Ecologist plans fund-raising trek

FRONT ROYAL — Jen Davis has been positively impacted by two local organizations, and now she is working to give back to both.

Davis, an ecologist, will hike the 101 miles of Appalachian Trail that runs through Shenandoah National Park. She is embarking on the trek starting Friday in an effort to raise money for the Shenandoah National Park Trust and the Blue Ridge Wildlife Center.

Currently working with the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, Davis is only a short distance from the Front Royal trail crossing on Route 522.

“Shenandoah National Park is close by, and it’s one of my favorite places,” she said. “Doing that part of the trail all the way through and getting that on-the-ground connection with the park is something I’ve been drawn to for the last several years.”

“I ended up having the opportunity, and I thought, what a great chance to draw some awareness to these organizations that I would really like to help,” she continued.

The hike will take a total of 10 days, she said, and that will mean moving at a fairly rapid pace.

Davis first interacted with the Shenandoah National Trust while working as an adjunct biology professor with Lord Fairfax Community College. She took five or six semesters worth of students to witness a project the trust was doing with Shenandoah salamanders, which are endangered.

“I realized that the program was entirely funded by the Shenandoah National Park Trust, there was no federal funding for the program,” she said. “I had them on my radar as someone I would want to help out if the opportunity arose.”

A baby vulture brought Davis to the Blue Ridge Wildlife Center. She discovered the injured chick in an outhouse on the farm where she lives, and brought it to the center.

“I thought it was going to be euthanized because the legs didn’t appear to work at all,” she said. “But the Blue Ridge Wildlife Center was open to taking care of it, and cared for it for two years. I was so inspired by the fact that they didn’t euthanize it on the spot.”

The center, she added, is desperately in need of a new building, and is collecting donations for the effort. Right now, according to Davis, they work out of a small country house.

“We have this phenomenon of increasing wildlife conflicts with people, and a lot of people see an injured animal along the road and want so badly to help it,” she said. “It is such a huge service to this region.”

As a wildlife lover herself, Davis said she was eager to help both organizations through her decision to hike the trail.

“I would like to get some awareness and funding for these two,” she said. “The Blue Ridge Wildlife Center desperately needs a new facility. And the trust is doing great things to contribute to environmental education.”

Davis set up two separate http://www.gofundme.com accounts to support each organization. To donate to the national trust, visit http://www.gofundme.com/101milesforsnpt. Or, to give to the Blue Ridge Wildlife Center, visit http://www.gofundme.com/101milesforBRWC.

Contact staff writer Katie Demeria at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kdemeria@nvdaily.com