Final Thoughts

The future of the planet concerns all of us, and all of us should do what we can to protect it. As I told the foresters and the women, you don’t need a diploma to plant a tree. -Wangari Maathai

If there is one thing that my final visit to Centennial will tell me, its that a lot can change in a short amount of time. Phenologically, the peepers are out, the migrating birds have returned from their vacations, and all is growing in the woods. Everything is teeming with life now more than ever- but I cannot forget that even the winter was filled with life, I just couldn’t see it.

With the East Woods debacle occurring at this time, I cannot imagine what UVM’s natural areas will look like in the future. Although there are policies to prevent development on the land, I can’t help but be skeptical. What would it be like if NR1 students didn’t have this opportunity, to learn more about a place? With that, I am thankful for all of the chickadees, the pines, and the worms that have accompanied my visits, both past and future, to this lovely place.

See you soon, Centennial!

 

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Am I a Part of Centennial Woods?

I would consider myself to be a part of Centennial Woods to some degree. I have an interaction with the place, through my visits. I sometimes take pinecones, which changes the ecological processes that occur within the forest. I also walk on the trails, scaring away birds and compacting soils. In some ways however, my experience with Centennial Woods is not consistent; I don’t visit every single day. Then again, chickadees, chipmunks, and squirrels also don’t necessarily visit every day (or the same one that is), so I think the same could be said about the wildlife of my place. But what about the trees, which lack the ability to move? In short, I can’t decide on whether I am a part of my place or not.

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The Attitude Philosophy

Before coming to UVM, I hadn’t realized how important the connections between humans and their natural environments are. I came in with the conception that “environment” has to mean natural (birds, trees, forests, water, ecosystems, etc.), but I came to realize that the environment applies to everything around you. Our social structures are important to developing a sense of identity in the same way that natural environments shape our health, aspirations, and experiences. A healthy ecosystem, like that of my place, is important for ecological processes and for providing services to humans. Although I don’t take fiddleheads or grass from the site, I am exposed to the recreational and aesthetic value of the pines.

Why do I think that Aldo Leopold decided to write an entire essay about how much he loved pine trees? Because it was a reflection of his attitudes and his experiences. His attitudes, values, and beliefs then produced a behavior (chopping down of the trees that shaded the pines). I think that my attitude towards the pines is appreciative. This is because I value aesthetic experiences, understand how pines ecologically important for woodpeckers and organic decay, and have walked through Centennial for the past eight months. Attitudes are at the core of culture- we can’t develop relationships between each other without understanding what we value within.

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Another Visit to Centennial

Is spring finally here? It has been almost a week since it last snowed. Rain has been in the forecast most recently. I can’t say that I’m a fan of mud season.

I noticed that more grass has sprouted in the entrance to Centennial. Some of the ferns are starting to sprout and fiddleheads are starting to uncurl, but they are still wary of the chance of another snowfall. One of the most important phenological events that I witnessed was through an unlikely sense: smell. Everything in the woods smells like decay and growth- propelled by wet conditions. The ground is slippery, nightcrawlers are on the sidewalk, and the chickadees are still chirping. I hope to see more hawks in the woods when I visit next semester.

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The Start of Spring!

It was a dreary day on my walk through Centennial Woods. I found that the woods was teeming with life. I saw colorful fungi and moss and my first chipmunk of the season! Above my head, I heard black-chipped chickadees, woodpeckers, crows, and geese. Some of the woods’ residents were snacking on pinecones, and I saw peculiar bite marks on a hemlock, which leads me to believe that a porcupine calls this area home. No amphibians yet- I wouldn’t want to come out when the snow’s in the forecast either!

 

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The Chickadee

“But above all them ranked the chickadee, because of its indomitable spirit.”

-Tom Brown Jr.- The Tracker

I had an amazing opportunity to watch about seven black-capped chickadees in Centennial Woods today! Their avid chirping and distinct calls captivated my attention on my walk; I even got to capture some on camera.

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Landscape Ecology of Centennial Woods

Centennial Woods is in a very interesting location because of its proximity to human communities. The nearby apartments create an edge along one side. If you look hard enough, you can see house cats on the prowl for their meal. Another edge is the road. In the coming weeks, I should begin to see Wood Thrush as a forest interior bird species. The Scarlet Tanager is also a common forest interior species in my place. These species rely on dense canopies and complex forest compositions for their nesting habitat. Centennial Woods is at an advantage for forest preservation because it is managed by the university. In the case of many wood lots and sugar bushes in the state, land owners don’t have incentive to keep their forests intact, thus creating more edge effects and altering the species diversity in the forest. Landscape ecology is inherently a social issue because it is related to tax rates and intristic values of forests.

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Sketches from Centennial Woods

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Signs of Spring?

Yet another night with snow- when will this beauty phenological event end? I noticed a fresh layer of snow on Centennial Woods when I visited my phenology spot this morning. I have yet to see flowers poking up from beneath the coating of snow, but I hope that spring will soon be on its way (my hands are very chilly!)

Can you call skunk cabbage a flower? If so, flowering is clearly occurring near the riparian zone of my site. Mary Holland writes about this phenomenon in the March edition of “Naturally Curious.” She says, “It defies logic but there exists a plant in New England capable of pushing up through the ice and snow-covered ground of March and sending forth a flower. How is it possible that our earliest ‘spring’ wildflower, skunk cabbage, to survive and even flourish under these conditions.” (Holland, Page 33)

The past few weeks have personally been a challenge for me. My mental illness has been flaring up and I’m under a lot of stress with my schoolwork. I am reminded of my connection to nature and its healing properties every time I take time out of my day to explore Centennial Woods. I was always skeptical of the healing powers of nature like Walt K. talked about in lecture, but I suppose we can all use some more time outside. Whether it be watching robins search for worms on cold ground, or spending time walking with a friend in the woods, you feel more whole inside.

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Eastern White Pine

Pair of Canadian Geese in the pond.

Some of the vines covering the walkway.

Skunk Cabbage blossoms emerging from the soil.

Spaulding Pond

A statue honoring Uncas and the Mohegan Tribe.

Expert ornithologist (my dad)

 

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