June 2016 
Concert at the Darden Mill

The Appalachian Forest Heritage Area presents Jim O’Dell in concert at the Darden Mill. Jim's music can be heard online here. More information can be found on our facebook event page

Wednesday June 22, 2016

Nocturnal Adventures

By Lauren Merrill
AFHA AmeriCorps Conservation Member

There’s nothing like a sunset in West Virginia, the bright orange and pink sky stretched out across the horizon as the sun ducks underneath the towering trees atop even taller mountains. In spring, the sound of spring peepers --- tiny little frogs with surprisingly big voices --- cover the landscape with their chorus. At first, it’s the only thing you can hear, and then during the first few minutes of dusk --- birds lend their call to the cacophony. 

Sunset in Davis, West Virginia. Photo by Lauren Merrill.

For many animals, dusk is the time to come alive. Night hides them from predators or is the appropriate time to use heightened senses of smell, sight, and sound. For humans, however, or maybe more specifically me, once the sun is set, so am I --- at home or indoors. It’s a time for sleep or relaxation. It’s not a time to be crawling through the woods, afraid of beavers, bears, bobcats, or any other semi-large mammals. A snap of a twig, mostly likely from a scurrying rodent, is guaranteed to send me scurrying. 

At Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge however, several surveys are conducted at nighttime. These surveys give us insight into species populations and environmental quality, and are important for future management decisions. Certain species only display at dusk, like the American woodcock, a ground bird with a long beak, which spirals into the air and calls “peent” to attract a mate. Amphibians such as the American toad, pickerel frog, and green frog also take this time to appeal to females with their species-unique calls. At the end of June, July, and August, I will be conducting bat surveys, recording bat calls as they use echolocation to find prey at night. Basically, I am, and will be, spending a lot of quality time with nocturnal animals. 

At first, this was something I was not prepared for. I’m already apprehensive when alone in the woods; get rid of my ability to see, and I’m scared. However, since many organisms are nocturnal and I want to survey them in my future career, I knew it was a fear I’d eventually have to face. After two months with the occasional night survey, I can confidently say I am still nervous being outside alone in the dark. However, it is an experience I suggest everyone try. Just be sure to bring a strong flashlight.

After the sun has finally disappeared, there is a peaceful time when you can still see around you, but night is slowly encroaching. There’s a kind of still silence, aside from the peepers, as if everything in the woods has taken a collective breath before they start their serenade. The light of the sun is replaced by the light of the moon, and your eyes adjust. You realize not everything in the woods is out to get you, and you are just another creature beneath the night sky.

Photo by Lauren Merrill

Then you hear that horrifying snap of a twig and you put your flashlight on, imagining your worst nightmare staring back at you. The moment isn’t broken though. The beam of light has illuminated the path in front of you, allowing you to see amphibians and other creatures that have emerged from their daytime hiding spots. It’s a whole other world from the warm orange and pink glow of the sunset.

As bat surveys are going to start soon, I look forward to nights full of stars and the quiet movements of animals. I know if I get scared, I’ll sing loudly to myself or talk out loud. Most of all, I know I’ll be happy to experience something out of my comfort zone, that I wouldn’t see otherwise.

Thematic Tour Maps

By Jessica Linback
AFHA AmeriCorps Heritage Member

Just about from its inception, AFHA has sought to develop comprehensive informational materials to entice locals and tourists alike to explore the natural and cultural resources of our region. From this desire emerged the concept of the Thematic Tour Map - a set of sites within the AFHA region, mapped and summarized, related by connection to one of AFHA’s four core themes: Forestry, Nature, History, and Culture. The further development of the Thematic Tour Maps has been the primary focus of current AFHA AmeriCorps member Jessica Linback. 

The Tour Maps project has been an ambition of AFHA for years. The idea is to create a set of these tours, which would be self-guided and, in an online format, somewhat interactive. At a minimum there would be four tours, each associated with one of the four core themes of AFHA. What we have found as we have delved a bit further is that these themes may be too broad to sufficiently cover the amount of content and number of sites under the AFHA umbrella. We are currently in the process of coordinating a planning meeting to gather input on how to subdivide the categories to best suit the Thematic Tour Maps format.

The first iteration of the tour map concept as envisioned by AFHA was hosted via Google maps. The map - currently viewable on the AFHA website - shows a collection of Forestry sites, all plotted and described at length. There is plenty of room in this format for text-based content, but as many of you may know from managing other online content and social media, people are not as excited about text as they are by photos and videos, which this format does not readily provide for.

A transition happened when AFHA was approached by a couple of professionals at Region VII, a local planning and development council. They suggested working with a new platform, the ESRI Story Map. This discussion, initiated by Region VII, did not necessarily concern the Thematic Tour Maps concept, but it was clear to us at AFHA that the platform and its feel fit perfectly with our existing ambitions. The Story Maps platform, as stated on the ESRI website, allows users to “combine authoritative maps with narrative text, images, and multimedia content.” This application gives us the opportunity to present our content in the dynamic fashion that we want but which the Google maps interface did not as readily permit.

You will remember that the tour maps - like most of the material AFHA produces - revolve around those four core themes: Nature, History, Forestry, and Culture. Rather than adapting the existing Forestry Tour Map we decided to move on to History, which is much too broad a topic to cover in a single tour. We have therefore narrowed this project down to a Tour Map that looks at industrial history, especially the interconnected development of railroads and logging. Sites on this list include railroad stations and railroad excursions, local and regional museums, homes of railroad tycoons, and abandoned coke ovens, among others. The work that remains to be done will focus on honing the narrative that accompanies the images and the map, as well as working with an outside contractor to help us improve the visual impact and clarity of the Tour Map.

We hope the success of the project will allow us to quickly develop a whole set of Tour Maps covering the breadth of the AFHA thematic material and giving each of the sites in our region some healthy publicity along the way as this is, after all, a tourism development initiative.

Shop on Amazon.com and support AFHA. Find out more here.
Experience the heritage of your area! Sites of the Month spotlights events and locations within the region, based on AFHA's four themes: forestry, history, culture, and nature.

Fernow Experimental Forest, in Tucker County, is a national field laboratory for the USDA Forest Service. Since 1934, Fernow has been on the leading edge in the study of hydrology, erosion, regeneration, and harvesting. The site also features hiking trails and interpretive signage, and both guided and unguided tours are available. Fernow was named in honor of Bernhard Fernow, a pioneer in American forestry research.

Reber Radio Telescope, in Green Bank, Pocahontas County, is a parabolic radio telescope built by astronomer Grote Reber in 1937. Before it was in Green Bank, the telescope was in Illinois, where it was built, as well as Virginia and Colorado. It was the second radio telescope ever built, and the first parabolic radio telescope, and served as the prototype for the first large dish radio telescopes, including the Green Bank Telescope at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973, and became a National Historic Landmark in 1989. 
The Old Brick Playhouse, in downtown Elkins, Randolph County, offers regular afterschool programs for elementary and secondary school students to explore the arts. Established in 1991, The Old Brick Playhouse also annually produces an original play that tours area schools. Plays focus on social and cultural tolerance, conflict resolution, and drug and anti-bullying strategies. 
Finzel Swamp Preserve, in Garrett and Allegany Counties, Maryland, is a preserve that has been managed by The Nature Conservancy since 1970. Finzel Swamp is located in a “frost pocket”. This means that due to the topography, elevation, and poor drainage of the area, it has retained vegetation from the last ice age 15,000 years ago, now more often found further north in Canada,
Do you have a suggestion for Sites of the Month? Email us at: info@appalachianforest.us and let us know your favorite sites throughout AFHA!
Check us out on Facebook!
AFHA Facebook

Copyright © 2016 Appalachian Forest Heritage Area, All rights reserved.

Our mailing address is:
Appalachian Forest Heritage Area
P.O. Box 1206
Elkins, WV 26241