17

March

Cross-country skiing in EcoPreserve

Cross-country ski trail

Out Enjoying the Winter Woods in EcoPreserve

This winter’s heavy snows brought with it a great opportunity to enjoy the EcoPreserve’s trails on cross-country skis or by snowshoe.  With its varied terrain and many trails, the EcoPreserve is one of the better places to cross-country ski in Central New Jersey. One memorable ski this winter had a pair of great-horned owls hooting a duet while a near full moon rose in the east.

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17

December

Camera Trapping Documents Preserve Wildlife

Coyote captured on camera

Several students in the Principles of Natural Resource Management class conducted a month-long survey of wildlife  using motion-activated digital cameras stationed at various locations in the RU EcoPreserve.  The resulting images revealed an abundance of deer (Odocoileus virginianus), red fox (Vulpes vulpes), feral cats (Felis catus) and raccoon (Procyon lotor) throughout the Preserve. They also captured photos of a pair of coyotes (Canis latrans) at one of the camera stations (see photo above).

 

 

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4

December

Deer Management Program

 

 

2013-2014 Deer Management Zones

 A deer damage management program that will take place within the Rutgers Ecological Preserve and nearby lands on Livingston Campus from December 21, 2013 to January 19, 2014. The intent is to reduce the overpopulation of deer in the EcoPreserve through a managed bow hunt.

We would like you to be aware of the following:

·         The deer damage management program is coordinated by Rutgers natural resource and wildlife conservation professionals with the participation of the Rutgers University Police Department, the Rutgers EcoPreserve Advisory Committee and the Friends of the Ecological Preserve.  

·         Officials of the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife are monitoring the program to ensure that participants follow all relevant state hunting regulations.

·         The EcoPreserve will NOT be open to general recreational hunting. Access will be restricted to a small number of state-licensed, vetted and permitted bow hunters who will enter through Rutgers property at a location designated by the university.

·         Hunting will be allowed only in specified sections of the preserve and adjacent lands during dawn to dusk hours (approximately 6 am to 6 pm daily).

·         Regulations on no-hunting zones around private parcels will be strictly enforced.

·         The deer damage management program zones constitute less than 140 acres of the more than 400-acre EcoPreserve.

·         Between December 21, 2013 and January 19, 2014, the specified management program zones will be closed to public access. Warning signage will posted. The remainder of the EcoPreserve will be open.

·         During this period, we request that visitors to the EcoPreserve stay on marked trails, do not enter posted areas, keep pets leashed and wear brightly colored clothing.

For more information about the deer damage management program please go to www.ecopreserve.rutgers.edu, then go > About the RUEP  > Deer Damage Management Program.

For further information about the RU Ecological Preserve and the Deer Damage Management Plan, contact Dr. Richard Lathrop, EcoPreserve Faculty Director at 848 932 1580 or email lathrop@crssa.rutgers.edu

 

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21

August

Trail Crew hard at Work improving trail system

Trail crew clearing brush from meadow

The 2013 trail crew/land stewards have been hard at work at a number of projects this summer. Highlights include: constructing a new boardwalk on the green trail; clearing a new gateway trailhead and trail linking the EcoPreserve to Livingston Campus; interpretative sign installation and invasive plant control. In the photo above, the crew is helping to reopen a remnant little bluestem meadow and black haw shrub thicket in the southeastern portion of the Preserve. The objective is to maintain a broader diversity of early successional grasses, herbs and shrubs in the Preserve.

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19

July

HS Students study how fallen trees change EcoPreserve habitat

July 10.


As part of the 4H Summer Science Program, the EcoPreserve hosted nearly 20 high school students for a day of GIS mapping of fallen trees impacted by Superstorm Sandy. The objective was to teach the students how geographic information and global positioning system technology could be used in a hands-on ecological field study. Students recorded the type, size and geocoordinate location of the fallen trees to add to the database that Principles of Natural Resource Management students started last fall. Samsung donated the use of computer tablets and GPS-enabled smart phones for the activity.

The event was covered by NJ Channel 12 and the Star Ledger to read/see more go to:
http://newjersey.news12.com/features/sandy/campers-at-rutgers-study-how-sandy-s-fallen-trees-change-habitat-1.5664127

and http://www.nj.com/middlesex/index.ssf/2013/07/teens_map_trees_sandy_science_camp.html

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24

April

Trails Work Day April 26 1-5pm

Trails mulched with wood chips from downed trees

To Celebrate Earth Week a Trails Work Day was held on Friday April 26 1-5PM

15 Students from the Rutgers Naturalist and the Rutgers Outdoors Clubs participated.
We spread wood chip mulch made from a number of the Hurricane Sandy downed trees that were cleared from the trails back in January. Turning lemons into lemonade.

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17

April

Spring Wildflowers blooming

Cutleaved Toothwort blooming in Kilmer Woods

A number of spring wildflowers are starting to emerge from the leaf litter and bloom in the mid-Spring sun. The most common species in Kilmer Wood by far is the spring beauty, Claytonia virginica.   Another species that is blooming right now is the cutleaved toothwort, Dentaria laciniata (pictured above). An alternative name for this plant is the pepperroot as the roots are purported to have a peppery taste.  The speckled foliage of the trout lily, Erythronium americanum, is also commonly found through large sections of the woods. Unfortunately, the yellow bell-shaped blooms of the trout lily  are a rather rare occurrence due to overbrowsing by deer.

It will be interesting to track the prgoress of a deer exclosure that Natural Resource Management students installed last fall in a canopy gap opened last fall by Hurricane Sandy. The exclosure was put in an area known to harbor trout lilies as well as mayapples, (Podophyllum peltatum). The students hypothesized that without the stress of deer browsing that these flowers would have the resources to bloom. Can’t wait to see.

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26

March

Piecing together the history of Kilmer Woods

Cutting a cookie from a downed red oak

As recounted in my December 2012 posting, Hurricane Sandy blew over a number of large trees in the Kilmer Woods section of the EcoPreserve. However, no ill wind goes unstudied. In order to clear the trails of downed trees, we had to chainsaw a number of large red, white and black oak trunks. We recently went back to cut “cookies” from a several of these downed boles or stumps to be able to age the trees and fill in some of the pieces concerning Kilmer Woods history. The tree in the photo above was nearly 3 feet in diameter and approximately 160 years old.

Based on tree rings and other evidence such as scattered red cedar stumps and snags, it would appear that the Kilmer Woods was most likely abandoned pasture that was let return to forest sometime in the mid-1800′s. This initial forest consisted of a mix of oak and red cedar during the latter half of the 1800′s. The oaks grew rapidly in the open sunlit environment with some growth rings 5+ mm in width. Around 1900, the forest canopy started to close with 100+ year old oak trees showing a much slower growth rate during their initial establishment years. Other tree species such as beech also became established around this time. The red cedars were eventually overtopped and shaded out though they appear to last quite a while in the understory. With highly decay resistant wood, the red cedar stumps and snags have lasted to the present day. Many of these stumps show evidence of past understory fires.

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25

February

Meadow restoration

Clearing competing vegetation from a remnant meadow

A team of students from the Rutgers Outdoors and Naturalists Clubs helped to restore a remnant meadow in the SW corner fo the EcoPreserve. The objective was to open up and connect several existing patches of little bluestem, a bunchgrass, and black haw shrubs. This meadow and shrub thicket has been gradually invaded by red cedars and other tree species over the years. The larger goal is promote greater habitat diversity in this portion of the EcoPreserve by maintaining early successional vegetation communities.

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22

February

Prescribed burning in the large meadow

NJFFS doing a controlled burn of the large meadow.

With the assistance of the New Jersey Forest Fire Service and Rutgers University Emergency Services, a controlled burn was undertaken Feb 21, 2013, on the large meadow interior to the EcoPreserve. This management action is part of a long term goal of restoring the ecological health and native species diversity to the EcoPreserve. An area of tallgrass meadow of approximately 1/2 acre in size in the interior of the Preserve was targeted. This controlled burn will have great ecological benefits in maintaining this meadow as habitat for a greater diversity of native grasses and wildflowers, improve the meadow as habitat for bird species such as woodcock, reduce flammable fuel loads and serve as a teaching demonstration of this commonly applied ecological management technique. The plan for the prescribed fire was first developed by several Rutgers undergraduate students in the SEBS Principles of Natural Resource Management class (Fall 2012) in consultation with Trevor Raynor of the New Jersey Forest Fire Service (NJFFS) and Richard Lathrop, course instructor.

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