Slightly over a month away, I’m starting to gear up on one of the biggest MHAA events of the year. Last year we had about 100 guests come to our Observe the Moon event at Vassar Farms, so I’m hoping we’ll top that this year.
It turns out that while I was coming up with the idea of figuring out if we could do an astronomy outreach event at the Vassar Farm, Keri VanCamp (the Vassar Farm & Ecological Preserve manager) was developing a program of outings at the preserve to get more people out experiencing it. It worked out perfectly, so now we’ll be celebrating International Observe the Moon Night as an event on Vassar’s “Exploring a Sense of Space” at the farm.
Our event will take place on Saturday, September 18th at 7:30pm. I’m hoping for a clear night, because if it’s fully cloudy there won’t be much to see, so we’ll have to cancel. Here is the flyer I managed to come up with (based on the template from the observe the moon team):
It’s also available as a PDF for printing.
The overall list of topics going on at the Farm in their series is pretty interesting stuff. As I’ve not seen it online yet, I’ll duplicate it here for anyone interested:
Exploring a Sense of Place
A series of guided walks and events on the Vassar Farm & Ecological Preserve
Wednesday September 8th at 3:30 PM: Walk led by Dr. Mark Schlessman and Keri VanCamp
Topic: Wildflower Walk *
Saturday September 18th at 7:30 PM: Program led by Mid-Hudson Astronomy Club
Topic: Astronomy: International Observe the Moon Night
Wednesday September 22nd at 3:30 PM: Walk led by Dr. Lucy Johnson
Topic: Native American Usage of the Preserve and Valley*
Saturday September 25th at 9 AM: Walk led by the RT Waterman Bird Club
Topic: Bird Watching
Wednesday September 29th at 3:30 PM: Walk led by Dr. Kirsten Menking
Topic: Glacial History of the Preserve*
Wednesday October 6th at 3:30 PM: Walk led by Hannah Clark and Jason Carter
Topic: Forest Ecology and Invasive Insects*
Wednesday October 13th at 3:30 PM: Walk led by Dr. Meg Ronsheim, Abby Falk-Rood, & Keri VanCamp
Event: Mushroom Foray and Basic ID*
Wednesday October 20th at 1:30 PM: Program led by Keri VanCamp & Emily Vail
Event: Wetland Buffer Planting*
Wednesday October 27th at 6:30 and 8 PM (Rain date October 29th): Program led by Hannah Clark, Jason Carter, & Dr. Glenn Proudfoot
Topic: Northern Saw Whet Owl**
All events could be canceled due to adverse weather. Please contact us if the weather forecast is questionable. Participants should meet in the parking area near the large red barn across from the community gardens at the Vassar Farm.
*A van will also bring people from campus to the farm. It will depart from the main circle 15 minutes before the program begins.
** Space for this event is limited. People must RSVP to Hannah or Keri. This event will be held at the Collin’s Field Station.
To RSVP or for additional information contact: Hannah Clark at firstname.lastname@example.org or Keri VanCamp at (845) 437-7414.
The big local news around Poughkeepsie recently has been the deer culling at Vassar college. Vassar has a 550 acre wilderness area, with an estimated 100 deer population. For friends in Vermont, or more rural areas, white tail deer around here are a problem. As the area has suburbanized over the last few decades, and there aren’t many hunters or huntable areas any more to keep them in check, the deer population has gone through the roof. At this point they are completely scouring the undergrowth, so the replacement trees that should be growing up, aren’t. That also devastates the habitat for a lot of other animal and bird species in the area. The deer population is so out of check with any sustainable natural levels, that they will eat anything that you plant, regardless of whether it’s a natural part of their diet or not. Deer collisions on the roads are a real threat. I see the smashed remains of a deer somewhere on my way to work on a weekly basis.
Vassar decided the best way to approach this was with a culling. They contracted a set of professional hunters to come in and take 85 deer out of the 550 acre lot. They obtained the state permits to do this, as it is done after night via spotting. The first night out they took 44 deer in 3 hours with 3 people. On the second night they took 20, and judged that it was probably sufficient for now. The meat from the kills is going to local food banks, providing an estimated 12000 to 15000 meals to local residents.
As one might imagine, a small group of locals has decided to protest this. Saying “there must be more humane” ways to deal with the problem, never of course with any suggestion on what that might be. I don’t think these folks understand what humane is. A quick kill shot for a deer is very humane compared to the ways these deer normally die, like being mauled by a car, or starving to death in a bad winter. We are fortunate enough that the entire population here has not yet been infected with wasting disease, which ripped through equally populated areas of the mid west, but if the population stays where it is, it will.
A big part of the problem is that people have so disconnected themselves from their food supply, that they don’t realize death is part of it. It’s what brings your chicken and your beef to your table, and probably not in a very humane way. We aren’t talking about wiping out a species here, we are talking about returning this area of land to something closer to the kind of balance it needs to stay healthy and support a wide range of species. If we hadn’t first wiped out the large predators (wolves and mountain lions), and then developed the surrounding land so densely that the replacement predators (human hunters) were also displaced, this sort of land management wouldn’t be needed. But we did, so it is.
Fortunately Vassar seems to be taking this in stride, and I applaud them for that. The analyzed a complex situation and made a pretty good call on what would be most effective, safest for the surrounding residents, and be most humane to the deer in question, and with the added effect of over 12 thousand meals going to local citizens that are in need.