A Final Farewell

May is a month for new beginnings. I am about to finish my first year at college, marking the last time I will ever be a freshman (hopefully). In just one week, seniors will be graduating and beginning their new journey as real adults. And even the trees are beginning to bloom and start their new cycle. My phenology spot is no exception. Buds are showing and the grass is growing here. It is an exciting time, phenologically, and I am glad I was able to witness it. The only tree I was able to identify was the birch tree that my good friend Aaron is so kindly hugging.

Aaron hugging a blooming birch tree

In thinking about the end of my time at my phenology spot, I have been thinking quite a bit about my place within it. While I only come and go once a month, I feel as though I have left a sort of mark. While I am avid about practicing LNT (Leave No Trace for those of you that are unfamiliar with that terminology), I know that my presence has still made an impact. Even if it was as simple as moving a branch or

Grass growing around the trees

stepping on a twig, I know that I was felt by all the species in this spot. One thing I learned in my Intro to Environmental Studies class is that you can never do just one thing. This means that I can never simply enter and exit the natural area with no impact; every action has a subsequent reaction. And while I may never know what that reaction was, it could have been stepping on and killing a small bug or scaring off a woodland creature, I can be certain that my presence was felt. This is why I believe in LNT, because even when you think you are having no impact, you are. This is where nature and culture cross.

 

How humans act in their environment is defined by their culture and, unfortunately, on college campuses, that culture is not always environmentally friendly. This place seems to be a place for students to partake in stereotypical college activities which include the consumption of illicit substances, e.g. drugs and alcohol. Students leave the trash from these substances behind, which can have detrimental affects on the environment. Leaving cans or cigarette buds can disturb the composition of the ecosystem and hurt the species that inhabit it. This is one example of the unfortunate effects humans can have on nature.

Cans left behind by college students

It is because of situations like these that we should strive to do more for our environment. Recycling, reusing, reducing, and composting are just some of the ways in which humans can have a positive impact on our environment to help remediate some of the problems we’ve caused in the past.

 

In closing, I would like to thank you, reader, for joining me on this phenological journey. I was learning as you were, and I am glad to have been able to experience that with you. I hope you, as I have, will look at natural areas in a different light after exploring the changes occurring in both the Not-Quite Redstone Pines and my new spot that I unfortunately never came up with a name for. Finally, I would like to thank these two natural spaces for provided endless mystery and merriment. I will miss them both dearly.

April Showers

 

April showers bring May flowers! And what do Mayflowers bring? Pilgrims! Hahahahaha.

Well we haven’t had the most traditional of “April Showers” these past few days with intermittent icy rain storms. Though the weather is practically miserable, I am hopeful that it will turn for the best soon and we will be bathing in sunshine and 60 degrees.

This icy rain, however, did make it difficult to identify traces of animals in my phenology spot, so I was not able to find signs of amphibian life. There also was not too much indication of plants coming back to life for summer quite yet. While the buds do seem to be opening up a bit, these trees are still hesitant to face the fluctuating temperatures.

While not much has changed since my last visit to the woods, I am still observing what makes this spot unique. The location of this spot is quite interesting because it acts as a barrier between two highly trafficked areas. On one side, there is the UVM campus. Seeing that it is the far edge of campus, there are not too many people walking through these woods, but there are many signs of human impact such as litter that has blown away, and some more invisible effects such as oil runoff from the parking lots. On the other side of the forest is the Burlington Country Club. Again, there are not too many people walking into the forest from this side, but there are definitely impacts from the golfcourse such as fertilizer runoff.

These effects could greatly harm the composition of the forest and should be modified accordingly. As we know from the “March Madness” post from a little over a month ago, this area is a physical landscape, which means that its underlying geology does not change even when the landscape above ground is changing. These types of landscapes should be conserved and protected because they are very important in maintaining the composition of the larger surrounding landscapes. Work should be done to limit the impact on this area coming from both UVM and the Burlington Country Club. This forest is often only thought of as a landmark separating these two establishments, but it must also be respected and taken care of in order to protect the species that live within.

Birds Eye View Sketch of My Spot

Springtime In NH

Hello reader and welcome back! This week we’re heading a bit south to central New Hampshire. I have been enjoying my spring break back in my hometown of Wolfeboro, NH, although it has not felt too much like spring lately. We’ve received over two feet of snow since last Tuesday, which is astonishing given the recent (relative) heat wave. Though I didn’t get to go outside too much over the week, as I could not get out of my driveway, I was able to stomp my way into the woods behind my house. As far as forest composition goes, New Hampshire and Vermont are very similar. I identified a great number of our native Vermont trees including an abundance of Eastern White Pines, Black Cherry, Paper Birch, White Oak, American Beech, and Sugar Maple. The natural history of Vermont and New Hampshire are also very similar. I am fortunate enough to have a long family history associated with my homestead. My grandfather owned the house across the street from us and would visit Wolfeboro in the summer. He and my grandmother, who also summered in Wolfeboro, which is how they met, built their own summer home just down the street from where I live. The house I live in currently was built by my Great Aunt Rita. My grandfather used to tell us what the area surrounding my house looked like when he was a kid. He told us that the forest behind my house used to be a meadow, and you could see all the way into town. Now, a dense forest sits between us and our neighbors. With my newfound knowledge of forest succession, I found this to be very interesting. The paper birches now mainly reside closer to the house where there is not as great competition, and are not in great abundance within the forest, which is to be expected as it has been about 90 years since the forest was a meadow. The presence of the American Beech suggests that the forest is approaching late succession, as they are typically the last species to appear, which also fits the narrative given that the beeches present are very young. This forest is most likely older than the my phenology spot in Burlington due to the size of the trees in my phenology spot being smaller as well as having a greater presence of Birch trees and little to no American Beeches.

Large Eastern White Pines Towering Over Canopy
American Beech Tree Holding Onto Its Leaves

Another thing I noticed about the forest behind my house was the health of the forest. This forest seemed to be unhealthier than most other forests I have seen. There were many dead trees that had fallen. This is to be expected, though, as we have had a number of severe storms with high wind speeds in recent years. In addition, there is a severe infestation of an invasive species known as Oriental Bittersweet. This woody plant is native to East Asia, and wraps itself around tree trunks or branches and essentially strangles the tree to steal its nutrients. Finally, I witnessed spotting on a dead tree that looked to me like a disease, but I could not identify if it was and if so, what disease. Knowing what I do now about forestry, I was shocked to return to the woods I had spent so much time in as a kid to realize that they were in such poor condition. Just 100 feet further is a heavily trafficked cross-country skiing trail. I am shocked that with the amount of recreational use in this forest, the state is not working to keep it in better condition.

Large Oriental Bittersweet Knot

 

 

 

 

 

New Oriental Bittersweet Entrapping an Emerging Tree
Close Up of Large Bittersweet Knot
Unidentified Disease
Forest Composition. Looking Closely, Oriental Bittersweet Can be Seen Tangling Itself Around Many Trees.

Google maps location of this spot: https://www.google.com/maps/place/107+Varney+Rd,+Wolfeboro,+NH+03894/@43.592879,-71.2211258,87m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m5!3m4!1s0x4cb32591ef33daab:0xe88f406696119195!8m2!3d43.5929972!4d-71.2212045

March Madness

Hello reader, and welcome back to Phenology with Cat! It has been an exciting time here phonologically. The weather has been quite unusual, taking a turn for the warmth despite Punxsutawney Phil’s prediction for six more weeks of winter. Though the skiers out there are pretty bummed, it has made for some interesting phenological changes. Since my last visit to the new spot I have grown to love, I noticed that the trees had lost even more coverage. While in the beginning of February some trees still desperately held onto their leaves, they are now mostly bare. I assume they lost those leaves during some of the windier days in early February. Now, however, it is not quite as windy, though for the past few days it was snowed at night and then warmed up and melted during the day. This resulted in the forest floor being wet and muddy. I happened to visit this spot in October and did not notice the ground being wet, so I can confidently assume that there is no flooding or dampness that would otherwise occur in this area if it weren’t for the snow.

This assumption can also be made based on the types of trees in the area. This forest is heavily dominated by hardwoods such as American Beech, Sugar Maple, and Red Oak. These trees typically prefer well-drained soils as opposed to wet or muddy, thus indicating that the wetness of the area is only temporary.

In addition to the hardwoods, there are a few Eastern White Pines towering in the over story. This lead me to believe the area was a White Pine-Northern Hardwood forest, as labeled in the Wetland, Woodland, Wildland by Elizabeth H. Thompson and Eric R. Sorenson, though, when reading what qualifies this type of community, the text mentioned that White Pines can often be a product of disturbance. It said to indicate this type of community by the understory, because if there are only White Pines in the over story, it is quite possible that the White Pines only exist due to some historical disturbance. After reading this, I examined the understory and saw only one or two pine trees. Given that the areas surrounding this forest is heavily trafficked by humans, disturbance most likely occurred at some point (presumably for agriculture), and that would be why the White Pines appeared. After this realization, I decided the area would best be defined as a Rich Northern Hardwood Forest due to its densely diverse array of hardwoods.

One other factor lead me to believe this forest was a Rich Northern Hardwood forest, however I did not witness it out in the field. Wetland, Woodland, Wildland also said that these types of communities thrive on “enriched bedrock or till” (pg. 135). When studying this area on BioFinder, I found that it was labeled as the high priority physical landscape. A physical landscape is one that’s underlying geology doesn’t change despite the changes on the landscape. This makes it an optimal landscape to host a variety of organisms and conduct nutrient cycles. Due to this area’s ability to cultivate ecological processes, I imagine the soil would be filled with nutrients that would be able to support a Rich Northern Hardwood forest.

Moreover, the stormwater retention pond laying just adjacent to this area hosts uncommon (defined as 20-80 known populations state wide) and rare (defined as fewer than 20 known populations state wide) plant species. That pond feeds into a highest priority surface water and riparian area that act as corridors for riparian species. These corridors extend all the way to the Burlington waterfront.

Stormwater Retention Pond

I found it interesting to know that this forest plays an integral part in many ecological processes. Though it may not be the riparian corridor itself, it undoubtedly acts as a buffer for that habitat and helps maintain the quality of the surrounding landscape through water retention and soil erosion prevention.

New Year, New Phenolo-ME

Hello reader and welcome back to phenology with Cat! It has been a long while since I have been out in the field studying the phenological changes on the Vermont landscape, but alas I am back. This semester, I have moved my spot a little bit south of the beloved Not-Quite Red Stone Pines. Coming from central campus towards Red Stone, if you pass the Not-Quite Red Stone Pines and the Red Stone Lofts, you will eventually reach a wooded area that is rampant with natural activity. This spot lies in between UVM campus and the Burlington Country Club. I decided to move to this spot because it provides more natural activity, and, though it is influenced by the human activity surrounding it, there is not a whole lot of human activity happening within the forested space.

My Phenology Spot

Because of the lack of humans, there is an abundance of animal life, including the signs of a rabbit that had hopped through the trees. There were multiple paths of rabbit tracks, most of which seemed to be uninterrupted, though there was one area in which there were many tracks that seemed to get closer together and weren’t linear as the rest of the tracks were. Because the tracks seem to be similar in print, I would imagine two rabbits came into contact here, forcing them to move around each other.

Rabbit trails meet and show signs of conflict
Rabbit Trail

 

Rabbit trails meet and show signs of conflict

In addition to the wildlife, there is also a far more diverse array of trees in this spot in comparison to the Not-Quite Red Stone Pines. Through my amateur winter twig identification skills, I was able to identify three different species including a Sugar Maple, a Ginkgo, and a Basket Willow. The Sugar Maple was easiest to identify due to its opposite branching and sharp buds. The Ginkgo was a little harder to identify given I had never seen the species before, but the knob-like buds were a clear indicator. The Basket Willow was by far the hardest seeing that I needed help from an outside source (AKA my roommate), but I was finally able to identify it because of its perfectly opposite pairs of buds.

Sugar Maple Bud

 

Grinkgo Twig
Sketch of Basket Willow Twig

The Not-Quite Redstone Pines Answers a Question That Has Haunted Us All

I am so sad to say a final goodbye to my beloved Not-Quite Redstone Pines. It has been an honor experiencing them and their phenological changes both for recreation and in academic settings. The pines themselves still hold some clusters of pine cones, though most have been shed. The Norway Maple has finally dropped the majority of its leaves, the only ones remaining being dead. Only a few squirrels are seen now and hardly any birds. The young hammockers have also begun to hibernate, most likely hanging their hammocks in their dorm rooms to hide from the cold of winter (at least that’s what I did). I long for the warm days in which I can once again feel the liveliness of this area, but for now, I and the trees will remain dormant.

It feels only natural that I should understand the history of the Not-Quite Redstone Pines, having developed such a connection with the area over the past few months. Human interaction with this patch of land is obviously one of its defining feature, and, perhaps not-so surprisingly, has been as such for centuries. According to historical maps posted on Burlington Geographic, in 1890, the patch of land, along with many others adjacent to it, was occupied by a man named JA Shedd. I investigated who this man was, and as it turns out, he appeared in a book entitled Holstein-Friesian Herd Book which now resides in the library at Cornell University. This book has record of every Holstein-Friesian cattle (a breed of dairy cows indigenous to northern Holland and Friesland) birthed in North America from 1890 to 1891. JA Shedd birthed cow number 23286 named Cloverette in 1890 on this land. This land, however, did not belong to him, rather it belonged to the Agricultural Experiment Station. Upon further research into this, I found that, due to the Hatch Act of 1887, there was to be an Agricultural Experiment Station affiliate with the agricultural school of every state. 

Burlington Geographic map of JA Shedd’s land in 1890. The X is where the Not-Quite Redstone Pines is.

This short chain of events answered a question that I had long pondered. When I look up the University of Vermont on some websites, it will come up as the University of Vermont and State Agricultural College. That extension of the name, which is so often forgotten about now, date backs to this time when the Hatchet Act was passed. During these times when agriculture was such a prominent part of society, UVM was the state agricultural school and thus played a huge role in the experimentation that took place in order to create better methods of agriculture for Vermont. Even more interesting than UVM playing a role is that the Not-Quite Redstone Pines was the center of it all. The cattle roamed and grazed the land on which the Redstone Pines now stand.

By 1937, as the agricultural industry began to die down, the Not-Quite Redstone Pines became forested once again as indicated by the picture below. Many of the trees from this period still remain, which is indicated by tags on some of the trees. 

The Not-Quite Redstone Pines in 1937.

I look forward to watching the Not-Quite Redstone Pines change and grow not only for the rest of this school year but for my next four years here at UVM. Thank you for accompanying me on this adventure, reader. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

Here are some photos of my final visit to the Pines.

Stay warm, stay woke, and happy mocking!

ID Tree or Die: New Hampshire for the Holidays

Aldo Leopold-Style Description

The wind rushes through my hair as the pine needles gently brush against my face. The soggy, fallen leaves smoosh beneath my feet. Behind me, I hear the hustle of a chipmunk, frantically trying to hide his nuts and berries for winter. Above me, a crow perches on a branch, wondering how he should prepare himself for the cold days to come. I look for the overgrown path that leads me to the cross-country ski trails. I push through the branches to get to the marked trails that I spent so much of my childhood exploring. Walking through the trails, I glance up at the house on top of the hill. Through the trees I can see the house that my grandmother used to own. She used to be so worried about me when I went on these excursions through the woods in my younger days and would be there with a cup of hot cocoa when I got back. I continue on the trail, navigating solely by memory. I twist and turn through the woods until I approach the open field. I look out over the field and view the mountain range in the background, majestically towering over the land. I slip back into the woods, knowing that I am close to my final destination. I break through the trees again, this time not looking over a field, rather a lagoon. A magnificent man-made lake set in the middle of the woods. The feelings of nostalgia rush over me as I remember the first time I found this lagoon and the many times I visited after. It was my getaway from the real world—an escape to nature. I would always come by myself to think about complicated issues or just to relax. It was through my visits to this location that I fell in love with the merriment of nature, and it caused me to crave more.

My Walk:

Holland-Style Comparison

The ecology of New Hampshire and Vermont are not all too different, but the use of the landscape is where each develops its distinctive look. As I walked through the woods, I saw many of the same tree species as I do in Vermont such as the Eastern White Pines, Northern Red Oaks, White Oaks, and, though not in as great of abundance, maple trees, both red and sugar. The animal species are also very similar, seeing many chipmunks and squirrels and traces of larger animals such as bears and deer. However, anyone from either of these states will attest to how much different they are from each other. I could never quite put a finger on why, but, now having lived in both, I think it is the way in which each was developed. Vermont has a very integrative approach of developing land in that they weave nature in with the developments. My phenology spot happens to be one of those natural sections within a greater developed area. The Not-Quite Redstone Pines is a patch of trees in the middle of the developed UVM campus. It is a mini ecosystem that just so happens to be placed in a densely populated area. New Hampshire, on the other hand, has both developed sections and natural areas, but they are not very integrative. We do not have the large farmland that Vermont has nor do we have nature integrated into our towns, rather we have developed towns and untouched forests. In my small town of Wolfeboro, there is a downtown area that is set right on the lake. There are buildings, houses, and shops in the downtown area as well as some parks, playgrounds and a walking path that runs along Back Bay. About a mile out of town, around where I live (the woods behind my house being my new phenology spot), the majority of the land is forested. Though there are some trails going through it, the forests are relatively untouched. The cross country trails will be groomed a couple of times a season, but other than that only skiers and hikers will pass through. Most of New Hampshire is like this, with downtown areas and untouched forests. New Hampshire and Vermont, though often thought of as very similar, exemplify two different styles of conservation. Vermont uses more land but integrates nature into the land used and New Hampshire uses only what is needed and leaves the rest to be.

Phenology Spot Location

 

Strange Things are Happening, Aint No Doubt About It

Good Evening all and happy November! I am ecstatic to have made it through the super spooky span of October and I am now ready for Thanksgiving! With November comes more than Thanksgiving, however.  It is also a new month to observe the phenological changes in the landscape! The Not-Quite Redstone Pines have had a few changes of their own including masting season. There are pine cones EVERYWHERE in the Not-Quite Redstone Pines as the pine trees have begun to drop their cones in preparation for winter. On my way to the Pines, I noticed that many trees had completely dropped their leaves, but the lone Norway Maple is still holding on strong with close to 100% of its crown intact. I have not noticed as many birds as I once did, presumably because they have already migrated. I also have not noticed as many people hanging out in the pines as it has gotten too cold for recreational hammocking.

In my latest visit, I recorded my experiences and have compiled them into an experience map, as seen below.

I also have taken new pictures so that you, reader, can see these phenological changes for yourself.

Brace yourself, Winter is Coming

Hello and welcome back to Phenology with Cat! The Not-Quite Redstone Pines have been absolutely rampant with activity. Birds have been chirping and hammockers mocking, though that shall all come to an end soon. Fall is upon us and with that comes the phenological changes that prepare the ecosystems for a long, dormant winter. In the Not-Quite Redstone Pines, the Eastern White Pines have been shedding their dead needles (which have found their way into my dorm room via my blanket). Surprisingly, the sole Norway Maple has held onto its leaves soaking up these last few warm days (seriously what is going on with the weather?). I have seen many squirrels in the pines preparing for their long slumber by burying their nuts. I also commonly see pigeons, pecking at whatever rests between the blades of grass. Perhaps most interestingly, I witnessed a hawk flying high overhead, taking advantage of the thermal layers to help him migrate to somewhere warmer. I myself could not identify it, but a friend with me could. This small sanctuary of nature within the hustle and bustle of campus offers so much more than expected, all it takes is a close eye.

In addition to immersing myself in nature, I also enjoy to relax so here is a picture of me hammocking in the Not-quite Redstone Pines with my friend.

If you couldn’t tell, I was not ready for that picture to be taken.

Also here is a map of the Not-Quite Redstone Pines. If you couldn’t tell, I drew it myself.

Hey MTV, welcome to my crib!

Hey MTV, and welcome to my crib! Today I’m just going to be introducing you to the Red Stone Pines, but over the course of this semester we will be looking deep into the ecology and history of this gem on UVM’s campus.

The Red Stone Pines sit just west of the Patrick Gymnasium and just south of the Catholic Center. It is easily accessible by foot being just off a walking path. The Red Stone Pines are, you guessed it, a patch of pine trees close to Red Stone campus! There are two dominant species in this section of the Red Stone Pines which are the Northern White Cedar and the Eastern White Hemlock. In addition to these pine trees, there is a single-standing Norway Maple. There is no undergrowth in the section, which leads me to believe that it is a manmade pine stand.

The Red Stone Pines are a great place for busy UVM students to kick back and relax in nature for a bit without even needing to leave campus. It is heavily populated with die-hard hammockers; you can see them swinging at all hours of the day. I’ve only been living here for just over a month now, but this is my favorite place on campus so far. I highly recommend checking out the Red Stone Pines whether it’s to get in touch with nature, do some homework, or just chill out.