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

Wildlife In Winter Workshop

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.

The Buzz On Bugs: A Free Lecture And Film Screening

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 authorDoug 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.

PRESENTER BIOS

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, About.com and nonprofit organizations. As a filmmaker, her work focuses on sharing untold stories from underrepresented, shattering stereotypes, and reconstructing the narratives.

VWL SUMMARY: REGIONAL GRAZING CONFERENCE

Regional Grazing ConferenceMountains-to-the-Bay Grazing AllianceThursday, January 11, 2018

VWL aims to stay up to date on the most prevalent topics surrounding landscape ecology and management. In attending the Regional Grazing Conference, VWL staff learned about regenerative grazing practices and the important role microbes play in soil health.

The conference began with a lecture from keynote speaker Gabe Brown, a North Dakota multi-species farmer and rancher who prioritizes soil health to improve production and quality of his family’s 5,000 acre operation. While North Dakota may seem foreign to Virginia and Maryland locals, Brown pointed out that no matter where you farm, soil is one thing every farmer has in common and a most important consideration when managing land. Rather than following his neighbors’ conventional farming methods, Brown implements a high stock density (rotational) grazing and no-till cropping system designed to reflect nature. His diverse cover crop and adaptive grazing techniques allow for his soil to maintain and distribute high levels of organic matter, unlike his neighbors. Brown also emphasized the importance of the carbon cycle, detailing how his practices contribute to the cycle and rejuvenate his land. Many ranchers and farmers till, bushhog, hay, and spray pesticides excessively, which reduces soil moisture and results in fewer nutrients for plants and animals. While Brown highlighted the financial gains from his adaptive and holistic techniques, he also stressed how these practices will help ensure the longevity of his family’s farm and ranch. Farming and ranching are by no means a natural process, but there are many ways to ensure that your operation is profiting while also regenerating depleted land.

Second keynote speaker Nicole Masters, an agroecologist and director of Integrity Soils, focused on microbes and microorganisms that are often undervalued by farmers and ranchers and yet should be a key consideration in farm management. Soils depend on a web of key players – bacteria, fungi, nematodes, algae, and more – to maintain structure, retain water, distribute organic matter and nutrients, suppress disease, and carry out many other tasks. In order to care for your farming and ranching operation, you must care for your soil and consider the important relationships between the soil, plants, and above ground management. Masters cautioned that practices such as excessive tilling, pesticide use, soil compaction, and overgrazing, are detrimental to helpful microbes and thus to soil health. She presented several case studies to illustrate how regenerative techniques including adding various mixtures of organic matter back to the soil can restore the health of depleted lands and provide suitable habitat for beneficial microbes. Finally, Masters concluded her talk by encouraging local farmers and ranchers to diversify their crops, avoid bare ground and overgrazing, feed microbes and microorganisms, and improve root systems through species selection and above-ground management.

The conference concluded with a Q&A farmer’s panel. Both keynote speakers, Michael Phillips (VA beef producer), Keith Ohlinger (MD multi-species grazing farmer), and Forrest Stricker (PA dairy producer) fielded questions from the audience. There were several inquiries about strategies for new and inexperienced farmers, grazing techniques, cover crop composition, options for soil testing, and why regenerative farming matters. While members of the farmer’s panel had different goals, they all agreed that it is important for every farmer, whether established or just starting out, to utilize regenerative methods such as rotational grazing, diversifying crops and livestock, and monitoring the soil. They also encouraged new farmers to surround themselves with a support group and find experienced farmer mentors in order to learn more about regenerative farming techniques and observe first-hand the important benefits of those practices that many farmers are experiencing.

Thank you to the Mountains-to-the-Bay Grazing Alliance for organizing this informative and interesting conference. Events like these are essential to spreading knowledge about sustainable land-use practices, and VWL is grateful to be a part of this community.


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Virginia Working Landscapes
Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute
1500 Remount Road
Front Royal, Virginia 22630

SCBIVWL@si.edu
540.635.0038

www.nationalzoo.si.edu