Journeys of Dr. G at Tyler Arboretum

The sabbatical project continues, exploring all that Tyler Arboretum has to offer

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More work at the Chestnut Nursery

I blogged previously about my first time volunteering with Tyler’s American Chestnut Nursery volunteer crew, a group that goes out every Thursday morning in the spring through fall to “assist with pollination and fruit harvest as well as maintaining the tree nursery, as part of the breeding program for The American Chestnut Foundation.”  I joined the group again on Thursday, September 19,  for harvest time!

Chestnut Nursery Volunteering - 09/19/13Chestnut Nursery Volunteering - 09/19/13The group met at the Maintenance Shed first to pick up gloves, tools, buckets, a ladder – all the supplies we would need across the street at the nursery.  Then we carpooled over and set to work!  We split in to two teams and started to carefully remove the chestnut burrs from the trees.  I say “carefully” for two reasons: (1) for research purposes, we had to record which burrs came from which trees, watching for crossing branches so we did not mix burrs from different trees in the same bucket; and (2) these burrs are prickly!  Ouch!  Thank goodness my work gloves were pretty thick, and Tyler was able to provide gloves to those volunteers that did not have their own.  Since we had enough people to work in teams, we worked on collecting the burrs at the higher reaches of the trees, while others held the ladders and caught the burrs as they fell to the ground.

Chestnut Nursery Volunteering - 09/19/13Chestnut Nursery Volunteering - 09/19/13We filled our buckets with burrs, ones not yet open and ones ready to have the chestnut seeds removed, and headed back over to the Maintenance Shed for our second task of the morning – removing the seeds, counting the number of seeds harvested from each tree, and packing them up in Zip-Lock bags with moist soil for shipment to Penn State University.  At Penn State, the seeds will remain in the bags and be placed in a 40 degree refrigerator until the spring.  In just one morning, we collected over 1,000 seeds!  That is alot of seeds, but there are so many more burrs that need to be removed from the trees.  It looks like we will be very busy in the next few weeks!  Although the nursery is fenced in, preventing deer from eating the seeds, birds are finding their way over the top of the fence, so there is some urgency to collecting as many seeds and burrs as possible to help with the research and overall mission to save the American Chestnut!

The final total of seeds sent to Penn State from Tyler’s nursery will clearly number in the thousands (John Wenderoth thinks the 4,000th seed will be shipped this week).  And to think that Tyler Arboretum is only one of over 150 chestnut orchards participating in the Pennsylvania Chapter of The American Chestnut Foundation…. wow!  I have made a note to myself that, during a future visit to Penn State University Park, I’ll see if I can get a look at the storage area for all of these seeds and hopefully meet the chapter staff.  Volunteering with Tyler’s Chestnut Nursery group is certainly getting me excited for the PA-TACF fall meeting, being held at Tyler on November 2nd!


Let’s Get Photos from Tyler Contributed to a Guinness World Records® Attempt!

I subscribe to email updates from National Geographic, and today’s email about the Great Nature Project caught my eye!

The Great Nature Project is a worldwide celebration of life on our planet. This week, we’re inviting people of all ages to get outside, take pictures of the plants and animals in their worlds, and then share those pictures with the whole world. Together we can create a global snapshot of the diverse life all around us—and try for a Guinness World Records® title for the Largest Online Photo Album of Animals!

Here is a video from the National Geographic website with a quick overview:

To join in, snap a picture of a plant or animal at Tyler Arboretum, and upload it to a photo sharing site like Instagram, Twitter, Flickr, or National Geographic Your Shot (sorry, not Facebook), making sure to tag it #GreatNature. To participate in the world record attempt, add #animal to any animal photo (and Tyler has plenty of bugs, insects, and creepy-crawly critters that make for great photos!).

But you need to be quick to participate!  National Geographic’s Great Nature Project is happening now!  To be part of a global snapshot of biodiversity, photos need to be submitted between September 21 and 29, 2013.  And you can submit as many photos of non-human living things as you would like!

If you also tag your photo with #TylerArboretum, in addition to #GreatNature and #animal (if it is an animal image), we can see which photos from the Arboretum are part of the collection!  Please leave a comment below, too, so we can all see the Great Nature captured at Tyler Arboretum!

Check out the photos that have already been submitted from across the globe, and let’s get Tyler Arboretum in the collection!

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Recruiting and Recognizing Volunteers

Tyler Arboretum just hosted back-to-back events focusing on a very special group of people that play such an important role at the Arboretum – the volunteers.  Volunteers really play a critical part in the success of the day-to-day operations and special events at Tyler.  Of course, any and all non-profit organizations can use more volunteers, whether the volunteers can donate their time and talents for a one-time event or for a series of ongoing programs.  One of my colleagues likes to use the phrase, “get in where you can fit in” – wise advice to us all!

Tyler hosts an annual Volunteer Open House, and the description in the Autumn 2013 Tyler Topics issue made the event sound very inviting!

Get involved!  Share your talent and continue learning.  Volunteers play a vital role in the operation of the Arboretum.  Their assistance enables us to expand and enhance all areas of the organization, and helps us to grow as a community resource.  Please join us for coffee and baked goods while learning about the many volunteer opportunities that are available.  Staff and veteran volunteers will be able to share their experiences and answer questions.

DSCN2379Although I read my issues of Tyler Topics cover-to-cover and keep on top of the website announcements and calls for volunteers, I figured I could always learn more about opportunities at Tyler, so I attended the Open House.  When I arrived, I was immediately greeted by a Tyler staff member and welcomed to the event.  The Volunteer Open House was set up like a job fair, where I could go around the room and spend as much time as I wanted speaking with Tyler staff about various areas with volunteer needs – Plant Records & Inventory, North Woods & Chestnut Orchard, Horticulture & Handyman, Vegetable Garden, Butterfly House, Education, Communications, and Special Events.  There was alot of energy in the room, and I was pleased to see the engaging conversations over all volunteer opportunities at the Arboretum.  I saw many people filling out their volunteer application on the spot.  I hope to see some of these new volunteers at events in the future, such as the next big event with a large need for volunteers – Pumpkin Days!

Volunteer Appreciation Reception

A wonderful food buffet and a fun slideshow of volunteers hard at work!

The following week had a really special evening event – the Volunteer Appreciation Reception.  I don’t know the final count, but there were well over 50 of Tyler’s volunteers that came out for hors d’oeuvres, light refreshments, and some great conversations.  I really enjoyed seeing and speaking with people I had met at previous Tyler events, including people I had just volunteered with that morning over at the chestnut tree nursery.

Tyler’s Executive Director and members of the Senior Management Team made remarks to thank all of us for our volunteering time and shared some amazing facts about the Arboretum and the impact of volunteer contributions.  For example, the Arboretum had an incredible summer, shattering attendance records for the past two months, and had a complete sell-out of the summer camp programs for the first time ever.  Record numbers of visitors and attendance at programs certainly needs the help of volunteers for everything to run smoothly!  In the past year, over 13,000 hours of time were contributed by Tyler volunteers, which comes out to the equivalent of 7 full-time staff positions (wow!).  The names were read off for this year’s recipients of the President’s Volunteer Service Award (more information about this in a future post!  See a brief summary of last year’s recognition event), and I even heard someone saying she was going to challenge herself to earn the Bronze Award for Volunteering next year (see Award Eligibility for details).

I thoroughly enjoyed the evening and was sad to see it end.  I think one of the highlights for me was a statement I overheard one volunteer say to another as they left the event – “see you at Pumpkin Days!”

Yes, you will definitely see me there – as a volunteer the day of the event, and with some homemade bake goods at the Pumpkin Days Bake Sale!

Anyone interested in volunteering at Tyler, especially for Pumpkin Days (the largest event of the year!), please contact Tyler’s amazing volunteer coordinator, Melissa Hamblin.  She will absolutely find a way for you to “get in where you fit in!”

Melissa Hamblin, Volunteer Coordinator
Phone: (610) 566-9134, ext 205
Office Hours: MWF, 10 AM – 3 PM

Volunteer Appreciation Reception

Volunteers gathering on the patio behind the barn at Tyler Arboretum.

Volunteer Appreciation Reception

Rick Colbert, Executive Director of Tyler Arboretum, sharing some comments and his thanks to all volunteers for their service to Tyler.

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September’s Trail Ramble

The Autumn 2013 issue of Tyler Topics is filled with events and programs taking place at Tyler Arboretum this fall.  With the cooler temperatures and humidity level dropping, I was looking for an outdoor program this past weekend, and I came across this description:

Trail Rambles  —  Join Lois Brooks for comfortably-paced walks on Tyler’s trails that will get you out and moving, while enjoying the dynamic fall season in our woodlands and fields.  Wear shoes suitable for uneven terrain.  September 8 – Visit Tyler’s rare serpentine barren and walk along Dismal Run on this exploration of the Pink Hill and Minshall Trails.

Photos from the 09/08/13 Trail RambleSo on that Sunday afternoon, I laced up my walking shoes and headed out to Tyler for my first ventures on the Pink Hill and Minshall (formerly called Pink and White) trails!  Five of us met Lois in the visitor center and headed out to start our journey out the gate at the Pink Hill trailhead.  The group immediate engaged in a wonderful conversation around national parks and the beautiful landforms and wildlife found on public lands.  As we continued along the trails, Lois pointed out several features about the serpentine barren and explained the meaning of the blazes painted on the trees to help us stay on the correct path (this image is a great summary of the meaning of the different blazes, which is a symbol used on many hiking trails including the Appalachian Trail).

Photos from the 09/08/13 Trail Ramble

Note the blaze on the tree to the left, telling us to continue straight on the Pink Hill Trail (also note that one of our fellow ramblers dressed in pink to match the blaze!)

Photos from the 09/08/13 Trail Ramble

This blaze was a welcomed reminder to take the path to the left

Both sections of the Pink Hill and Minshall Trails were well maintained and well marked – plenty of blazes to keep us on track!  Wooden planks were in place to help us cross the muddy areas and Dismal Run, and the historical ruins we passed – well, I’ll leave that to a future post!  Let’s just say that there was much to see and enjoy on this afternoon, from the sites along the trails to the company I was rambling with.  By the end of our time together, Lois had taken us through three miles of the Arboretum (which I’m counting towards my Million Mile Run for Alex’s Lemonade Stand!)

Two additional Trail Rambles will be led by Lois this fall – one on October 6, and the other on November 3.  Both start at 1:15PM and go until 3PM, are free with admission, and do not require preregistration.  If you have been waiting for that perfect opportunity to get out and explore some of Tyler’s trails, I strongly encourage you to come out on these dates to walk along with some fun and friendly outdoor enthusiasts (such as yourself!) and an experienced guide that will point out the sights and sounds along the way.

Photos from the 09/08/13 Trail Ramble

That’s Lois (blue shirt) on the bridge that crosses Dismal Run along the Minshall Trail.

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Planting Chestnuts at Natural Lands Trust

Chestnut Orchard volunteering

The top of a tree from Tyler’s Chestnut Orchard

I have just found what I think is one of Tyler’s most special treasures (granted, I am a scientist, so there is a little bias in my designation of a “treasure”)!  It is the Tyler Chestnut Orchard and the volunteers that work hard to run this program.  I knew of the Chestnut Nursery and was aware of the volunteering opportunities with the program on Thursday mornings, but it was the cover story in the Autumn 2013 issue of Tyler Topics that gave me that final push I needed to sign up to register.

The newsletter story provided a great overview of the American chestnut and how it was first threatened by a fungus from the Chinese chestnut trees imported at the end of the 19th century.  Since 1997, Tyler has been working with The American Chestnut Foundation (TACF) to produce a hybrid tree that is resistant to the blight.  I wanted to do my part to help the American chestnut, so on Thursday, September 5, I reported to Tyler Arboretum at 8AM for my volunteer shift.

Chestnut Orchard volunteering

Starting with digging holes to plant the chestnut trees

John Wenderoth is the volunteer leader of Tyler’s Chestnut Orchard and has been with the project since 2010.  Immediately, John and the six other volunteers that came out that day made me feel welcomed and part of the group.  I was not sure what to expect to be doing that day, but I was pleased to find out we were going to be planting ten chestnut trees at Natural Lands Trust in Media.  We loaded up the one-foot tall trees that grew from seeds planted in March of last year and headed over to NLT’s Hildacy Farm Preserve.

We met Mike Coll, the Preserve Manager, and headed out on one of the trails to begin planting!  We planted six trees in one location and four in another.  The trees were protected by plastic tubing with netting over the top (I learned the netting is to keep birds from flying in the tubes and getting caught and unable to fly back up and out).  As you can see from the photos, we worked hard – but I hope you can see that we had fun at the same time!

Chestnut Orchard volunteering

Site one of planting completed (note the mesh covering on top of the plastic tubes, attached to a wooden stake to keep the tube stable while the tree grows.

Chestnut Orchard volunteering

The second site where we planted trees.

After we finished at Hildacy Farms, John was kind enough to bring myself and another volunteer over to Tyler’s Chestnut Orchard.  In the past, I have visited different research facilities, from a rock core warehouse in Florida to an ice core storage facility in Colorado, and I have to say, I was just as “wowed and amazed” when I stepped through the fence and entered Tyler’s own research facility.  This outdoor site was not only beautiful to walk through, but it was exciting to be at a site that is contributing to significant work by a national organization to save a species in our biosphere.  John pointed out that the trees are just about ready to be harvested (see photo at the top of this post), and I cannot wait to come back to help!

The short time I spent planting and engaging in conversation around the chestnut has motivated me to not only volunteer again, but to learn more about the American chestnut.  Fortunately, there is a perfect book to help me out!  I’ve just downloaded to my Kindle Susan Freinkel’s book American Chestnut: The Life, Death, and Rebirth of a Perfect Tree.  I can’t wait to start reading, as I know it will make future opportunities I have to spend in Tyler’s chestnut orchard that much more meaningful and informative.  Who knows – maybe I’ll be able to learn enough to share with other new volunteers!

Chestnut Orchard volunteering

Tyler Chestnut Orchard – I will be back!

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Completing the Million Mile Run on the Scenic Loop

On the Scenic Loop, with Fort Tyler in the background.

On the Scenic Loop, with Fort Tyler in the background.

Apparently, I like taking on challenges.  I’ve challenged myself during this sabbatical year to learn more and engage with Tyler Arboretum, I’ve challenged myself to blog about my experiences at Tyler – and now, I’m challenging myself to walk 100 miles in the month of September for Alex’s Lemonade Stand (with the help of the Scenic Loop!) for the Million Mile Run.

Alex’s Lemonade Stand has started a challenge to “go the distance to find a cure for childhood cancer.”  Typically, their fundraisers and awareness events focus on the traditional lemonade stand.  But for the month of September (Childhood Cancer Awareness Month), the Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation is asking everyone to walk and/or run one million miles (collectively, not individually!).

So my husband and I signed up as team GK United to do our part and accept the team challenge of getting 100 miles to contribute to the total.  My husband walks a couple of miles each day just to get back and forth to work, so I needed to find my walking spot to get my miles to reach our goal.  I could not think of a better place to walk than Tyler Arboretum!

DSCN2341I’m starting with the Scenic Loop, Tyler’s ADA accessible trail I know I will not get bored with anytime soon.  I have walked the trail several times, and today I was finding even more to look at.  I noticed I was joined by butterflies and found some different species of caterpillars crawling across the paved path (the earthworms – not so successful on their journeys).  Even this little guy (about 3 inches long) to the left was on the path – and would not move out of my way!  It was fun to see other visitors enjoying the Loop, including crossing paths with one of my fellow faculty members from Penn State Brandywine.

Since the Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation is asking us to track our miles, I pulled out my GPS watch (a Garmin Forerunner 305) and started tracking my distance, starting from the Visitor Center.  I found out that if I start at the Visitor Center, walk towards the pond to pick up the Scenic Loop and start to the right on the trail, keeping Fort Tyler on my left side… I can do two laps on the Scenic Loop and head back to the Visitor Center to complete a total of 2.5 miles.  Next time, I’ll swing through the Rhododendron Garden to add a little more distance (and an excuse to spend more time outdoors!).  Hopefully, I’ll see other people trying to get to a million miles on the trail as well.