Living the Wild Life

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Loblolly pine tree in the Park.
Loblolly pine tree in The Mariners’ Museum Park. Photographed by Amanda Shields.

When you take a walk along the Noland Trail or picnic at Lions Bridge, have you ever thought about the different plants and animals that call The Mariners’ Museum Park home? To date, we have discovered 523 different species live in the Park. This incredible number includes birds, insects, plants and trees, reptiles, and many more. Below are just a few highlights.

Trees   Read more

Discovering Nature’s Splendor with the Education Team at the Mariners’

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Andrea Rocchio (Science Educator) with young visitor looking at macroinvertebrates.

The Mariners’ Museum Park is 550 acres of lake and forested land brimming with wonder and diversity. Our very own Chesapeake Bay is considered to be ecologically diverse, and The Mariners’ Museum Park, located right off the James River, is a microcosm of that spectacular diversity. With our most current datasets from a combination of research from local universities, government entities, citizen science efforts, and our own internal data collection, we know the Park has approximately 96 species of trees, 187 bird species, 88 herbaceous and woody plant species, and a plethora of insects, amphibians, reptiles, fungi, and so much more. With more of a focus on the Park in recent years across many Museum departments, there has been a concerted effort to increase programming and informational sessions that pertain to the Park’s living collection and the Park’s history. If you want to learn more about the Park history, watch out for blog posts from Erica Deale, the Park Stewardship Coordinator.   

The Education Department at the Museum has also been building upon the fantastic natural resource of the Park. Since 2018, the Education Department has expanded our Park-focused program offerings along with collaborating with local environmental and citizen science groups in development, implementation, and/or funding. In this blog, I’m just focusing on one of our outdoor programs called Macroinvertebrate Mayhem that was co-developed with the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS).    Read more

The White Oak Tree with a Hidden Past

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Image describing how to treat a tree from A Shade Tree Guide in 1918.
Image from A Shade Tree Guide by the New Jersey Department of Conservation and Development, 1918.

On the morning of August 27, 2011, Hurricane Irene blew through Newport News with high winds and rain. The Mariners’ Museum Park fared quite well with only 40 trees down, compared to 3,000 downed trees from Hurricane Isabel in 2003. However, once the storm had passed and the damage assessed, we discovered that the oldest known tree in the Park was one of the 40. A 355-year-old white oak tree in Williams Field. To say that Park staff was devastated is an understatement!

Luckily, the story doesn’t stop there! Upon closer inspection, we discovered a hidden history beyond its impressive age! There was concrete running through a majority of the tree, stabilized with what appeared to be handmade nails. Who put it there? How long ago was it put in? WHY was it put in? It was obvious that it had been there for a while. And we assumed that an injury of some sort had occurred to the tree and it was “fixed” with concrete. But for years, that’s all we had.   Read more

The Magic of Maritime Mondays

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All ages enjoy Maritime Mondays!

The Magic of Maritime Mondays

The pandemic has changed everything. We go to work “from home” and most of our day-to-day interactions with others outside of our homes are done online via Zoom, Google Chat, FaceTime, etc. Of course there are those who are essential personnel including first responders, maintenance workers, health care providers, and all those folks who keep our cities going and our grocery stores running. Even my 20-year-old kid, who still lives at home, is working at Starbucks. But I’m stuck at home.   Read more

Patten Down the Hatches!

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Image: National Portrait Gallery, Mary Ann Brown Patten 1857

We often hear about adventures at sea involving storms, mutinies, accidents, and illness. More often than not, the storyteller goes on to talk about the heroics of a crew member who is, usually, a man. But what if it were a woman? An amazing 19-year-old woman? A woman who happened to also be pregnant?

The story of Mary Patten was well known when it took place in the 19th century. It appeared in many newspapers because of the sheer novelty of the incident. Women in 19th-century society were considered the “weaker sex,” and whose sole purpose, in middle class America, was to support their husbands and families at home.  I grew up in New England and never heard a word about Mary.    Read more