Archive for December, 2018

Throughout the various landscapes of Vermont there is evidence of a people existing on this land as long as 12,000-13,000 years ago. These people, the Abenaki, lived in conjunction with the landscape, living a life with little ecological impact until first European contact in 1609 by Samuel Champlain. Although Champlain visited then. it was until 1615 that the Abenaki were contacted by Europeans (Klyza, Trombulak). Whi1le the French requently visited the area that is now Vermont to trade fur with the Abenaki, no official European colonies were established here until 1763. BY this point Europeans had discovered the fruitful bounty that the forests of the North East can provide so by the 1800s mass deforestation efforts were underway. Prior to this “Great Cutover” some trees had been exported to be used as naval masts for the British Navy however it was until they were deprived of their main lumber source in the Balkins that this trade flourished (Klyza, Trombulak). Since the majority of forested land was viewed as a nuisance to farming, the Great Cutover took place during the 1800s with the initial goal of clearing land for sheep farming. Seeing as how Centennials woods fell under the category of nuisance land, most of it was most likely cleared. This assumption is evidenced by the high presence of new growth species such as birches. Additionally, throughout Centennial there are trees with barbed wire growing in them. Since barbed wire was used extensively during this sheep farming era, one may assume that these are remnants from this time, especially because it would take many years for the trees to begin incorporating the wire into themselves.

While I do not know the exact use each family had for the land, UVM purchased Centennial from Baxter, Ainsworth, Hickock, Kirby, and Unsworth in 1891, 1904, 1908, 1938 and 1968 respectively. After purchasing the land, the University used it for various purposes such as a dumping ground for cadavers from the medical center (credit TA Mike Perrin for this story). In 1974, the Universities Board of trustees established Centennial Woods to be one of 9 UVM Natural Areas. Establishing the status of a Natural Area protects the land with its strict guidelines so Centennial now serves the needs of UVM students and  hikers alike. Today, Centennial Woods is primarily used as hiking ground and as an area for UVM students of professors to conduct environmental work.


Board of Trustees, University of Vermont. (1974, April 20). UVM Natural Areas. Retrieved from:

Klyza, C. M., & Trombulak, S. C. (2015). The story of Vermont a natural and cultural history. Hanover: University Press of New England.

UVM Libraries Research Guides: Centennial Woods Natural Area: History. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Throughout every previous visit to Centennial I have had the same experience: constant bombardment of sound, with birds causing the largest raucous. However, today’s visit did not bring about the usual noises of the forest. Typically, I am slammed with the sounds of birds calling from the second I enter Centennial bright up until I leave yet today I only heard the calls of a chickadee twice. With the snowiest November on record since 1900 this is not surprising as many locations are experiencing phenological changes typically associated with winter. One of these changes that struck me the most was how desolate the landscape is. After visiting my location on the more temperature Long Island, I was surprised to find not only the deciduous trees completely barren of leaves but also the understory to appeared to be dead. In fact, when I first entered the location I questioned if I was in the right spot because the usual wall of thick shrubs that greets me have been reduced to mere twigs sticking out of the ground. Additionally, the majority of fungi is virtually gone with only 1 remaining mushroom in the entire plot. Another interesting phenomenon I observed is that there was a high presence of squirrels for every visit, excluding this one. However, with the snow on the ground for this visit, I discovered footprints on the downed trees that cross the brook that I believe belong to a fox. Although the tracks were rather small, the four toes in the formation of an X, the shape of foot pad and absence of human tracks along side it led to my identification as a fox track. I will admit, after some discussion with Chris (see Chris’s Blog) there is a fair chance that the prints belong to a small dog that may have been let loose while its owner took an alternative route to cross the brook.

The lone mushroom.


One more note of slight interest:

On 10/13/18 the temperature of the Centennial Brook was 56.5 °F while the temperature on today’s visit, 12/5/18 was 38.5 °F.  Admittedly, the thermometer used is most likely not suitable for this type of work being that it’s intended for cooking (my Dad shipped it from home so I didn’t have to buy one). However, being that water has such a high specific heat I would think that a 27° drop in temperature that quickly is abnormal for this time of year, especially because winter has not officially begun. I intended to track the temperature change further and compare it to other statistics but I forgot the thermometer a few times and could not find any available data for Centennial Brook’s average temperature.

Partially frozen Centennial Brook.

While I most definitely enjoyed the liveliness and abundance of early fall, the silence I experienced combined with the light snow fall from this early onset winter left me with a sense of serenity that made this trip to Centennial fantastic.


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