In our own words...
Staff Members' Favorite Moments of 2021

Andy Zadnik
Director of Land Stewardship

Some of my favorite WPC moments from the year were during our Land Stewardship workdays. There were a few times when I glanced over to watch my volunteers hard at work, and I realized that some of them have been coming out for a decade or more (much more!). It’s amazing - no matter what kind of project I throw their way, and in all kinds of weather, they keep coming back. Plus, they’ve been around enough by now to start seeing the long-term results of certain projects, like tree plantings.

Above: Land Stewardship Volunteer Alan Hunninen, shown taking care of trees planted at the Helen B. Katz Natural Area in 2013.
Rachel Goad
Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Program Botanist

Over the past couple of years, I’ve been working on updating plant occurrences along the lower Susquehanna River. This year, Chris Tracey, PNHP conservation planning manager, and I visited one of the river islands in the Holtwood Gorge (about 20 miles south of Lancaster) in mid-May, without a clear sense of what we would find, as we had no records of surveys from this time of year in that area. We caught the fringe trees (Chionanthus virginicus) in full bloom. We also located a previously unknown population of blackseed needlegrass (Piptochaetium avenaceum), pictured above on the right, which was a great find because this species hadn’t been documented in Pennsylvania since 2006!
Patti Maxwell
Housekeeping Supervisor at Fallingwater

I guess you can say I'm a "want-to-be artist." I can paint realistic subject matter but I would give every excuse to not try my hand at abstract art. I'm calling this story "procrastination" because I've been doing this for years, telling myself "I'll do this when I retire" or some other excuse. One day as I talked about daily work at Fallingwater with our registrar Rebecca Hagen, the discussion turned to things we were doing in our free time. We started sharing photos of paintings we created and found that we both felt the anguish of trying our hand at abstract painting.

We decided to face our procrastination and agreed on a deadline to complete our first abstract paintings. We put names of painters in a bowl and randomly chose Willem de Kooning, researched his style of painting and put our interpretation onto canvas. When the time came, we presented our pictures to each other. We were both very pleased with ourselves and enjoyed the process tremendously. Rebecca and I have decided that we will continue with our now newly created "ArT ClUb." It's our hope that others will join in. It's not only a way to improve our artistic skills but, more importantly, to connect with others in a creative and personal way. HAPPY CREATING!

Luke Bobnar
Watershed Scientist

This summer we spent roughly three weeks constructing a valley-wide stream and riparian habitat improvement project in Little Arnot Run in the Allegheny National Forest. WPC and partners have been monitoring this stream for a few years and collecting pre-construction data on multiple parameters. One specific study area looks at the wild trout breeding behavior response to our work by surveying trout nests, called "redds" (found in the gravel/substrate of the stream). We hypothesized that we’d see an increase in breeding activity at the site, and incredibly did only 1.5 months after the heavy equipment shut off. That seemed REALLY quick for fish return, but, lo and behold, while surveying this past October, there were a pair of wild brook trout making a redd right on top of one of our structures!

Granted, the scope of research on this project touches almost every field of study related to terrestrial-riparian-stream valley ecosystems and the host of plants and animals that utilize them; but speaking from the "trouty" end of things, seeing native wild trout breeding where you worked, that’s pretty cool! We also observed trout spawning in undisturbed sections of the watershed, where we will be working by hand this spring without heavy equipment.

Amelia Marren
Land Stewardship Coordinator

The Conservancy has two hemlock insectaries (a place where insects are studied) at Bear Run Nature Reserve to research ways to fight the hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA), an invasive insect that is killing our state tree, the Eastern hemlock. We created these insectaries to study and breed Ln beetles (Laricobius nigrinus). Native to the Pacific Northwest and the Western Rockies, Ln beetles (pictured above) are predatory beetles to HWA. We are aiming to be on the cutting edge of research by determining their effectiveness in managing HWA in the Laurel Highlands. These insectaries each consist of 12 planted hemlock trees in a deer exclosure that were purposely infested with the adelgid in spring 2021. By summer, there was a successful transfer and reproduction of HWA on the trees.

After long months of waiting for the beetles to arrive, on a gloomy October 25th, we saw the sunshine: our partners at the Bureau of Forestry had beetles for us! Over 1,000 Ln beetles were shipped overnight from Washington state. We released 490 beetles in the first insectary, 290 in the second and 250 in natural hemlock stands within the Reserve. There was a lot preparation and anticipation for the Ln beetles, and now we can finally say they are here! It’s so exciting, and I can’t wait to see what these beetles are able to do!
Alicia Wehrle
Community Forestry Project Coordinator

My best of ‘21 was the Carnegie Science Center rain garden tours that Shawn Terrell (pictured above) and I gave in July for the Student Conservation Association high school crews. Engaging with them was very rewarding and a lot of fun! I was impressed with their observations and critical thinking as we discussed what a rain garden is, how they work, storm water management in the city, and the importance of trees and riparian buffers. My favorite moment was when a rainstorm hit just as we were nearing the end of a tour. This allowed the group to see the rain garden in action and make real time observations; it was a really exciting moment!
Jenny Wagner
Fallingwater Visitor Services Manager

I was proud to be part of another magical moment at Fallingwater. Elizabeth Dombrowsky, Fallingwater’s event coordinator, did not miss a beat in planning the October "Forest to Table" dinner. This evening was the most magical evening of the season, from shuttling the visitors and staff on a cool evening to see the beautiful setting of the lit ‘lantern in the woods’ to the elegant array of table décor and culinary experience that were to follow. Soft music by the guitarist played while the visitors enjoyed the meal. The chef gave insight into his creations as the guests were awe-struck by his ingenious delicacies. The visitors left Fallingwater with smiles and memories to last a lifetime. It’s experiences like this that add to the great treasury of memories.
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Western Pennsylvania Conservancy
800 Waterfront Drive
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
United States

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