Monthly Archives: February 2014

Exploring the Aquatic Life in our Backyards

Hello! My name is Emily Paul and I am part of the Aquatic Team, made up of Jaclyn Garet, our grad student mentor, as well as Henry Peltz, Philip Todd, Eric Gillwald, Dominique Willis, David McQuillen, and Rob Dagostino. In our first meetings, we spent a lot of time discussing what types of aquatic life we wanted to study, which locations we would choose, and in what way we would quantify or measure our observations. There were so many ideas we had at first—looking at the endangered spinymussel, studying the shad introduced to the Rivanna, observing rivers where fishing is popular and how that impacts the environment, and researching how to introduce water back into urban landscapes—but the main problem was narrowing it down. Though we were interested in sediments, runoff, and pollution, we decided to stick with the physical aquatic life of the water near us.

The project timeline and workplan we created is keeping us on track. Right now, we are deep into our research to gather a better understanding of the aquatic bodies we decided to study. Our team divided up into groups, each with a different location on Grounds or off, in order to obtain a better picture of the aquatic life in our midst.

We have been contacting local experts in order to gather more information, sharing criteria that we all see as a common measure of the aquatic plant and animal life, and gathering as much data as possible. Locations we brainstormed were the Rivanna river, the Dell, Moore’s Creek, the Lynch River, a pond from home, Ivy Creek, the Quarry, and Mill Run. In order to record our observations, we will take extensive notes on what we see, hear, smell and more; take photographs; and conduct site visits at least every two to four weeks in order to gauge differences in time, season, and weather.

Two locations we are studying are the Quarry and the Rivanna River. Dominique and I decided to work on the Dell and observe its wildlife. The Dell was a stream daylighting project at UVA that has been considered very successful. It is located right across the street from the UVA Bookstore. We started our search for information with Bill Lucy, a planning professor who had integrated study of the Dell into one of his classes, and he directed us to Mary Hughes in the Office of the Architect and Jeffrey Sitler from Facilities Management. Mary Hughes directed us to a website that gave us more information about the design of the Dell. Next Tuesday, we are going on a tour of the Dell with Sitler, a hydrologist and Environmental Compliance Manager. He shared with us a few resources documenting the creation and progress of the Dell as background; we are excited to speak with him in person next week to see what else we can learn!

Photo from:

Post by Emily Paul, Third-Year, Urban and Environmental Planning

Nature Observation

The nature observing team has decided to break Grounds up into three sections to best catalog where one can go to observe natural areas on and off the ‘beaten path’. Our three geographic areas of interest are North Grounds (including the Law School, Darden, and the U-Hall/JPJ area), Central Grounds (including Newcomb, the Lawn, and the Architecture School), and O-Hill and the surrounding area. Our plan is to select various locations around Grounds based on their ease of access and ability to enjoy nature (for instance, you can see mountains in the distance if you stand on the terrace of Rouss-Roberston Hall at the East side of the Lawn). Although we have not selected all of our spots yet, we are hoping to have a more solidified list by our next posting. Once our list is finalized, our tentative plan is to take photographs at each site and then use Google Maps to map out the line of sight (barring we are able to effectively use the technology).

Our next step is to get in touch with members of the photography club, since they would most likely know creative places to take pictures of nature scenes. Upon Professor Beatley’s recommendation, we are also going to reach out to Architecture Professor Guoping Huang, who is using GIS to map out areas around Grounds to contemplate.

Our first observation is from the patio area near Newcomb Hall and the University Bookstore. Standing near the top of the steps, one can see the Dell Pond on the opposite side of Emmet Street. The Dell is a pond area that hosts a variety of wildlife.

The Dell Pond:



The area outside Newcomb Hall where one can view the Dell:


The view of the Dell from the area outside Newcomb Hall:


Google Maps and Google Satellite view of the line of sight from Newcomb Hall to the Dell Pond:


Post by Taylor Henkel, Third-Year, Global Development Studies

Hoos for Saving Birds

Building strikes are the cause of 365-988 million bird mortalities annually in the United States (Loss et al.). Our BioGrounds group hopes to explore the prevalence of these mortalities in Charlottesville, Virginia and analyze the contributing factors. Finally, based on external research, we will suggest recommendations to lower the bird mortality rate and improve conditions for birds in Charlottesville.

We selected two buildings on the grounds of the University of Virginia to focus our efforts. Nau Hall and Campbell Hall were chosen based on the presence of large glass windows that reflect sunlight and give the appearance of a safe flight route. Additionally, the buildings are at a height that birds most commonly fly at, increasing the possibility for collision (San Francisco Planning Department 17). We plan to visit each building daily for two weeks. We will circle the perimeter of buildings, observe the buildings’ structures, and look for evidence of bird mortalities. These visits will be conducted in the mornings to maximize our chances of finding this supporting evidence because most mortalities occur at night due to low visibility during flight.

Additionally, we plan to schedule meetings with the Maintenance Directors of the buildings. These Maintenance Directors are highly familiar with the buildings’ structure and external conditions. We believe they may have stories or rough estimates of bird mortalities to share with us. We will ask if they have any further input to contribute to our findings. We also plan to get in contact with the Fatal Light Awareness Project (FLAP), in order to learn more about the group’s methods that will assist as we finalize our own methods in gathering data, as outlined above.

At the conclusion of our project, we will combine the quantitative data and qualitative observations from our visits to Nau and Campbell Halls, additional input from our discussions with the Building Maintenance Directors, and research into FLAP and other bird mortality prevention groups. We hope to offer solid recommendations for the University of Virginia and City of Charlottesville to proceed in improving conditions for the birds of Charlottesville.

Bird Mortality at UVa
Photo by Kaye Thomas
Bird Mortality at UVa
Photo by Kaye Thomas

Works Cited

Loss at al. Bird–building Collisions in the United States: Estimates of Annual Mortality and Species Vulnerability. The Condor: Ornithological Applications. January 2014.

San Francisco Planning Department. Standards for Bird-Safe Buildings. San Francisco, California: n.p., 2011. Print.


Post by Katherine Roderick, Susannah Saunders, Carolyn Albright, and Alison Lanshe