ARMN: Getting to Know Yolanda Villacampa

Photos courtesy of Yolanda Villacampa unless otherwise noted.

ARMN’s Membership Committee occasionally posts profiles of our members, including how they came to be master naturalists, which parts of nature they most enjoy, and how they affect their environment. This latest biography features ARMN Member Yolanda Villacampa, who graduated from our training class in Spring 2011. She’s made quite a contribution to science as a naturalist. Read the blog through to the “something unusual about yourself” section to see for yourself.

 If you know someone in ARMN with an interesting story to tell and think others might be interested, please contact Bill Browning (browningwh@gmail.com) or Alison Sheahan (ab.sheahan@verizon.net).

Photo of ARMN member Yolanda Villacampa next to the George Washington Survey Marker Monument.

Yolanda at Glencarlyn Park next to the George Washington Survey Marker Monument. Photo courtesy of Silvia Villacampa (2014).

Tell us about the ARMN projects you spend time on.

During my ARMN training class (Spring 2011), we had the opportunity to think about the type of volunteer projects we could choose from. Volunteering in Arlington County streams was a natural choice for me. Four Mile Run is practically right behind the house where I grew up in Arlington, VA. As a child, I had always enjoyed being near this stream, which is accessible via the backyard. I took walks with my mother and sister along the banks and biked along it with my father. I enjoyed looking inside the water to see the fish, snails, and rocks. So, I became a macroinvertebrate stream monitor under a program coordinated by the County’s Office of Sustainability and Environmental Management. As a macroinvertebrate volunteer, I can continue to check out what’s in the water and know that I’m looking at a black fly larva, isopod, left-handed lunged snail, or planarian.

Photo of a crayfish in a bowl at Barcroft Park

Crayfish at Barcroft Park in Four Mile Run during macroinvertebrate sampling in 2015.

I also have enjoyed documenting local wildlife by participating in wildlife mapping and citizen science projects. More recently, I have started using a newer way of observing wildlife with the iNaturalist app and have taken part in local bioblitzes. I can check out wildlife, photograph it, identify or find out what it is—whether it’s a dragonfly nymph or a great blue heron!

Photo of a Female Northern Mallard by water

Female Northern Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) documented during a bioblitz at the National Park Service, George Washington Memorial Parkway, Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve in 2017.

Other fun activities I’ve participated in include the cricket crawl in the summer, the frog/salamander patrol, bird outings, and outreach events.

How did you learn about ARMN?

I’m an Arlington County park naturalist on a part-time basis and heard about it at work. A fellow park naturalist at Long Branch Nature Center, Matt Neff, also an ARMN volunteer and animal keeper at the Smithsonian National Zoo, recommended ARMN. It sounded like a great way to keep learning about local nature!

What do you like most about ARMN?

The variety of volunteer opportunities for a wide area of interests in nature with terrific people taking part in it. It’s great to be outdoors and share information too!

Tell us something about your childhood/adulthood experiences that shaped your perspective on nature?

I grew up with woods and Four Mile Run stream behind my childhood home. I was fascinated by the wildlife passing through my backyard—a variety of birds, box turtles, opossums, caterpillars, walking sticks, praying mantids, and even the colorful box elder bugs.

Walks with my mom and sister near the stream towards Barcroft Park were a common ritual. Not too long after teaching us how to ride bikes, my dad would take my sister and me on biking excursions on the Four Mile Run and W&OD trails. A lot of my local vacations involved my father taking the family to state parks. We stayed in a cabin or went camping. I always remember the kind park ranger who that talked to me at Douthat State Park after a nature program.

At Claremont Elementary, we had a rabbit in school that roamed the classroom which I thought was the neatest thing. Pet rabbits were my favorite pets growing up.

When I was at Wakefield High School, I took an animal science class at the Career Center where I learned about and took care of classroom animals including snakes, a rabbit, ducks, and a chinchilla. I even had a summer job there taking care of the animals.

As a kid I have fond memories of my parents taking my sister and me to the National Zoo and the bus ride with my mom to Washington, DC to visit the Natural History Museum.

What is your background? 

During high school and college, I had seasonal jobs such as being a veterinary assistant and an outdoor job working as an Arlington County Park Ranger on bike. I have a bachelor’s degree in Biology from George Mason University in Fairfax, VA. After getting my degree, I started working a few hours at the Arlington County Nature Centers…and still do!

Photo of Four Mile Run Stream at Barcroft Park

Upstream view of the macroinvertebrate sampling section of Four Mile Run at Barcroft Park in 2016. Macroinvertebrate volunteers submit photographs of the sampling site, a required protocol for stream monitoring.

Currently in my full-time job as a Museum Specialist in Zoology, I work on invertebrates, such as mollusks, in the District of Columbia at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History—back to one of my childhood excursion locations!

Heritage-wise, my father was born in Spain and my mother in Ecuador, so I grew up speaking both Spanish and English. Thanks to my father, I’ve traveled to both countries and have enjoyed the adventures of traveling to various places. I’ve been able to put my Spanish-speaking and writing skills to use, whether helping Spanish-speaking visiting scientists and translating text at the Museum or conducting bilingual nature programs in Arlington.

Tell us something unusual about yourself.

I’m a District of Columbia/Arlington area native. At least it seems unusual to others when I mention it. As my mom likes to say, I was 18 months old when my family moved to Arlington from DC, where I was born.

A snail is named after me. In my first Museum Technician job after college, I helped with a research project to describe western US spring snails. Pyrgulopsis villacampae in Little Warm Springs, Nye County, Nevada is named after me.

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ARMN Helps DC Area Place 5th Worldwide in City Nature Challenge

By Rosemary Jann

During the weekend of 27-30 April 2018, 180 ARMN members and other area residents answered the call to participate in the third annual City Nature Challenge. The Nature Challenge seeks to encourage interest in urban nature by having groups compete to record and identify the nature around them. It began in 2016 as a friendly competition between Los Angeles and San Francisco to see which area could document the most species and involve the most participants. It went national in 2017 and international in 2018, this year including 68 urban areas worldwide, including greater Washington, DC.

 ARMN members took part in 27 different CNC events held in more than 15 parks in Arlington, Alexandria, Falls Church, and Fairfax County during the weekend. As leaders

Photo of John and Josie Buchanan examining a salmander on a hike in Barcroft Park

Photo courtesy of Marion Jordan.

and assistants on various nature walks, ARMN members helped raise interest and educate other community members in nature observation, like John and Josie Buchanan, seen here examining a salamander they found on their ARMN-led hike in Barcroft Park.

 

Other events included a “birding by bike” tour on April 28 in which Lori Bowes and Phil

Photo of water snake swallowing a fish at Four Mile Run

Photo courtesy of Carol Mullen.

Klingelhofer led more than 10 people on a 22-mile route through Long Branch, Barcroft, Fort F. C. Smith, and other Arlington parks along the Potomac. Cyclist Carol Mullen snapped the accompanying photo of a water snake swallowing a fish at Four Mile Run.

 

ARMN Basic Training class members also contributed observations from their “herps

Photo 3

Copyright David Howell 2018.

and chirps” fieldtrip at Huntley Meadows on April 30th, including photos of a Hooded Merganser with ducklings.

All City Nature Challenge participants documented their observations on iNaturalist, a free app and website that allows individuals to easily upload, share, and identify species.

The results were impressive: we helped the DC Metro area come in 5th place world-wide for overall number of observations (22,866), 4th overall in number of observers (886), and 8th overall in number of species (1,850). 537 people helped make 38,968 species identifications for our area. This year Boston had thrown down a specific challenge to DC: we bested them in observations and species and came in one place behind them in total number of observers. Our area’s most frequently observed species were the Common Blue Violet for plants, the American Robin for birds, and the White-tailed Deer for mammals.

The City Nature Challenge celebrates and supports two vital functions of citizen science: it brings members of the community together to enhance their appreciation of nature, and it provides scientists with valuable data on biodiversity that can help guide the understanding and preservation of our natural resources. Thanks to all members of ARMN and the greater community who participated. Save the date for our next big citizen science project: the Arlington Bioblitz to be held on Saturday, September 15, 2018!

If September seems too far off to collect more environmental data, then look for our next blog piece on how iNaturalist can be used to map a whole variety of observations that can help us better understand our environment.

2018 Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service Opportunities

Martin Luther King image

The Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday is a nationally recognized day of service. ARMN welcomes members of the public to join master naturalists for various earth-friendly projects in the area to honor the spirit of Dr. King. Here is a list of habitat restoration and invasive removal activities on the weekend that includes the holiday. We hope to see you at one or more of these events that will make a significant difference to the health of our local environment.

If there is any question about the weather, where to meet, what to bring, or any other concerns, please contact the leader ahead of time.

Day Date Location Time Contact
Saturday Jan 13 Jones Point Park Potomac River Cleanup, Alexandria (Sponsored by the Potomac Conservancy) 10am-1pm Please click here to sign up.
Saturday Jan 13 Salona Meadows, Buchanan St. and Gilliams Road, McLean (Sponsored by VA Native Plant Society—Potowmack Chapter) 11am-2pm Alan Ford (for more information or to sign up).
Monday Jan 15 Culpepper Gardens, Arlington

Between the morning and afternoon sessions will be a light lunch in the auditorium and a talk about Arlington’s African American community. There will be indoor activities in case of inclement weather.  (Sponsored by Culpepper Gardens)

10am–noon, and 1:30-3:30pm (weather permitting) Linda Y. Kelleher RSVP/confirm

 

Monday Jan 15 Barcroft Park, Arlington (Sponsored by Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment) 10:00am–noon Please click here to sign up.
Monday Jan 15 Theodore Roosevelt Island (Sponsored by the National Park Service) 10am–2pm Trudy Roth, 202-438-6627
Monday Jan 15 Long Branch Park, Arlington (Sponsored by Arlington Regional Master Naturalists) 2–4pm Steve Young

Thank you for your service!

 

ARMN: Getting To Know Sarah Archer

From time-to-time, ARMN’s Membership Committee posts profiles of our members including how they came to be master naturalists, which parts of nature they most enjoy, and how they have an impact on the environment around them. Here is the latest biography of Arlington staff employee, Sarah Archer, who graduated in the Fall 2013 ARMN training class. Sarah currently manages Arlington’s Invasive Plant Program and is involved with starting the County’s native plant nursery. She is a valuable collaborator for ARMN on a wide variety of projects.

Tell us about the ARMN projects you spend time on.

I have been able to participate in many ARMN projects over the years, but my favorite has to be the restoration of the Barcroft Magnolia Bog. The success of this project was due to all of the great work done by ARMN members.  Marion Jordan, Jim Hurley, Marty Nielson, and others were instrumental in building momentum around the restoration work through community outreach to nearby homeowners and Claremont Elementary School. We received an award from the Virginia Association of Counties for this project because of the collaboration between county staff and groups like ARMN.

I am also really excited about Arlington’s new Native Plant Nursery . We usually have workdays at the nursery every Thursday from 3 – 5 pm.  I am also involved with the RiP/ARMN supported invasive plant removal events at Tuckahoe, Ft. Bennett, Madison Manor, Long Branch, Gulf Branch, and Haley/Oakridge/Gunston (“HOG”) parks. These events are led by our ARMN volunteer site leaders and are great opportunities for community volunteers to learn about invasive plant identification and removal techniques. I am always amazed at how much drive and passion the site leaders have to act as stewards for their neighborhood parks!

Photo 1 (1)

Earth Day 2014, at an Arlington park. Sarah is second from the right.

What brought you to ARMN?/How did you learn about ARMN?

The first time I heard about the Master Naturalist program was from my mom when she took the training in Illinois. I was lucky to get the opportunity to take the ARMN course when they needed an Arlington staff member to open and close building during the training sessions.

What do you like most about ARMN?

I really appreciate the strong relationships that ARMN builds with their partner groups and how informed and motivated the volunteers are!  Arlington County wouldn’t be able to do many of our natural resource conservation and restoration projects without the support of community groups, particularly ARMN.  ARMN volunteers do so much for Arlington’s Parks and Natural Resources Division including not just invasive plant removal, but education and outreach, project planning, surveying, planting, nursery work, etc.  It’s a pretty long list of all of the different types of volunteer projects ARMN participates in. The ARMN membership is so diverse in expertise and interests that they can support almost any project that we have!

Tell us something about your childhood/adulthood experiences that shaped your perspective on nature.

I was a Girl Scout in elementary school and really enjoyed all of the outdoor activities like camping and hiking.  I actually pulled my first invasive plant, garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata), when I was in Girl Scouts! I didn’t really get interested in pursuing a nature-related career until I joined the Student Conservation Association (SCA) in 2007 after I graduated from Illinois State University (ISU), and did several internships with SCA related to environmental restoration.

What is your background?

During college, I worked with a native plant landscaping company and was a gardener for a few private residents during my summers off. In 2007, I received undergraduate degrees in dance and anthropology from ISU.  After college, I went to California to work for the Bureau of Land Management as an SCA intern and then worked on a trail crew on the Pacific Crest Trail. In 2008, I moved to Maryland with another SCA internship with the Nature Conservancy, and managed invasive plants in the Potomac Gorge.

I began working with the Arlington County Department of Parks and Recreation in 2009 and received a master’s degree in Natural Resources from Virginia Tech in 2012.

What would other ARMN members find interesting about the non-ARMN parts of your life?

I enjoy many types of social dance, including square, salsa, blues, and kizomba. In college, I performed as a “koken” in a Kabuki production of Othello under the direction of Shozo Sato, an internationally renowned Japanese theater director.

Photo 2

Sarah doing a fan dance (not Kabuki, but close).

I also love international travel and have a trip planned to Peru, Argentina, and Uruguay over the Christmas holidays!

September Barcroft Park Habitat Restoration Work Party

by Marion Jordan

NOTE THE NEW TIME – THIS IS AN AFTERNOON EVENT

Join us on September 21 from 1 – 3 pm for the next Barcroft Park Habitat Restoration Work Party. We will join with Arlington for a Clean Environment (ACE) to help lead volunteers in cleaning up trash in the park. There are over 55 volunteers already signed up with ACE so leaders are really needed to help direct the volunteers.  The ACE team will focus on the stream and we will lead teams on the trails and other areas in the park.

We will meet at the picnic pavilion in Barcroft Park at 1 pm.  If you park in the Barcroft recreational area parking lot, walk past the soccer fields, bear right and then cross the stream on the wood and steel bridge. Wear long pants and long sleeves. Bring gloves if you have them. We will also supply gloves and garbage bags for trash pick-up. In order to help ACE plan for supplies and snacks, please register at the ACE site (https://www.eventbrite.com/event/7582711093) as an ARMN volunteer.

This is a wonderful opportunity to see the results of the work done so far in Barcroft Park, and observe a park on its way to natural health. If you have worked with us in the past, come see the results of your hard work and the significant investment by Arlington County. If you are new to Barcroft, join us to see the park that has been designated as a top priority for Arlington due to its unique habitat. After the work party, we will provide a short update on the results of Arlington County’s continuing work to treat invasives and improve habitat as well as describe longer term plans for meadow habitat.

This project needs you! Every pair of hands makes a difference for this valuable ecological site. Your work will help improve the habitat for birds and other wildlife in Barcroft.

If you have questions, please contact Marion Jordan at mcjordn@verizon.net.

Join ARMN for MLK National Day of Service events

Throughout the year, ARMN volunteers contribute to a myriad of service activities that benefit our neighborhoods and communities. For Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend, ARMN inivites you to join our dedicated volunteers to honor Dr. King’s legacy by participating in two of our focus service projects to restore habitat in Barcroft Park and in Tuckahoe Park.

Barcroft Park
January 19th at 9:30 am

Farrah and Brooke Alexander can barely be seen waving at the base of this "broccoli tree" that probably only had a few more years left before final choking.

Farrah and Brooke Alexander can barely be seen waving at the base of this “broccoli tree” that probably only had a few more years left before final choking. Autumn 2012, Barcroft Park.

Our main focus will be to clear ivy off the trees so that IPC (Invasive Plant Control), Arlington County’s contractor, will be able to efficiently treat the ivy remaining on the ground. After the clearing, Jim Hurley, ARMN Vice President and Chair of the Service Committee, will lead a walk to view the new plantings done in December and results of work done over the past year.

We will meet at the picnic pavilion in Barcroft Park at 9:30 am. If you park in the Barcroft recreational area  parking lot, walk past the soccer field, bear right and then cross the stream on the wood and steel bridge. Wear long pants and long sleeves. Bring gloves as well as handsaws and pruners if you have them. We will also supply gloves and tools, and garbage bags for trash pickup. If you are a little late and do not see us at the picnic pavilion, look for us near the bike path towards George Mason Drive past the power line. Continue reading

Autumn 2012 Invasive Work in Barcroft Park

By Jim Hurley

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Master Naturalists continued our work improving the quality of the natural areas in Barcroft Park, with three three-hour work sessions on great-weather Saturdays in September, October and November.  Our mission for all three sessions was cutting English Ivy from trees in heavily infested areas of the park.  As noted in previous posts, Arlington County has contracted with a professional company to remove invasives in the park, and the work left undone following the first big assault on dozens of exotic species in May-June included the treatment of Ivy, Vinca, and Wintercreeper in the late fall. 

In fiscal year 2013, Arlington County allocated $100,000 for invasive species contract work in the County’s high-value natural areas, and a portion of this is being spent to complete the treatment of Barcroft Park.  We volunteers are saving the County 3 – 4 contractor work days at $1,200/day by cutting the Ivy from Barcroft trees, thereby extending the County’s resources and enabling more parkland to be treated.

In September, a dozen volunteers, representing Master Naturalists, Virginia Native Plant Society, Tree Stewards, and Fairlington condominiums, worked on trees in the thick bed of Ivy on top of the ridge, where for decades the Ivy had spilled out of residents’ back yards 150 feet or more into the park.  Don Walsh, Tree Steward extraordinaire, completed a thorough job on a double-trunked Chestnut Oak.  Following the work, most of us stayed for a leisurely botanical stroll through the park, identifying the park’s four Hickory (Carya) species, and a number of fall wildflowers, including Bonesets (Eupatorium spp.) and woodland Goldenrods (Solidago spp.). Continue reading

Barcroft Park Focus Project Update

By Jim Hurley

It is now early September, 2012, following the extreme extended heat wave in the Washington DC region, and a walk around Barcroft Park will reveal whole swaths of brown, dead plants at ground level, and many dead tree stems, still upright, listing, or lying on their sides, leaves crisping.  It wasn’t the heat that did this.

With the exception of a few big trees felled by the June 29 derecho, most of these browning plants in Barcroft met their demise at the hands of Invasive Plant Control (IPC) technicians, who completed five weeks of an intensive first treatment of 40 acres of the park, providentially, just a few hours before that derecho blew through.  The day before, the IPC crew leader walked me, Sarah Archer and Greg Zell through the park to observe the results, which were impressive.  Porcelainberry: dead or browning; Multiflora Rose: wilting thickets; Oriental Bittersweet, Japanese Honeysuckle: yellowing or dead; Mimosa, Norway Maple, Japanese Pagoda stems on the ground; 15′ Bush Honeysuckle: cut at the ground, bases painted blue, etc., etc., some 25 species of exotics targeted for destruction.

And what about Tree of Heaven, English Ivy, Periwinkle, and Wintercreeper?  Tree of Heaven, really Tree from Hell for the intensity of its infestation of natural areas, roadsides, and farmland in the East, dubbed the Stinkbaum by Germans, was protected by the heat wave.  Basal bark treatment, the only way to kill this insidious, suckering spreader, is only effective below 85 degrees, so IPC will be back in the fall to treat this Ailanthus altissima, and in the winter to treat the waxy-leaved evergreen vines, when there will be no collateral damage to the deciduous Virginia Creeper, Wild Yam, and native Grape vines intermixed with them.

Arlington County’s investment of some $75,000 in professional invasive plant control (including two days of treatment for Lesser Celandine in March) in Barcroft Park this Spring, and the County Board’s allocation of $100,000 for invasive plant contract work in FY 2013 (7/1/12 – 6/30/13), a chunk of which will go to follow-up treatments in Barcroft, has completely changed the game, at least for this park.  The scale of the infestation was too great for volunteer efforts.  We Master Naturalists conducted some 15 invasive pulls in the park in 2011 and 2012, and we had a big impact in several discrete areas, working with partners including the Tree Stewards, Virginia Native Plant Society, Americorps and other volunteers.  However, we only made a small dent in the overall problem.

We suspended work in the summer to see the results of the IPC contract work.  There will be remnant Porcelainberry, Japanese Honeysuckle, Chinese Yam, etc., still visible in September, but IPC will hit them again next Spring, and in the meantime, we can play a useful role doughnutting the English Ivy climbing trees, which will increase the efficiency of IPC’s Ivy work in the winter.  This is the work we performed during our last invasive removal day in Barcroft in May, and it is the work we will do beginning with our next Barcroft Focus Project day this coming Saturday.

So take a walk through Barcroft Park soon, and see the park on its way to natural health.  Or better yet, join us at 9:30 this coming Saturday, September 15 to help us complete the work.  Afterwards, we will walk the park and identify remnant invasives for IPC to remove.  A natural spaciousness is already opening up.  This time next year, it will look very different than just a few short months ago.

ARMN First Anniversary of Barcroft Park Invasive Pull

By Jim Hurley

Dedicated volunteers help monthly with Barcroft Park Invasive Pull, an important ARMN Focus Project. Photo by R. Ayres.

The March invasive pull was the first anniversary of the Arlington Regional Master Naturalist monthly focus work on Barcroft Park.  Having bought coffee and doughnuts (hint, hint), I arrived to the area of Barcoft Park we were going to work on an hour before start time to tag Multiflora Rose stems for clipping and digging.

But what was this?  Blue dye on the Rose?  And then in the same area, blue dye on Japanese Honeysuckle?

Up to twenty people were about to show up to work on the area.  And after that, another twenty members of the current Master Naturalist training class were scheduled to arrive for two more hours of work.  What were we to do? Continue reading

February Invasive Pull at Barcroft Park

By Jim Hurley

Barcroft workgroup posed with ARMN banner

ARMN Volunteers at Barcroft Park. Photo by J. Hurley.

We had another strong turnout on February 18 in Barcroft Park, as 15 volunteers, including Tree Stewards, Americorps, Master Naturalists and Wingate residents answered the call of native plants needing to be rescued from exotic invaders.  As has become customary, we began and ended the work with coffee and donuts, and in between continued to work on the stretch of the park between the bikepath and drainage ditch, near the picnic shelter.  Again, we did more good damage to Multiflora Rose, cutting the canes back to a foot to get access to the root systems, Continue reading