Education Team Honored at DSAs

April 8th, 2014 by Arboretum Education Supervisor, Patrick Mulligan
from left to right:  Lisa Sanphillippo, Patrick Mulligan, Wendy Gibble, Sarah Heller, Kit Harrington,  Jessica Farmer, Sasha McGuire

from left: Lisa Sanphillippo, Patrick Mulligan, Wendy Gibble, Sarah Heller, Kit Harrington, Jessica Farmer, Sasha McGuire

Last Thursday, the UW Botanic Gardens’ Education Team was honored at the UW’s annual Distinguished Staff Award Reception held at the HUB Ballroom.  The team, seen posing above at the reception, was 1 of 11 teams nominated to receive this year’s DSA.  Both individual and team winners will be chosen in the coming month and honored at the Annual Awards of Excellence on June 12th in Meany Hall Auditorium.  On behalf of the team, it was a great honor simply to be recognized for the work that we do for the University.  We feel that our work is valuable – it’s why we get out of bed in the morning, but it’s nice to know that our colleagues feel the same way.

During the reception, all nominated individuals and teams were announced and brief descriptions given of their work.  It was remarkable to learn about the great variety of pies the UW has it’s fingers in – everything from streamlining information systems to developing cutting edge treatments for kidney stones.  The UW is a beehive of activity doing great work in all realms of society, and we’re happy to be a part of it.  Wish us luck as final decisions are made regarding this year’s winners.

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UW Student Reflection

January 9th, 2014 by Arboretum Education Supervisor, Patrick Mulligan

My experience as a volunteer at the UW Arboretum…

It was the first quarter of my freshman year at the University of Washington. I was enrolled in an environmental studies class, and we, the students, were given an option between doing a book report and volunteering for “service learning.” Man, was I glad I chose to volunteer, because my time at the arboretum was great.

The arboretum is an escape from the city without leaving the city. There you are, standing in a metropolis, but you’re surrounded by tall trees, whistling birds, and sweet silence; it’s oxymoronic. I was living in a dormitory at the time, and the constant shuffle of neighbors, or the bumping music of the guys four doors down, kept me on-edge, not relaxed. But, once in the arboretum, all that white noise was gone. Even though I was there to volunteer and to work, I found myself energized upon leaving.

Philip & his fellow volunteers worked to give our Pollination Garden some much needed love during fall quarter.

Phillip & his fellow volunteers worked to give our Pollination Garden some much needed love during fall quarter.

My time at the arboretum was mostly spent in the vegetable garden and in the pollination garden. Some days I would pull weeds, till soil, and flip compost, others I would dig up cobblestones and carry gravel. But everything I did was not strenuous. It was simply a light task. Other volunteers had similarly stress-free work. Some were assigned to lead field trips and tours around the park and others researched plant species that would suit the habitat.

I have not been to a place with more polite people than the arboretum. Everyone from the lady at the front desk to Patrick, my supervisor, greeted me with a smile each time I came by. If you happen to see Patrick when you’re there, ask him about his travels in South America; he’s got some cool stories.

If you’re thinking about volunteering, I highly encourage you to do so. My experience at the arboretum was exactly what I was looking for: chill, soothing and stress-free.  

-Phillip Janecek

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Fiddleheads Forest School Opens

September 19th, 2013 by Arboretum Education Supervisor, Patrick Mulligan

Fiddleheads_sign_UWBG

The changing hues at the Washington Park Arboretum these days signal a transition.  Many of the deciduous trees that make up our collection are booting down in preparation for winter dormancy.  Despite these seasonal changes amongst the plants, however, there is an exciting new energy in the air, one of growth and development.  The source of this vibrancy is the newest and youngest members of our UW Botanic Gardens community – the inaugural class of our Fiddleheads Forest School.

This new endeavor is designed for preschool-aged children, and aims to introduce these 3-5 year olds to the natural world in the best way possible, by immersing them in it.  In gently guiding their innate curiosity, our uber-qualified teachers, Sarah Heller & Kit Harrington, seek to promote the complete development of their students – mental, emotional, physical and social.  A lofty goal to be sure, but one we feel well-worth pursuing.  And judging by the response from the families involved, one for which there is strong desire to be met. 

Innumerable studies point towards the value of early childhood learning.  Businesses and municipalities around the country are recognizing the long-term benefits of starting kids off on the right foot and are making investments in hopes of creating a more competent and competitive work force down the road.  These “Grow Smart” initiatives can be found in states across the country and make the connection between regional economic growth and the importance of early childhood education.  It behooves organizations like ours that lean green to join this movement if we are to have any hope of achieving a more sustainable relationship with the Earth.   

Richard Louv sounded the alarm in his now seminal book, “Last Child in the Woods”, in which he coined the term “nature deficit disorder” to describe a social byproduct of the information age.  Louv pointed out that while kids and people in general become more and more plugged in to a virtual world, they simultaneously become less and less connected to the natural one.  Disconnection leads to a loss or lack of appreciation, and in the Environmental Education world, appreciation is the first step towards conservation.

Over a year in the making, we are now almost two weeks into our first year of the Fiddleheads Forest School.  We have twenty-four families who have taken this exciting plunge with us and we couldn’t be more grateful for their trust and support.  The spectacular outdoor classroom that is the UWBG Washington Park Arboretum has never felt more perfect a space than with this new application.  And we could not have found a more dynamic duo than Sarah & Kit to lead this adventure.  So two weeks in, and I’m happy to report, so far, so so good. 

Are we winning the battle in combating nature deficit disorder?  Only time will tell.  At the UW Botanic Gardens we work a lot with trees and perhaps as a result, we think like trees and take a long-term approach.  The seeds we plant today, we plant to ensure healthy forests for tomorrow.  With this mentality, we hope that when these 3-5 year olds grow up to have 3-5 year olds of their own, that outdoor schools for early learners are commonplace, and that we as a society will have had the forethought to set aside spaces like the Arboretum in which to hold them.  

Kit reads a book about emotions during story time

Kit reads a book about emotions during story time

 

Sarah unleashes bubbles that elicit shrieks of joy and fits of dancing

Sarah unleashes bubbles that elicit shrieks of joy and fits of dancing


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Kayak Tours at the Washington Park Arboretum

August 29th, 2013 by Arboretum Education Supervisor, Patrick Mulligan

paddle_for_plants

Join us for this end of summer tradition at the Washington Park Arboretum as we tour our wetlands by kayaks generously loaned to us by Agua Verde Paddle Club. All proceeds go towards our Saplings Scholarship Fund that enables underprivileged students to take part in our hands-on, science-based school field trip programs.

No experience necessary; kayaks are doubles; max tour size is 12. Spaces are filling fast, so register today!

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Bioblitz 2013 – What’s hatching in the Arboretum?

May 15th, 2013 by Arboretum Education Supervisor, Patrick Mulligan
Northwestern Salamander eggs discovered by our guest herpetologists from the PNW Herpetological Society.

Northwestern Salamander eggs discovered by our guest herpetologists from the PNW Herpetological Society.

May is a vibrant month at the UWBG’s Washington Park Arboretum.  The show that the Olmstead Bros. firm had in mind when they designed Azalea Way back in the 1920′s reaches maximum glory as fading cherry blossoms hand over the reins to innumerable phonograph-shaped blooms that wall the 1/2 mile promenade.  It’s easy to be swept up in the colors and scents of spring, so gaudy and distracting, but there is vibrancy beyond the blooms as well.  The soil has reached a consistent warmth, the night time air has lost its bite and everywhere is teaming with insects.  They’ve timed their reappearance perfectly with the lime-green growth in the park, as have the bats, birds and frogs to eat them.  What better time to hold a bioblitz.

 May 10th/11th marked our third full-on blitz, and our second spring-time one.  (We’re on an 18-month spring/fall cycle).  The inaugural UWBG Bioblitz took place around this same time of year in 2010 and focused on the north end, Foster Island.  Our focus this time was on the middle third of our 230 acres – the heart of our “native matrix”.

The "green zone".

The “green zone”.

Jenni Cena & Liam Stacey, guest entomologists, examine a catch

Jenni Cena & Liam Stacey, guest entomologists, examine a catch

Declaring a focal area is pretty arbitrary speaking to birders and mammal trackers – they cover as much territory as their quarry.  For the entomologists I tagged along with during the first taxa team shift on Friday afternoon, however, we’d hardly left the greenhouse before the Siren’s song crashed us on a grove of cedars to pick and dig and shake and catch.  They indulged and in the process trained their few citizen-scientist tagalongs, and then I pried them away to plunk them in the “green zone”, a 200,000 sq. ft. square in the middle third.  We made it through about 1.5 of the 100′ x 100′ grid squares on our map.

 

Greg Vargas and other UW students use clinometers to approximate the height of a large redcedar in our "Native Matrix"

Greg Vargas and other UW students use clinometers to approximate the height of a large redcedar in our “Native Matrix”

The plant team was moving at a similar pace because this year we decided to do something a little different.  The WPA has within it’s collection around 10,400 specimens.  We have information on all of them, information like where they came from, when they were planted, by whom, etc.  Also within the WPA, however, are acres of more or less natural areas, our “native matrix” comprised of big old native trees that regrew from seed after the site was last harvested in 1896.  About these trees, we have very little information.

So for bioblitz, we teamed up with Lisa Ceicko from Forterra to begin an inventory of our native trees using i-Tree protocols.  I-Tree is a program that when you enter in some basic data like tree type, diameter, height, etc., it spits out numbers representing various ecosystem services that a given tree is providing.  King County (also with Lisa’s help) is in the midst of completing their Integrated Urban Forest Assessment aimed to determine how much carbon is being sequestered, air/water  being purified, habitat provided, etc. by Seattle’s trees using the same program.  We aim to do the same with our big old natives.  During Bioblitz, we made it through almost three grid squares…only 592 more to go.

After that first shift it was time for dinner and a lecture with this year’s guest speaker, Paul Bannick.  If you haven’t seen Paul speak, you should, but regardless, you’ve ever opened up a bird book, you’ve probably seen his photographs as his work is featured in all the good ones.  His book, The Owl & the Woodpecker, inspired a traveling exhibit created by the Burke Museum and he’s won a couple really big awards over the past few years, one from Audubon Magazine the other from Canon.  His talk and slideshow focused on owls, and gave those in attendance a glimpse into his next book.  It was both fascinating and beautiful.

Paul Bannick's talk was filled with extraordinary shots like this one.

Michelle Noe of Bats Northwest, shares her passion for these misunderstood creatures of the night

Michelle Noe of Bats Northwest, shares her passion for these misunderstood creatures of the night

After the talk, half of the next taxa team shift focused on owls as well, the other half, bats.  There lives within the WPA a pair of resident Barred Owls.  They’ve been seen here consistently for the past several years and they’ve reared several successful broods.  It’s nesting season right now, and we know where they’re nesting.  Despite all this, however, the owl team got skunked.  Not even a “who cooks for you”.  The bat team, on the other hand, led by members from Bats Northwest, fared much better.  With their sonar equipment, they recorded hundreds if not thousands of these misunderstood echo-locators, mostly Silver-haired Bats.  I learned that there are 15 bat species in Washington State, 13 of whom live west of the Cascades.  We fear bats for their blood-sucking reputation, yet only 3 species worldwide actually suck blood, and two of those target birds.  Ironically, without bats, we’d lose countless more blood to mosquitoes.  Bats eat 40% of their body weight in insects per night, and as an added bonus they help pollinate night blooming flowers (such as agave for making tequila).

Saturday started with some early morning bird teams (one by land and one by kayaks provided by Agua Verde Paddle Club), a plant team and a mammal tracking team.  The kayakers were happy to see a Spotted Sandpiper as well as a Pied Billed Grebe nest floating on some lily pads.  The land-lubbers were happy to see the owls.  The tracker, Linda Bittle from the Wilderness Awareness School, was just happy to be out of the office.  The day continued with more of the same plus a couple spider team outings with Rod Crawford and one lonely mushroom team.  Sunny springs can be tough on mushrooms and there were several great events competing for mushroom folk attention – a lecture from local legend Paul Stamets Friday night, and Mushroom Mania at the Burke.  We look forward to another fungus-blitz this fall to give this taxa its deserved attention.  And we look forward to continuing our bioblitz tradition for many years to come.  We hope to see you at the next one, and in the meantime, we’ll be doing what we can from a management perspective to sustain and increase the biodiversity in this gem of the Emerald City.

A stinkhorn fungus discovered by our mushroom taxa team Saturday afternoon.

A stinkhorn fungus discovered by our mushroom taxa team Saturday afternoon.

Jonathan Goff and Mallory Clarke from the Cascade Mammal Trackers examine tracks in a tunnel under the Broadmore fence.

Jonathan Goff and Mallory Clarke from the Cascade Mammal Trackers examine tracks in a tunnel under the Broadmore fence.


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“The Life of Owls” with Paul Bannick

May 6th, 2013 by Arboretum Education Supervisor, Patrick Mulligan

Join internationally acclaimed photographer, Paul Bannick, at the Washington Park Arboretum May 10, Friday evening from 7pm-8pm for a visual and auditory exploration of the life of North American Owls. With his stunning photographs, Paul will walk us through all four seasons and all 19 species of owls while touching on their interdependence with other plants and animals.

Paul is this year’s guest speaker at Bioblitz 2013. The fee to attend is $8 per person.

Online registration is now closed. You may pay at the door with cash (exact change), check, or Visa/MaterCard.

When: May 10th 2013, 7pm – 8pm

Where: UWBG’s Washington Park Arboretum, in the Graham Visitors Center
Cost: $8 per person

Snowy__Owl_Bannick

 

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Spring Scavenger Hunt

April 22nd, 2013 by Arboretum Education Supervisor, Patrick Mulligan
spring bloom

spring bloom

Spring is in full bloom at the Washington Park Arboretum. If you and the kids are looking for a fun way to enjoy the sights and smells of the season, stop by the Graham Visitors Center and pick up a Spring Scavenger Hunt clue sheet (or click the link below to print your own copy).

On your way out, check back in at the Visitors Center to redeem your completed clue sheet for a small prize. Good luck and happy spring!

spring_scavenger_hunt2013 as Word

spring_scavenger_hunt2013 as PDF

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UWBG Bioblitz 2013 at the Washington Park Arboretum

April 9th, 2013 by Arboretum Education Supervisor, Patrick Mulligan

long_toed_salamanders_Christina_D

A bioblitz is a biological inventory that takes place over a short period of time (usually 24hrs) in a specified area (in this case the Washington Park Arboretum). The purpose of a bioblitz is to take a snap shot of biodiversity, which is a way to measure the health of an ecosystem. The more organisms found, the healthier the ecosystem. We value bioblitzes at the UWBG for a number of reasons: they’re a tool to help us manage our site as sustainably as possible; they’re a great way to engage with our community and raise awareness of the importance of biodiversity (even in urban environments); and since they are hands-on and fast-paced, they are also a lot of fun.

The way it works is there will be 2.5 hour shifts during which small groups of citizen scientists & UW students will go out with one of our field scientists in search of various taxa (birds, bats, bugs, fungi, plants, mammals, etc.). As a team, they try to ID and count what they find and record the location where they found it. In some cases (e.g. fungi, insects) specimens can be collected and identified later.

Space is limited, so click here to sign up for a shift today!

Don’t want to volunteer, but want to attend Paul Bannick’s presentation, The Life of Owls, on Friday evening? Non-volunteers can pay $8 to attend: click here to register

When: Friday, May 10th & Saturday May 11th

Friday:
4pm-6:30pm
6:30-8pm (dinner for volunteers & lecture from 7-8pm with wildlife photographer, Paul Bannick. Please register to attend the talk.)
8pm-10:30pm

Saturday:
7am-9:30am (early birders)
10am-12:30am
1pm-3:30pm
3:30-4pm (show & tell)

Where: Graham Visitors Center (2300 Arboretum Dr E Seattle WA)

mushroom sample

foster island phil1

bioblitz flyer

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NW Flower & Garden Show – Get a Jump on Spring

February 7th, 2013 by Arboretum Education Supervisor, Patrick Mulligan

Please stop by the UWBG booth and say “hello” at the Northwest Flower & Garden Show this year. We’ve got a great corner spot at booth #2304 in the Community Organizations area. New for this year, we’re combining forces with Seattle Parks & Recreation to create a “mega-booth” connected by a wedding arbor being built by the city’s carpenter crew. During the show, we’ll be highlighting our Rental Program, so look for lots of pretty pictures of events at our rental sites at the Center for Urban Horticulture and the Graham Visitors Center.

A Hobbit house surrounded by native New Zealand plants at the NW Flower and Garden Show

A Hobbit house surrounded by native New Zealand plants at the NW Flower and Garden Show

photo

The Arboretum Foundation’s award winning garden from 2012 featured birdsong.

This year’s show runs February 20-24 at the Washington State Convention Center.

graphicFor a fantastic evening out why not attend the Tuesday evening Preview Party hosted by the Arboretum Foundation? You can bid on unique items in the silent auction, stroll the display gardens before the crowds arrive, sip wine and enjoy a dessert buffet. This fund raiser for the Arboretum is always a fun time. Tickets on sale now.

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Huntington Workshop

November 16th, 2012 by Arboretum Education Supervisor, Patrick Mulligan

I just got back from a week-long interpretation workshop sponsored and hosted by the Huntington Botanical Gardens in Pasadena, CA. Everything about it was great…the weather, the people, the location, all of it.

There were 10 of us in attendance (5 men and 5 women) from all across the country (NH, CT, MI, WI, IL NC, IA, CA, VA). Most were from other public gardens, a couple were from science centers, and one was from a natural history museum. Coincidentally, one of the attendees was a former colleague from my days at Norfolk Botanical Garden in Virginia – small world.

The Huntington is a national treasure. Part library, part art gallery, part botanical garden, its various collections are both significant and cherished. The 200 acre site and its handful of buildings is the former estate of Henry Huntington. With the help of his right hand man William Hertrich, Huntington spent the first half of the 20th century converting this former citrus farm into the impeccably kept grounds one sees today. With over 14,000 different varieties of plants showcased in more than a dozen unique garden areas, a week is hardly enough time to take it all in, but I had fun trying.

In 2006, work was completed on a 2000 square-foot, multimillion dollar glass conservatory that enabled the Huntington to expand their plant collection to include exotic tropicals and afforded an excellent opportunity for year-round educational interpretation. The exhibition featured in the conservatory, “Plants Are Up to Something”, won top honors from the American Associations of Museums in 2007. The space itself was the brain-child of Jim Folsom, the Director of the gardens, while the success of the exhibition was due in large part to the hard work and careful planning of Kitty Connolly, one of our workshop leaders. Rachel Vourlas, the other leader, worked as a gardener during the installation and was responsible for planting much of what can be seen thriving in there today.

Kitty is a strong proponent of interactivity when it comes to exhibits, and this m.o. was apparent in the format of our workshop as well. The first couple days consisted of a general overview of museum exhibitions, including several presentations from guest interpreter extraordinaire, Beverly Serrel, who has been in the biz for 40 years and quite literally written the book(s) on the subject. During this time we also got a behind the scenes look at the “Plants Are Up to Something” for inspiration.

For the next couple days we were each assigned a partner and asked to develop a prototype for an exhibit intended to go live at one of our own sites. I was paired with Jan from the Sarah P. Duke Garden, the “crown jewel of Duke University”, and we decided to work on an exhibit I’ve proposed to install at UWBG that aims to engage citizen scientists with the phenology of local native plants.

On Saturday, we were given the opportunity to try out our prototypes on actual Huntington visitors. This experience was a little nerve-racking, a lot of fun, and provided extremely valuable insights into the minds of our audience. If you’re interested in being a guinea pig, be on the lookout in the coming months for a prototype near you!

Our final 2 days were spent diving deeper into what goes into making a successful exhibition, and one evaluation technique developed by Beverly called Excellent Judges. We used one of the Huntington’s own exhibitions, “Beautiful Science”, to try it out. While sharing our individual impressions over a dim-sum lunch, what struck me most was the wide range of opinions amongst the group. Beauty (and in this case science) truly is in the eye of the beholder.

The take-home that I bring back is that it is an impossible task to create an exhibition that pleases everybody, and any attempt to do so is an exercise in futility. That said, museum exhibitions are important tools in bridging the academic world with the world that most of us live in. They enable us to reach so many more people than programs and tours and use our collections to better pursue our mission. The mission of the UWBG is to sustain managed to natural ecosystems through plant research, display and education. With this mission in mind, in the coming year we will be developing a series of interpretive loops at the Washington Park Arboretum, and if funding can be secured, we look forward to bringing these to you in the not too distant future…stay tuned.

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