What Makes a Champion Tree?

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Infographic on how to measure a tree's height
An infographic on how to measure the height of a tree. Courtesy of The Virginia Big Tree Program.

Did you know Mariners’ Park is home to a national big tree? This tree is the biggest of its kind in the NATION! Right here in Newport News! You may be thinking about all the largest trees you’ve seen in the Park, wondering which one it might be. But, I bet, if you walked by it you wouldn’t even notice it! Our champion tree, which proudly sits on The National Register of Big Trees as designated by American Forests, is an evergreen bayberry that stands tall at a whopping 14 feet tall. You might be wondering, how did our tree get discovered? How did The National Register of Big Trees find out about it? Or that’s not that big!

As with any story, we have to start at the beginning! Our tree was originally added to The Virginia Big Tree Program website in 2015. But the Program itself began in 1970! You can check out all of the trees in the database here. The Program, run by Virginia Tech, “maintains a register of the 3 largest specimens of over 300 native, non-native, and naturalized tree species…The Virginia Big Tree Program is affiliated with the National Register of Champion Trees, which is administered by American Forests.” according to their website.   Read more

Make a little birdhouse in your….tank farm?

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Photo of an Eastern Blue Bird in The Mariners’ Park. Photo courtesy of Rand Milam/The Mariners’ Museum and Park.

We’ve had our fair share of animal interactions in the Conservation Lab. With the Park surrounding the Museum, and the tank farm (outdoor tanks for storing large objects) so close to the woods, we expect to get the occasional turtle, goose, or squirrel coming to inspect our work. What we didn’t expect was to have a several-year-long battle with….bluebirds.

For anyone who doesn’t know, bluebirds are small, brightly colored birds that nest in tall trees, and have 2-4 broods (times they lay their eggs) each summer. My stepmom loves bluebirds and sets up a birdhouse for a bluebird family in the backyard every year, so I’m always keeping an eye out for these feathered friends.   Read more

Abuzz with Activity in the Bumblebee Learning Garden

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2021 City Nature Challenge (https://citynaturechallenge.org/)

2021 City Nature Challenge Results

The last time I posted, it was the City Nature Challenge (CNC), an international bioblitz! In 2021 the Hampton Roads area did pretty well considering we are still coming out of a pandemic. There is also always room for improvement– stay tuned for our exciting CNC efforts for 2022!    Read more

PRIDE of the WACs: Sex and Sexuality during WWII

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Officers and enlisted women of 3rd WAC Co. are shown in front of company area. Accession Number P0003/01-#F-10899

Changing Perspectives during WWII

As mentioned in some previous blogs, World War II was the first time in US history that women were allowed to officially enter the military in any major capacity, outside of Nursing. This change brought many white, middle-class women into the labor force for the first time and opened up opportunities to women and people of color in jobs that would otherwise be denied to them. The Women’s Army Corps or WAC (originally the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps) was the only one of these groups to integrate women into its corresponding military branch fully. However, in the 1940s, there were much stricter ideas of gender norms, gender expression, and heteronormativity. This meant there was significant pushback against the idea of women joining the military, as this was viewed as the epitome of masculine spaces. As a result, many suggested that women did not belong in the military, despite many women joining the WAC (and other groups) and excelling in their new roles.

The Slander Campaign

There was a lot of concern about what women joining the military might mean. A slander campaign arose between 1943-1944, about 1-2 years after the forming of WAC/WAAC, which claimed that women who joined the WAC were either promiscuous or lesbians. These rumors were sourced from several places. One is a prominent newspaper article on the WACs claiming that WACs would receive free prophylactic equipment, just as the male GIs did. However, this was inherently false, one of the many double standards that women in the military were held to.    Read more

Juneteenth, What’s it all about?

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General Order #3, Headquarters, District of Texas, Galveston, Texas, June 19, 1865, Issued by Order of Major General Granger Juneteenth Order. National Archives 182778372

Tomorrow marks the 156th anniversary of Juneteenth, the oldest commemoration marking the end of slavery in the United States of America. Frederick Douglass, a former enslaved person himself, even referred to it as the second Independence Day. Also known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Liberation Day, and Emancipation Day, the word “Juneteenth” is an amalgamation of “June” and the “19th.”. Let’s turn back the hands of time for a moment and look at what happened 156 years ago.

On June 19, 1865, federal troops under Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, to deliver an unexpected but welcomed order to the enslaved population living in and around this city located on a barrier island. General Order Number 3 states as follows:    Read more