Information for Landowners

VWL staff and a team of SCBI scientists, graduate students, interns, and citizen scientists conduct biodiversity surveys on over 150 properties in our 15 county study region in the Piedmont and Northern Valley (from Albemarle and Augusta in the south to Frederick and Loudoun in the north). These surveys help us better understand the factors that affect the region’s biodiversity and also to develop best land management practices for people and wildlife.

Every year, we recruit and welcome additional landowners whose properties serve as new sites for our biodiversity surveys. At the end of each season we provide landowners a summary of species observed on their property. Taken together, data from each of these farms will be analyzed as part of a larger study on the relationship between land-management and native species biodiversity and long-term studies that will utilize this data to predict the future of our region’s landscapes.

For information on specific biodiversity surveys please see the descriptions below. If you are interested in finding out if your property is suitable for biodiversity surveys, or are just looking for more information, please contact Charlotte Lorick at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or (540) 635-0038.


Bumble Bee Surveys

For bumble bee surveys, the survey goal is to determine species occurrence and diversity. Bumble bees are vital pollinators and their diversity is a good indicator of a healthy mix of field and forest and grassland plant species richness. In this survey, field team members place one blue vane trap filled with propylene glycol (a non-toxic preservative) at each survey site, located at least 100 meters from a forest edge. Team members collect the specimens from the traps four times during the survey period. After collection, bees are washed, dried, sorted and sent to UVA’s Blandy Experimental Farm to be identified.

Grassland Bird Surveys

The breeding bird survey was designed to investigate the relationship between grassland birds and both plant diversity and structure during the nesting season. For this survey, field team members sample breeding birds using a point count method for 10 minute intervals and identify each bird seen or heard within 100 meters of each survey pole. One survey site is defined by three poles (labeled A, B, and C) which are placed at least 100 meters from the forest edge and approximately 200 meters from each other. Each survey site is visited three times, with three point counts conducted during each visit (totaling nine point counts for each site).

Grassland Plant Surveys

The goal of the grassland plant survey is to determine the plant species composition of each site to provide insight on native species richness. In this survey, field team members identify plant species along a transect at each site defined by three poles (labeled A, B, and C) to determine plant species occurrence and diversity. Each transect consists of seven 1 m2 plots totaling 21 plots per transect. Sites are visited twice, once in the spring (June) and once in the summer (August).

Mammal Surveys

eMammal is a wildlife image program run by the Smithsonian Institution designed to study the effects of human activity on mammal distributions. Since 2014, the eMammal team has surveyed large and small forests along an urbanization gradient (wild, exurban, suburban and urban) in Virginia. Virginia’s forest fragments are mostly privately owned, so the eMammal team has partnered with VWL to detect mammals on select VWL network properties. For this survey, Reconyx hyperfire cameras are deployed at each survey location for three weeks between May and November. Cameras are spaced a minimum of 200 meters apart and are placed both within forest fragments and in old fields. After three weeks, the cameras are retrieved, wildlife photos are identified, and the images and metadata are uploaded into a Smithsonian digital repository. The data from this effort will support research working to understand how wildlife are impacted by land use.

Invasive Plant Surveys

The invasive plant survey was developed to help document the spread of exotic species across the landscape. At each site, VWL staff will record the presence of a select list of invasive plant species along a 100 meter transect surveyed in 10 meter segments. All transects are at least 60 m from the forest edge. Additional forest composition data are collected that account for differences in forest type and age.

Salamander Surveys

The salamander survey was developed to measure stream and riparian forest buffer health as well as forest habitat quality. Although salamanders are often difficult to find, they can serve as ecological indicators, revealing the habitat quality of the local forest and the health of the watershed. Therefore, we are interested in comparing their diversity in rural forested, rural agricultural, and exurban agricultural watersheds. At each site, VWL staff record the presence of all salamanders along 2 15 meter streamside transect. All salamanders, including larvae, are recorded to species and released where they are found on site.  Each survey site is visited three times across the spring or fall season.

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Virginia Working Landscapes
Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute
1500 Remount Road
Front Royal, Virginia 22630
 
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
540.635.0038