Research conducted at the Claytor Nature Center and published by University of Lynchburg faculty and staff can be found on the Digital Showcase.
Drs. John and Jennifer Styrsky are working on research on milkweed restoration in collaboration with colleagues at several other institutions, including St. Olav College and Gustavus Adolphus College in Minnesota, Denison University and Ashland University in Ohio, and Purdue University in Indiana.
Their team was awarded a three-year research grant from the National Science Foundation totaling $1.2 million. They set up a one-acre study plot at Claytor Nature Center in 2021, transplanting about 1,400 common milkweed plants grown from seeds that were collected from 20 milkweed populations across the plant’s geographic range. One more field season remains in 2023. So far, their work has resulted in one published paper, six research presentations at regional, national, and international scientific conferences, and over 40 undergraduate student participants gaining experience in the project as field assistants and junior collaborators. Hundreds of other students have interfaced with this research as students in ecology courses at the University of Lynchburg and at collaborators’ home institutions.
This research project investigates insect abundance on national and local scales. As part of a national collaboration of higher education institutions, the Biology Department at the University of Lynchburg and the Claytor Nature Center work together to sample insect abundance annually between April and July. A set of four malaise traps are erected a minimum of four times during the sampling season. The collected insects are sorted to order, weighed, and the data compiled into a larger dataset.
American Chestnut Restoration
The American Chestnut Foundation states its goal of restoration is:
To develop the capacity to enable forest plantings of genetically diverse and disease tolerant germplasm capable of sustained population growth and expansion across the broad and ever-changing landscape of our Eastern hardwood forests.
In 2013, the Claytor Nature Center began site preparations to work with The American Chestnut Foundation (TACF) to establish a mother tree orchard. Mother tree orchards provide easy access to the seeds they produce and may also be a source or recipient of pollen for experimental breeding. Claytor’s original orchard was seeded from 93 chestnuts gathered from blight-resistant chestnut trees on public lands in the nearby Blue Ridge Mountains. During the first few years, some of the seedlings that died were replaced. The trees that remain were established between 2014 and 2017. Over the years, pollination has occurred among the trees in the orchard. However, the mother tree orchard also stands ready to receive backcrossed pollen from resistant trees of other origins, should it be needed to support experimental breeding. For now, our chestnut trees annually produce chestnuts that are collected and given to TACF to establish seedlings in other locations.
Visitors can enter the orchard near the main entrance at Woods Road, where they can get a closer look at a species that we hope to reintroduce to eastern forests someday. Please register your visit before entering the orchard by driving down to the education building parking lot and paying the entry fee at the kiosk, or place your membership card in your windshield.
The Virtual Field 360-Degree Seasonal Videos
The Virtual Field 360-Degree Seasonal Videos is a multi-institutional, international, National Science Foundation (NSF) grant-funded project through the Organization for Biological Field Stations (OBFS).
Participants set a 360-degree video camera at a predetermined location, set the camera to run, exit the viewshed, and film five minutes of uninterrupted landscape video. Then they move the camera to the next site. These videos capture seasonal changes.