May 2016 
New Exhibit at Appalachian Forest Discovery Center

Our new exhibit at the Appalachian Forest Discovery Center (on the first floor of the Darden Mill in Elkins) is now open! The exhibit is entitled "Working in the Woods: Logging in the Appalachian Forest Heritage Area." Our hours are Thursday-Sunday, 9:30-5:30. 

Vernal Pool Mayhem

By Becca Ferry
AFHA AmeriCorps Conservation Member

Vernal pools are temporary ponds or pools of water formed in the spring by melting snow and rain. These pools lack predators, such as fish, and, therefore, serve as important breeding habitat for some amphibians. There is a short breeding season for animals that breed in vernal pools because the water dries up, typically by late summer. Some of these amphibians, such as the wood frog, employ an explosive breeding strategy due to having a short window in which to reproduce successfully. Explosive breeders exhibit a burst of breeding activity over a two to three day period. Animals breeding in vernal pools must complete development fast enough to leave the vernal pool before it dries up or they will die. Larval amphibians must metamorphose into their adult, terrestrial life stage to survive the dry season.

At Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge, we survey vernal pools every spring to monitor wood frog and spotted salamander egg masses and larvae. My major project for my service is to lead these surveys, enter the data, and write a summary about the field season. These surveys contribute to a database maintained by the USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center’s Northeast Amphibian Research Monitoring Initiative (ARMI). The Northeast ARMI uses data from several different parks and refuges to monitor amphibian populations in the northeastern United States. It can be a race against time to survey the larvae of both species. If we are too late, the wood frogs, which breed earlier and develop more quickly than spotted salamanders, may have already left the vernal pools. Unfortunately, not all the vernal pools we survey are productive, and some remain dry year-round. Site visits were started two to three weeks early this spring due to the abnormally warm weather.

Egg mass surveys involve two observers walking around a vernal pool to search for and count egg masses. The observers also measure the pool’s dimensions and take conductivity, pH, and temperature readings. Each site is visited two to three times, depending on whether or not we have found egg masses from both species by the second visit. Egg masses surveys are conducted from March to May, depending on the arrival of warmer weather and wood frog emergence. Wood frog activity is easy to detect because you can hear them calling (similar to quacking ducks), and they deposit eggs in large, floating groups of egg masses. Spotted salamanders lack mating calls and deposit their elongated, clear or cloudy egg masses singly or in small clusters, typically more hidden and attached to vegetation. Last spring, I jumped on the chance to volunteer for egg mass surveys because I am fascinated by amphibians. It is intriguing to watch embryos squirm around inside their jelly-like egg masses and see tadpoles swimming around. I also learned about an alga that lives inside spotted salamander embryos, giving the eggs a greenish appearance. This is a symbiotic relationship in which the alga helps provide oxygen and sugars to the embryo via photosynthesis and the embryo provides nitrogen for the alga through its wastes, and neither survives well without the other.

Dipnetting surveys are conducted to monitor larval wood frog and spotted salamander populations. These surveys also involve two observers that swish long-handled nets (dipnets) in the bottom of the pool to search for and count larvae. The observers also take the same measurements and readings taken for egg mass surveys. These surveys are conducted in June, but we are starting them at the end of May this year because of the early start to the breeding season. I volunteered for dipnetting surveys last June and was amazed by the variety of aquatic life dwelling in the depths of these pools. The most memorable finds for me included a giant waterbug, a leech, dragonfly larvae, caddisfly cases, spring peeper tadpoles, and, of course, spotted salamander larvae. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any wood frog tadpoles that day, but we did see some green frog tadpoles. I am excited to see what I find when we dipnet this year!

Beverley Cemetery Workshop

By Chris Taylor
AFHA AmeriCorps Heritage Member

Interested in genealogy, local history, or preserving cultural resources?  The Beverly Heritage Center will host a cemetery workshop on Saturday, May 28 from 9 am to noon.  The workshop will focus on techniques relating to the repair of fallen tombstones as well the cleaning of hard-to-read inscriptions at the historic Beverly Cemetery, oldest public burial ground west of the Alleghenies.

Rebekah Karelis, historian at Wheeling National Heritage Area

The workshop will begin at the Heritage Center with a presentation by Rebekah Karelis, historian at Wheeling National Heritage Area.  Rebekah has spearheaded efforts to stabilize and restore more than 200 grave markers in Wheeling’s historic Mt. Wood Cemetery.  After the presentation, participants will get to see and participate in preservation techniques at the Beverly Cemetery.  Beverly resident Karl Mulac will provide the historical context and a tour of the cemetery.  The earliest burials date to 1768, and the cemetery is the final resting place of well known West Virginians including renowned bridge builder Lemuel Chenoweth, nineteenth governor of West Virginia Herman G. Kump, and veterans of all American wars.  
The cost of the workshop is $10 per person and it will be held rain or shine. Participants are asked to bring along gloves and to wear comfortable clothing and shoes. Discount coupons for the Beverly Bistro will be distributed for those wishing to enjoy lunch before returning home. Bottled water and a small snack will be provided.

Memorial Day weekend is an excellent time to foster cemetery preservation. The tradition of gathering to decorate loved ones’ graves in springtime was a custom in the southern mountains long before the Civil War. By the late nineteenth century, Decoration Day was celebrated at the end of May by both northern and southern states in memory of fallen Civil War veterans.  Today, Memorial Day is a federal holiday honoring all of America’s fallen soldiers.  

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.

Bickle Knob Observation Tower, outside Elkins in Randolph County, is among the few remaining fire towers in the Monongahela National Forest. The tower was built in 1933, constructed by Civilian Conservation Corps labor. The cab has been removed and the tower is now accessible to the public.  Fire towers were an important part of early forest management, eventually going almost entirely out of use due to new fire detection strategies and technologies.

French’s Mill, in Hampshire County, is a grain mill built in 1911 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2014. It operated as a working mill up until 2000, and has since been home to various garden supply shops. The Mill is similar in original function and appearance to the Darden Mill in Elkins, home to AFHA’s Appalachian Forest Discovery Center.
The 2016 Sounds of Railroading Conference and Concert will take place in Elkins June 3-5, 2016. Hosted by Davis & Elkins College’s Center for Railway Tourism, the conference will explore the connection between railroads and traditional music. Featured guests include folklorists Gerry Milnes and Maggie Holtzberg, and musicians Jesse Milnes and Emily Miller, among others.
Germany Valley Karst Area, in northern Pendleton County, was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1973. The region, named after the German immigrants who began settling the area in the 18th century, is recognized for its unique geological features. The area has extensive cave systems, including some such as Seneca Caverns, that have been commercialized and can be visited by tourists.
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Our mailing address is:
Appalachian Forest Heritage Area
P.O. Box 1206
Elkins, WV 26241