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University of Nature

September 27, 2014 @ 10:00 am - 4:00 pm


University of Nature offers a one day conference with in-depth learning for experienced and beginner nature enthusiasts alike. Spend a beautiful fall day outside at the Schuylkill Center learning something new. With guided hikes, workshops, and lectures on topics ranging from botany, birds, and butterflies, to environmental art and the intersection between technology and the environment, the conference will be a unique gathering. Stay afterwards for the opening reception of the newest show in the environmental art gallery.

We’ll also present the 9th annual Henry Meigs Award for Environmental Leadership to Dr. Ann F. Rhoads, recently retired after 36 years at the Morris Arboretum, who will offer a workshop/walk on the future of Pennsylvania forests. Dr. Ann Rhoads is a legend among the region’s ecological scientists, having authored numerous books and spent decades committed to botanical field work, including surveys of endangered, threatened, and rare plants.

Act 48 credit available.  Please inquire for details.

Schuylkill Center Members: $45
Special discount for students (please bring student ID): $45
Non-Members: $50
Optional Catered Lunch: $15

Register online here or fill out and return this form by mail or email to register.


Program Details:

Welcome and awarding of the 9th Annual Henry Meigs Award for Environmental Leadership | 10 am

  Morning Field Workshops | 10:30 am – 12 pm

The Future of Our Forests – Enrollment Full
Ann Fowler Rhoads, Ph.D., 2014 Meigs Awardee
Our state is named after its forests, but Penn’s Woods are wracked by so many ecological issues: deer overabundance, colonization by invasive plants and earthworms, climate change.  Yet somehow our forests persist, even in urban areas, providing habitat and supporting a variety of ecosystem services.  On a walk in the forest, our Meigs honoree shares the stories of our forest, focusing on how systems work above—and below—the ground.
Of Butterflies & Plants – Enrollment Full
Jane Ruffin, Naturalist
When it comes to butterflies, observation is king: where do they go, what do they seek, how do they relate to the habitat?  Though careful observation, the intersections between plant and insect life emerge.  Over millennia butterflies and the plants that they live with, some as hosts for eggs and caterpillars, others as specialized food sources, have evolved remarkable mutually supportive relationships.  The truth is the more one learns about butterflies the more one needs to learn about the plants they live with.  Naturalist and butterfly expert Jane Ruffin leads a lecture and walk, offering a look into how studying butterflies becomes a study of ecosystem biodiversity, and how you can support that biodiversity in your own garden.
Last Chance Café: The Importance of Autumn Wildflowers
MikeWeilbacher, Executive Director, Schuylkill Center
Goldenrod fields—the villains in thousands of allergy-relief commercials—are a critically important ecosystem for millions of butterflies, bugs and birds, the last chance for life-saving pollen and nectar before winter sets in.  On an interpretive walk through our meadows and native plant sale, Mike Weilbacher will share the life histories and adaptations of asters, goldenrods, milkweeds, and thistles, plus the butterflies, bees, mantises, flies, assassin bugs, and more, that live in and around them.

 Midday Lectures | 12:45 – 1:45 pm

Raptor Migration Ecology
Chris Farmer, Ph.D. Senior Ecologist; Associate Editor, Journal of Raptor Research
Why do raptors migrate southward in the fall and northward in the spring? Why do we see so many migrating raptors in southeastern Pennsylvania? If you are puzzled by questions such as these, you will find this session helpful.  Dr. Farmer will provide an introduction to the ecology of raptor migration and the hobby of hawkwatching.  He will also provide tips on finding and identifying migrating raptors in our region. Dr. Farmer is the former senior research biologist at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary and has studied raptor migration extensively.
What Do We Know About Climate Risks Facing Philadelphia and the Urban Northeast?
Ethan Coffel, Columbia University
Get an inside look at climate science – the greenhouse effect, natural climate variability, and how human emissions can result in warming global temperatures.   Ethan will give us a local view on the specific effects of climate change on Philadelphia, including sea-level rise, strengthening heat-waves, and potential changes in tropical activity and other storms.  The lecture will conclude with an exploration of strategies Philadelphia can employ to mitigate and adapt to climate change impacts.
Raising Environmental Consciousness through Ecocritical Art
Cristine Larson, University of the Arts
Throughout history, art has reflected man’s relationship with nature. Creativity can be a means of re-discovering ways we can live in harmony with nature. This presentation will explore selected creative works of the twentieth century, including Land and Earth Art, that reflected changing cultural consciousness of nature in mid-century, and will then examine how more recent works have interpreted mankind’s evolving relationship with nature.  We will discuss various creative strategies and their effectiveness in enhancing mankind’s connection to nature in hopes of inspiring a more sustainable future.

Afternoon Field Workshops | 2  – 4 pm

Raptor Migration Field Trip to Militia Hill
Chris Farmer, Ph.D. Senior Ecologist; Associate Editor, Journal of Raptor Research
Come out and practice your hawk identification skills at the Militia Hill Hawkwatch in Fort Washington.  Dr. Farmer will help participants locate and identify migrating raptors, and will discuss aspects of migration ecology in this companion session to the raptor migration ecology lecture.  Binoculars and a field guide are recommended equipment for participants.
The Intersection of Environment & Technology  – Enrollment Full
Leslie Birch, LandLab Resident Artist
The Center’s Wind Dance Pond is shrinking and something is changing the course of our streams. Grab your notepad and join us as a Citizen Scientist as we hike the trails to determine the problem. Then, head back to the Center to prototype solutions.  We’ll also check out how the tech/DIY movement is changing the way science works through microcontrollers – small programmable circuit boards that can control lights, sensors and sounds.  Learn how ordinary people are stepping up to become Citizen Scientists around the world, and see where you fit in to help the environment.
Field Entomology: Beetles Revealed
Dan Duran, Drexel University
They live in the dark and unseen places in the forest: beetles.  Delve deeper into the mysterious world of this diverse group of arthropods and learn about their unique characteristics and many contributions to the functioning of an ecosystem.  They are fascinating, they are mysterious, and to many, repulsive – but the world would look very different without them.  Dr. Dan Duran shares his expertise and field know-how to reveal the many lives of beetles and how scientists have unraveled their secrets.

Opening Reception for Process & Progress in the gallery | 4 pm

 sustainability, conference, nature conference, environmental art, biodiversity, butterflies, nature, environmental studies, environmental


September 27, 2014
10:00 am - 4:00 pm
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