Tag Archives: youth engagement

Seeds of Success Interns at Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge, Delaware

Building a Stronger Coast — One Seed at a Time

Seeds of Success, a native seed collection program led by the Bureau of Land Management, is helping to restore and strengthen coastal areas vulnerable to intense storms and sea-level rise predicted with a changing climate.

Seeds of Success: Bureau of Land Management Intern in North Carolina Field

Seeds of Success: A Bureau of Land Management intern on the lookout for native seeds in a North Carolina field. Credit: Amanda Faucette, Conservation Botanist, North Carolina Botanical Garden

Seeds of Success (SOS) collects wildland native seed for research, development, germplasm conservation and ecosystem restoration. The ultimate goal is to ensure the availability of genetically rich, regionally adapted native plant materials to restore, rehabilitate and stabilize lands in the United States through the multi-stage process of native plant material development (NPMD).  NPMD begins with these wildland seed collections being utilized for plant production and seed increases.  In this way, when environmental restoration projects need native species to plant in a given region, they are able to source genetically and ecologically appropriate materials, which ultimately supports the goal of allowing native plant communities to flourish and fish and wildlife habitats to thrive.

Seeds of Success: Michael Piantedosi

Michael Piantedosi, NEPCop/Seed Bank Coordinator of New England Wild Flower Society collects Asclepias syriaca at Great Bay National Wildlife Refuge in Newington, New Hampshire. Credit: James Lucas, Seeds of Success Intern, New England Wild Flower Society

Since being established in 2001, SOS has added more than two dozen agencies to its list of collaborators and project partners — including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The program recently launched the first large-scale, coordinated seed banking effort in the eastern United States as part of the $360 million in federal Hurricane Sandy mitigation funding the Department of the Interior is using to restore and rebuild national parks, national wildlife refuges, and other federal assets on the Atlantic coast. SOS East targets 30-50 foundation species found in habitats most impacted by Hurricane Sandy, designed to increase the capacity of coastal habitats and infrastructure to better withstand storms.

Under the SOS East program, the New England Wild Flower Society, North Carolina Botanical Garden, Mid-Atlantic Regional Seed Bank (part of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation), Chicago Botanic Garden, and the Cape May Plant Materials Center, are collaborating to provide seed from native, locally adapted plants for restoration of sub-tidal habitats and dunes, wetlands, salt marshes, near-coastal freshwater habits, coastal forests, and inland rivers and streams. Much of the vegetation in these habitats was inundated by salt water, smothered sand, or washed out to sea during Hurricane Sandy.

Bureau of Land Management Intern collecting Pluchea odorata (Sweetscent) at Edwin Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, Galloway, NJ

BLM Intern collecting Pluchea odorata (Sweetscent) at Edwin Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, Galloway, New Jersey. Credit: Clara Holmes, Seed Collection Coordinator, Mid Atlantic Regional Seed Bank

During the next two years, SOS East will work directly with the Service, providing native seeds to supplement Hurricane Sandy habitat resiliency projects.  In its first collection season, teams have made over 700 wild seed collections. Currently 28 federally funded Service Hurricane Sandy restoration projects from Maine to Virginia are using native plant materials gathered through SOS. Among these is the Hyde Pond Dam Removal on Whitford Brook in Mystic, Connecticut.

“Following dam removal, project partners will sow these seeds collected from local, native plants on bare soil to help hold the soils in place, preempt colonization by invasive, non-native plants, and provide habitat for pollinator insects, birds, and other wildlife,” says Service fish and wildlife biologist Lori Benoit.

Benoit says the New England Wild Flower Society will make a significant contribution to restoring the wetlands and forest surrounding the Hyde Pond Dam site.

Another Service project reaping the benefits of the SOS East project is salt marsh restoration and enhancement at Seatuck and Wertheim National Wildlife Refuges, and Lido Beach Wildlife Management Area in Long Island, N.Y. Collaborating with the Mid-Atlantic Regional Seed Bank (MARSB), project partners will sow native low and high salt marsh plant species.

Seeds of Success Interns at Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge, Delaware

Seeds of Success interns harvesting marsh grass seeds at Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, Delaware. Credit: Susan Guiteras/USFWS

In addition to benefiting coastal natural resources, SOS partners provide opportunities for recent college graduates to get involved in the program by hiring interns, through Chicago Botanic Garden’s Conservation Land Management Program, to help out with seed collection. These interns get the opportunity to venture out into the field in search for seed, often accessing remote coastal areas. A team of SOS interns in Delaware spent time collecting native seeds for many plants, including those that will be planted at Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge as part of tidal marsh restoration. This is one example of intern participation in an SOS partner project, collecting native seeds that will help to ensure that the restoration plantings include local ecotypes, which can be important for plant survival and success.

“Using locally-collected seeds will give the new plants the best chance for success, as they will be well-adapted for local growing conditions,” says Bart Wilson, the Service’s marsh restoration coordinator at Prime Hook.

To date, SOS has accumulated more than 16,000 native seed collections in its national collection. Each seed has played its own role in bringing native species back to life in areas where their populations have been depleted. Acting as thousands of little building blocks, these seeds and the people who collect, distribute, and nourish them into living species are working together to impact ecosystems effected by Sandy as well as habitats all over the country.

To learn more about this program, visit:
Mid-Atlantic Regional Seed Bank

Bureau of Land Management Seeds of Success Program 

New England Wild Flower Society: Seed Collection for Coastal Restoration Projects after Hurricane Sandy

North Carolina Botanical Garden news release: Seeds of Success Grow in the Eastern U.S. (pdf)

Students Get Muddy for Rhode Island Marsh Restoration

Zoe Clougher of Rogers High School  Credit: Scott Dickison

Zoe Clougher, of Rogers High School, lends a hand in strengthening Sachuest marsh through the spartina grass plug planting project. Credit: Scott Dickison

On a warm June day along the wetlands of the Maidford River, a small group of Rogers High School students knelt down onto exposed mud in a Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge marsh in Middletown, Rhode Island. Under the guidance of Rogers High School biology teacher Scott Dickison – students Elijah Swain, Zoe Clougher, Tomas Mendez and Matthew Sink dug holes before carefully planting 175 spartina grass plugs grown in their school greenhouse that spring. While digging in the mud, students observed marsh inhabitants including fiddler crabs that create burrows and birds such as willets and osprey that nest nearby.

Matt Sink pauses with a spartina grass plug in hand, before placing it into its new home on the Sachuest marsh. Credit: Scott Dickison

The goal for the grass planting is to expand, cover and recolonize an area on the western side of the Sachuest marsh that has been bare since restoration of the landfill in the mid 2000s says Wenley Ferguson, Director of Habitat Restoration for Save the Bay. The Service, in partnership with Save the Bay – an independent, not-for-profit organization working to protect and improve Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island, identified the Sachuest site for planting and are also collaborating on the Narrow River salt marsh restoration project with student volunteers and college-aged interns. This restoration work is made possible by Hurricane Sandy resilience funds from the Department of the Interior through the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013.

Involving students in this hands on salt marsh restoration and adaptation project is a unique opportunity to provide young people with the tools to be active and engaged stewards of the region’s salt marshes.  They learn firsthand about salt marshes’ productivity and value to wildlife by literally being immersed in the marsh and surrounded by the crabs, fish, birds and insects that call the marsh their home.” – Wenley Ferguson, Director of Habitat Restoration for Save the Bay

Dickison and around 80 of his students collected the spartina seeds from Gooseneck Cove – a salt marsh restoration site within walking distance of the high school – in the fall of 2014. Ferguson says in years past, about 60 of Rogers’ students have planted grasses at the cove . This year the Service’s Sachuest marsh restoration project is in the planning and design stage. “We decided to have them (students) plant their salt marsh grasses at Sachuest so they would have an opportunity to learn about the proposed restoration project. We could begin to enhance vegetation in areas of the marsh not targeted for restoration,” said Ferguson.

Photo Credit: Save the Bay

Rogers High School students Zoe Clougher, Matt Sink, Elijah Swain and Tomas Mendez on site with biology teacher Scott Dickison at the Sachuest marsh. Credit: Save the Bay

In spring of 2016, Dickison and his students plan to be involved with the larger scale restoration project in the marsh. The group will grow more native grasses, and assist with plantings in the target area. Ferguson expects there to be at least another 20 to 30 student volunteers in next year’s planting project. This will include other area high schools participating in Save the Bay’s salt marsh nursery project. And the more volunteers who help steward the marshes now, the better these natural buffers will support animal and plant diversity, protect coastal communities and adapt to changing conditions in the future.

This summer, 4th through 6th graders from the River Valley Charter School help pull invasive pepperweed plants from the salt marsh at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge in Newburyport, Massachusetts.

Pulling the Pernicious Pepperweed Plant

This summer, 4th through 6th graders from the River Valley Charter School help pull invasive pepperweed plants from the salt marsh at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge in Newburyport, Massachusetts.

Last month, 4th through 6th graders from the River Valley Charter School helped pull invasive pepperweed plants from the salt marsh at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge in Newburyport, Massachusetts. Credit: Frances Rodriguez/USFWS

The pernicious perennial pepperweed plant is a fun tongue twister (repeat it 10 times), yet this coastal invader is no laughing matter. Native to Europe and Asia, it is classified as a noxious, invasive weed in 15 states, including Massachusetts and Connecticut, and outcompetes native salt marsh grasses, which help to filter stormwater pollutants, buffer against storm damage, provide habitat to fish and wildlife and support recreational and commercial activities for local towns.

Since 2006, The Great Marsh Perennial Pepperweed Eradication Project has worked with numerous volunteers who have pulled thousands of pounds of pepperweed, or Lepidium latifolium, from the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge in Newburyport, Massachusetts, and surrounding areas. With the help of many local partners such as Mass Audubon and local schools, more than 70 sites have been restored and counting.

Two students from the River Valley Charter School fill a garbage bag with invasive pepperweed plants, allowing native salt marsh grasses a chance to regenerate in the salt marsh at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge in Newburyport, Massachusetts.

Two students from the River Valley Charter School fill a garbage bag with invasive pepperweed plants, allowing native salt marsh grasses a chance to regenerate and create a more resilient salt marsh at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge. Credit: Frances Rodriguez/USFWS

Nancy Pau, wildlife biologist at the refuge, says supplemental recovery funds from Hurricane Sandy cover treatment of almost 100 percent of the pepperweed, where past funds only covered between 60 to 70 percent of the treatment needed.

For the past two years, the River Valley Charter School has helped Parker River National Wildlife Refuge staff battle dense stands of this aggressive mustard family plant, pulling pepperweed from 4.7 acres along the Plum Island Turnpike and along Plum Bush Down, a small residential area along the Great Marsh in Newburyport.

Lauren Healey (pictured above) and other team members from Gulf of Maine Institute and Newburyport High School removed 14 bags full of invasive pepperweed from the Great Marsh last month.

Lauren Healey (pictured above) and several other team members from Gulf of Maine Institute and Newburyport High School removed 14 bags full of invasive pepperweed from the Great Marsh last month. Credit: Lauren Healey/Gulf of Maine Institute

Last month, nearly two dozen 4th, 5th and 6th graders from the school held a repeat performance from the year before, pulling 15 large garbage bags full of plants from six areas where pepperweed control is badly needed.

“While the kids are having a good time and learning how to identify and properly pull the weeds, they are also turning the Great Marsh into a more resilient natural barrier that will help sustain wildlife and their own communities from future storms.” – Frances Toledo Rodriguez, Invasive Species Coordinator at Parker River Refuge

And that’s a perfectly good reason to publicize the peeps pulling pepperweed.

Related blog post: Restoring the Great Marsh

More about the Sandy-funded Great Marsh restoration project

More about the Great Marsh Pepperweed Eradication project