Acorn Project Looking for Volunteers

Chestnut Oak Acorns Spet 22.crop

Acorn Research Opportunity

Bridgewater College Department of Biology and the Wildlife Center of Virginia need help researching the best method for long-term storage of acorns. We are currently developing the protocol to test different collection, drying and storage methods to preserve the nutritional quality of acorns to be used as a food source for wild captive animals.

What is this? A local acorn research project.

Who is needed?  Maybe YOU!

What will the protocol be? Details are still being determined, but it will be something like this:

  • access a solitary oak tree that is producing acorns
  • positively identify an acorn-producing oak tree to the species level,
  • gather acorns as they fall,
  • do a “float test” to eliminate “bad” acorns
  • weigh the acorns
  • deliver acorns within 1-2 days to the lab at Bridgewater College or another pre-determined spot

When will collection start? Fall of 2016

Interested?  If you think you might want to participate, shoot an email to Kate Guenther at goatherderkate [at] yahoo [dot] com. When we soon have a more exact idea of what the process for your volunteering will be, we will be in touch with you again to see if you want to help.

A few answers to possible questions

Why solitary oaks?  We need to make sure that each batch sample is from the exact same tree. The best way to do this is to find oaks that are far enough from other oaks that the acorns on the ground could co-mingle.

Hasn’t this research already been done? Believe it or not, there is research from the foraging community about how to process and store acorn for human consumption—via the indigenous traditions—but these processes store acorns as meal (a very lengthy, labor-intensive process). The other research is from the foresters who collect and store acorns for seedling propagation and tree farms. But this protocol only stores acorns fairly short-term and does not address nutritional data.

Our research study will determine how to optimize nutritional quality of the nut with the least amount of labor for the longest time possible.

Why long-term storage?  Good acorn mast years are variable. Some years are boom, some are bust.  At the Wildlife Center, we need to train baby bears to eat the native foods they will eat once they return to the wild as adults. We need to be able to provide them acorns while in captivity whether it is a boom OR a bust year. Storage addresses the “bust” years.

– Kate Guenther, Cohort I, August 2016