Are you a landowner in the Virginia Working Landscapes study area? Are you interested in knowing which birds use your property, or how plant pollinators respond to your management practices? Would you like to know how the biodiversity on your piece of the world compares to the landscape beyond your boundaries?
Each year Virginia Working Landscapes works with landowners who join our network in order to learn about biodiversity and conservation on private, working farms in Virginia. In many cases, landowners are interested in VWL conducting our suite of biodiversity surveys on their properties. Our surveys help us better understand the factors that affect our region’s biodiversity and may be useful in informing best management practices for each landowner.
Since the inception of our project in 2010 we have performed surveys on over 160 properties in Central and Northern Virginia. VWL survey teams often consist of our staff or our research collaborators. VWL also relies on trained citizen science volunteers, who each year contribute thousands of hours of labor to our projects.
At the end of each survey season VWL compiles a summary report documenting the species observed on each property and provides the report to the landowner. By using the same monitoring protocols across many properties VWL can examine relationships between land-management and native species biodiversity across a large study area and across many years. In the long-term, such studies help scientists understand the present state of nature and may help us predict the future of our region’s landscapes.
Click here to view a 2018 Summary Report example: This is the 2018 Biodiversity Survey Report for The Clifton Institute, where we performed breeding bird, grassland plant, bumblebee pollinator, and soil surveys.
To find out if your property is a fit for VWL biodiversity surveys, or to ask questions about our work, please contact SCBIVWL@si.edu or call the VWL Survey Coordinator at (540) 635-0073.
The following are surveys we conduct on private properties that are contributing data to current VWL research projects. Not all surveys will be conducted at each property and suitable surveys for each property will be determined by a site visit from VWL staff.
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).
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.