Director of Public Programs

Summer offers a time for outdoor exploration and fun, and Blandy Summer Nature Camps are a great way for kids to spend time outside in a safe and stimulating environment.

 

Three day camps are offered in July, and each meets Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to noon.

 

 "Lost & Found: Natural Mysteries" meets July 7-11. The focus of this camp will be to investigate natural wonders such as animal migration, navigation, and communication. "Eagle Eyes & Dragonflies" will focus on flight in birds, bats, and insects, and will explore how objects ranging from pollen and seeds to kites and flying disks ride the wind.

 

Both of these camps include crafts, games, snacks, field investigations, and presentations by Blandy scientists.

 

"EcoExplorers," offered July 21-25, is for rising 5th-8th graders. Participants in this camp ask questions about the natural world, then work with adult leaders to answer these questions through observation and experimentation. Kids will collect and analyze data and present their results to parents, staff, and other campers on the final day.

 

For more information about summer nature camp, check out the Summer Camp brochure; to register online, go to our online payments page. Partial scholarships are available based on need; call 837-1758 Ext. 287 for more information.

 

Blandy Book Club Explores Environmental Classics

New Group Encourages Reading About Natural History and More

By Steve Carroll

Director of Public Programs

The Blandy Book Club, newly formed as a way to read and discuss books on the environment, natural history, and outdoor-based personal reflection, had its inaugural meeting on May 22. We discussed Barbara Kingsolver's, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, while sampling local fare and desserts made from recipes in the book. We are off and running - or reading.

 

This group will meet on the fourth Thursday of the month from 1-2 p.m. in the Blandy library (skipping November and December). Participation is free and open to the public. For information, or to let us know you are interested, contact Steve Carroll (scarroll@virginia.edu; 540-837-1758 Ext. 287).

 

Our next three readings and meetings are A Sand County Almanac, by Aldo Leopold (June 26); Eaarth, by Bill McKibben (July 24); and The Botany of Desire, by Michael Pollan (August 28).

 

Think about joining us!

 

Arboretum Accession Books Provide a Look at the Past

Handwritten Records Document the Evolution of Blandy

By Chris Schmidt

Arboretum Assistant 

The accession books at the Arboretum are handwritten chronological  records of the plant material which has been brought to the  arboretum since the first director, Orland E. White, was appointed in 1927.  The volumes are well worn from many years of use. The covers are frayed and the corners of pages inside are taped.  The handwriting and the scientific names have changed over the years, but what has not changed is the wonderful story of the evolution of the Arboretum and all those who played a role in its development. Those of us who work on the grounds at Blandy have the privilege of using these books to research plant material identification and sources. We are continually amazed at what we have learned from them about the Arboretum, the people and industries who have helped to acquire plant material, and stories surrounding the plants themselves. 

 

Because Dr. White was the director of Blandy Experimental Farm for so many years, perhaps it would be fitting to start with a brief story of who he was and what his goals were when he arrived at the farm.  White was born in 1885 and graduated from South Dakota State University. He went on to Harvard's Bussey Institute to study plant genetics. In 1913 he became Brooklyn Botanical Gardens' Curator of Plants. He was chosen by Professor Rusby of Columbia University to assist with plant collection on the Mulford Expedition to the Amazon Basin in 1921. Rusby had to leave the expedition early for health reasons and White finished the eight-month expedition with an assistant. In 1926 Graham Blandy left 712 acres to the University of Virginia and, in 1927, UVa. hired Dr. White with a one-year contract to oversee the new property. From the beginning, White desired to establish an arboretum at Blandy to benefit both students and the whole country. For the next 28 years, Dr. White traveled extensively and corresponded with many horticultural institutions throughout the United States and the world in order to collect as many plant specimens for the new arboretum. Many of the magnificent trees and shrubs one sees at the Arboretum today are a testimony to Dr. White's dream.

 

The accession book entries contain very important information. First, a unique identifying number (the accession number) is entered followed by the plant's genus and species. The source of the plant material, date, and any other information which might be helpful was also included. Dr. White and his successors always added interesting tidbits on the places they visited and the people they met. 

 

This winter as we researched plant material here at Blandy, we were amazed at the stories and history we uncovered in these accession books. Future articles will share some of what we found.


Carolyn Martin

Martin Awarded For
40 Years with UVa 

The University of Virginia recently awarded Blandy Administrative Assistant Carolyn Martin for 40 years of service to the University.

Every spring, University Human Resources  recognizes employees marking employment milestones at UVa. As a group their time on Grounds amounts to 18,251 years of supporting students, faculty, and staff in myriad ways.

 

The festive event featured a red carpet welcome and each person's name was called as the employee walked across the stage.

 

Carolyn began working on grounds in Charlottesville in 1973. Carolyn isn't the only long-time UVa employee at Blandy. Arborist Bob Arnold and Building Superintendent Dennis Heflin have worked at Blandy 39 years and 27 years respectively, and Administrative Manager Judy Masi has worked at Blandy 21 years.

 

Be sure to congratulate Carolyn on her 40-year career the next time you stop by the main office.

New Faces Join Blandy Staff
Lindsay Cutchins

Lindsay Cutchins was hired into the Environmental Educator position shared between Blandy's Education Programs and Public Programs. 

 

It takes a special person to fulfill the duties of this position as it requires teaching and developing programs for both formal preK-12 education and more informal out-of-school youth programs, juggling schedules to make the switches from Education to Public Programs, and assisting both the Director of Education and Director of Public Programs. 

 

Lindsay brings diverse environmental education knowledge and experience to her new position.  She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Geographic Sciences from James Madison University and has experience teaching a broad range of youth in a diversity of environmental education settings, including Georgia, North Carolina, Wyoming, and Virginia.  

 

In addtition to her environmental science knowledge and teaching experience, Lindsay brings her joy of teaching and enthusiasm for learning to the job.  We are thrilled to welcome her to our team.

 

Lindsay began working at Blandy in March just in time for our busy spring programs.  She jumped right into the challenge, competently teaching water chemistry; floral structure; insect, bird, and mammal adaptations; soil types; and ecosystem functions.  As the school season ends, Lindsay is transitioning to her Public Programs duties planning for both Summer Camp and winter Young Naturalist Programs.

 

When you see Lindsay around Blandy's grounds or leading a group of students and youth, please say hello and join us in welcoming Lindsay Cutchins to our Education Team.  

 

Robin Arnold

Robin Arnold started as an Administrative Specialist for FOSA in May and comes with more than 15 years of non-profit administrative support experience. She is focused on Foundation membership, public program registrations, donation data entry, and overall FOSA support.

"I'm very excited about the work and mission of the Foundation of the State Arboretum of Virginia and getting to work in such lovely surroundings here at Blandy. It's like home already."

Robin and her husband Bob are from Wisconsin but lived for eighteen years in San Antonio, TX, where she was certified as a Master Gardener. She hopes to get certified in Virginia as well and is very interested in Virginia natives. The Arnolds live just outside Stephens City. Find Robin at her desk in the main office 1-5 p.m., Monday through Friday.