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Sap is Flowing at the Schrader Center!

GmodrillingstationBy Erica McGrath–The sap season has begun at the Schrader Center and naturalists have been hard at work preparing for our upcoming harvest of maple syrup. During the warmer months, maple trees produce starches, which they store in their roots throughout the winter. As spring approaches the tree converts these starches to sugars which are carried to the rest of the tree in a fluid called sap. Sap flows through a portion of the outer trunk called the sapwood which is pressurized during the spring when temperatures rise above freezing during the day and drop below freezing at night. These fluctuations cause the sap to rise and allow us to safely collect sap without damaging the tree.

This sap, when collected and processed becomes the maple syrup we all enjoy. Here at the Schrader Center, we are putting the finishing touches on this year’s first batch of maple syrup. Sap was collected from our local stand of Sugar Maples (Acer saccharum) and processed by boiling the sap in a metal boiling machine called an evaporator. The evaporator boils away the water from the sap and leaves behind sticky, sweet syrup. It takes about forty gallons of sap to produce one gallon of syrup. In the video below, naturalist Greg Park discusses the final steps of producing a batch of syrup:    To learn more about maple syrup production and its history, and to enjoy a hot pancake breakfast, be sure to come out to our Maple Sugaring Day on Saturday March 23. The event is held at Camp Russel in Oglebay Park and runs from 9am to 1pm. Admission: $7/$6 OI members. Call 304-242-6855 to book a one-hour tour.

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Cupcakes for Volunteers!

Oglebay Falls By Jake Francis, Director of Environmental Education–One thing that sets the Ohio Valley apart from other places I have lived is the intense pride that many of us hold for our natural resources.  It might have something to do with the massive body of water that we use as a reference for almost everything, or perhaps it has something to do with the rich tradition of sportsmanship in this valley. But I believe it has a lot to do with the amazing and unique city parks that are inextricably tied to our city’s identity.

In my two years here, I have met students who are willing to slave in the heat of summer working to conserve our forests, young adults shaping our food landscape and bringing green space to our downtown, and octogenarians who have given their entire life over to the our city parks and Oglebay Institute.  And, as I was trying to write a post about our upcoming volunteer opportunities, all I could think of was how much thanks we owe to you all!

In light of that, I want to share a couple of organized volunteer days we will be having at the Schrader Center which will focus on doing some much-needed maintenance on our trail systemphoto2 and continuing our battle with invasive exotic plant species that are threatening our forests.  We will be holding workdays from 9am-3pm on February 23 and April 20.  We will have all of the tools needed and can provide work gloves, as well as some hot beverages, snacks, and congratulatory cupcakes to thank you all for everything you do.  If you can’t make those days, don’t fret. You can call me at the Schrader Center at 304-242-6855, and I’ll make sure you get a cupcake, but you’ll have to spend some time discussing birding, botany, herpetology, or the like!  I hope you can forgive this departure from my normally scientific blog posts, and that you can come see us in the next couple of months!

What: Volunteer Days at the Schrader Center

When: February 23 & April 20

Where: Schrader Center, Oglebay Park

Time: 9am-3pm

Info: 304-242-6855

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Spring Seed Sowing Topic of Public Garden Lecture Series

Pink_petuniasIt’s the time of year when gardeners are eager to get back to the soil. Wheeling Park High School’s Floriculture Instructor, Don Headley, will give a hands-on demonstration of starting seeds for the upcoming gardening season Monday, Feb. 25 at the  Ohio County Master Gardeners’ February Public Garden Lecture Series held at the Schrader Environmental Center at 7:00 pm. All lectures are free and open to the public.Tomatoseedlings

Mr. Headley will show different ways to get seeds to germinate, whether on a windowsill or in a greenhouse, and he is even experimenting with something called a “seed sock.” (No, it’s not footwear–it’s made of woven agricultural fabric.) Mr. Headley is also planning to bring various types of vegetable and flower seeds and will address the differences between hybrid and heirloom varieties, as well as explain how to time your seed-starting so your plants are ready to be transplanted into the garden at the right time and how to protect the seedlings from frost if you happen to jump the gun a bit.

220px-CabbageMr. Headley says his students already have cabbage, tomato, pepper and petunia plants popping above the soil in the greenhouse at Wheeling Park High School. He’s been teaching at WPHS for 22 years, both floriculture and auto body collision repair. He’s hinted that he may have a free gift for everyone attending the lecture–something to take home and put on a windowsill…

For more information about the Public Garden Lecture Series, please call the Schrader Center at 304-242-6855.

Spring Trip to Terra Alta with OI Naturalists

Spotted Salamander

Spotted Salamander

Oglebay Institute naturalists will be taking a weekend in early spring (between Feb. 16-Mar. 16, 2013–depending on weather) to visit our camp at Terra Alta, WV in search of mole salamanders and wood frogs.

Mole Salamanders, including the spotted salamander (Ambystoma maculatum) and the Jefferson salamander (Ambystoma jeffersonium), spend most of their lives underground, thus relatively little is known about their life histories. These are large-lunged salamanders (4.5-7.5 inches), much larger than the Allegheny dusky salamander common in Oglebay Park. If timed right, you can catch them traveling to temporary seasonal ponds (vernal pools) where they lay their eggs. They make this trip on nights the temperature rises above 50 degrees and rain melts the snow. They emerge from the ground and migrate en mass to the vernal pools. They are especially intolerant of changes in forest cover and only bury themselves in mature forests with vernal pools nearby. Luckily, we have two pools like this in close vicinity to OI’s mountain camp.

Wood frogs, on the other hand, are more visible throughout the year, and they are the first frogs to breed. They use the same pools as the mole salamanders, and are a good indicator of mole salamanders about to emerge. To find the two amphibians, one must hike along in the woods until hearing a sound similar to a duck quacking. That “quack” is actually a wood frog in a vernal pool. If you return at night, and are lucky, you may find many mole salamanders and frogs breeding.

Jefferson Salamander

Jefferson Salamander

The public is welcome to participate in this migration. But be warned — participants must be flexible in scheduling and  “hard core” campers and hikers! It is likely to be snowy, rainy and cold, and the camp will not be opened for the season yet. That means no running water, heat or prepared food. The Lodge at the camp will be open for sleeping, but participants will need to haul in their own water and bring their own food (which can be cooked using our propane range). Necessities for the trip include decent rain gear (jacket, pants, boots); multiple layers; a headlamp; a good sleeping bag; and good spirits!

The dates for this trip are EXTREMELY weather dependent. As such, any interested participants can be added to our email list and will be notified of the trip on the Monday before we leave. The trip is free except for organizing your own transportation and food, and is an uncommon adventure for even the most experienced naturalists. To RSVP, contact Jake Francis (jfrancis@oionline.com) or Greg Park at the Schrader Center at 304-242-6855.

Monarchs Flutter at the Schrader Center

"Flock", Miller University

“Flock”, Miller University

Getting to be the greeter of guests, one never knows who’s going to walk in the door at the Schrader Center!  It could be a community member or a visitor from Sarasota, FL.  It could be a child with a question about native animals or a family from Phoenix, AZ visiting Oglebay Park.  It could be someone wanting to walk our trails or a former Junior Nature Camper.  On this particular day, it was aerial artist Erica Loustau and her three- year-old daughter, Zoe.

Someone who finds inspiration from flocks of birds, Erica designs site-specific artistic displays that are suspended in mid-air by geometrically arranged wires.  Her three-dimensional mixed media is a nod to how nature inspires art.  Her suspended art is both magical enough to captivate kids and creatively alluring for adults.

“I have long been fascinated by the movement and organization of flocks of birds,” says Erica. “These birds in flight are like ant colonies or swarms of bees. Not only do they seem to have a distinct form, but also a sense of organization and purpose.”

"Monarch Rabble", Schrader Center

“Monarch Rabble”, Schrader Center

Erica recently designed a suspended work of monarch butterflies soaring over the exhibit hall of the Schrader Center.   “Monarch Rabble” includes 2,000 butterflies that begin at the door and guide guests into the exhibit hall which overlooks the Corson Butterfly Garden.

Erica’s art brings nature not only inside, but into our imaginations.  Her recent visit to the Schrader Center allowed her to see the panel that was created to honor those who donated “butterflies”.  Accompanied by her daughter, Zoe, the pair enjoyed playing in our puppet room and touring the Center.  It was great to meet the maker of the Monarch Rabble that soars above me while I work! ~Sara Fincham, Customer Service Representative at the Schrader Center 

"Scatter", West Chester University

“Scatter”, West Chester University

Annual Christmas Bird Count at Schrader Center This Saturday

Annual Christmas Bird Count

8 a.m. – 12 p.m. Saturday, December 22
Schrader Environmental Education Center, Oglebay

northerncardinal1.jpgLove birds? Want to see how many you can locate around Oglebay Park? Join the Schrader Center staff and participate in the National Audubon Society’s annual Christmas Bird Count, 8 a.m. – 12 p.m. Saturday, December 22 at the Schrader Center in Oglebay Park. The longest running Citizen Science survey in the world, the Christmas Bird Count provides critical data on bird health and population trends. We’ll be scouting the area for all types of birds and then submitting our collective data to the Audubon Society’s census.

Help make a difference for science and bird conservation. Participate in the Christmas Bird Count this year. We’ll even provide the snacks and coffee! For more information, contact Greg Park at the Schrader Center, 304-242-6855. You can also visit the National Audubon Society’s website.

Last Trail Maintenance Day for 2012

Last volunteer Trail Maintenance Day for 2012 will be this Saturday, Dec. 15 from 10am-12pm at the Schrader Center. We’re continuing to focus on the removal of invasive exotic species, such as European Privet, and to clean up the trail for visitors. Volunteers should wear long sleeves, work pants and boots. Work gloves will be provided, but volunteers may bring their own. Coffee, tea and snacks will be provided. Call the Schrader Center at 304-242-6855 for more information.

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