Monthly Archives: April 2015


As a team, we decided to individually collect bacteria from meaningful places around campus that are also representative of the types of bacteria that can be found throughout Charlottesville. My everyday walk involves passing through the one and only Madison Bowl, so I decided to make it the source of my bacterial sample. Mad Bowl (as we call it for short) is host to many sports, events, people, pets and, even if we don’t think about it much, it is also hosts to an array of microorganisms, including bacteria. I will collect soil from Mad Bowl, carefully picking soil that is closer to the grass, since bacterial colonies tend to live closer to plant roots. The bacteria in this sample is likely to be representative of the bacteria found specifically on ground soil, given that green spaces around campus get the same maintenance and environmental factors.

We will meet as a team to observe the bacteria of each different sample under a microscope. It will be interesting to see how bacteria differ or are similar to one another between all of our samples.

Finally, since we can’t photograph what we see and using words to describe bacteria can be a dry experience, we decided to record our observations by drawing them. Whether the result is accurate representation or abstract art, I am not sure, but it will certainly be exciting to see what we all come up with! Who thought that documenting bacteria could be art? I certainly didn’t, but stay tuned to see our upcoming “collection”!


Even with gloomy weather, we are still mad about Mad Bowl! (Plus, rain means moist soil, and moist soil means optimal environment for bacteria to thrive!)

 Post by Adriana Castillo-Fischer



Increasing Student Interaction with Trees

Despite the warming weather, many UVA students restrict themselves to studying indoors. This is not a positive health decision. As per the Stress Reduction Theory, derived from a 2013 study conducted by Bratman, Hamilton, and Daily, nature is proven to have a positive effect on ones stress level. Schools and hospitals continue to increase use of windows, in an attempt to foster a stronger connection with students and nature. Many trees across our grounds provide shade and are accompanied by benches and tables, creating an ideal study spot. The reason many students study inside might be due to a lack of knowledge of the prevalence of these study areas, along with the lack of knowledge surrounding the positive benefits that trees can provide to students on grounds.

As a University, we need to increase our awareness of these bountiful locations throughout grounds and take advantage of them. When studying or eating indoors, students do not receive the benefits of trees and nature. Benches and picnic tables under trees provide a relaxed, positive, and resourceful work environment for the aspiring student. A 2011 UVA landscape report refers to some of these locations under the subheading “Refuge + Retreat – Gardens and Courtyards”. 2 However, a shifted perspective to these areas being viewed as more multifunctional and as alternative study areas can greatly help reduce the stress of student and faculty.

When studying, a student will take breaks or get distracted by unrelated things. When studying outdoors, a break period is not an unproductive distraction, but is referred to as soft fascination. Soft fascination consists of the therapeutic and restorative elements found when observing nature. Soft fascination is positive for the body and mind, helping to reduce stress hormones (Rinchen-Wongmo).

A location on grounds that does not receive enough acknowledgment is the spaces surrounding Nau Hall. The environment surrounding this building has multiple sites for studying in sight of, or next to trees. The back patio area does not receive shade coverage from the tree canopy, yet reaps benefits from the many surrounding trees. The student sits in a more controlled outdoor environment and experiences the soft fascination of trees, rustling leaves and insect biodiversity. The same student has the option to move out to a more distant area on the nearby grass, and can potentially study or relax under a tree. The paths surrounding Nau Hall make the scenic route worthwhile, as there is a lot of exposure to trees (picture 1).


Picture 1: Trail around Nau Hall



Picture 2: Area outside Nau Hall

The other side of Nau Hall differs in that there is an area in which both benches and a picnic table are directly immersed by the noninvasive, ornamental trees seen in picture 2. The trees of this area provide shade and create stress-free environment to productively study, eat or relax. Many tables within the building overlook the outdoor area. If you cant be outside, perhaps due to weather, a seat with a view of trees can help to reduce stress through an indirect form of nature.

The many pavilion gardens surrounding the perimeter of the lawn have trees and benches that are not being used to their full potential. These areas put students in a place that is away from their daily stress, allowing them to relax and study in an effort to avoid poor mental health. The negative effects of stress are extreme, and studying or not, we must utilize these areas bountiful with nature to combat the high levels of stress regularly seen in a college setting.


Picture 3: Pavilion VII Garden



Picture 4: Pavilion V Garden

The University can add more benches under the existing tree areas, as a solution to students who avoid sitting on the ground. Tables can also be put into place to replicate a setting of a library; this can help a student using multiple books and accommodate larger groups. By promoting these relaxation regions as alternative study areas, UVA not only promotes a positive image for utilizing the nature around us, but also shows that they encourage students to obtain both academic success and a healthy mind.


Post by Ben Steinberg

Work Cited

Bratman, Gregory, J. Paul Hamilton, and Gretchen C. Daily. “The Impacts of Nature Experience on Human Cognitive Function and Mental Health.” Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 1249 (2012): n. pag. Web.

Landscape Typologies + Standards. Rep. Office of the Architect, University of Virginia 2011, n.d. Web.

Rinchen-Wongmo, Leslie. “Environment, Meditation, & Soft Fascination.” Threads of Awakening RSS. N.p., 23 June 2009.


UVA Birdsongs

On April 2nd from 2:15 to 3:15, me and my classmate Morgan Rudd went to a picnic table in front of the astronomy building across the street from Ohill and set up a recorder to record the birdsong in that area. It was a sunny day with temperatures around mid 70’s however the wind was blowing very hard which may have slightly messed with the audio recording. Upon sitting at the picnic table and taking about five minutes to just listen to the birds, I felt much more relaxed. I was not able to get a good look at any of the birds because of the tree cover around the building but I could definitely hear the songs of various species of birds. After about 15 minutes of listening, I began to quietly read and look over some notes for an upcoming test. I definitely felt calmer and less distracted when sitting outside on this beautiful day versus sitting in a library surrounded by people and electronics. I have never been much of a bird enthusiast however I really do see the positive effects of an interaction with nature and I believe that it would do everyone some good to take 20-30 minutes a day to emerge themselves into nature. I know I will.

Post by Mitch Brown 


The Benefits of Green Roofs on Grounds

Green roofs have become an increasingly popular design feature throughout the US urban landscape. Architects are now adding them onto the roofs of cities in an attempt to encourage sustainability and mitigate environmental impact. The average green roof provides numerous benefits to the surrounding community. Contrary to popular belief, these benefits are not limited the environment. There are three main areas in which green roofs provide major benefits: environmental, economic and social.

Environmental Benefits

One of the primary benefits of green roofs is that it improves the air quality in the surrounding community. Not only does it sequester carbon, but also often becomes a net carbon sink, which is especially useful in an urban setting. A net carbon sink is a reservoir that absorbs more carbon than it releases into the atmosphere. A secondary benefit of green roofs is that they absorb storm water and then absorbed water is filtered and pollutants are removed. Green roofs can also act as a buffer for acid rain, which is especially useful in areas that suffer from reoccurring acid rain. Another benefit of green roofs is that they can be build out of recycled material, which reduces the communal impact on the environment.

Economic Benefits

            There are a variety of economic benefits that green roofs provide. One primary benefit is insulation to buildings. Green roofs can keep buildings cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter, thus lowering cooling and heating bills. A second benefit is that if the green roof is properly installed, it can actually lengthen the life of a roof, thus lowering replacement costs. Green roofs also have the opportunity to create jobs through the installation and maintenance of the roof. If there is a garden on the roof, it also offers potential to grow and sell produce. Green roofs and urban agriculture have also been known to increase property value and marketability, which could attract more potential students to look at the University.

Social Benefits

            Green roofs are known for creating interactive outdoor spaces and can host spaces for people to relax, converse or study. Green roofs have the potential to foster community through communal upkeep and maintenance. Green roofs provide educational opportunities to schools with the potential for classes based on the biodiversity that the green roofs foster. These roofs also improve productivity, which can be very beneficial to a school community. Green roofs provide numerous mental and health benefits, including reductions in asthma due to improve air quality and a reduction in stress.

Green roofs have the opportunity to provide numerous benefits to the UVA community. While UVA does have some green roofs around grounds, they are unexciting and are not harnessing the potential benefits. Many people worry about the costs of implementing more green roofs around grounds but the average green roof has a payback period of around 6.2 years. Not only does it offer numerous environmental, economic and social benefits but it also will beautify the university and ultimately, pay for itself in benefits.


Ruth Caplin Theater Green Roof


Rouss Robertson Hall Green Roof


Ruth Caplin Theater Green Roof


Rouss Robertson Hall Green Roof



Special Collections Library Green Roof


Post by Morgan Klausner, Second Year, Environmental Thought and Practice Major

Bats Houses

When most people think of bats they don’t picture them as being very important, however bats are extremely important to the environment.  They eat thousands of insects, which ultimately lead to less pests getting to crops and less pesticides used in the farming of these crops.  Also, bat houses give bats a place to live close to your garden, while simultaneously keeping them out of your house.  Bat habitats are decreasing rapidly and bat houses are a safe and secure way to house these bats during the day and allow them to raise their young.

To build a bat house you must first think of a couple topics, such as what type of bats are in the area and the size of these bats, after that you can determine the size of the bat house you want to build and then go for it!  Or if you would like to purchase a bat house there are countless websites where you can find pre-made ones that would fit perfectly in your yard.

Bat houses range in size, from a single chamber to a four chamber one.  They can either be mounted on a building or put up on a post.  In order to get the highest number of bats to come to your bat house use these suggestions.  Since summer in Charlottesville is between 85-95 degrees, you should use a dark or medium shade of paint to attract the most bats. It also needs to be in areas that receive direct sunlight for 6-8 hours of the daytime, over 10 feet above the ground, near water and around a variety of agriculture.

According to the wildlife, there are 8 different types of bats that could be living in Charlottesville, the first four bats are all cave dwelling bats, meaning they hibernate in caves, and tree bats that hibernate in leaf clusters, logs, hollow trees or sometimes buildings.  These eight different types of bats are all ones you may find in your bat house!

Cave bats:

The little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus lucifugus)



Northern myotis (Myotis septentrionalis septentrionalis)

Eastern pipistrelle (Pipistrellus subflavus subflavus)



Big brown bat (Eptesicus fuscus fuscus)

Tree bats:
Silver haired bat (Lasionycteris noctivagans)



Eastern red bat (Lasiurus borealis borealis)

Hoary bat (Lasiurus cinereus cinereus)
Evening bat (Nycticeius humeralis humeralis)
Examples of bat houses:

9 10 11
Post by Matthew Dowling



Hereford Residential College

One of the most historic and proud residential colleges found on Grounds here at the University of Virginia is the Hereford Residential College. The goals of first building this residential college was to provide social and intellectual programming while also promoting a deep notion of community. Hereford opened in 1992 as the University’s second-ever residential college. Its design was intended to emulate a modern version of Thomas Jefferson’s Academical Village plan. Being a resident of Hereford myself, I have observed how similar the community is to that of the one on the lawn. The scenic view and the untamed nature around the residential college is absolutely astonishing especially because it sits on top of Observatory Hill overlooking the mountainous terrain beyond.

Embedded in the middle of the five buildings of Hereford is an acre of lawn that acts as the center of the community where you can find picnic tables and hammocks. Now that the weather has started to take a turn in favor of spring, students have started to frequently visit this spot whether it is to study, hangout with friends, or just soaking up the bright rays of the sun. The great thing about this area is that it is lined with trees that so nicely drape over some of the hammocks that are present. These trees provide shade over the hammocks which makes it extra relaxing and comfortable for the people using them. The trees themselves provide a feeling of comfort and wholesomeness especially when you are nestled deep within them while laying on a hammock, sitting on the grass, or tossing a football around with others.  Without the trees, the space would feel really empty and there would definitely be something missing in the thick of it all.


Hereford Residents making use of the hammocks and picnic tables under the trees.

In a recent study published by the journal Environmental Pollution, the researchers found that people who lived around more trees relative to people who lived in dense cities, tended to live longer. The study found that “trees prevented 850 human deaths and 670,000 cases of acute respiratory symptoms in 2010 alone”.  When a significant area of trees is removed from a population, air pollutants begin to rise in the environment because the trees had acted as a filter in a way to intercept these pollutants.  The study concluded that trees serve a more impactful use when they are in urban areas, rather than rural ones, because of the closeness of proximity to people. Everyday we take the trees and forests around us for granted without realizing how much importance they have by removing the potential air pollution that could be present without them.


Post by Garrick Sin

Coming Soon: ANTS!

It may not be the first thought on your mind when you walk outside, but actually try to think about the last time you saw an ant in Charlottesville. After an unusually long winter, the ants are slowly but surely making themselves visible. But what have they been doing all this time? How did they survive the frost without invading our homes and dorms in their systematic little lines? The answer is that ants are experts at braving the seasons. In Autumn, ants eat large amounts of foods such as plants, fungus, food scraps, and even other insects. Another reason you may not have seen an ant lately is because they do most of their food foraging under the cover of night. In the winter, ant’s body temperatures drop dramatically and they seek out warm spaces in deep soil, under rocks or under the bark of trees. They also join together as a community by snuggling together and huddling around the queen. When you learn about all of this you may think, “Wow, ants are pretty cool!” But all of that goes out of the roof when you’re trying to have a picnic on the Lawn and you find ants crawling up next to your freshly bought food from the Dumpling Truck. Let the ant killing begin. But with a little preplanning and some simple materials you can say “shoo ant, don’t bother me” without having an ant killing on your conscience. Plus, these are techniques you can use in your home or dorm room to keep out the ants without damaging the environment with harmful pesticides.

1)    Take chalk and draw a line around the edge of where you do not want ants to intrude and the calcium carbonate will help repel the ants.

2)    Spray lemon juice, cinnamon essential oil, or peppermint oil, around windows and doors for a great smelling house/dorm and an ant free space.

3)    Place coffee grounds or cornmeal in cracks where ants are entering or exiting. This will not kill them but just repels them and makes them relocate. It’s also a little safer if you have pets than placing the toxic bait packets around that they could chew into.

Hopefully these will be easy and effective ways for you to keep ants at bay without hurting them in the process. Just like how every person in Charlottesville suddenly becomes a runner on that first nice warm day, the ants will emerge from their winter homes with a fury. For picnickers, homeowners, or anyone trying to stop the hungry ants without killing them or using pesticides, these could come in handy. I have noticed that not many people know about these natural remedies to dealing with insects.In our urban planning practices, we are encouraged to embrace nature in the cities, but often ignore the insects which preside in almost all forms of nature indoors and outdoors. It is very possible for us to coexist and create spaces for each other to thrive. Ants are significant and have been a large part of our history appearing in books, movies, poems, games, paintings sculptures, music and much more. Even though they’re tiny, species of ants preside all around the world and appear in almost every known language. Specifically in Virginia, you may run into the Little Black Ant, the Carpenter Ant, the Crematogaster Ant, the Odorous House Ant, the Pavement Ant and the Yellow Ant. You will be seeing some of these around Charlottesville soon enough! Hopefully you’ll refrain from killing them and use natural ingredients instead to send the ants on their merry way.

Post by Jennifer Reid




Night Flight Calls of Birds – An Introduction

This semester, our team will be studying the night flight calls of birds as observed across the UVA campus. Despite their great intrigue and potentially impactful meaning, night flight calls are a topic yet to be well understood even by experts in the field. As a result, some background is necessary before delving into research.

Bird night flight calls (NFCs) are not the bird song or chirping that to which we are accustomed; not mellifluous like normal, these calls are instead usually short, low buzzes or whispers, lasting a maximum of just half a second. Though their short, monotonous nature may suggest otherwise, night flight calls are a complex language – each species features its own unique method of calling, be that in tone, length, or pattern of calls. Most often heard during migrations (hence their occurrences at night), it is speculated that these calls, at a fundamental level, are bird communication, helping birds remain in flock, keep formation, and warn others of potential collision or danger. Current professional research in the subject seeks to analyze NFCs to understand how birds navigate through cities, the way in which various bird species respond to the stress of urban areas (primarily, whether birds stop or not), and what measures can be taken to make cities more bird-friendly.

Our primary research goal will be analyzing the frequency and abundance of NFCs heard around UVA grounds. Albemarle County is on the migratory flight path of a number of bird species, and UVA has been cited as a prime spot to observe bird migration; the Monticello Bird Club has documented almost 24 different species of warblers that migrate over the O’Hill area, as well as various species of tanagers, orioles, and other forest birds. Moreover, birds over grounds are most active during spring migration (April 15 to May 15), which coincides nicely with our time of research. A brief analysis of migratory time tables of birds in Charlottesville cross referenced with a list of species found at UVA shows that our analysis will certainly take place within time range of Palm Warbler migration, and potentially within the time range of Bay-Breasted, Blackburnian, and Cerulean Warbler migrations. As a result, we should not only be able to observe great diversity in the NFCs heard, but more importantly hear enough NFCs to draw conclusions about NFC frequency and abundance.

Post by Aaron Weinstock

General background information from: “Nocturnal Migrant Flight Call Research,” by the Bioacoustics Research Lab at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, found at; “Listening to Migratory Birds at Night May Help Ensure Their Safety” by T. Edward Hickens, from the National Audubon Society’s “Audubon Magazine” Sept-Oct 2013 issue, found at

UVA and Charlottesville information from: “Observatory Mountain” by Dave Hogg, from Ken Klotz’s “A Birder’s Guide to Charlottesville, Virginia, and Vicinity” published by the Monticello Bird Club, found at; “Virginia Spring Migration,” from the “Spring and Fall Migration Table,” found at

Microorganisms: Investigating Alderman

Microorganisms are living species that are microscopic to the naked eye. They are so small that millions of them can fit onto the head of a needle (MicrobeWorld). They are the earliest form of life on Earth, ranging from Bacteria, Archaea, Fungi, Protists, and Viruses. So where exactly are they found? The answer is everywhere. On surfaces, our hands, our food, even the air we breathe.

Thousands of students touch the same surfaces every day: door handles, computer keyboards, bathroom faucets. The simplest means of microorganism transmission is indeed our hands. Within a 30 minute time frame from 7:30-8:00pm, 18 women pushed the same door handle to the fourth floor restroom in Alderman library. In that same period of time, 31 students pressed the same elevator key to lower levels, and 76 students pushed the same spring bar on the main entrance door. We carry thousands of microorganisms on our hands and the more surfaces we touch, the more we contract and the more we leave behind (Middle School Math and Science). On average, 150 species of bacteria coexist on our hands, so imagine the number of them just present on door handles and surfaces in this library.

Now, are all of them harmful? Not at all. Microorganisms help protect our body from harmful bacteria and pathogens, produce some vitamins, aid in digestion, and can be beneficial to other organisms. Microorganisms in interior spaces can be transported indoors from the outside environment, come from human skin cells, or can develop due to moisture. Near the main entrance in Alderman library, there is increased humidity from the doors constantly opening and closing, which fosters microbial growth. The carpet also provides an area for microorganisms to accumulate from foot traffic, drink and food spills, and bodily fluid deposition (coughing and sneezing) (Leonas). Microorganisms also collect on dust particles, which can be transported by humans or remain airborne. They need water to survive, and dust particles are an excellent source of it.

Ways to manage microbial growth? Cleaning and washing your hands. Although some microorganisms are harmless, others have the ability to transmit viruses. And the presence of them is positively correlated with the number of occupants in a public space. Since microorganisms need water to survive, indoor areas that are regularly exposed to moisture should be cleaned often, such as the restrooms.

Microorganisms are responsible for recycling waste and producing energy sources such as carbon and nitrogen. These energy sources are required for other organisms to survive, including both plants and animals. Although inside, microorganisms in interior spaces, like Alderman library, still contribute to the biodiversity of the environment as a whole.

Post by Brooke Adams


Leonas, Karen. “Microorganisms in Carpet.” (2003): n. pag. Web.

“MicrobeWorld.” What Is a Microbe? American Society for Microbiology, 2014. Web. 31 Mar. 2015.

“Middle School Math and Science.” Middle School Math and Science. Ohio State University, n.d. Web. 31 Mar. 2015.

Darden Courtyard

The Engineering School is one of the most under-appreciated spots around grounds. Seeing as most students do not have classes in or around Thornton Hall, many do not realize how full of nature and gorgeous it really is. In the late spring, the Engineering Way is covered with flowers and gardens that are in fact part of the stormwater collection system. However, slightly off the main way, in the middle of Thornton Hall, there is a gorgeous courtyard called the Darden Courtyard.

In the winter months, the courtyard is left mainly untouched, except to house some of the career fairs or exhibitions in early winter. However, when the weather begins to warm, the courtyard is once again full of student life.

The courtyard consists of a large lawn, surrounded by brick walls and walkways, with 4 large trees in each corner of the courtyard, and several picnic tables. As it is a sunken courtyard, most students do not walk through it as they walk to class but instead go there with a purpose. Whether it is a spot for reading, talking on the phone, or playing frisbee, the courtyard provides a haven away from the white cinderblock walls of Thornton Hall.

While this courtyard doesn’t provide breathtaking long distance views, or the stunning architecture of the lawn, it has a peaceful quality about it, as the only views are that of the grass, sky, and beautifully juxtaposed brick architecture.

If you ever want a quiet place to study, full of sunlight, and slightly hidden away, Darden Courtyard is the place to go.


Post by Genevieve Jordan