Category: Stewardship

Eternally Green: Citizen Science Mushroom ID Walk

October 20, 2018

On October 4, 2018 Ron Trial led a citizen science mushroom ID walk at Mount Auburn Cemetery.  Mr. Trial is a former president of the Boston Mycological Club.  He served the club from the late 1970’s through the early 1980’s and remains an enthusiast for collecting and identifying fungi.  Ron also volunteers at the greenhouse at Mount Auburn.

 

Several current citizen scientists, as well as some new faces met Ron on Laurel Avenue, where introductions, guidebooks, and collecting parameters where discussed before the group ventured into the woodland surrounding Consecration Dell.

 

Each participant brought along a basic mushroom survey kit, which included: a collecting basket, pocket knife, 10x lens, wax paper, and a smart phone for photos and ID assistance via apps such as the Rogers Mushrooms App.

 

The group spent the next ninety minutes carefully exploring the Dell and collecting fungi for identification.  Conditions have been excellent for fungi growth, due to the mild temperatures and the rainy end of summer and start to autumn.  As we strolled through the woodland, we carefully collected sixteen species of fungi.  Common and edible mushrooms, such as the Horse mushroom (Agaricus arvensis) and the Jelly Ear (Auricularia auricula-judae) were collected, as well as many that require additional study to ensure proper identification.  Ron explained to the group that even though he has many years of experience identifying fungi, he most likely would only be able to identify about 10 percent of the species we would see.  This is not uncommon for any avid mushroom hunter and it is why it is important to take your time and make use of guidebooks and apps when attempting to ID your discoveries.

 

Some of the most fun and interesting things we learned were the strange and interesting names often given to mushrooms.  The Angel of Death (Amanita ocreata) which is not found here (native to the Pacific Northwest) was a favorite.

 

We plan to offer more mushroom ID walks in the future and Ron plans to lead a fungi training for our Citizen Science Naturalist Program in 2019.

Biophilia & Biodiversity: A Celebration

September 27, 2018

Edward O Wilson, Harvard University Faculty Emeritus in the Museum of Comparative Zoology, has been a transcendent figure in the world of biodiversity research.  His long and storied career of field study, writing, and teaching, has led him to be called “a Darwin for the modern day.”  In his 1984 book “Biophilia,” Dr. Wilson fostered what has been referred to as… the love of life and the living world; and the affinity of human beings to other life forms.

He described biophilia as…

“the rich, natural pleasure that comes from being surrounded by living organisms.”

The concept of biophilia is taught at many institutions and groups based upon it’s ideas and applications meet regularly in communities all over the United States.

Join us on Saturday November 3, 2018 at 3pm at Bigelow Chapel for our inaugural Biophilia meeting.  The event will be led by David Morimoto, Director of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Lesley University.  Speakers from the local academic and research community will share stories about working with Dr. Wilson, or of his influence on their own work.

This event is free and open to the public.  Space is limited.

Please rsvp to Paul Kwiatkowski, Wildlife Conservation & Sustainability Manager at: pkwiatkowski@mountauburn.org or at 617-607-1956.

 

 

 

 

Sweet Auburn Magazine

September 3, 2018

Published biannually, Sweet Auburn is an exploration and celebration of the many facets of Mount Auburn Cemetery. Topics covered in the magazine include art, architecture, biography, burial and commemoration, conservation, design, ecology, education, history, horticulture , genealogy, preservation, and wildlife. (more…)

Eternally Green: Highlighting Mount Auburn’s Rich, Natural Environment Through Theatre

August 30, 2018

This article was written by Artist in Residence, Patrick Gabridge. 

When I tell people I’m the artist-in-residence at Mount Auburn Cemetery, they are often shocked that such a thing exists and also very curious about what, as a playwright, I intend to do at a cemetery. Most folks assume I’ll be writing about the various people buried here. Which I will. But even from the very start of my residency this winter, I knew I wanted to write about the diverse and unique natural environment of Mount Auburn.

Since I started in January, I’ve been walking the grounds, toting binoculars with birders at dawn, looking for nighthawks at sunset on the tower, shining flashlights in Consecration Dell looking for spotted salamanders, and trying not to step on tiny toadlets by Halcyon Lake.  And, more crucially for a playwright, I’ve been listening to the people who are deeply invested in protecting and improving the flora and fauna that make Mount Auburn such a special place.

The challenge for a writer tasked with creating plays about Mount Auburn is the embarrassment of riches when it comes to potential stories. A hundred thousand tales are wrapped around the people interred here, and they are surrounded by hundreds of species of birds and trees, and thousands upon thousands of plants, all of them tended by dedicated stewards.

Spotted Salamander in Consecration Dell

In the end, I chose to create two series of short plays–one mostly about historical figures buried here and their role and relationship to the formation of American identity, and another set of nature plays. Some are already written and will be read on the grounds in September—like a short play called Hot Love in the Moonlight is about the mating habits of spotted salamanders. There will be a play about birds and birders (Cerulean Blue), and another about Asa Gray and Louis Agassiz. I’m still exploring play ideas around some of the secret mushroom spots that may or may not exist, and there will almost certainly be a play inspired by conversations with the grounds crew members who help Mount Auburn remain the gem that it is.

Beyond writing and research, the next step begins with reading and playing with the text with actors and audiences. This September, you will see me and Courtney O’Connor, my director, gathered with clumps of actors at Consecration Dell and near Auburn Lake, and other spots, with scripts in our hands, reading dialogue aloud.  We’ll see if the structure and content of the work makes sense, if it has power, but also how it works in three-dimensions. How does it feel to have our voices and bodies in action on the actual grounds? It’s one thing for me to imagine how it all feels and sounds when I’m typing away in my office, but it’s entirely different when we have actors do it while standing on the edge of a pond.

Cerulean Blue Warbler

At the public readings in September, we’ll start exploring what the plays feel like with an audience. (Plays are nothing without an audience.) When staging site-specific work there are additional concerns we don’t have in a traditional theatre, where the environment is controlled and well understood. We have to ask questions about where does the audience sit or stand, is there noise (traffic, neighbors) that will impact that site? How do the plants and topography affect where we can stand, how much sound reaches the audience, the visual palette?  Entrances and exits are never simple when performing outdoors. How does the audience know when the show is over? And, in a cemetery, where do we perform such that we are respectful of the people who are buried here. How do we perform plays about nature, in nature, in ways that don’t harm the environment we’re talking about?

Having to answer all these questions, as we explore people and ideas in the text, is part of the challenge and fun of doing site-specific work. The other thing I truly love about this kind of theatre is that the barrier between the performers and audience is much more fluid and informal than in work created in a traditional spaces. The enormity and concreteness of the natural world around the very small play we’re creating helps unite the audience and performers.

In June of next year, we will fully stage the Nature Plays on the grounds, in a production that we hope will engage and delight audiences in all kinds of interesting ways. In the meantime, my team and I will be researching, writing, and playing, as we explore ways to illuminate the important natural elements of Mount Auburn Cemetery.