Category: Education

Field Notes

A Prickly Problem

October 5, 2022 - By Ellen Powell, VDOF Conservation Education Coordinator Did you know that one of Virginia’s State Forests was established specifically for research on a single species? That site is the Lesesne State Forest, located at the base of Three Ridges Mountain in Nelson County. The species is the iconic American chestnut (Castanea dentata). American chestnut was once so abundant and ecologically important that it was considered a foundation species. But in... Read More

Field Notes

Far-Flung Seeds

September 21, 2022 - By Ellen Powell, VDOF Conservation Education Coordinator Plants are endlessly fascinating. Not only do they make their own food out of water, air, and light, but some lead exciting lives that put James Bond to shame. Theirs is a world of hostile takeovers, pollination trickery, chemical warfare, and ingenious travel methods. I may have a minor obsession with how seeds move from place to place, given that this is my... Read More

Field Notes

Native Plants for Hummingbirds

July 21, 2022 - By Ellen Powell, VDOF Conservation Education Coordinator You’re working in the garden when you notice a low-pitched hum, and you look around for its source. Could it be a territorial carpenter bee? A clumsy June beetle? Someone’s tiny, wayward drone? No, it’s a hummingbird – our favorite feathered pollinator! The ruby-throated hummingbird is the only species that breeds in the East, although you might see an occasional rufous hummingbird during... Read More

Field Notes

The Ant-Plant Connection

May 19, 2022 - By Ellen Powell, VDOF Conservation Education Coordinator Readers of my Field Notes posts will know that I like to introduce nerdy words. Today I have two: elaiosome (pronounced eh-LIE-uh-sohm) and myrmecochory (pronounced mer-me-ko-CORE-e). Together they describe a fascinating connection between ants and plants. Myrmecochory is a seed dispersal strategy used by some familiar plants. It means their seeds are carried away by ants! Myrmecochorous seeds have attached structures called elaiosomes.... Read More

Field Notes

A Park, a Planting, a Partnership

April 18, 2022 - By Delaney Beattie, VDOF Riparian Buffer Specialist- James River Buffer Program At Greene County Community Park, partners recently came together for the simple act of planting a tree. Thirty trees and shrubs, to be exact – and there are more to come. Greene County Community Park covers 70 acres and is the only public park in Greene County. The land is mostly open fields, but Quarter Creek runs through the... Read More

Field Notes

A Pollinator Primer

March 28, 2022 - By Scott Bachman, VDOF Senior Area Forester Recently, I attended the Virginia Association of Forest Health Professionals meeting held in Staunton, VA.  There were many great topics discussed over the day and a half long conference.  I will admit I was there for the pesticide recertification credits I could earn. You never know what you will get when you attend a pesticide recertification meeting, but this agenda was quite varied... Read More

Field Notes

Springtime in February?

February 11, 2022 - By Ellen Powell, VDOF Conservation Education Coordinator   Nothing says springtime like birds carrying food to the young in their nests. Wait, it’s not spring; it’s February. Birds aren’t nesting yet…or are they? Most birds do wait until warmer months to begin raising young. One reason is better availability of high quality food for the nestlings. Almost all of our songbirds and gamebirds feed their young insects, a high protein... Read More

Field Notes

How Do Trees Survive the Winter?

February 3, 2022 - By Cory Swift-Turner, VDOF Public Information Specialist – Have you ever looked at a tree covered in snow and wondered, how do trees survive cold winters? Trees face several challenges to their survival in the winter, including scarce liquid water, freezing temperatures and strong winds. To meet these challenges, trees have developed a number of adaptations to help them make it to the next spring. Since the harsh, dry conditions... Read More

Field Notes

A Natural Partnership

January 25, 2022 - By Ellen Powell, VDOF Conservation Education Coordinator This is a tale of partnership, program creation, and a great idea brought to life. Early in 2004, Dr. Jeff Kirwan of Virginia Tech heard about a new volunteer program that had taken root in several states – one with enormous potential benefit for Virginia’s natural resources. In a matter of weeks, he pulled together a group of seven motivated worker bees and... Read More

Field Notes

Praise for Fallen Leaves

December 15, 2021 - By Ellen Powell, VDOF Conservation Education Coordinator December is here – time to look forward to gifts, family visits, amazing food, and some welcome time off work. Raking leaves doesn’t rank very high on the December fun meter. But think of those fallen leaves as free mulch, there for the taking in this season of spending. Maybe you think of mulch as the chopped wood chips or bark that comes... Read More