Workshop and Seminar Summaries

Workshop and Seminar Summaries

VWL hosts expert-led workshops every year and we would like to share what we learn with our community. 

Virginia Working Landscapes hosted the workshop, "Winter Wildlife Habitat," at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) on November 22, 2019. The morning included lectures from Dr. Amy Johnson (Virginia Working Landscapes) and Dr. T'ai Roulson (Blandy Experimental Farm) on topics such as how to support overwintering birds, what pollinators need during winter months, and how you can help wildlife in winter. Participants spend the afternoon at Jones Nature Preserve to see some winter habitat features.

Click here to read a summary of the workshop and to learn more about how you can support wildlife in winter on your property.




Virginia Working Landscapes hosted the free event, "The Buzz on Bugs," at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute on June 13, 2019. We were proud to host emerging scientist, Dr. Ashley Kennedy (co-creator of the crowd-sourced project “What Do Birds Eat?” and protégé of the renowned author Doug Tallamy) as she discussed the findings of her work studying bird diets. Afterwards, we screened the humorous and poignant documentary short "The Love Bugs" by filmmakers Allison Otto and Maria Clinton. This 30-minute film explored in touching detail a couple’s devotion to insects, science, and each other as they prepared to donate their life’s work (the largest private collection of insect specimens) to a museum.

We also enlisted the help of partners like The Clifton Institute and Virginia Master Naturalists to bring additional educational and display materials to drive home the message that insects are amazing creatures that we depend on for a variety of important services. After all, arthropods pollinate almost two-thirds of all flowering plants, decompose leaf litter and wood debris to form humus, and underpin complex food webs in almost every region they inhabit. Recently, Virginia Working Landscapes undertook a pilot survey to begin a new research program to study these charismatic little critters, which has already generated some "buzz" online. The purpose of this event was to share more stories about the world of insect research and foster discussions about the many ways they contribute to our lives.

Click here to read a summary of the lecture portion of the event and learn more about how you can help birds and bugs at the same time.


Ashley Kennedy is a Science Policy Fellow of the Entomological Society of America, a board-certified medical entomologist, and a member of the Delaware Native Species Commission. She graduated from Johns Hopkins University in 2009; between her undergraduate and graduate studies, she completed internships at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, the National Zoo, and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute. Her master’s project at the University of Delaware focused on planthopper taxonomy, describing several new species and genera in the process. She recently received her PhD in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware in Doug Tallamy's lab.

Allison Otto is an award-winning documentary filmmaker, cinematographer, visual journalist, a two-time Telluride Mountain film Commitment Grant recipient, and a 2018 co-recipient of the Roy W Dean From The Heart grant. Her clients have included National Geographic, the BBC, CNN, and Lonely Planet. Allison graduated from Stanford with a bachelor’s in Communications and master’s in Sociology.

Maria Clinton is a filmmaker, photographer, and an adjunct film professor based in New York. Maria is a 2018 Telluride Mountain film Commitment Grant recipient and a 2018 co-recipient of the Roy W Dean From The Heart grant. Her clients have included NBC, CNN’s Great Big Story, and nonprofit organizations. As a filmmaker, her work focuses on sharing untold stories from underrepresented, shattering stereotypes, and reconstructing the narratives.

Virginia Working Landscapes hosted the workshop, "The Future of our Forests," at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) on September 29, 2018. This workshop aimed to share the latest local research on forest and watershed health. Dr. Walter Carson of the University of Pittsburgh and Jenny McGarvey of the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay presented talks about their work to understand and protect forested ecosystems; afterward, Dr. Bill McShea led a walking tour of SCBI's research forest.

Click here to read a summary of the seminar portion of the workshop and to learn more about the threats facing forests and how to protect forest biodiversity.

The Blue Ridge PRISM, much like VWL, is a collaborative information-sharing network that connects an enthusiastic community of landowners, natural resource professionals, and other conservation-minded individuals. Today, many landowners struggle to mitigate the negative impacts of invasive plants on their property, and so the Blue Ridge PRISM holds meetings and lectures that aim to enable landowners to restore, conserve, and/or preserve Virginia’s natural heritage.

Click here to read a summary of the meeting and to learn more about invasive plants and restoration techniques. Meeting presentations are also downloadable in note form. Click here for Blue Ridge PRISM's presentation and here for Rod Simmon's presentation.


Dr. Travis Belote, a research ecologist for The Wilderness Society presented his talk “Wild, connected, and diverse” at the Smithsonian Mason School of Conservation on Tuesday, February 27. He presented an assessment of U.S. protected areas, which was conducted in order to facilitate the protection of the wildest unprotected lands.

Click here to read a summary of his seminar and to learn more about how we can create a connected network of protected areas that better represent biodiversity.

Travis Belote has served as a research ecologist in the Northern Rockies Office of The Wilderness Society in Bozeman, MT since 2009. His research focuses on understanding ecosystems to inform conservation and adaptive management under increasing pressures of global change (including land use, climate change, and invasive species). He completed an M.S. at the University of Tennessee, Ph.D. at Virginia Tech, and postdoctoral research with the USGS in Flagstaff, AZ.



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Virginia Working Landscapes
Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute
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