Newsletter of the Foundation of the State Arboretum                             Summer 2016
Summer Camp Registration
Under Way Now
By Steve Carroll
Director of Public Programs
This year's Summer Nature Camps have a few new twists. For one, we start earlier in the summer than in past years. Our first camp begins Monday, June 27, and unlike the camps that follow, it meets for three long days rather than five short days.
Given the spring's record-breaking stretch of rain, it's safe to say there will be plenty of water at Blandy this summer. In Wetland Wonders (Monday-Wednesday, June 27-29, 9 a.m.-3 p.m.), we "wade into" the world of water, wetlands, and aquatic animals. We'll search for creatures above and below the surface, explore their watery habitat, and learn about water conservation. Games, crafts, and activities will all focus on water. This camp is for rising 2nd-4th graders.
In Eat or Be Eaten (Monday-Friday, July 11-15, 9 a.m.-Noon, also for rising 2nd-4th graders), we enter the world of predators and prey. We'll look for evidence of the ways that animals hunt, eat, hide, escape, and survive, and what plants do to avoid being eaten!
Scientists at Work!
Our third camp, EcoExplorers (Monday-Friday, July 18-22, 9 a.m.-Noon), is for rising 5th-8th graders. This camp is investigative. Campers work in pairs to ask a question about the natural world, then work with leaders to collect and analyze data to answer this question. They present their results to parents and Blandy students and staff on the final morning.
Register online or by phone at 540-837-1758 Ext. 224 M-F 1-5 p.m. Cost per camp is $110 for FOSA members and $130 for nonmembers ($100 and $120 if registering for more than one child or camp). Partial scholarships are available; call 540-837-1758 Ext. 287 to inquire. Preregistration and payment are required, with no refunds after June 6.
Come get your nature fix at Blandy!

Virginia Governor Comes to Blandy

Blandy Director Dave Carr leads Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe on a tour of the Arboretum grounds May 24. The governor came to Blandy to sign a bill aimed at improving internet access in rural areas.

This is the first time a sitting governor has visited the State Arboretum.

Del. Randy Minchew, co-sponsor of the bill, was on hand along with Secretary of Technology Karen R. Jackson.

Photos by Tim Farmer

The governor took time to pose for a few photos.

FOSA Elects New Board Members, Officers
President Bob Lee welcomed FOSA members to the Annual Meeting at Blandy Thursday, June 9.  Three new board members were elected to three-year terms effective July 1, 2016: Christie Green of Winchester; Polly Rowley of Middleburg; and Nancy Takahashi of Charlottesville. FOSA's newest board members will be officially welcomed at the next board meeting in July, and the board will appoint new officers at that time. There were no board members rotating off due to term limits
FOSA Hosts Students, Parents at Annual Meeting
Frederick County Public School 6th grade students, their teachers, and Blandy educators at the I-ASC Celebration June 9.

By Candace Lutzow-Felling
Director of Education
Blandy's education programs accommodate between 6,000-7,500 students annually, but our current facilities do not meet the needs of our growing education outreach. Blandy's master plan addresses this need with a proposed education center. To build the proposed education center, Blandy would need to raise sufficient funds and conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment to determine the potential impacts construction might have on our environmental and cultural resources.

During the 2015-16 school year, all Frederick County Public Schools 6th grade students investigated the question: "Where should Blandy Experimental Farm build its proposed Education Center?"  Nearly 1,000 students participated in this seven-month research project.  Students worked in the field examining and evaluating potential impacts on existing environmental and historic resources at Blandy. In their English, History and Social Science, Mathematics, and Science classrooms, students analyzed their field data and synthesized their findings with additional classroom research.

During the Blandy field investigations, students: 
  • explored the effects of impervious surfaces on surface water run-off and groundwater recharge, and then designed a system that would reduce these negative watershed impacts;
  • investigated the water quality in Blandy's Lake Georgette by conducting several water chemistry tests and assessing the diversity of aquatic macroinvertebrates;
  • developed skills in assessing cultural or historic significance of a site by examining the Quarters building and the chimney in our Native Plant Trail woodland; and
  • practiced these environmental and social science skills when they visited several Arboretum locations and assessed each location's suitability as a building site.
In the classroom, students considered primary and secondary source history documents, conducted additional experiments, graphed and analyzed data, composed summaries of their research, and communicated their proposed building locations in their project presentations.

FOSA President Bob Lee addresses the I-ASC celebration crowd in the Quarters library.

Teachers and students selected the top two to three project presentations from each of the four middle schools to share with th
e FOSA board, their 6th grade teachers, family, and the general public during the I-ASC (Investigate, Analyze, Synthesize, and Communicate) celebration June 9. The celebration was a huge success with a standing room only audience in the Quarters library. 

We congratulate all of the students who worked so hard on this project during the school year and give a special shout-out to the 11 students who presented their nine projects during the I-ASC celebration.

For their proposed building site, most students selected either the 1940s greenhouse site (soon to be removed) or a portion of the bus/event field parking lot.  Students recognized that building in any location will have an environmental effect or land use impact. For example, when asked where people would park during events if the education building was built in the event field parking lot, one student suggested that the education building also should include a parking garage.

This is the second year of a three-year partnership project with Frederick County Public Schools funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Bay Watershed Education and Training Program (B-WET).  For more information about the I-ASC Project, please go to our project web site.
Insects Take Center Stage in Summer Programs
Quick-what species comes to mind when you think "insect?" If you said bees (well covered this spring) you are out of luck for now, but otherwise, this summer's public programs might very well feature your favorite group. 

Programs will cover fireflies in our annual firefly festival the evening of June 17; mosquitoes, in a look at mosquito-borne diseases June 28; dragonflies, in a family-friendly event July 7; butterflies, in "Butterflies through Binoculars," August 5; and monarch butterflies in an August 20, co-sponsored event in Upperville. Plus, insects of all stripes are sure to be present on our Arboretum and Full Moon walks!

In addition to our entomological forays, we will offer new programs and old favorites. For example, we offer "Writing in Nature" for the first time, taught by Christie Green on June 21. And on August 11, Insight Meditation instructor Shell Fischer offers "Mindfulness in Nature: Guided Walking Meditation," a workshop that has become a staple of our public program series.

Program details can be found here. Be sure to register early--some programs fill quickly!
Click anywhere on the image to enlarge.

A Summer of Research, a Lifetime of Memories
Grads, Undergrads Arrive for Research Experience

By Kyle Haynes
Assistant Director, Blandy Experimental Farm
June through early August is the peak season for research activity at Blandy. Free from the classes and exams that occupy the academic year, university students of all levels - ranging from undergraduates to Ph.D. students - come to Blandy in the summer to study a range of ecological and environmental topics. So, on your next trip to Blandy, don't be surprised if you see adults doing odd looking things such as chasing down bumblebees, wading in ponds to collect dragonfly larvae, or digging in the dirt.
 Weekly science seminars  are free and open to the  public each Wednesday at  6 p.m. Bring a dish and  stay
for the potluck!
Click here for details.
The largest group of summer researchers consists of 10   undergraduates taking part in the Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Program. The program, funded by the National Science Foundation, admits high-achieving college students from institutions around the country, with the goal of providing them first-hand experience carrying out innovative research so they will be ready and eager to pursue careers in science. This year's crop of students may be the most geographically diverse yet. Two have joined us from particularly far-off locales - Puerto Rico (University of Puerto Rico at Humacao) and California (Humboldt State University). Three students attend universities in Southern states (University of Florida, University of West Alabama, and St. Edwards University in Austin). The Northeast is represented by students from Kutztown University of Pennsylvania and Hampshire College, and the Midwest by a student from Bowling Green State University. Finally, two students attend local universities - Howard University and University of Virginia. As I write this article in late May, the REU students have chosen their mentors from among the available faculty and graduate students, and they are now busy writing proposals that explain the objectives, methods, and scientific or social relevance of their research projects.
In addition to the undergraduates, one post-doctoral researcher and eight graduate students are conducting research at Blandy this summer. Two Ph.D. students, Ariel Firebaugh and Melissa Hey, are investigating the extent to which artificial lighting of the night sky, termed 'light pollution,' alters important ecological processes such as interactions between predators and prey and the cycling of nutrients from soil to plants, herbivores, and predators. In a different project, Amber Slatosky is studying conopids, a family of parasitic flies in which an adult female will insert a single egg into the abdomen of an adult wasp or bee. After hatching, the immature conopid will feed on the host wasp or bee, eventually killing the host insect, and bursting out of its victim's abdomen to find a mate and its next host quarry. As gruesome as the conopid life cycle seems, Amber is investigating the possibility that plentiful populations of conopids are an indication of large, healthy populations of bumblebees and other wild bees. It is difficult to directly measure the abundance of wild bees, which are key pollinators of both wild and cultivated plants, so innovative monitoring approaches are needed.
If you would like to learn more about what top ecological researchers from around the Mid-Atlantic region are learning, consider attending Blandy's Summer Research Seminar Series. These seminars are not just for students and professors! Members of the public are welcome to attend the presentations and the potluck dinners that follow. The schedule of speakers and additional details can be found at

Statewide Project Surveys Breeding Bird Populations

By Dave Carr
Director, Blandy Experimental Farm
The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and the Virginia Ornithological Society are organizing a statewide five-year effort to survey the Commonwealth's breeding birds county by county.  The Virginia Breeding Bird Atlas 2, as the project is known, is modeled on similar efforts in states throughout the country and its goal is to provide biologists better understanding of the status of the 200+ species of birds breeding within our borders.

Chipping Sparrow
Virginia is a particularly interesting state for breeding birds because it spans from the Atlantic Ocean to the Appalachian Mountains and Cumberland Plateau and its location in the mid-Atlantic creates a blend of typically southern and some more typically northern species (especially in the highlands).  What makes this Atlas effort particularly exciting is that it will represent the second Atlas for Virginia.  The first was completed during the period of 1985-1989 using essentially the same approach.  Data from the new Atlas can then be compared to the original Atlas to look for changes in populations, species ranges, and even the timing of breeding in many species.  Virginia is changing in many different ways, and different parts of the state are on very different trajectories.  In some parts of the state, extensive areas of forest and farmland have been converted to housing over the past 25 years, while in other areas farmland has converted back to young forest.  Land-use change, climate change, even the population explosions in deer in many parts of Virginia can all affect whether certain species of birds can persist in areas or whether other species can move in.

The real heroes of the Breeding Bird Atlas will be citizen scientists.  Almost all of the data will be collected by Virginia birders who are interested in contributing their observations to this new state-wide database.  Each USGS quadrangle map in the state of Virginia has been divided up into 6 smaller "blocks."  Birders can register for up to three blocks this year.  Over the course of the year, they can submit their observations of breeding activity electronically.  Birders who have taken primary responsibility for a block are asked to spend a total of at least 20 hours of birding time covering the block throughout the breeding season.  If that's more of a commitment than you're able to make, there are still ways that you can contribute.

If you are interested in participating in the Atlas or interested in learning more, you are welcome to contact me.  I am serving as the Regional Coordinator for Clarke, Frederick (including the city of Winchester), Warren, Shenandoah, and Page Counties, and I would be happy to help you get involved.  If you live or bird in other counties, I would be happy to put you in touch with the appropriate Regional Coordinator.  If you aren't able to participate in the project as a birder but you have property that you would like to be included in the Atlas, let me know, and I might be able to put a birder in touch with you.

State Arboretum of Virginia | 400 Blandy Farm Lane | Boyce | VA | 22620