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!

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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

1/12/12 Barcroft Sunny Workday Report

By Jim Hurley

Last Thursday, January 12, Master Naturalist (and current ARMN Treasurer) Josh Schnell enticed some 15 of his USDA OLC (Office of Legal Counsel) colleagues to Barcroft Park for a couple of hours cutting and digging Multiflora Rose, English Ivy and Japanese Honeysuckle.  Five Americorps volunteers supported the effort, as well as four other MNs Workers in park(thanks Jim Clark!), and tools were supplied by Sarah Archer.  The day was sunny and a balmy 58 degrees, and with the ground wet from the previous day’s rain, the invasives were very vulnerable.  We took full advantage of the conditions, and massive R. multiflora clumps and root systems yielded to shovels and pickaxes.  We continued to clear the area between the bikepath and drainage ditch, exposing the Lesser Celandine that is the dominant invasive there.  There were large numbers of Ranunculus ficaria bulblets and tubers just below the ground surface, which, no longer protected by their cover of Rose and Ivy, are vulnerable to spraying in spring.  For more on Lesser Celandine, including a shoutout to our own Steve Young, see:  http://www.nps.gov/plants/alien/fact/rafi1.htm. Continue reading

12/17/2011 Barcroft Park Work Day Report

large group of people holding armn sign

12/17 Barcroft Park Volunteers, by R. Olsen

By Jim Hurley

We had another inspiring turnout December 17, with 26 volunteers (Master Naturalists, Tree Stewards, Americorps, Windgate residents, hikers, spouses and friends of the above) reluctantly ending the invasive work after almost two hours, in order to turn our attention to Deep Time.  We began the morning again with coffee, cider, and donuts on a cool and cloudy day, fueling more intensive work on the natural area between the bikepath and the drainage ditch.  Continue reading

11/19/11 Barcroft Park Work Day Report

By Jim Hurley

We began Saturday morning with coffee and donuts, which fueled 23 volunteers for more than two hours of intense, and intensely satisfying, invasive removal in sunny brisk weather.  The Master Naturalists, Tree Stewards, and Native Plant Society were well represented, and we had residents from Claremont and Windgate too.  We worked in the natural area between the bikepath and the drainage ditch, mowing through an impenetrable 1000 sq. ft. hedge of primarily Multiflora Rose, interlaced with Porcelainberry.  We cut the canes to a foot or so, and then used shovels and pickaxes to dig impressive old-growth root infrastructures.  Great fun.  Continue reading