Impact of White-Tailed Deer on Arlington’s Forests

by Leslie Cameron and Bill Browning

In mid-November, ARMN members Bill Browning, Jeff Elder, Steve Young, and Leslie Cameron met with Arlington Parks and Recreation Conservation and Interpretation Manager Rachael Tolman to evaluate a deer “exclosure” in Gulf Branch Park. 

Photo of ARMN volunteers standing in front of a deer exclosure
L-R: Rachael Tolman, Steve Young, Bill Browning, Jeff Elder at damaged Gulf Branch deer exclosure. Photo by Leslie Cameron.

The deer exclosure was built in 2017 as part of an Eagle Scout project for a local Boy Scout troop to protect the vegetation inside from deer browse. As the white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) population in Arlington has grown, their impact on Arlington’s forests has grown too. Deer exclosures are one strategy for protecting habitat from deer browse and can also play a role in collecting data on the impact of deer in our forests. They can also potentially play a big role in educating people, who can compare protected and unprotected areas as they walk by. In the 4 years since it was constructed, the deer exclosure in Gulf Branch has fallen into disrepair.

Photo showing a damaged deer exclosure.  The fencing is crumpled and has pulled off the post.
Damaged deer exclosure at Gulf Branch Park. Photo by Bill Browning.

The group discussed repairing or rebuilding the exclosure (exclosures need to be 8-10 feet high to effectively exclude deer) and reducing the size to make it easier to maintain. To collect data on the impact of deer, a fenced exclosure (the “variable”) is paired with a same-size nearby unfenced reference plot (the “control”). The diversity of species and quantity of vegetation in both plots is documented over time. Signage can inform the public about the project, as well as discourage residents from disturbing it. 

Impact of deer on a healthy forest

Deer are Virginia’s largest herbivore. An adult eats 5-7 pounds of vegetation a day, or a ton each year. If there are more deer than the land can support, deer browse begins to degrade the understory in a forest. The forest understory—forest floor, herbaceous plants, shrubs, seedlings, and young trees—supports native ground-nesting birds, insects, reptiles, and amphibians. Deer browse limits the food and cover for these species, and they decline. The understory also includes the young trees that form the forests of the future. A forest without its understory cannot regenerate, which means that there will be no mature trees in the future. Because deer prefer native plants, deer browse disturbs the diversity of plants, and allows invasive plants to multiply in their place. 

Photo of the understory at Lacey Woods Park
Lacey Woods Park in Arlington has not been heavily deer browsed and has a healthy understory. Images 3 and 4 were taken on the same day in November 2021. Photo by Steve Young.
Photo of the understory at Long Branch Nature Center
Long Branch Nature Center Park has been heavily deer browsed. Without a healthy understory, forests cannot regenerate. Images 3 and 4 were taken on the same day in November 2021. Photo by Steve Young.

Male deer also rub antlers on trees, which can damage them. For more background on the effects of deer on our forests, see the May 2020 ARMN blog article, “White-tailed deer and Forest Health in Northern Virginia.”  

Deer population over time   

By the 1930s, deer had almost disappeared from Virginia and had declined in many eastern states. States implemented regulations to protect deer and their habitat, and the population began to rebound.  Effective predators of deer (like the gray wolf and eastern cougar) were extirpated from Virginia, and development and fragmentation have increased edge habitat, which deer prefer. These changes have contributed to a rapid increase in the population of deer. 

Graph of deer population of Virginia from 1600 to present.  Present population is between 1 million and 1.25 million.
From p. 11, Fig 2 of: “Virginia Deer Management Plan 2015-2024.”

Assessing Arlington’s deer population and next steps

In response to concerns about the impact of deer in Arlington’s forests and other natural areas, Arlington County hired an independent contractor to conduct a drone survey of the population in spring 2021. Some Federal property owners (National Park Service, Pentagon, Arlington National Cemetery, Reagan National Airport) did not grant permission for the aerial drones so these areas were excluded. Further, the contractor was unable to obtain a permit to fly the drones at night when the heat signatures are easier to detect. The survey counted a minimum of 290 deer in Arlington that were concentrated in wooded and natural areas. Four of the survey sections had deer counts at levels which most experts agree is too high for regeneration of native plants. All of Arlington’s seven Natural Resources Conservation Areas had too many deer. The contractor recommended aggressive deer management, particularly in those areas. 

Bar chart of deer population in Arlington neighborhoods.
From p. ii of: “White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) Population Density Survey using sUAS Infrared: Arlington County, Virginia – Spring 2021” that shows the approximate numbers of deer in Arlington neighborhoods.

Arlington is in the process of hiring a second consultant to determine if a deer management strategy is needed and if so, to develop an implementation plan. Please see the County’s website for its current plan.

One management strategy some jurisdictions have considered is immunocontraceptive vaccines such as porcine zona pellucida (PZP) or GonaCon. In practice, this strategy has challenges with open herds. Annual injections may be needed to produce infertility. These vaccines are injected by hand into captured deer or hypodermic darts are fired remotely. Deer are susceptible to capture myopathy muscle damage that results from the extreme stress of being repeatedly captured. Darts delivered remotely can miss the target or fall out before delivering the dose. Despite many attempts nationwide, there are few reported instances where these medical intervention strategies have proven even marginally effective. Moreover, the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources does not approve of these techniques for managing the size of deer herds.

Another strategy is managed hunting, which can take several forms, depending on location. This method usually involves professional sharpshooters or volunteers with rifles or archery tackle. Managed hunts can be conducted safely in restricted or urban areas, and done properly, result in very low rates of nonlethal wounding for deer. As noted in the 2020 ARMN blog piece cited above, neighboring jurisdictions have taken steps to manage their deer populations. Fairfax County has had a deer management program in place since 1998. Montgomery County established a deer management program in 1996. Both counties use all three hunting methods. The National Park Service established a deer management plant in 2012; the NPS primarily uses professional sharpshooters who hunt at night in collaboration with a variety of police authorities. All three jurisdictions have had no safety incidents since their programs’ inceptions.

Where they are highly concentrated, deer are damaging forests and degrading habitat in Arlington, at the expense of the other species that occupy the ecosystem, including mammals, birds, reptiles, and insects. Without natural large predators (wolves or mountain lions,), the deer population is out of balance. It is important to take steps to restore this balance to protect the future of Arlington forests and all their inhabitants.

Actions members of the public can take 

Learning about the impact of deer on forests and other natural areas is critical. Anyone can assist in education efforts:

  • Share this blog piece with friends and neighbors in community newsletters and on “Next Door” or other community social media.
  • Is your neighborhood community group interested in a deer education presentation? If so, send that information to ARMN via “Contact Us” on armn.org.  
  • Ask about nature walks to bring attention to the impact of deer in natural areas via ARMN’s “Contact Us” feature.
  • Participate in Arlington programs that are approved to rebuild and maintain deer exclosures and gather data on the impact of deer on natural areas. 
  • Avoid feeding deer or encouraging them to approach. You may also protect your landscape with a deer exclosure and other strategies. For more details, see: Virginia Cooperative Extension publication, “Deer: A Garden Pest.”

For more information 

The following resources have more information about the impact of deer in natural areas and about Arlington’s process for assessing the problem and determining next steps.

ARMN resources:

Deer Management

Arlington County Deer Survey and Next Steps:

Click to access arlington-county-deer-survey-and-next-steps.pdf

Deep Dive Recap: Dabbling and Diving Ducks

Text by Kristin Bartschi. Photos by George Sutherland.

Ducks. They’re cute, they paddle around in parks. Some ducks are so commonplace that we don’t really think twice about them (i.e. the quintessential mallard). But, as with all animals, there is a lot to learn and every duck has a unique story. 

Recently, I decided to expand my rudimentary knowledge and attend a deep dive on ducks at Gulf Branch Nature Center in Arlington. Naturalist Ken Rosenthal hosts deep dive lectures about once a month at Gulf Branch. Each hour-long talk focuses on a different topic, such as pollinators or homes made out of sticks. 

Attending one of these has been on my list for a while and it did not disappoint. Ken’s enthusiasm and knowledge of animals is infectious, and the hour-long presentation flew by. 

A man presents a powerpoint in front of an audience
Ken preparing to dive into duck plumage.

Did you know there are 154 species of ducks worldwide? 50 of those species can be found in North America, with 48 different species in Virginia and 28 right here in Arlington. 

Now, we covered A LOT in this deep dive, so I’m just going to pull out a couple fun facts.  

How do ducks stay dry? 

Did you ever think about this? I actually hadn’t until this talk, but it’s fascinating. Ducks have oil glands at the base of their tails. They use the oil from these glands to preen their feathers, which waterproofs their feathers and allows them to dabble or dive without getting wet. Ducklings have fluffy plumage which traps air and helps them stay buoyant above the water.  

Total eclipse of the feathers

One of my favorite facts was about “eclipse plumage.” When male ducks molt after breeding season, they acquire a temporary plumage that closely resembles the camouflaged plumage of female ducks. This helps to protect them from predators during the molt. If you look at a male mallard during his eclipse plumage, he looks almost identical to a female mallard! Want to spot the difference? While plumage color changes during molting, duck bill colors never do. So, the mallard’s yellow bill (as opposed to the female’s brown and orange bill) will give him away.   

Want to learn more (and catch a glimpse of some of Arlington’s unique ducks)? 

Ken recommended quite a few books, including: 

A stack of bird guide books

Interested in attending a deep dive? 

If you’re interested in learning more about the animals that surround us, I’d certainly recommend signing up for one of Ken’s deep dives in the future. (If you’re an ARMN member, any deep dive will count towards your CE credits.) They occur once a month on Thursday evenings and are $5 to attend. To look for upcoming talks, visit the events page on the Arlington Parks and Recreation website. Ken’s next deep dive will be Animal Meteorologists on Thursday, February 13th from 8:00 – 9:00 p.m. at Gulf Branch Nature Center. Check it out! 

In the meantime, if you’d like to take a look at some of our local ducks, good viewing locations are at Gravelly Point or Roaches Run.

ARMN: Getting to Know Peter Hansen

By Bill Browning and Peter Hansen

Peter Hansen is a recent graduate of the ARMN training class (Fall 2017). He became a Certified Master Naturalist the first year he was eligible and will receive this certificate at our upcoming March chapter meeting. I was able to sit down with Peter for conversation over a cup of tea in late January. I was looking forward to this conversation because Peter is part of the next generation for ARMN, and I’m anxious to see where he and his compatriots are able to lead us in the future. I was not disappointed. Here’s the essence of our conversation:

ARMN volunteer Peter sitting at a table holding a black snake while other volunteers stand behind him.
Peter volunteering at an Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing event. (Photo courtesy of Nina Janopaul.)

Tell us about the ARMN projects you spend time on.

Last year, I mostly volunteered at various nature center-run events in Arlington County. I helped out with World Migratory Bird Day at Lacy Woods Park, Firefly Festival at Fort C.F. Smith Park, and the Bat Fest and the Fall Heritage Festival at Gulf Branch Nature Center and Park. I think Arlington’s nature centers do a wonderful job creating arts and crafts projects that draw kids’ attention to nature. I love engaging the next generation of environmental stewards. I particularly enjoyed quizzing Bat Fest attendees about the animal sounds that color our evenings in Arlington. Though no one—not even my fellow Master Naturalist volunteers—could identify all the mystery sounds I played, many young attendees blew me away with their already expansive knowledge.

One especially meaningful aspect of partnering with Arlington’s nature centers was the opportunity to reach out to the Spanish-speaking community in Arlington. I assisted at the Long Branch table at the Latino Community Festival, and with the World Migratory Bird Day event, which was bilingual. Promoting inclusion is near and dear to my heart, and I support ARMN’s efforts to reach and represent the full diversity of people in our area. In a prior job at the Federal Reserve Board, I worked to increase diversity and inclusion in the fields of Economics and Finance. I look forward to transferring these skills to my volunteer work in the local community.

This year, I joined the ARMN Board of Directors as Secretary. I look forward to involvement in critical strategic decisions that shape the future of our organization. I also hope that my relative youth and experience reaching out to underrepresented groups might bring some useful perspectives. So far, it has been a sincere pleasure to collaborate with the experienced and highly competent members of the Board.

What has surprised you about ARMN?

Two things: First, the volunteer basic training covered more areas than I could have imagined. If a subject was at all related to anything in nature, we addressed it in class. Second, I have been pleasantly surprised that ARMN has a broader distribution of people from young to old and a better mix of men and women than I anticipated.

What do you like most about ARMN?

I like the credibility that the ARMN basic training class has given me. Because of my Master Naturalist certification, I am trusted, particularly by the staff at the nature centers, and am able to volunteer there in ways I otherwise could not have. For example, I can handle turtles and snakes to show kids and parents at events like the Latino Community Festival. It is so rewarding to introduce kids to animals that might seem a little scary at first and show that they are really excellent fellow neighbors.

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

I led hiking, canoe, and climbing trips at The College of William and Mary when I was a student there. Canoe trips were my favorite because we all experienced the river exactly the same, plus we didn’t have to carry everything on our persons like backpackers do (though I find backpacking to be super fun, too). While I love climbing, leading those trips was stressful because I had to focus on safety and spent most of the time setting anchors and belaying participants (i.e., making sure all climbers are safely suspended by a rope in case of a fall).

Leading trips is one of the main reasons I am a Master Naturalist today. Early on, a fellow trip leader named Adam Rotche inspired me with his knowledge of the natural world. The way he identified plants and animals and explained the world around us elevated the experience of being outdoors to a whole new level. Becoming a Master Naturalist allows me to build my own knowledge of the natural world and share that extra layer of color with the others outdoors.

What is your background?

I grew up in Arlington. I attended Glebe Elementary, Swanson Middle School, and Thomas Jefferson High School in Fairfax County, and as noted above, I graduated from William and Mary, where I studied Economics.

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

I coach youth basketball with a close friend. Currently, we’re working with a sixth-grade boys’ team. Coaching packs a world of challenges: different personalities, learning styles, skillsets, outside stressors, and more. But it’s so rewarding to watch the kids learn new skills, overcome adversity, and gel as a team. And though they may only be 11, they’re fun and smart and always entertaining.

Tell us something unusual about yourself.

I’ve been volunteering with ASPAN (the Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network) for most of my life. When I was five years old, my parents first took me to make and deliver food to people who are experiencing homelessness. I remember that in my first year or two, I was trusted with little more than dipping the bananas in lemon juice to prevent browning. They give me a little more responsibility these days.

Volunteering for such a long time on a single project is an experience that I would highly recommend. I’ve watched as the population we served swelled to a peak during the Great Recession, then decreased significantly with the improving economy and the opening of a new ASPAN shelter. I’ve also gotten to know some of the homeless people in our community. I think most people would be surprised to find out how smart, well-informed, and friendly most of our clients are. The forces that push an individual into homelessness are far more complex than many realize. Even after 20 years of serving this community, I have barely begun to understand it.

ARMN: Getting to Know Emily Ferguson

ARMN’s Membership Committee posts occasional 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 Emily Ferguson, who graduated from our training class in Spring 2010. Many of our members already know her because she currently teaches tree identification as part of the Basic Training class. If you know someone else in ARMN with an interesting story and think others might be interested, please contact Bill Browning (browningwh@gmail.com) or Alison Sheahan (ab.sheahan@verizon.net).

Tell us about the ARMN projects you spend time on.

Besides teaching the basic tree ID section for the ARMN training class, I’m involved with stream monitoring at Lubber Run and Barcroft parks as well as the salamander patrols at Gulf Branch and Long Branch nature centers. I have a lot of fun with the patrols as I think vernal pools are really cool. I also have helped with tree inventories at Fort Meyer and at Columbia Gardens Cemetery on Route 50 (http://www.columbiagardenscemetery.org/).

This year teaching the incoming ARMN class, I was surprised and honored to teach the Tree ID and Botany sections.  I learn something from the students in the class every time I teach, which makes the experience even more rewarding.

Photo of ARMN Member Emily Ferguson teaching tree ID

Emily explaining features of tree bark during March 19, 2018 Basic Training field trip. Photo courtesy of Oliver Torres.

What brought you to ARMN?

When I moved to Northern Virginia, I was starting a job with the EPA to work on the “superfund” program and I knew I would be stepping away from nature. I knew I needed another connection to nature. So, I went looking for something like ARMN and I was glad to find it. Walking around Arlington, the trees looked so different to me. They were all street trees or had been planted out of their natural environment. Rod Simmons, the Alexandria City Natural Resource Manager and Plant Ecologist, taught the tree ID section when I took the Basic Training and confirmed that the trees weren’t different or new. I needed to re-calibrate my eyes because the trees weren’t in the mountain habitats I knew.

What do you like most about ARMN and what has surprised you?

I like the number of activities you can get involved in. There are bird walks, seed cleanings, plant sales, and invasive pulls. I think what I like most is that people are very open to sharing their knowledge. ARMN is so broad. You can find a walk or lecture to learn or explore about almost any aspect of nature that you’re interested in.

 

Photo 2

Emily leading tree ID field trip in Riverbend Park in January 2017. Photo courtesy of Toni Genberg.

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

When I was 15 and attending high school in Bermuda, I dropped biology. Soon after that, my mother took a class to become a tour guide at the local botanical gardens. She taught me about pencil trees (Euphorbia tirucalli) and I challenged myself to identify them when we were driving around. Much to my parents’ horror, these trees were scattered around the island and I pointed them out on every drive we took around the island, which was probably really annoying. I even got my brother to play along.

Since I graduated from the Bermuda High School at the age of sixteen, my parents decided to send me to boarding school in New Jersey for two years. There, I enrolled in ”baby bio” followed by Advanced Placement biology so that I could load up on biology before heading to college because I loved this tree stuff. For the first time, biology made sense and I helped classmates prep for tests.

What is your background?

I attended Rhodes College (http://www.rhodes.edu/) in Memphis, TN where I earned a BS in biology. I also earned my master’s degree in biology (botany and trees) from the University of South Florida in Tampa (http://www.usf.edu/). My mentor and advisor for my thesis wrote the Guide to the Vascular Plants of Florida (http://florida.plantatlas.usf.edu/) and I used to pester him with my irritation at the way he characterized some of the plants.

My parents were not outdoorsy. They sent me to a summer camp in Vermont each year for a month where I first saw the “white dark” (or fog) and hiked in a deciduous forest. I was captivated, but it was not all smooth. One summer my parents sent me to an expedition camp in Pennsylvania, we set out on a weeklong hiking and camping trip. I wanted to dump the 45-pound pack, ditch the other campers, and hitchhike to my uncle’s house in New Jersey where I knew he lived. I didn’t. I stuck it out and ended up having a great time.

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

My husband is an ultrarunner. When I started running with him, I learned if you can’t see the top of the hill you can walk up to prevent yourself from overdoing it and focus running the downhill and flat portions of the runs. This approach works great for me. The one thing I like more than running is looking at plants. So, when I run with him, I run downhill and look at plants on the uphill. I’m always walking off the sides of the trail to check out the plants or break off a piece to look at later, much to his surprise.

I’m also my brother’s favorite snorkeling or diving partner. He wants to see the rays and sharks, while I like to drift along just looking at variety of color and beauty under the ocean. Recently, we swam with a manta ray, some white tipped reef sharks, a school of mobula rays, and a school of hammerhead sharks while on a trip through the Galapagos Islands.

Tell us something unusual about yourself.

I always carry a hand lens. Recently, I set up my boom microscope and immediately had to run outside to grab some twigs. I brought them inside to check out under my scope and got lost looking at the delicate beauty of the bud scales and flowers.

A Bright Outlook for Citizen Science in Arlington

by Louis Harrell

“The joy of looking and comprehending is nature’s most beautiful gift.” – Albert Einstein

Citizen Science is defined as “the collection and analysis of data relating to the natural world by members of the general public, typically as part of a collaborative project with professional scientists.” Why is it important? It offers many benefits both to residents of a community and local natural resource programs. While there are many citizen science opportunities in the region at large, this piece focuses on how citizens may participate in research projects in Arlington County, improve their knowledge of the local environment, and identify species resident in the County. The County gets to use the expertise of citizens to accomplish needed projects that might otherwise be delayed due to resource constraints.

What can we look forward to in the near future?  A bright outlook for citizen science!

Arlington’s First Bioblitz

 Arlington Bioblitz logo

On May 20, ARMN will be supporting the first Arlington’s Bioblitz as a key focus project for 2017. This 24-hour survey is the first of a series of annual surveys designed to document the plants and animals present in a number of parks in the county. Data collected will be used as part of the Arlington Natural Resource Management plan. Experts will provide support and advice to volunteers who will document local species.

The mammal survey component of the bioblitz will look for proof of locally rare species. Game cameras will be used to monitor species and volunteers will be needed to review photos. An entomologist will support volunteers who will collect, preserve, and send bee samples to other entomologists for additional study. Other insects will also be surveyed. Ornithologists and expert birders will conduct bird walks. Any unusual nesting activity may be included in the Virginia Breeding Bird Atlas.

Surveys of bats, fish, salamanders, and other amphibians and reptiles are also planned.  Among the locations where you can sign up to participate in the bioblitz are: Barcroft Park, Gulf Branch Park and Nature Center, Long Branch Nature Center at Glencarlyn Park, and Potomac Overlook Regional Park.  The full list of projects and more information is provided here.  Alonso Abugattas has also published an article about the BioBlitz on his Capital Naturalist blog: http://capitalnaturalist.blogspot.com/2017/04/arlington-bioblitz.html.

There are many other projects that are longer-term and often part of a national scope. All offer participants the opportunity to deepen their knowledge of the environment and do significant field work. Below are some projects that focus on deer, birds, insects, and plants.

Deer Browse Surveys

Deer browse surveys are underway within Glencarlyn Park and Barcroft Park. Additional studies are being planned that will use existing trees and fences to create temporary deer exclosures. The exclosures will allow collection of data using different methodologies than currently used.

Game camera surveys can also be conducted over a long period to capture photos of locally rare species and monitor trends in more common mammals.

Ornithology Projects Including the Annual Christmas Bird Count

Photo of Yellow-rumped warbler (Setophaga coronate)

Yellow-rumped warbler (Setophaga coronate)

There are many wonderful citizen science bird programs, too. These include the very popular Christmas Bird Count, sponsored by the National Audubon Society in which volunteer birdwatchers contribute to the annual census of birds during the winter. Another opportunity is the eBird Project, co-sponsored by the Cornell Ornithology Lab and Audubon. It is an online database of bird observations in which anyone can enter bird lists to monitor bird species in their area or map overall abundance of a species in an area over time. There is also the Breeding Bird Atlas of Virginia program.  The second Virginia Breeding Bird Atlas (VABBA2) is a follow-up survey to the first Atlas that was published over 25 years ago and surveys all bird species breeding in the state. Data collected will help map the distribution and status of Virginia’s breeding bird community in order to provide better information for natural resource and conservation decisions.

Insect Citizen Science Projects

Photo of Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus)

Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus)

The North American Butterfly Association conducts a butterfly count in July.  The Pollinator Partnership sponsors National Pollinator Week in June to collect data on pollinators including bees and monarch butterflies and generally to celebrate pollinators and spread the word about what can be done to protect them. National Moth Week takes place in the last week in July and celebrates the beauty, life cycles, and habitats of moths. People of all ages and abilities are encouraged to learn about, observe, and document moths in their backyards, parks, and neighborhoods. There are between 60 and 70 moth species in Arlington already recorded but even more species could be identified!

Plant Citizen Science Opportunities

Photo of Bee balm (Monarda didyma)

Bee balm (Monarda didyma)

 

Botanists and plant lovers of all levels will also have opportunities. Arlington County is developing some exciting projects:  The Arlington Herbarium needs to be digitized in order to improve the usefulness of the collection for analysis and voucher specimens need to be collected for the State Atlas.

Whatever your interest in nature, there is probably a local or national citizen science project in which you can participate.  Go outside, look, learn, and share!

Getting to Know Ann Ulmschneider

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 ARMN member, Ann Ulmschneider, who graduated in the Spring 2010 training class. Alison Sheahan conducted the interview.

Photo of ARMN member Ann Ulmschneider

Ann Ulmschneider.

What brought you to ARMN in the first place?

I always had a really strong interest in nature and science. A friend at church, Mary Pike, told me about ARMN and it sounded like a really good thing to do. I immediately became interested in the service projects with children because of my background.

Which is…?

I have a master’s degree in Child Development. When I first earned my degree I became the director of a child care facility in Fairfax and eventually taught parent education classes for Fairfax County Public Schools. This led to my 30-year career with FCPS Family and School Partnerships, an organization that helps schools engage parents, especially families of English Language Learners and other underserved families. I continued to teach children in various volunteer capacities and enjoyed raising our three daughters but once they were no longer young, I missed children and began to look for other opportunities to be with them.

At ARMN, which child-centered activities do you enjoy?

I lead birthday parties at both Long Branch and Gulf Branch Nature Centers. I usually do them with a partner, Mary Ellen Snyder. We work well together as a team and enjoy each other’s company.

I also work at Green Spring Gardens in Annandale, leading groups of school children during the week on planned field trips that align with Virginia’s Standards of Learning (SOL). I do the station on frogs and toads for “Metamorphosis and More,” focused on life cycles. For “Fantastic Flora and Fauna” I lead a walk in the woods looking for examples.

Photo of ARMN memeber Ann Ulmschneider

Ann teaching first graders about trees at Green Spring Gardens.

I like that both of these activities involve regular hours and have kept me in contact with groups who need leaders on a regular basis. It’s not hard to make my 40 service hours (needed for annual master naturalist certification)! Also, it helps me to keep learning. Any time I have to lead a group like this, I need to learn ahead of the kids. Understanding the information on a basic level (for instance through the books at the children’s section of a library) has been really helpful to me and less intimidating than learning lots of detail. It’s also pushed me to step out of my comfort zone, so that I recently offered a family program on squirrels for Arlington County’s “SNAG” program. I tried other activities with ARMN over the years like Stream Monitoring and the Bug Lab but I have discovered that I’m not that kind of scientist or naturalist. I’m more of a teacher and I like connecting with the families and children at the nature centers.

What was it about your childhood or other early background that you think fed these interests?

When I was a girl, my best friend and I loved to go roaming in an extensive wooded lot in our neighborhood in Cincinnati, Ohio. In middle grades, I remember going almost every day. We just walked around and went to our “hiding place” (which was probably covered with invasive vines!). I don’t remember particular observations of animals or plants, I just remember loving to be there, surrounded by the trees. To this day, the smell of the woods is imprinted on me, very positively. Then when my husband and I first met we did lots of hiking together and in 1980-82, we began taking classes at the National Arboretum on trees, wildflowers, and ferns. In 2000, I joined the Northern Virginia Bird Club and began to gain knowledge of local birds. I am still a member there along with many other ARMN members.

In summary, what do you like most about ARMN?

It allows me to combine my love of nature and working with kids and families of many cultures, and it lets me keep learning. To me, it’s satisfying just to know information about what we are seeing all around us. In Arlington, we’ve been able to preserve our little swaths of green, and we have this unique mix of people from all over the world who can enjoy it. That’s a great combination and I feel lucky to be a part of it.

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!

2017 Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service Opportunities

mlk-photo

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 both for the weekend prior to MLK Day as well as the official holiday, Monday January 16, 2017. 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
Friday Jan 13 Marie Butler Leven Preserve, Fairfax County

 

1–3pm Matt Bright

RSVP/confirm

Saturday Jan 14 Nauck Woods, Arlington 10am–Noon Nora Palmatier RSVP/confirm
Saturday Jan 14 Fraser Preserve, Fairfax County Noon–3pm Margaret Chatham

RSVP/confirm

Saturday Jan 14 Madison Manor Park, Arlington 1–4pm Jo Allen
Saturday Jan 14 Gulf Branch Park, Arlington 2–4:30pm Jennifer Soles
Sunday Jan 15 Long Branch Park, Arlington 2–4pm Steve Young
Monday Jan 16 Culpepper Gardens, Arlington 10am–3pm Linda Y. Kelleher RSVP/confirm

 

Monday Jan 16 Nauck Woods, Arlington 10am–Noon Nora Palmatier RSVP/confirm

 

Monday Jan 16 Dora Kelley Nature Park, Alexandria (N. Morgan St. entrance near N. Beauregard St.) 10:15am–12:15pm And/OR

1–3pm

Mary Farrah

RSVP/confirm

Thank you!

Chestnut Planting Update

In December 2013, Arlington County Forester Vincent Verweij supervised the planting of 20 American Chestnut (Castanea dentata) saplings in a number of locations in the county. The saplings, which had been grown at the Earth Sangha nursery in Springfield, were planted in small groups at Benjamin Banneker Park, Bluemont Park, Fort C.F. Smith, Fort Scott, Glencarlyn Park, Gulf Branch and Long Branch Nature Centers, and an experimental site along Route 50. They represented a tangible hope that the iconic American tree might be restored to areas in which it once thrived. (See the February 5, 2014, ARMN in Action post for the original story.)

As the second anniversary of the chestnut planting approached, Verweij checked on all the planting sites to evaluate how they had fared in the past two years. Here are his notes (and photos) from his visits:

Benjamin Banneker: One survivor, doing great!

American Chestnut

Bluemont: One survivor. Got chomped by deer, but still alive.

Bluemont

Fort C.F. Smith: Could not find surviving trees, but it was not an ideal spot for chestnuts. Did find one twig that appeared to be American Chestnut, without life on it.

Fort Scott: Could not find any either.  Also hard to investigate.

Glencarlyn: Found one survivor. Doing well, but heavily foraged. Gives me some hope that some of the insects that coevolved with chestnuts are still around. More heavily foraged than anything around it.

Glencarlyn Forage

Gulf Branch: At least one survivor, doing well.

Gulf Branch

Long Branch: Could not find any surviving trees. Hard to investigate the site.

Route 50: Mowed over, despite putting in stakes. Figured this would happen, but it was worth a shot.

Verweij pointed out that the the discovery of 4 surviving trees out of 20 planted was “about as good/bad as I expected, to be honest.” His findings seem to validate the dispersed-planting strategy that was used back in 2013. Dispersal, apparently, did create a variety of growing conditions that allowed some of the pioneering saplings to be successful.

Fingers (leaves?) crossed for the survivors!

Got CabIn Fever? Try the Invasives-Pull Cure!

Barcroft workgroup posed with ARMN banner

Photo by Jim Hurley

Does this grinding winter weather have you feeling cooped up and claustrophobic? Get out and get moving at one of March’s scheduled invasive pulls. Take out your frustrations on plants that don’t belong in our area’s lovely parks. Dress for the weather, wear rugged shoes or boots, and bring your own gloves and drinking water.

The public is welcome to join the efforts of ARMN members and others at any of these events. Those with a * occur regularly. If the weather is iffy, contact the listed organizer for event status.

*First Saturday HOG (Haley Park, Oakridge, Gunston) Pull, March 7

2400 S. Meade St., Arlington, 9 to 11 am                                                                             Contact Marti Klein: cummingslc@aol.com

Monticello Park Invasives Pull, March 7 & 8

320 Beverly Drive, Alexandria, 1 to 3 pm Saturday & 2 to 4 pm Sunday                             Contact Phil Klingelhofer:  phil.klingelhofer@gmail.com

*Second Sunday Gulf Branch Park Invasives Pull, March 8

3608 Military Rd., Arlington, 2 to 4:30 pm                                                                             Contact Jen Soles: jsoles@arlingtonva.us

*Third Saturday Tuckahoe Invasives Pull, March 21

6550 26th St. N., Arlington, 10 am to 12 pm                                                                       Meet at school parking lot.                                                                                                   Contact Mary McLean: marydmclean@verizon.net

*Third Saturday Madison Manor Park Invasives Pull, March 21

6625 12th Rd. N., Arlington, 2 to 4 pm                                                                                 Contact  Jo Allen: jo.allen.f2014@gmail.com

*Third Sunday Long Branch Park Invasives Pull, March 15

625 S. Carlin Springs Rd., Arlington, 2 to 5 pm                                                                     Contact Steve Young: frazmo@gmail.com

*Fourth Sunday Fort Bennett Park Invasives Pull, March 22

2200 N. Scott St., Arlington, 10 am to 12 pm                                                                       Contact Mary McCutcheon: mmccutcheon@gmu.edu

*Fourth Saturday Benjamin Banneker Park Invasives Pull, March 28

6620 18th St. N., Arlington, 10 am to 12 pm                                                                       Contact Eric Sword: ericsword@gmail.com

Powhatan Springs Park Invasives Pull, March 28

6020 Wilson Boulevard, 10 am to 12 pm                                                                          Contact Bill Browning: browningwh@gmail.com