Roots of a lasting conservation legacy
Later this month, on May 27, we celebrate the birthday of Rachel Carson. Carson was a world-renowned marine biologist, author and environmentalist who served as an aquatic biologist and editor-in-chief for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Her seminal work, Silent Spring, awakened the world to the indiscriminate use of pesticides and is credited with launching the contemporary environmental movement. Today the roots of that legacy are still strong.
A few weeks ago, at the Maine national wildlife refuge that bears Carson’s name, the next generation of conservationists contributed their own reserves of strength to a new conservation challenge. About 30 students and alumnae from the Coastal Studies for Girls (CSG) in Freeport, Maine transplanted native plants as part of an ongoing effort by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to strengthen the Atlantic coast against intense storms like Hurricane Sandy, which are predicted to be more frequent with a changing climate. This federally funded Hurricane Sandy resilience project enhances 50 acres in coastal Maine, helping to protect wildlife and communities against future storms.
In a greenhouse alive with chatter and laughter, CSG students and alumnae worked alongside Service staff. They carefully handled the seedlings, and worked together to transport the plants, remove them from trays and allow their roots to drink in fresh air.
The volunteers, guided by Service staff, transplanted a variety of natives — Virginia rose, bayberry, swamp rose, meadowsweet, speckled alder, black cherry, chokecherry and gray birch — to be placed at refuge sites in Maine this fall. The students also planted milkweed for Monarch butterflies, which rely heavily on the plant for egg-laying.
Molly Thibault, CSG student and coastal Maine native, said learning more about climate change and studying its effects on marshes inspires her personal conservation commitment. “Knowing that I’m helping to reduce the effects of climate change is really important. I don’t come from a town that’s really conscious of their impact on climate change and what it means for the coast.”
The Service’s work to conserve fish and wildlife must always consider the ever-changing world of nature. Carson suggested this is why conservation must be “dynamic, changing as conditions change, seeking always to become more effective.” Her words perfectly describe this group of empowered and dynamic young women who continue Carson’s legacy.
“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.” – Rachel Carson, Silent Spring