- Rare Plants Love Whitewater Too!Perles, Stephanie; Manning, Doug (New River Symposium, 2022-04-11)The riparian vegetation communities of New River Gorge National Park and Preserve, Gauley River National Recreation Area, and Bluestone National Scenic River represent some of the most biodiverse and rare flora with within the parks. Globally rare plant communities and dozens of rare species occur along the rivers, particularly in areas which receive periodic scouring from flooding. Riverscour prairies, one of the park’s globally rare communities, support tall prairie grasses and heliophytic forbs on cobble bars along the Bluestone, New, Gauley, and Meadow Rivers. Scour during high water events maintains these cobble bars as open habitats. Without sufficient scour, woody plants can establish, shading the heliophytic forbs and grasses that characterize this rare community. Given increasing stressors from changing climate, invasive species, and altered flow regimes, understanding how riverscour prairies are changing is increasingly important to their protection. Over the past decade, the National Park Service Inventory and Monitoring Program has monitored these dynamic prairies, revealing shifts in the abundance of native and invasive plants, as well as the encroachment of woody plants. As a result, park staff have treated invasive shrubs at targeted sites, as well as newly-detected invasive plants that were not previously known to occur in the parks. Of particular concern in these parks is the federally listed Virginia spiraea (Spiraea virginiana) that thrives in riverscour habitats. Gauley River National Recreation Area contains the world’s largest known population of Virginia spiraea; and it also occurs just upstream of the Bluestone National Scenic River. Over the next decade, the National Park Service plans to monitor, propagate, augment, and outplant Virginia spiraea in Bluestone National Scenic River and Gauley River National Recreation Area. The National Park Service will also work to improve habitat for extant Virginia spiraea through invasive plant removal and increasing light availability in riverscour habitats.
- WV Stream Watch App: Easily Report Pollution Incidents in West Virginia’s WatersDodson, Jenna (New River Symposium, 2022-04-11)Citizen scientists are increasingly using Smartphone apps as a way to broaden and streamline data collection. WV Stream Watch, an app recently developed by West Virginia Rivers and Trout Unlimited, is an effective tool anyone can use to document water pollution across the state. From anglers to kayakers to hikers, any concerned citizen can easily submit photos of water pollution incidents or habitat degradation to inform follow-up on enforcement actions or restoration needs. This presentation will review how to use the app, and present short case studies of how the app has been used to both inventory water quality and identify issues requiring enforcement actions by the WV Department of Environmental Protection. Learn how WV Stream Watch equips everyday people to be the eyes and ears of West Virginia’s rivers and streams.
- Eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) in New River Gorge National Park and Preserve: Trends, Concerns, and ManagementKull, Katie (New River Symposium, 2022-04)The eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) is a long-lived, shade-tolerant evergreen tree which grows throughout eastern North America, including within New River Gorge National Park and Preserve. Its dense foliage creates a dark, cool forest understory that supports a unique assemblage of plants, as well as facilitating exceptional stream habitat for fish species such as brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis). However, eastern hemlocks face an ecological threat from several invasive pests, most notably the hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA; Adelges tsugae). This tiny insect feeds on the sugars produced by the hemlock tree, causing physiological stress that can kill in the tree in as few as four years, particularly when combined with other stressors such as drought. First detected in the southern West Virginia national parks in 2000, HWA is now common throughout hemlock ecosystems in the New River Gorge. While some mortality has occurred, the National Park Service utilizes a variety of tools to maintain ecological value and scenic enjoyment of hemlock forests in the park, including chemical treatments, biological control agents, and forest health monitoring. This poster will detail the park’s hemlock program over the past 25 years, providing data on monitoring trends, exploring emerging threats, and outlining future plans.
- Recreation Management Issues on Claytor Lake, VirginiaCarroll, Joshua; Hinkle, Ethan (New River Symposium, 2022-04)Perceptions of the recreation experience on Claytor Lake.
- No Stone Unturned: Studying Bluehead Chubs at Virginia TechBustamante, Thomas; Betts, Madison; Brooks, Samantha; Frimpong, Emmanuel A. (New River Symposium, 2022-04)The bluehead chub (Nocomis leptocephalus) is a common, medium-sized freshwater minnow found in streams across the southeastern United States. Each summer, mature male chubs construct mound nests out of thousands of pebbles using only their mouths, a behavior only thirteen known species are capable of. These mound nests attract other “nest associates,” of which there can be as many as a few hundred fishes representing up to a dozen species on any one nest at a time. Thus, bluehead chubs play an active role in the persistence of the aquatic ecosystems they inhabit. The Frimpong Lab at Virginia Tech seeks to understand the complex relationships between bluehead chubs and their environment. To do this, members of the lab investigate concepts such as symbiotic interactions, behavior, and adaptive responses of bluehead chubs. Further, the Frimpong Lab strongly advocates for the use of an arts-science connection to engage the local community and emphasize the importance of this fascinating species.
- Longitudinal assessment of estrogenic activity along the New RiverPena-Ortiz, Michelle; Tuberty, Shea (New River Symposium, 2022-04)The presence of endocrine disrupting compounds (EDCs) exhibiting estrogenic activity in aquatic environments has been recognized as a widespread, pervasive environmental issue since the mid-1990s. These estrogenic compounds have been shown to adversely impact fish species at exposure concentrations as low as 1.0 ng/L Estradiol Equivalents (EEQ) (0.00367 nM). The aim of this research was to screen for all three fish estrogen receptors using the TriFishER assay to assess risk of impacts of estrogenic EDCs along the entire New River (360 miles) and link estrogenic EDCs to land use by screening for binding activity to three estrogen receptor (ER) isoforms (acERα, acERβa, acERβb) using the TriFishER assay. Results show that at most sites the estrogenic EDC concentrations represented a high risk for all 3 ER isoforms, despite collection of samples during 90th percentile river flows from seasonal rainfall. The acERα and acERβa were positively correlated to urban land use in stream sites, and acERβa was negatively correlated to forested land use. Since 23% of sites that showed undetectable binding to acERα simultaneously showed binding to acERβa and/or acERβb, the present study demonstrated the importance of screening for all three ER isoforms, as opposed to the customary screening for acERα. Tuberty is Professor and Assistant Chair of Biology at ASU, teaches Ecotoxicology and Zoology courses, and leads research on impacts of EDCs, coal ash, and other toxins to fish and invertebrates. He serves on the New River Conservancy’s Technical Advisory Committee and hosted the 2019 New River Symposium at ASU.
- The Old Appalachian Trail in the New River Valley, 1931-1955McNeely, Jim (New River Symposium, 2017-05-16)This presentation is an overview and summary of the results of my studies and field investigation of the former routes of the Appalachian Trail in southern Virginia. For the purposes of this presentation to the 2017 New River Symposium, my primary focus will be on Old AT routes in the New River Valley of southwestern Virginia during the period 1931 through 1955.
- Middle Fork New River Restoration Prioritization PlanJennings, Greg; Patoprsty, Wendy; Blount, Chelsea; Hartsell, Jonathan (New River Symposium, 2019-04-12)The Middle Fork Greenway is an emerging multi-use greenway connecting the towns of Blowing Rock and Boone along the Middle Fork New River in Watauga County, NC. We developed a comprehensive River Restoration Prioritization Plan in 2018 to guide restoration activities and contribute to the health of the corridor as the trail is developed. This restoration plan describes existing conditions for six river reaches extending from Blowing Rock to Boone. Assessments of stream morphology, erosion potential, and riparian vegetation were used to classify river segments based on level of concern. For each segment, specific river restoration opportunities were identified to improve water quality, aquatic habitat, floodplain function, streamside vegetation, and environmental educational opportunities for greenway users. River segments classified as Extreme are the highest priority for restoration due to severe problems with bank erosion, in-stream habitat, floodplain functions, and riparian vegetation. Recommended restoration plans for these river segments include channel realignment and floodplain connection, streambank grading, in-stream log and rock structures for protecting banks and enhancing habitat, and native riparian vegetation planting. This presentation describes results of the plan and next steps for priority restoration projects including funding acquisition, engineering, permitting, construction work, and vegetation management to achieve ecological objectives.
- Effects of Land Cover and Riparian Buffers on Coldwater Fish Assemblages in Upper South Fork New River Headwater StreamsSanders, C. L.; Kinlaw, T.; Colby, J.; Martin, D.; Goughnour, E.; Kuntz, N.; Spagnolo, W.; Buckner, G.; Tuberty, S. (New River Symposium, 2019-04-12)Riparian vegetation is an essential component of a stream ecosystem. Riparian buffers reduce runoff contamination, improve bank stability, and produce shading that regulates the water temperature for many organisms that can only thrive within specific temperature thresholds. Climate change combined with expanding urbanization and changes to land use pose a serious threat to many coldwater species as temperature increases during the summer months. Western North Carolina has many sensitive coldwater fish species to include brook (Salvelinus fontinalis), brown (Salmo trutta), and rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss). Maintaining the biodiversity of the coldwater fish species of the Southern Appalachian Mountains is not only vital to the stability of the ecosystem but also to the state of North Carolina. Fishing provides substantial revenue and job opportunities from trip expenses, fishing equipment, licensing, and guides My study focuses on effects of temperature and conductivity to the coldwater fish assemblages in seven headwater streams that comprise the Upper South Fork New River watershed. These streams vary widely in ability to support sensitive and endemic fish species ranging from extirpation to successful localized reproduction. The goals of this project are: 1) to determine ecological conditions and environmental variables critical to healthy rural and urbanized streams, and 2) to identify best management practices, remediation techniques, and sustainable technologies that can aid in maintaining or returning healthy fish habitat, Assemblages in each headwater stream will be obtained by electrofishing and regressed vs percent impervious or forested cover, riparian zone width, bank erosion hazard index (BEHI), temperature, discharge, and specific conductivity. Fish size and weight will be recorded to determine size-class composition metrics. Water chemistry data is recorded with Eureka water quality sensors that record temperature, specific conductivity, dissolved oxygen, and depth every 15 minutes.
- Unlocking New Insights into Riverscapes with Drone-based Laser ScannersHession, W. Cully (New River Symposium, 2019-04-12)Measurement of physical characteristics across space and time is essential for research and management of aquatic ecosystems. Physical parameters help us quantify and understand channel morphology, aquatic and riparian habitat, biological communities, ecosystem processes, and chemical fluxes, particularly as they relate to potential impacts of environmental change. Accurate measures of physical parameters are key for understanding the links between environmental conditions, aquatic biological diversity, and ecosystem function. This knowledge is particularly important in stream and river systems because biotic indices are used as measures for water quality and to assess the effects of pollution and land-use change. The overall goal of our ongoing research is to develop a methodological framework for collecting and analyzing cm- scale, drone-based laser scanner (DLS) or lidar data, processing that data into spatially continuous maps of topography and vegetation that can be integrated with hydrodynamic models, water quality, and biological data to advance our understanding of riverscapes. These efforts will reveal new insights into riverine ecosystem functioning. Our methods and results will be embedded into the Fusality framework, an online informatics service that uses a unified 3D spatio-temporal information model to ingest, represent, fuse, and portray a range of data.
- Fish, Fishing, and Ecosystem Services and Dysfunctions in the New RiverOrth, Donald J. (New River Symposium, 2019-04-12)This paper reviews the selected ecosystem services provided by New River to riverside communities. I also highlight threats to sustaining these services and dysfunctions and possibilities for restoration. A framework of ecosystem services is useful for examining threats to future sustainability. These services include four broad categories: provisioning, such as the production of food and water; regulating, such as the control of climate and disease; supporting, such as nutrient cycles and oxygen production; and cultural, such as spiritual and recreational benefits. Present day threats to New River ecosystem services include dams, legacy pollutants, non-native plants and animals, and agricultural runoff. Social justice issues are too often ignored in present management paradigms and we forget to ask, “What do we care about?” If we care about human well-being, it is important that we foster more effective collaborations with the people whose well-being is to be assessed.
- Mucking Around with Aquatic Plants in Claytor Lake: What Have We Learned?Copeland, John R.; Blankenship, Joan; Walters, Laura (New River Symposium, 2019-04-12)Aquatic vegetation is an important habitat component in southern reservoirs, but native vegetation in these important fisheries is often displaced by unwanted non-native species, creating less desirable habitat conditions. Claytor Lake, a 1,764 ha mainstem reservoir of the New River in Pulaski County, Virginia, contained a number of native aquatic plants historically, but was colonized by hydrilla (Hydrilla verticillata) in the early 2000’s. Hydrilla control during the early 2010’s using triploid grass carp (Ptenopharyngodon idella) resulted in hydrilla suppression and the loss of remaining native aquatic vegetation beds in Claytor Lake. While the management plan guiding hydrilla control discussed native vegetation restoration as an outcome, additional partnerships were created and grant funding was awarded to make the dream a reality. After 5 years of native vegetation restoration work on this reservoir, we share our story as an example of what can be accomplished when diverse constituencies converge in natural resource management. Potential impacts of the Claytor Lake triploid grass carp stocking on native aquatic plants in the Upper New River will be discussed, as well as spin-off effects on the aquatic integrity of the New River, as well as the potential for native plant reintroduction in the Upper New River.
- Back to the Future: The TIA Alliance as a Student Recruitment ToolCopeland, John R.; Smith, A. Kirk; Murphy, Brian R. (New River Symposium, 2019-04-12)Future natural resource management success depends on a workforce of well-trained, motivated, and relevant conservation professionals. Today’s high school students need to ‘rub elbows’ with inspirational natural resource managers doing field work culminating in meaningful experiences. Over the last six years, a James Madison High School club in Vienna, VA piloted a successful program. Urban students traveled to the Blue Ridge Mountains, conducted basic headwater drainage basin assessments and identified release sites for brook trout raised in Northern Virginia Classrooms. They were rewarded with fishing trips sponsored by a local Trout Unlimited (TU) chapter, potentially recruiting them as nontraditional anglers. In November 2018, TU joined the Izaak Walton League of America (IWLA) and the American Fisheries Society (AFS), creating the TIA Alliance, pledging to work together to expand the Madison club approach, potentially creating a nationwide program. One local area where this work may happen is the New River Valley, Virginia area, where the primary author is the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries fisheries biologist, an IWLA member and an active AFS member. Meaningful outdoor experiences will be enhanced by leaders providing quality mentorship to propel us ‘Back to the Future’ by creating new natural resource managers.
- The New River Grant Trail: From 5ML to 5 LitersBlankenship, Joan (New River Symposium, 2019-04-12)This presentation is designed to show the connection between native habitat restoration and the funding that is necessary to make the projects happen. The BASS Nation of Virginia with a partnership between Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries all supported the application to get a small grant to pay for the first step in the program. Thanks to some quick team building we were able to save the project and move to the next step. We needed to continue but we needed more money. We added two more grants to the project and moved from Henry County to Pulaski County High School and closer to Claytor Lake. We continued to add to our information data base. We were able to find another grant to continue. This allowed us to move the project to Virginia Tech where our hard work finally started to gain some added traction. Enter Dr. Sara Sweeten who took a real interest in the native plants and made suggestions to really grow the project. With our current grant we were able to fund further expansion of the program.
- Service Learning on the River: Educating for Sustainability in the NRVPearce, Annie R. (New River Symposium, 2017-05-16)The New River is influenced by a variety of pressures ranging from economic development and attendant environmental impacts, to changing community expectations and choices, to infrastructure investments by local government. Coordinating local action to improve sustainability of the river is complex, with many stakeholders, conflicting priorities, and systems-level impacts that are poorly understood. Local universities can contribute to this challenge through community-based service learning (CBSL). CBSL involves exposing students to structured, real-life problem solving opportunities working with community stakeholders to develop and apply solutions in the real world. This presentation describes a series of CBSL experiences employed in graduate and undergraduate sustainable building and infrastructure courses at Virginia Tech over a three-year period. Experiences included facility assessment and designing and building a new feline housing area at the Radford Animal Shelter along the river, followed by a comprehensive Sustainable Riverfront Development Plan for the City of Radford including the entire riverfront. Current efforts involve designing and building new environmentally friendly access points for recreational access to the river in Bisset Park. Partners include the City of Radford, Radford University, local businesses, and others. The presentation includes outcomes, impacts, and lessons learned for others interested in this approach.
- Natural history, threats, and current research related to Candy Darter (Etheostoma osburni) in VirginiaMcBaine, Kathryn E.; Angermeier, Paul L. (New River Symposium, 2017-05-16)The candy darter (Etheostoma osburni) is a small riffle-dwelling, non-game fish species endemic to the New River drainage in Virginia and West Virginia. It is narrowly restricted to medium-size streams with cold-cool temperatures, high-velocity riffles, and silt-free substrates. It primarily eats aquatic insects. Candy darter’s distribution has been sharply reduced over the last century, now occurring in only four streams in Virginia. Stony Creek, in Giles County, is thought to support the largest and most stable population in Virginia. It is listed as a species of Special Concern in Virginia and is being reviewed for federal listing under the Endangered Species Act. Main threats include fine sediment, warming waters, and introduction of non-native species. Potential management actions to facilitate conservation include improving riparian buffer and excluding cattle from streams. Key knowledge gaps germane to conservation include spatiotemporal distributions, population dynamics, and genetic differentiation of populations. Our research is addressing the following questions: 1) How does detectability of candy darter vary across habitat configurations and seasons? 2) How does the juxtaposition of suitable habitat patches influence movement of candy darter? Answers to these questions could inform management regarding protection and/or enhancement of critical habitats and of connectivity among populations.
- Community and Sustainability Along the New RiverHansell, Tom; Redding, Mary Anne; Wagner, Kelsey (New River Symposium, 2017-05-16)In 2016, students at Appalachian State University partnered with the New River Conservancy (NRC) on a series of projects designed to celebrate the NRC’s 40th anniversary and to highlight current issues in the upper New River Watershed. The projects were executed by Tom Hansell’s Fall 2016 graduate seminar, Sustainability and the Arts in Appalachia. Students collaborated with NRC staff on four related projects: a walking tour of water quality enhancement projects in downtown Boone, a series of educational presentations at the Elk Knob and New River State Parks, and an interactive history for NRC’s website. These projects culminated in an art exhibit at the Turchin Center for the Visual Arts titled: Collective Vigilance: Speaking for the New River. Curator Mary Anne Redding says the exhibit was designed “so that visitors will get involved with our community partners and go back out into the community and onto the river with more information and a deeper commitment to preserving this important natural and cultural resource.” During this presentation, Tom Hansell, Mary Anne Redding, and Kelsey Wagner will discuss how their collaboration with the NRC helped connect the expertise and energy of a college campus to support communities in the upper New River watershed.