My Backyard in March

Little Miami River Valley

It is with great sadness that I can no longer blog about the Trinity woods this academic year. However, looking at the bright side, I get to show all of you my backyard in Ohio during the spring. Spring is my favorite season in Ohio and love that I can experience it one more time.

In the next two entries, I hope to show you all the plant and animal life, soil/ geology and local weather in my area. To start, here is a map of my new location.

As you can see, the creek bed is located close to farms and residential lawns that use fertilizers. Fortunately, there is enough of a buffer zone to keep this creek clean.

The area I live in is called the Little Miami River Valley. My house is about 6 miles west of the Little Miami River. There is a small creek that flows into the Little Miami River that provides habitat and resources for all types of plants, mammals, birds, amphibians, etc. Pictured below are some of the animals and plants I have encountered in the past two weeks.


The circle of life is an endless story - The Apopka Voice
(Town, 2020) Pictured above is a Crayfish. Crayfish become active (and more easily seen) in the spring as their breeding season begins in late March. Crayfish will lay their eggs 4-6 weeks later. According to Penn State research, Crayfish “are significant links in the complex aquatic and terrestrial food webs in our ecosystem.” (Fitzgerald, 2006). Crayfish are very intolerant of pollution, so seeing the Crayfish population in my creek indicates good water quality.
(Schroeder, 2012) These flowers are Claytonia virginica, or more commonly knowns as Spring Beauty. These wildflowers bloom in early March and are dormant by late June. These flowers grow just above the leaf litter. They are also edible.
Fly Honeysuckle: My Earliest-Blooming Native Shrub
(Purdey, 2019) The infamous honeysuckle tree has finally gained its tiny bright green leaves. This invasive species is the first in wooded areas to bud and grow their leaves, leaving the understory shaded and overgrown. This prevents other native, shade-intolerant species from growing.

Weather and Watershed

As the snow melts and the spring rains hit our backyards, runoff from neighboring farms and lawns can impact watersheds. As we learned in NR 01, pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers can impact the phosphorus and nitrogen levels in the nearby waterways. As previously mentioned, the creek behind my house is in good condition due to the wooded buffer zone that stand in between the creek and farms/ lawns. However, this is not true for all streams that flow into the Little Miami River.

Analysis of phosphorus and nitrogen concentrations in the Great ...
(MCWCC, 2015) The graph above shows the relationship between participation and Nitrogen and Phosphorus concentration in various locations in the Greater Miami area. Trends show that in months of greater participation, concentrations are higher. The precipitation helps move the chemicals further down the watershed and into larger bodies of water. March has the most inches of precipitation of the year.

Field Notes

“The older I grow the more do I love spring and spring flowers. Is it so with you?”

~Emily Dickinson

To conclude, March is a busy month for natural areas in Ohio. Most trees are blooming by the end of the month and animals are finally moving around and soaking up the sun. As hectic as our current situation is, it is comforting to know that nature still runs its cycle.

Works Cited

Fitzgerald, A. (2006). The Virtual Nature Trail at Penn State. Retrieved March 30, 2020, from

Mill Creek Watershed Council of Communities, Citizens’ Water Quality Monitoring, & Butler County Stream Team. (2015). Stream Bank: Regional Water Quality Data Base. Retrieved March 30, 2020, from

ODNR Division of Natural Areas. (n.d.). Spring Beauty. Retrieved March 30, 2020, from

Purdey, K. (April 26, 2019). Fly Honeysuckle. photograph, Upstate New York.

Schroeder, J. (2012). Spring Beauty. photograph, Missouri.

Towne, C. (n.d.). Crayfish-in-Natural-Habitat. photograph, Apopka, Florida.

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Trinity Woods: Survival

Another month went by and some interesting changes have happened in Trinity woods. From animal life to plant life, nature is trying its best to survive in the harsh winter conditions of February.

As usual, when I went out to observe, I saw grey squirrels chasing each other up and down trees, some urine likely left behind from deer, and crows flying above the canopy.

A photo I took of Deer Urine.
Cute Grey Squirrel with a long bushy tail. (Four Oaks, 2020)

An animal I had not noticed before my most recent visit was the masked shrew. This week, I found a whole that could be a masked shrew hole. After I found the shrew’s home, I did some research to learn more about its lifestyle.

A photo I took of a Masked Shrew’s hole in the snow.

According to SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, the Masked Shrew burrows in loose soil or snow and creates tunnels that are about .75 inches in diameter, which matched up with the size of the tunnel pictured above. Masked Shrews also live in the snow during the majority of the winter but it still active and goes out to hunt during the night (Holland, 2019). This tunnel looked like it was frequently traveled through because the snow was packed tightly, making me think that an active animal (like a shrew) would have to live in it.

A Masked Shrew cuddling with snow. (Knutsson, 2017)

Insects comprise 65% of the shrew’s diet (ESF, 1988). The shrew is a carnivore that, other than bugs, will eat small animals like salamanders or little birds. These tiny rodents are primarily nocturnal and spend their nights in the winter looking for dormant insects. They are predated by snakes, hawks, and owls.

Shrews interact with their environment in many different ways. Shrews do not store their food (Holland, 2019) so they compete with other insect-eating species like bats, owls, birds that also do not store their food. Shrews also have a complex social system that affects other species. Shrews will “twitter” and make short squeaking sounds to communicate. In the winters, when sounds travel better, these communications could draw in predators easier than usual.

My field notes.

Since my last visit, the Trinity Woods seems a little more active. Ferns and Lichen are peaking through parts of the snow and waiting for a deer or other herbivore to spot it. The sound carries especially well because the ground is ice and there are no leaves to break up the sounds waves so when the F-35’s flew by, the sound projected louder than usual.

Pine needles fallen off trees.

Lastly, I noticed that Pine Needles had fallen off the trees at an unusual pace. I am guessing that this occurred from the strong winds we’ve had lately. Back at our Jericho Lab, we saw how pine needles add acidity to the top layer of soil (Higgins, 2019). I am wondering how this will affect the acidity of the soil in the spring since the pine needles cannot decompose in the soil and only on top of the ice at the moment.

Works Cited

ESF Office of Communications, S. (1988). Masked Shrew(Sorex cinereus Kerr) From Saunders, D. A. 1988. Adirondack Mammals. The State University of New York, College of Environmental Science and Forestry. 216pp. Retrieved February 28, 2020, from

Four Oaks. (2020) Eastern Grey Squirrel [Photograph]. Wildlife NYC. Retrieved from

Higgins, H. (2019). Jericho Research LabJericho Research Lab. Burlington, VT.

Holland, M., & Kaneko, C. (2019). Naturally curious: a photographic field guide and month-by-month journey through the fields, woods, and marshes of New England. North Pomfret, Vermont.: Trafalgar Square Books.

Knutsson, H. (2017, Oct 23). A Common Shrew In the Snow. [Photograph]. Retrieved from

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January: Trinity Endurance Post

Welcome Back! Excited to be wandering around Trinity’s woods again and finding new things.

Here, I found some tracks that looked like grey squirrel tracks, as they were the right size and according to page 17 in our tracking book. The grey squirrel has a hindfoot size of about 5 cm.

Here is a surgar maple twig (I think)
This is a red maple twig that I did not find at my site, but saw it as a better example. (The bud is at the bottom)
sketch of the red maple twig with labels.

The Trinity Woods has not changed much since I last saw it. No new trees had fallen. The only difference between now and then was the amount of snow. The snow has frozen on the ground so the ferns or grass no longer poke out. Animal sightings are relatively low but can be better seen against the snow and with tracks.

Naturally Curious explained that small mammals will bury themselves underground and entrances to their holes can be spotted from the surface.

Works Cited

Levine, L., & Mitchell, M. (2008). Mammal tracks and scat: life-size tracking guide. East Dummerston, VT: Heartwood Press.

Holland, M., & Kaneko, C. (2019). Naturally curious: a photographic field guide and month-by-month journey through the fields, woods, and marshes of New England. North Pomfret, Vermont.: Trafalgar Square Books.

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An Ohioan’s Sense of Place

A lot of my peers brought back pictures to show their college friends what their hometown was like. I brought back a fossil, specifically a Bryozoan fossil. I found this small, bumpy, oddly shaped, funky little rock while walking my dog in the Little Miami River bed back home in Ohio. I find my sense of place in these fossils in creeks and rivers near my house. These hundreds of millions of year old rocks are so interesting to me, and it makes me feel more connected with the environment around me. 

The fossils that exist in the Ohio river beds were once animals living in the tropical shallow ocean that covered Ohio in the Paleozoic Era. Centuries later, the shells of these animals were fossilized and uncovered by hikers, fishermen, kayakers, etc. today. Being knowledgeable about the processes that took place to form the environment I hike in makes me more appreciative of these natural areas.

I am especially fond of finding fossils because my grandfather introduced me to it when I was a little kid. Seeing him pick up a  fossil and explaining how a grey rock used to be a living, moving creature was magical. Reliving those childhood memories is something I take great solace in.

Today, the Little Miami River is a popular hiking, camping, and fishing spot. Unfortunately, the increase in human interaction with this natural environment has altered its landscape. As I hiked down the river bed with my dog we encountered about 4 beer cans, 2 plastic bags, and 2 plastic bottles. The litter I find in the river dissociates my sense of place.  The natural areas in Ohio, especially in heavily populated areas are often disrupted by noise pollution from nearby highways, litter, and poor air quality. These anthropogenic additions to the natural area make it hard to escape in nature.

Even with the small amount of litter I found,  it still felt good to return to a familiar natural area. Since I started school at UVM I became familiar with new natural areas,  like Centennial Woods, but there’s something about returning to a place you’ve been exploring for years that is so much more meaningful. It will take years to create the number of memories in Centennial Woods that I have at the Little Miami River. Fortunately, I still have 3.5 years left here at UVM.

Bryozoan fossil similar to the one I found back home

A map of the Miami River 


Bryozoa: Fossil Record. (1999, January 24). Retrieved December 5, 2019, from

Digging into the Past: Discover Ohio’s Fossils! (2019). Retrieved December 5, 2019, from

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Snow has arrived and made a grand entrance to Trinity Campus. The snow has me feeling nostalgic and walking through the covered soil and barren trees has me feeling meditative and peaceful. While the change in scenery is refreshing it is also a little disorienting. The snow, combined with other natural and anthropogenic factors, have all helped me in identifying my  sense of place here in the Trinity woods.

The phenological changes in my location have altered my sense of place. Going to my location for the past month and seeing the same birch, beech and ferns made the area feel familiar. Now, the leaves have fallen off, the stream is slowing down and the ferns can no longer be seen due to snow. As a painter, I familiarize myself with areas visually. I enjoy seeing color and a variety of shapes. The turning of the leaves is an exciting time, and I think that was when I connected most closely with my area. Now, with the leaves gone and the snow covering the remaining color, I feel disoriented and easily lost in an area I once knew so well. 

When I think of my area as a small part of a bigger place, the meaning behind the area increases. Knowing that Trinity woods is on my campus, near my school, in my second home of Vermont, makes each trip seem more meaningful. I like Vermont a lot so far, and familiarizing myself with a small, miniscule part of the state makes me love it even more. 

It is hard to believe that nearly 80% of Vermont was once deforested. If my area were still used for agricultural purposes, or any other purpose that would require deforestation would completely alter my experience there. Historically, that land would have likely been used for sheep, dairy or timber industries. Now, the area is full of woods and new growth so I can enjoy my solitude when I need it (instead of being greeted by cows or sheep.)

Field Notes
I took this picture of Bead Fern last time, not knowing what it was until Naturally Curious November chapter showed me
the snow piled up on the trees

some people beat me to the punch and walked through the snow.

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Trinity Woods: After the Storm

On Halloween of 2019, the Champlain river valley experience flooding after intense storms and on November first. I went out to the Trinity Wooded area to go see the storms impact.

On this visit I saw two newly fallen trees, more leaves on the ground (most likely due to the intense winds during the storms) and a faster flowing creek. Besides the changes brought on by the storms, I saw more signs of wildlife than I normally would. Within ten minutes of my stay I had an adult female Ixodes Scapularis, or deer tick, crawling on my blue jeans. This tick is common in Vermont and seeing it in my natural area makes my area feel deeper in the woods, even though it is only a short walk through. Throughout my trip I saw six squirrels running about. They add character to my natural area because they add an energetic, active element. Without the squirrels, a hiker might not see much movement in the woods. As I continued to travel down to the creek I saw the same patch of Christmas Ferns as I did last time. They add a pretty, deep green color to the woods that, at this time of year, has disappeared from the trees. One of the most peculiar things I’ve come across since blogging has been this blue beetle that I can best identify as a flea beetle. I’ve never seen this species before, so is characterizes my space by proving that you never know what you’re going to find and can expect to see something new every time. Lastly, once I made it down to the stream I noticed the beaver dam was breaking down due to the drastic increase in water flow over night. The beaver dam makes this area special because I feel like I don’t seem them too often. Right next to the stream there is a patch of the invasive species phragmites, which is special to the area because it provides the very important ecological service of filtering out water before the water reaches the watershed.

An adult female deer tick
The beaver dam
A deep green Christmas fern
The Flea Beetle
A poorly photographed squirrel

Since my last visit, many more leaves have covered the ground. A majority of the ground is now covered in orange beech leaves. Two new trees have fallen. One of them was a paper birch tree that now blocks the walking path. The stream was moving at a much faster pace than usual and you could hear the stream from further away as well. Since last time, the soil became more fragrant with a very earthy smell. I infer that this had to do with the rain softening things up and the nutrients from the leaf litter leaking out.

Making a map of my natural area gave me a better sense of direction and place when navigating my way through. Creating a visual map for a place that does not officially have a map makes the area feel more personal. I’ve since grown attached to this area after getting to know it a little better and claim it as my own. I’m curious if Lewis and Clark had the same sense of pride after mapping out the western United States.

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Trinity Campus seems to be the Wild West to UVM students who do not live there. Trinity is not as wild or inhabitable as it may seem. In fact, we have a nice natural area right on our campus. Trinity Woods is a small area of hardwood trees that is surrounded by the old Trinity school building, McAuley Hall, Mercy Hall and the back five cottages. Between McAuley Hall and Mercy Hall along the bike path there is small gap in the trees which brings you to a lightly warn trail. Once you are on the trail, it feels like you’ve been swallowed up by the woods. The surrounding trees are so closely packed together that you cannot make out any surrounding buildings or human made structures. The sounds, however, of Colchester Avenue traffic and airplanes still penetrate the canopy. So, while the woods gives the visual illusion of complete seclusion, it does not give the same auditory illusion. As you continue down the path, you encounter a small, slow flowing creek that runs through this area. The creek provides habitat for frogs, aquatic macro bids and a source of water for nearby animal life. Birds are constantly singing in the maple, birch, beech and honeysuckle trees. Honeysuckle trees are an invasive species and take up a large portion of the woods. Because students traverse this spot so frequently, there are some traces of human interaction within the space. For example, one can find cigarette butts, names carved into trees, or a person hammocking. In my opinion, it adds character to the woods. This natural area has been socially claimed by UVM Trinity Campus students. It is a hangout spot for only those who know about it and those who know about it are Trin City kids. The woods outside my building are special to me and my living community. In conclusion, Trinity woods can provide a space for students to take a quick walk through nature and escape from their studies for a little bit. I find having a natural area so close to my living space can be refreshing and comforting.

What looks like Raccoon tracks are placed in the sand next to the creek
Field Notes
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Hello! Reporting all the way from Trinity Campus! I chose this natural area because it is close to where I live and enjoy walking in the area. Here is some moss I found growing on a dead tree trunk.

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