It was a crisp, clear day on Oct. 22, with the leaves well into their fall color, as several members from the Roanoke Valley Chapter of the Virginia Master Naturalists hiked along national forest trails around Pandapas Pond near Blacksburg learning techniques for identifying trees. Dr. John Seiler, Professor of Forest Biology at Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources – better known in some circles as “Dr. Dendro” – was the instructor. By the time the field trip was over, the group had recorded various species of oaks (white, red, scarlet and black), hickories (pignut, mockernut, bitternut and shagbark), yellow poplar, pines (white, pitch, Virginia and table mountain), specked alder, eastern hemlock, sourwood, black birch, American beech, and maples (sugar, red and striped).
Virginia Master Naturalists are volunteer educators, citizen scientists, and stewards helping the Commonwealth conserve and manage natural resources and public lands. Sponsoring organizations include the Virginia Cooperative Extension, the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, the Virginia Department of Forestry, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, and the Virginia Museum of Natural History. Participants undertake 40 hours of basic classroom and field training, supplemented by volunteer activities and additional training in order to achieve certification. The Roanoke Valley Chapter enrolled its first class in spring of 2010, and a second class in spring of this year. The Pandapas Pond trip was organized as an advanced training opportunity for these members.