News & Events

Events: Summer 2018 Outdoor Classroom Lecture Series: This popular family-friendly series returns starting June 14th. Join us at the Outdoor Classroom alternate Thursday evenings at 7:30, to learn about the natural history of Wildwood Park and the surrounding area. See the announcement page for more details and check out the complete schedule. At the first lecture, Jamie Lau of the Radford University Biology Department will tell us about the dietary habits of water bugs. See the tiny plants that water bugs eat under the microscope.

Website Updates: For recent updates to this website visit the Updates Page.




The Seventh Annual Hokie Bugfest (14 October 2017): Wildwood Park is crawling and fluttering with insects and other "bugs" of all kinds. The Hokie Bugfest was not in Wildwood Park, but was of interest to many of those who love the Park and its denizens. It was held at the Inn at Virginia Tech. and featured a live Bug Zoo with a Spiders' Lair, departmental research displays, a flea circus, a balloon artist, a bug-eating contest, and a bug whisperer. Bug enthusiasts admired a giant bird-eater tarantula, toured a live butterfly exhibit, saw a working beehive, and learned all about bed bugs and mosquitoes.

(Pictures are from the 2016 Bugfest. At left, people admire giant roaches (the one admiring them is not life-size!) At right, the Radford University display on using cockroaches to turn garbage into compost.)


Last Outdoor Classroom Lecture of 2017 (17 August 2017): Shane Brandes, RU alumnus, came to the Outdoor Classroom to tell the 50 or so folk who gathered at dusk about his experiences keeping a hawk and engaging in the ancient art of falconry. Afterwards he introduced the audience to his hawk who calmly eyed them while they admired and photographed her.

This ends the Outdoor Classroom Lecture Series for 2017. Keep an eye out next summer for another series of amazing presentations on Wildwood and natural history. See the 2017 Schedule for a full review of our topics for this past summer.


Fifth Outdoor Classroom Lecture of 2017 (3 August 2017): About 20 people, young and old and in-between, gathered at dusk to hear Gary Coté, RU Biology professor (and Wildwood webmaster) talk about the least noticed and least understood denizens of Wildwood Park, the lichens. After explaining what lichens were, he introduced them to many of the colorful lichens living in Wildwood and in the surrounding mountains of Southwest Virginia.

Join us August 17th for the last lecture of 2017 when we learn about falcons and falconry.



Clyde Kessler

Fourth Outdoor Classroom Lecture of 2017 (20 July 2017): An audience of about 50 people gathered at dusk to hear local naturalis Clyde Kessler describe the butterflies of Wildwood Park. In conjunction with his talk, Nancy Kent led interested kids in an activity to make butterflies they could take home (at right).

Join us August 3rd to learn about perhaps the most overlooked living creatures of Wildwood, the colorful lichens.

Nancy Kent leads a "Make & Take" event for kids



Third Outdoor Classroom Lecture of 2017 (6 July 2017): Storms were said to be possible, but the weather was beautiful for the third Outdoor Classroom lecture. About 30 people gathered to hear about bird-feeding in the 21st Century as Sarah Foltz described the high tech bird feeders and birdhouses that Radford University researchers are building. These smart feeders and houses can continously monitor the weather and the birds, record video, facilitate sampling, and even interact with the birds to study their behavior.

Afterwards members of the audience members of the audience were invited to examine the devices and to get snacks from the modified "people feeder" version. Below, left to right, are shown a high tech feeder, a high tech bird house, and the people feeder with people seed (M&Ms).

Join us for the next Outdoor Classroom on Thursday, July 20 at 7:30 to learn about flying gems of Wildwood, the Park butterflies. More information.

Second Outdoor Classroom Lecture of 2017 (22 June 2017): An enthusiastic audience gathered at dusk to hear biologist Karen Powers of Radford University introduce them to the little creatures that inhabit the waters of Wildwood.

Join us July 6 for the third Outdoor Classroom lecture of the summer and learn about the latest technology in scientific bird feeders that are helping us to learn about bird behavior.

(The webmaster and his usual reporters all missed the first lecture. If anyone would like to fill me in on how it went, I would be happy to post the information.)

A species new to science found in Wildwood Park (May 2017): Nancy Kent, a devoted student of Wildwood Park, discovered and photographed a minute leaf miner, the Buckeye Leaf Miner, which may be a species just recently recognized from Ohio and new to science. It doesn't even have an official scientific name yet! Specimens of pupae were sent to scientists who we hope will be able to confirm the identity when the adults emerge. If the identity is confirmed, Virginia will be added as a known official habitat for this tiny little fly. For more information on this little creature, check out its Wildwood page.

New species reported from Wildwood Park (15 May 2017): Local naturalist Clyde Kessler reports new records for species in the Park, one of a bird, one a butterfly, and one a moth. The bird is the Least Flycatcher which Clyde reports singing in the Park last week; he has never heard this species anywhere in Radford before. Friday he also saw a Showy Emerald moth, a large emerald green creature, which has not before been reported from t he Park. Also, back in April, a Brown Elfin butterfly was spotted. Clyde thinks it was a lost wanderer, as the caterpillar's food plants are not found in or near the park. All three species were added to the appropriate lists on the webpage, the Bird List and the Butterfly and Moth List.

Carol Zokaites

Last Outdoor Classroom Lecture of 2016 (18 August 2016): About 20 people gathered in the growing darkness to hear Carol Zokaites tell them about caves and karst landscapes, which are so common in our area. She also told us a lot about the bats that live in caves. She is the National Director of Project Underground, an educational organization supporting education about cave and karst science, and described some of the resources that organization offers educators. A demonstration of how sinkholes form, using a model in a cup, composed of common materials worked beautifully to excite and educate the audience.

With the shrinking days, the Park was almost as dark as a cave when the talk ended and people had to make their way home!

This is the last summer lecture for 2016. Watch for announcements next spring of the 2017 Summer Series and join us again in the Park to learn about our world.

Opening slide


Fifth Outdoor Classroom Lecture of 2016 (4 August 2016): Scott Klopfer of the Virginia Tech Conservation Management Institute described the efforts to conserve wildlife in the New River Valley.


Fourth Outdoor Classroom Lecture of 2016 (21 July 2016): John Peterson of Virginia Tech's Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation introduced the audience to their tall neighbors, the trees, and helped them to fgure out their names.

(The webmaster was in New England, amid many trees as it happened, so he could not attend. Unfortunately, his usual stand-in couldn't make it either. If anyone has a picture of this event they would like to share, please e-mail me at


Third Outdoor Classroom Lecture of 2016 (7 July 2016): An audience of about 35 people gathered at dusk to hear Christine Mitchell of Radford University describe some of the edible, medicinal, and poisonous plants of our region, both inside and outside the Park. The audience learned many interesting uses that had been made of familiar plants. She stressed that many of the edible and medicinal species are in trouble because of overharvesting as well as habitat loss. She urged the audience to grow their own whenever possible and to avoid picking endangered plants.

Join us July 21 for the fourth Outdoor Classroom lecture of the summer and learn how to identify trees.


Second Outdoor Classroom Lecture moved (23 June 2016): The threat of severe storms drove the Second Outdoor Classroom Lecture out of the Park and into the Radford Recreation Center. It turned out to be a wise decision as a pounding rain, thunder and lightning moved into town just as the audience would have been leaving the Park. The webmaster was unable to attend, but hopes those who did brave the weather had a good time.

Amy Roberts


First Outdoor Classroom Lecture of 2016 (9 June 2016): The weather was cool and beautiful for the very first Outdoor Classroom Lecture this year. About 30 people were present.. Amy Roberts, professor of Biology at Radford University told the appreciative crowd how to encourage herps, that is snakes, lizards, toads and salamanders, in their gardens. There are many benefits, she explained, including that all of them will chow down on your insect pests. As herps are declining globally, they need all the encouragement we can give them.

Afterwards members of the audience, old and young, were invited to meet the friendly herps that assisted Amy in her teaching, including the salamander displayed by the little girl below left, and the snake being introduced to the boy below right.

Join us for the next Outdoor Classroom on Thursday, June 23 at 7:30 to learn about the plants and animals of a weedy backyard. More information.



Opening Screen

Girl with salamander

Boy meeting snake


Melanie Fox

Last Outdoor Classroom Lecture of 2015 (20 August 2015): The weather was beautiful this week, as the audience gathered to hear Melanie Fox of Radford University and the Virginia Master Naturalists talk about those little birds with big attitudes, the hummingbirds. They saw photos of beautiful birds from around the world, learned about their biology and behavior, and received tips on how to attract the feisty creatures to their own backyards.

This was the last entry in the popular summer lecture series for this year. For a recap of what we learned see the schedule. Next spring, keep watch for announcement of the 2016 schedule and join us again at the Outdoor Classroom?



Screen view

Fifth Outdoor Classroom Lecture of 2015 (6 August 2015): Rain poured down on the Park, but it didn't much bother the fish in Connelly's Run. Nor did it much bother the audience gathered under the roof of the Outdoor Classroom to hear Derek Wheaton (at right) of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland fisheries talk about Virginia's freshwater fish. The presentation included videos of spawning and nesting behavior of fish in Southwest Virginia rivers.

Following the presentation, members of the audience were able to examine native freshwater fish swimming in aquaria (lower left and right). The fish in turn, were able to examine the audience (bottom).

Join us August 20 for the last Outdoor Classroom lecture of summer 2015. Melanie Fox will be telling us about bossy little hummingbirds.

Derek Wheaton

Child observing the fish
Child observing the fish
Fish observing the audience


Tom McAvoy

Fourth Outdoor Classroom Lecture of 2015 (23 July 2015): This week, Tom McAvoy of Virginia Tech and the Virginia Master Naturalists told the audience about the insects they might encounter. Afterwards, the audience got some very close-up views of insects in the hands-on portion of the event.

Join us August 6 for the fifth Outdoor Classroom lecture of the summer and learn about the fish that live beneath our waters.

Looking close up at some insects


Suzie Leslie

Third Outdoor Classroom Lecture of 2015 (9 July 2015): This week Suzie Leslie, Virginia Master Naturalist, explained to the audience how they could bring nature into their own backyards.

Join us July 23 for the fourth Outdoor Classroom lecture of the summer and see insects up close and personal.



Second Outdoor Classroom Lecture of 2015 (25 June 2015): Another beautiful evening for the Outdoor Classroom Lecture Series. This week Shannon Ritter, Tech professor and Virginia Master Naturalist, told the audience about "Why Frogs Are Important." The emphasis of her presentation was on the calls and songs of frogs and toads, and the audience was entertained with recordings of their calling singing. Some were deep, some were shrill, some sharp and short, others long drawn-out, but the audience found them all interesting.

Join us July 9 for the third Outdoor Classroom lecture of the summer and learn how to bring nature -- native plants and wildlife -- to your own backyard.

Shannon Ritter

Dr. Karen Powers

First Outdoor Classroom Lecture of 2015 (11 June 2015): It was a beautiful evening as a small audience of folks gathered to learn about animal tracks and animal signs from Radford University professor and Virginia Master Naturalist Karen Powers (left). The audience learned how to tell what animals had been visiting or passing through even when they could not see the animals themselves. The audience was then able to examine some examples of animal tracks and signs (lower right and left).

Join us June 25 for the second Outdoor Classroom lecture of the summer and learn about the songs and calls of frogs and toads.

Screen title

Examining the samples
Examining the samples


Wildflower Walk
Annual Wildwood Wildflower Walk (April 12, 2015): The weather was warm this year for the annual trip to see the spring wildflowers of Wildwood. Sponsored each year by the New River Valley Chapter of the Virginia Native Plant Society, it was led by co-leaders Gary Coté, Wildwood Webmaster and RU Biology professor, and David Darnell, past-president of the New River Valley VNPS Chapter. The turnout was small this year, but participants had a great time.


Lee Chicester and falcon

Last Outdoor Classroom Lecture of 2014 (21 August 2014): Unfortunately, rain sent the last lecture indoors at the Radford Recreation Center. Lee Chichester, C.J., her falcon and Cascade, her hawk were the presenters. The audience learned about hawks and falcons and using birds to hunt. Check back in the spring for news of next year's Outdoor Classroom lectures.



Bob Sheehy & Wilson Rankin

Local Photographer wins awards for Wildwood Photography (summer 2014): Long time Wildwood Park explorer and photographer Nancy Kent took a number of her photographs to the Salem and New River Valley fairs where they won multiple first and second place ribbons. A small sample of her images are shown here. Her work can be divided into people, dogs and nature, but all shown were taken in Wildwood Park.

As many know Nancy has been photographing in Wildwood for many years and has an extensive portfolio of photographs. Many of her extraordinary photographs have graced this website -- check out the flowers, mushrooms, butterflies, insects, and especially moths in the Flora and Fauna section. Many of her photographs have appeared in the Roanoke Times as well. Our congratulations to Nancy!





Speaker Dini Miller

Fifth Outdoor Classroom Lecture of 2014 (7 August 2014): About two dozen folk showed up to hear Dr. Dini Miller from Virginia Tech tell about bugs, and especially the bugs that are pests in our homes, like stink bugs and bed bugs. Our next lecture -- the last for this summr --will be August 21; join us to learn about falcons and hawks. More information.

Part of Audience


Presenters Matt Close and Matti Hamed
Fourth Outdoor Classroom Lecture of 2014 (24 July 2014): Radford University professor Matt Close and Radford University student Matti Hamed introduced an audience of over two dozen to reptiles and amphibians of our area. First Matt gave a slideshow of Virginia's and Radford's reptiles and amphibians, and showed some live examples, including the lovely albino corn snake in the pictures at right. Albino corn snakes are bred for the pet trade; corn snakes are not reported from Wildwood. Then Matti described her research efforts to discover those reptiles and amphibians that live at the Selu Conservancy south of Radford. Afterward the audience enjoyed getting to examine several salamanders and snakes with both eyes and hands. The young man at lower left is checking out a salamander. Join us August 7 to learn about urban bug pests. Hopefully few live pests will attend. More information.

Albino corn snake

Kids examing a salamander

Matt Close showing corn snake


Jane Fisher and Robert Whisonant
Third Outdoor Classroom Lecture of 2014 (10 July 2014): Jane Fisher and retired Radford University geology professor Dr. Robert Whisonant led interested folk on a field trip through Wildwood Park, from the tufa cliffs to Connelly's Run to the tunnel under Main Street, to observe the geology that underpins out small section of the planet. Attendees also took home a 5-page guidebook to the Park's geology so they could continue learning on their own. Join us July 24 to learn about our reptiles and amphibians. Live specimens will be on hand for observation. More information.
Dr. Whisonant shows a geological map
Some of the participants

Dr. Karen Powers
Second Outdoor Classroom Lecture of 2014 (26 June 2014): Radford University biology professor Dr. Karen Powers presented "Going Batty over Bats," and her audience, including many children, learned about these mysterious flyers of the evening. Dr. Powers had a number of actual specimens on hand for examination as well. Our next lecture is July 10; join us to learn about the geology of our Park. More information.
Bat specimens
Part of the Audience

First Outdoor Classroom Lecture Cancelled (12 June 2014). Unfortunately the very first Outdoor Classroom Lecture of 2014, on fireflies, had to be cancelled at the last minute because of illness of the speaker. Please join us 26 June for the second scheduled lecture, on bats, by Dr. Karen Powers. More information.

New Species of Dragonfly found in the Park. On May 11, 2014, Clyde Kessler found a male Banded Pennant (Celithemis fasciata) in Wildwood. In Clyde's words: "That's the first of that genus I have seen in Radford. It's very common in the Piedmont, but I have only occasionally found it on this side of the Blue Ridge. Another member of that genus is locally common at some pond areas in this area, Calico Pennant (C. elisa). I'm surprised I haven't found it in Radford. Both species are pond habitat species, so I guess that's why I haven't seen many here." The diversity of life in our little park is truly incredible, and it continues to surprise us. For more information on the dragonflies of Wildwood see the Dragonfly & Damselfly list.

Annual Wildwood Wildflower Walk (April 13, 2014): The weather was cool but beautiful this year for the annual trip to see the spring wildflowers of Wildwood. Sponsored each year by the New River Valley Chapter of the Virginia Native Plant Society, it was led by co-leaders Gary Coté, Wildwood Webmaster and RU Biology professor, and David Darnell, president of the New River Valley VNPS Chapter . The Dutchman's breeches were at their glorious peak, and the dwarf larkspurs were beginning to bloom. Many other spring favorites were also seen.

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Page last modified: 4 August 2017