Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Winners of GSWA's Essence of Primrose Photo Contest Announced

Tropical Storm Andrea blew herself out of New Jersey just in the nick of time! Happily, that meteorological coincidence set a sunny stage for the Great Swamp Watershed Association's much-anticipated Essence of Primrose Photo Contest on June 8, 2013.

More than 20 individual photographers, along with a host of parents, partners, and other impropmtu artistic assistants, descended on Primrose Farm to join in the day-long event aimed at capturing that one picture capable of saying 1,000 words about the newest piece of preserved open space in New Jersey's Harding Township.

Although competition was fierce in all three photographer age groups—13-and-under, 14-to-22, and 22-and-over—a panel of expert judges handpicked three submissions to take home top honors.

Each of the three winning photos is a true work of art.

Among those 22 and over, Michelle Hacker of Belcamp, Maryland, took the judges' collective breath away with her gorgeous, sepia-toned landscape, titled "Vintage Meadow," taken under the sheltering limbs of Primrose Farm's most distinctive oak tree.

"Vintage Meadow," by Michelle Hacker, Belcamp, MD. Copyright ©2013 Great Swamp Watershed Association.
"Vintage Meadow," by Michelle Hacker, Belcamp, MD.
Copyright ©2013 Great Swamp Watershed Association.
Among the 14-to-22-year-old contestants, Peri Levine of Bendminster, NJ, demonstrated a true facility and passion for wildlife photography with her snap of a perching dragonfly.

"Untitled," by Peri Levine, Bedminster, NJ. Copyright ©2013 Great Swamp Watershed Association.
"Untitled," by Peri Levine, Bedminster, NJ.
Copyright ©2013 Great Swamp Watershed Association.
Among the 13-and-under crowd, Ashleigh Scully of Morristown, NJ, took first place with her photo, "Dawn at Primrose Farm."

"Dawn at Primrose Farm," by Ashleigh Scully, Morristown, NJ. Copyright ©2013 Great Swamp Watershed Association.
"Dawn at Primrose Farm," by Ashleigh Scully, Morristown, NJ.
Copyright ©2013 Great Swamp Watershed Association.
All three photo contest winners received a gift certificate for $25 from Each winner will also receive a full-size, framed print of their winning submission courtesy of our contest sponsors at Madison PhotoPlus (Madison, NJ) and The Image Maker Studio (Mendham, NJ).

Before the framed prints are turned over to our winners, they will hang for one month in a place of distinction at the Somerset County Environmental Education Center (EEC) located at 190 Lord Stirling Road in Basking Ridge, NJ. Stop by and have a look!

Although she was ever-so-slightly edged out of a victory in the 14-to-22-year-old age group, contestant Laurel Monks of Chatham Borough, NJ, received a very special honorable mention. She will not receive a gift certificate or a framed print, but her magnificently composed photo, "Twisting Through Time," will become the mascot for the Great Swamp Watershed Association's 2013 Gala Celebration. This year's gala will take place on Thursday, October 3, at the Westin Governor Morris in Morristown.

"Twisting Through Time," by Laurel Monks, Chatham Borough, NJ. Copyright ©2013 Great Swamp Watershed Association.
"Twisting Through Time," by Laurel Monks, Chatham, NJ.
Copyright ©2013 Great Swamp Watershed Association.
All of the submissions made to the Essence of Primrose Photo Contest are available for review on the Great Swamp Watershed Association's official Flickr page located at This site also includes photos of Primrose Farm landscapes and widlife taken by GSWA volunteers and staff members. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Volunteers Honored for Contributions to Environmental Nonprofit

Great Swamp Watershed Association presents awards for outstanding service in 2012-13.

The Great Swamp Watershed Association (GSWA) honored three area residents for their outstanding service as volunteers over the past year.  The announcements were made during the environmental organization’s annual Volunteer Appreciation Picnic on Tuesday, June 25.

Millington resident Bill Marshall was recognized for his contributions to GSWA’s water quality programs.  For the past two years, he has worked with the organization’s Stream Team to assist with the collection of scientific data from the five major streams of New Jersey’s Great Swamp.

Marshall has been instrumental in conducting scientific visual assessments of waterways, collecting water samples for chemical analysis, and, more recently, helping GSWA launch a monitoring program for waterborne bacteria.

Meyersville resident Ritchie Fullerton and Stirling resident Richard Desch were both recognized for their contributions to GSWA’s outreach and education programming.  Both honorees began their involvement in the organization through events sponsored jointly with Northern New Jersey Cachers (, a group dedicated to promoting the outdoor sport of geocaching statewide.

Fullerton and Desch provided critical support over the past year for two major efforts aimed at increasing awareness of the natural world in and around New Jersey’s Great Swamp.  GSWA’s Halloween-themed Spooky Swamp Walk—held on the 26 and 27 of October, 2012—introduced participants to the organization’s 53-acre, Conservation Management Area—a publicly accessible natural area and demonstration site for environmental restoration projects.  GSWA’s Great Swamp Scavenger Hunt, held on May 11, 2013, introduced a host of geocachers and many others to the sights and sounds of the larger 55-square-mile Great Swamp Watershed region by sending them out to explore outdoor destinations like the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge and Morris County’s Great Swamp Outdoor Education Center in Chatham Township, NJ.

In appreciation of their contributions, GSWA presented all three honorees with appropriate swamp-related gifts.  Marshall received a copy of the National Audubon Society Field Guide to the Mid-Atlantic States which includes information about plants and wildlife commonly found in the Great Swamp. Fullerton and Desch each received a northern highbush blueberry shrub to plant at home.  The highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum) is native to the eastern U.S. and commonly found in the Great Swamp region.

The Great Swamp Watershed Association sincerely thanks all of its 2012-13 volunteers for the excellent work they have done to protect the waters and the land of the Great Swamp Watershed we all love and share.  If you are interested in joining one GSWA’s environmental volunteer programs, please visit the organization online at, or call 973-538-3500 for more information.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Accolades for Bernards High School Students Working Toward Cleaner Water

Advanced Placement projects benefit Great Swamp Watershed Association, win award from The Nature Conservancy

Bernards High School students in Karen DeTrolio’s AP Environmental Studies class made a big splash with their year-end projects this June.  Working in teams of 3 or 4, they examined their own relationships with water and turned their discoveries into practical information everyone can use to avoid pollution and conserve natural resources.

The 20 projects, which included everything from a review of the impact of common household chemicals on water supplies, to an explanation of the links between clean water and healthy wildlife, were developed in partnership with the Great Swamp Watershed Association (GSWA).

Dedicated to protecting the waters and the land of New Jersey’s 55-square-mile Great Swamp Watershed region, GSWA will incorporate the students’ work into the organization’s upcoming Watershed Friendly Homes program.  GSWA Director of Education and Outreach Hazel England worked with DeTrolio to design the classroom collaboration and provided guidance and support to students as their research progressed.

“GSWA was excited to initiate this project and collaborate with students from a school within the watershed,” said England.  “Their work will form a cornerstone for future outreach to residents in Bernardsville and the nine other towns of the Great Swamp Watershed as GSWA launches its new Watershed Friendly Homes program aimed at changing water use behavior in the region.”

Students were asked to present their final projects over the course of two days to an audience made up of their peers and several visiting environmental experts from GSWA and other local community groups.  Visiting experts were asked to assess each group’s presentation, and choose their favorites.

Awards for excellence went to four groups of students.  Seniors Lauren Thomann, Abby Parker, and Erin O’Brien chose to survey their peers and the surrounding Bernardsville community to learn more about local water use and what might keep people from engaging in more conservation-oriented behavior.

Senior Morgan Blain, senior Christian Torres, and junior Jon Carter explored the true cost of bottled water production and what it would take to convince consumers to replace boutique water brands with ordinary, clean tap water.

Seniors Bina Patel, Kathryn Levin, and Edi Lima ventured under the sink to discover more about the environmental effects of those household cleaning products we all use and wash down the drain when we are done with them.

Seniors Addie Clayton, Erin Doran, and Sophie Reddi documented the construction of a rain barrel they and their friends built from scratch.  Their double-barrel rainwater collection system, which cost $200 to construct, is already at work diverting rain from the roof of Bernards High School into a courtyard garden where it nourishes a multitude of watershed friendly native plants.

A fifth group, which included seniors Matt Whitlock, Katie Hildebrandt, and Till Rosscamp, went above and beyond their teacher’s requirements and submitted their project to The Nature Conservancy for consideration in the environmental organization’s Show Us Your H2O competition for school groups and civic organizations from New Jersey’s Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Morris, and Somerset Counties.  Structuring their research to meet stringent contest parameters, the trio created a presentation that carefully tracked the source of drinking water for the Borough of Bernardsville, and systematically analyzed the environmental risks facing that water supply.

Their hard work was repaid in full when they took top honors for their submission.  As a reward, Matt, Katie, and Till will be acknowledged for their integral role in the placement of a new rain garden that The Nature Conservancy of New Jersey will construct free of charge on the grounds of Bernards High.

“I am so pleased with the success of the project for both the GSWA and for my students,” said Bernards High teacher Karen DeTrolio.  “It provided my classes with a meaningful project-based learning experience, and the GSWA with the building blocks for their Watershed Friendly Homes program.  As a teacher, it was incredibly rewarding to watch my students apply what they learned throughout the year to a real-life situation.”

Congratulations to all of the participating Bernards H.S. students for a job well done.  Their work will appear online early this fall as part of GSWA’s Watershed Friendly Homes program.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Did You Know? The Cicadas Are Here!

by Jim Northrop

Most insects follow an annual cycle of birth, life and then death.  Seasonal changes in temperature often cue these insect life stages. However, a very noticeable exception to that rule is presently occurring.

Cicadas have emerged en masse, after 17 years in the ground. They are clambering into trees and singing a distinctive chorus that can be heard for miles because of their numerous voices. While there are many kinds of cicadas, these 17-year cicadas are a specific genus of cicada, called Periodical Cicadas (genus: Magicicada).

What makes this event so remarkable is that it results from 17 years of preparation. The now emerging army of Periodical Cicadas was born in 1996. Their mothers laid their eggs in the branches of trees. There they developed for a few weeks before hatching and heading for the ground. These larvae then squirmed into the dirt and spent the next 17 years sucking fluid from tree and plant roots.

Millions of cicada nymphs have now climbed from the ground in which they have spent nearly two decades. They will have morphed from wingless to winged creatures, and taken to the trees for their famously noisy courtship. The empty husks of the nymph-stage bugs are seemingly everywhere. Now, the newly emerged animals single-mindedly seek to mate and produce the next generation. And shortly after mating and after the eggs are laid, the adults will die. Surprisingly, cicadas barely eat a thing during their time above ground.
Their time in the sun is short, but their 17-year life span makes them the longest-lived insects known.

Cicadas will not emerge in everyone's back yard.  If there are no deciduous trees—trees that lose their leaves each fall, like maples, oaks and fruit trees—probably no cicadas will be seen. Pesticides, construction, extreme weather conditions, and tree removal are also factors reducing the incidence of cicadas. The overall emergence time for cicadas in a particular location typically is 4 to 6 weeks from the time the first nymph crawls from the ground, until the last adult dies.

Cicadas use a defensive strategy we could call "predator saturation." They reproduce by the millions in order to "fill up" the predators. The idea is that all the squirrels, birds, possums, snakes, lizards, raccoons and other predatory animals will become so full of cicadas that they tire of eating them. Then, just enough cicadas will escape and get to mate and reproduce.

Periodic Cicadas don't bother to escape when confronted, and that is because they do not have to escape. Since they emerge in such HUGE numbers, some members of their species are bound to survive no matter what. They can devote their limited energy and time above ground to calling and mating, rather than running away from each and every possible predator. This strategy may explain how an insect that neither bites nor stings, has managed to thrive.

Are cicadas locusts? No, true locusts belong in the same family of insects as grasshoppers. The confusion stems from the fact that both locusts and cicadas emerge in periodic swarms. But, locusts are far more destructive, destroying all plant life in their path. Cicadas do fly around trees and kill a few weakling branches here and there. They DO NOT kill flowers and would not damage shrubs and trees, unless the latter are young and immature. Cicadas do not damage tree leaves by chewing them as other insects do. Unlike grasshoppers and caterpillars, cicadas do not eat garden vegetables. They lack mouth parts that would enable them to chew.

Probably it is not a good idea to combat cicadas with pesticides. New cicadas will continually fly onto your trees from neighboring yards, making pesticides futile. Also, your pets could become poisoned from ingesting too many treated cicadas. Importantly, you will want to avoid the unintended collateral damage of killing honey bees and butterflies by using pesticides to disable cicadas.

While cicadas in your back yard are a bit of a nuisance, remember that you are not going to see Periodic Cicadas again until the year 2030.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Mother Nature, Morristown, and the Revolutionary War Soldier

Great Swamp Watershed Association and Morristown NHP partner to tell the story of George Washington’s Jockey Hollow Encampment of 1779-80.

The headwaters of Primrose Brook, one
of the 5 major streams of the Great
Swamp Watershed, rises inside the
Jockey Hollow Unit of Morristown
National Historical Parl.
Most Americans remember the plight of ill-equipped Revolutionary War soldiers at Pennsylvania’s Valley Forge Encampment during the harsh winter of 1777-1778. As young children, we learn the story of patriots who starved, froze, and, marched without shoes; and those imagined scenes stick with us for the rest of our lives.

Fewer realize that an even worse season of snow and bone-chilling wind awaited those same troops only two year later.  In 1779-80, while General George Washington pondered the British stronghold in New York City, he needed a place to camp the bulk of his Continental Army.  He chose Jockey Hollow for his encampment—an area of land situated between Mendham and Morristown in New Jersey—and it was there that his men began digging in for what would become the coldest winter on record.

Despite the prospect of bad weather, the landscape in and around Jockey Hollow offered several advantages.  The surrounding hills were militarily defensible.  Proximity to the British and land routes in out of New York offered a perfect base for observation and spy missions.  And an abundance of natural resources—clean water, wood cover, and fuel—meant a better chance for soldiers to survive winter’s oncoming wrath.

While more than 1.2 million Americans visit the national park at Valley Forge each year, only 300,000 or so visit Morristown National Historical Park annually.  It was at Jockey Hollow that Washington’s troops honed their ability to endure, and it was this trait of the soldiery that became one of the keystone strategies that ultimately won the nation’s independence.  How unfortunate is it that more of us—especially those of us living nearby—are so unfamiliar with this story of persistence, dedication, and patriotism?

The Great Swamp Watershed Association and Morristown National Historical Park will work together this June to spread the word about these heroes from our past. And part of the retelling of that story will focus on how a Revolutionary-era soldier’s relationship with the outdoors helped him and his comrades survive to march and fight.

On Sunday, June 9, from 10 a.m. to noon, join representatives from both partner groups for Jockey Hollow Explorers: Water and the Revolutionary War.  Start the morning with a stroll through the history and the natural history of the Jockey Hollow encampment.  You will learn more about how soldiers used natural resources—especially water—at the site and what condition those resources are in today.

Following the hike, meet a National Park Service interpreter for some hands-on activities.  Water, in the 18th century, served not only in cooking and washing but also as a source of power, as a highway, a moat and even a dump.  Learn about the role of water in daily life in the 18th century as well as the role of oceans and rivers in the American Revolution. Join the Park ranger in a role-playing game in which the adults represent England and the kids become the Patriots using waterways to defend their homeland.

This is a free event is open to all who wish to attend.  Online registration in advance of attendance is strongly encouraged.  Register by visiting the Great Swamp Watershed Association at  To register via telephone, please call and leave a message at 973-538-3500 x22.

The Jockey Hollow Unit of Morristown National Historical Park is located at approximately 600 Tempe Wick Road in Morristown, NJ.

For more information about Morristown National Historical Park, please visit  For more information about the Great Swamp Watershed Association, please visit

Friday, May 24, 2013

Photo Contest Focuses In On Preservation Success in New Jersey's Great Swamp

Great Swamp Watershed Association will host first public event at 113-acre Primrose Farm on June 8.

Great Swamp Watershed Association board members and
staff hike Harding's newly preserved Primrose Farm
property, January 2013.
Morris County boasts a brand new destination for those who love the outdoors.

Primrose Farm, a 113-acre tract of wetlands, fields, and forest in Harding Township, was once slated to become a 13-lot residential subdivision.  After years of advocacy work by a coalition of non-profit and community partners, and the application of more than $9 million in municipal, county, and state funding, the property was successfully preserved as open space in December 2012. Now, under the auspices of its current owners at Harding Land Trust, the site will remain wild—providing vital habitat for endangered species like the Indiana bat, and a large area of porous land capable of recharging local groundwater supplies and the nearby Passaic River.

Primrose Farm is also open to the public for hiking, horseback riding, cross-country skiing, and other outdoor recreational activities.

The first organized public use of the site will take place on June 8, 2013, when the Great Swamp Watershed Association holds The Essence of Primrose, a special photo contest aimed at capturing the quintessential spirit of the newly preserved property.

Photographers of all ages and skill levels are invited to visit Primrose Farm any time between 10:00 a.m. June 8, and 10:00 a.m. June 9 in search of one photograph that they think best represents “the essence” of this diverse and beautiful landscape.  Naturalists and professional photographers will be on hand between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. on June 8 to help contestants tour the property and provide photography tips.

Following the photography period, contestants will have 7 days to sort and process their work before submitting a single photo for contest consideration. The deadline for submission is 10 a.m. on Sunday, June 16, 2013.

A jury consisting of professional photographers, naturalists, and others selected by the Great Swamp Watershed Association will judge each work and announce winners in three different age group categories on June 25, 2013.

Winning photographers will receive a special prize from Winning photographs will be professionally printed by Madison PhotoPlus (Madison, NJ), framed by The Image Maker (Mendham, NJ), and publicly exhibited for one month at Somerset County Park Commission’s Environmental Education Center in Basking Ridge.

In anticipation of June’s photo
contest, the Great Swamp
Watershed Association and
its volunteers built this public
access trail at Primrose Farm
in Harding on May 17. This
is the first official trail to appear
at the site since its preservation
in December 2012. Photo by
Great Swamp Watershed
Association, 2013.
“I am proud to say that, back in 2008, we were the first community stakeholder to recognize the intrinsic natural value of Primrose Farm,” said Sally Rubin, executive director of the Great Swamp Watershed Association. “We were excited when Harding Land Trust, the Trust for Public Land, and other partners answered our call to preserve this special place; we were eager to contribute to its purchase and protection; and, now, we are thrilled to be the first to introduce it to the public through this special photo contest.”

The Great Swamp Watershed Association contributed $200,000 to the purchase of Primrose Farm through New Jersey’s Green Acres program, and recently engaged a group of volunteers to build the first access trail onto the property (see photo). The organization will continue to assist the Harding Land Trust with future maintenance projects.

Groups contributing to the initial Primrose Farm preservation effort included the Great Swamp Watershed Association, the Harding Land Trust, the Trust for Public Land, the Harding Open Space Trust, the Morris County Open Space Trust Fund, and the Morris County Municipal Utilities Association.

For more information about the photo contest (including a complete schedule of events, rules, and photo submission guidelines) please visit online or call 973-538-3500 x22. To be eligible to compete, all photographers must check in with the Great Swamp Watershed Association at Primrose Farm—located at approximately 15 Brook Drive, South, Harding, NJ—between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, June 8.

Pre-registration is strongly encouraged. Visit for a registration form. Registration is free; however, voluntary donations to the Great Swamp Watershed Association are gratefully accepted.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Local Organizations, Businesses Unite To Produce The Great Swamp Scavenger Hunt

Far-ranging geography game promotes awareness of nature, culture, history in northern New Jersey.

Morristown, NJ—On May 11, starting at 9:00 a.m., 18 area organizations and businesses will work together to present The Great Swamp Scavenger Hunt—a free, outdoor event created by the Great Swamp Watershed Association, and designed to promote greater public awareness of some of the most significant natural, cultural, and historical locations found in northern New Jersey.

Part game and part celebration, The Great Swamp Scavenger Hunt takes participants on a 40-mile adventure through the state’s Great Swamp Watershed region. This is the place where the mighty Passaic River rises, where George Washington’s troops survived the coldest winter of the Revolutionary War, where the U.S. government created the first federally-designated wilderness area east of the Mississippi, and where many seriously injured wild birds have found sanctuary and healing.

Scavengers spend a fun-filled day hunting down special tokens from more than 15 sites of interest throughout the watershed.  Featured locations include the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, the National Park Service’s Morristown National Historical Park, Morris County Park Commission’s Great Swamp Outdoor Education Center, Somerset County Park Commission’s Environmental Education Center at Lord Stirling Park, New Jersey Audubon’s Scherman Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary, The Raptor Trust, Harding Land Trust’s Primrose Farms, the Great Swamp Watershed Association’s Conservation Management Area, the Friends of the Great Swamp’s Helen C. Fenske Visitor Center, Millington Gorge, Meyersville Café, and the Rolling Knolls Superfund site.

“What a great event,” said Jenny Gaus-Myers, superintendent of environmental education at the Morris County Park Commission.  “We love being part of the scavenger hunt and introducing lots of new visitors to our center and the wonders of the Great Swamp Watershed.”

Cathy Schrein, manager of Somerset County Park Commission’s Environmental Science Department, echoed Gaus-Myers’s sentiment, adding: “Events like The Great Swamp Scavenger Hunt and the Somerset County Environmental Education Center’s Swamp Search are such fun ways for the public to learn more about their immediate environment and to enjoy the outdoors.”

Geocaching enthusiasts will experience twice the fun at The Great Swamp Scavenger Hunt by logging special caches that have been carefully hidden at each location by members of Northern New Jersey Cachers (—one of the nation’s most respected geocaching organizations.

“NNJC has partnered with GSWA for a number of years, from boardwalk construction and kiosk building, to presenting a spooky Halloween hike,” said John Neale, president of NNJC.  “Like geocaching, The Great Swamp Scavenger Hunt is another great example of getting folks together to enjoy the outdoors and learn about their local parks.”

At 4:00 p.m., scavengers will gather at Loantaka Brook Reservation’s Kitchell Pond Pavilion (Morris Township) where they will be treated to a free picnic barbeque and will be able to exchange the tokens they collect for an opportunity to win one of several top-notch prizes.

This year’s prizes include premium outdoor gear and gift certificates to notable area restaurants donated by event sponsors at Investors Bank of Madison, Morris Tap and Grill in Randolph, Meyersville Café in Long Hill Township, and Shanghai Jazz Restaurant and Bar in Madison.  Additional prizes and giveaways will be supplied by Blue Ridge Mountain Sports in Madison, Smarties Candy Company of Union Township, and other event partners.

“We want people to know that there is so much out there to see and learn in the Great Swamp,” said Liz Adinaro, head of marketing and media for Morris Tap and Grill.  “We believe in supporting our community, as the community gives back to us by visiting our restaurant.”

Food for the Great Swamp Scavenger Hunt Picnic will be donated by event sponsors at Whole Foods Market Rose City Madison, and Costco East Hanover.  Grills and buffet tables will be staffed by the Great Swamp Watershed Association and Northern New Jersey Cachers.

Scavenger hunters who choose to join the afternoon picnic are welcome to contribute a covered side dish to share with the rest of the group.  Drinks, hot dogs, hamburgers, and an additional healthy main dish will be offered free of charge while supplies last.

Visit or call 973-538-3500 x22 for more complete information about The Great Swamp Scavenger Hunt, including start time and location, a basic description of rules, and picnic details.  Online registration is free and recommended.  Donations in support of the event are sincerely appreciated and may be made at time of registration or during the event at Kitchell Pond Pavilion.