Monday, April 4, 2016

Connections and Hope for the Future

By Beth Sullivan
One of the most rewarding aspects of working with Avalonia as a town chair and steward, is the opportunities that arise to connect with other organizations and share strategies, ideas and energy.
Invasive plants were no match for this crew at Pequotsepos Brook Preserve.

Working with Trinity College

Over the last three years I worked with a professor and his ever-changing teams of students at Knox preserve as they studied the effect of invasive species on the ecosystem, and followed up as we eradicated and managed for restoration of a more native flora. Working with this team, and getting my brain turned on a bit to academics and science, was not only interesting but inspiring. The lead professor, Dr. Cameron Douglass is moving on to a new and permanent position in Washington DC with the EPA. His study on Knox is done. When his papers are completed and published, I will read them and file them, and hopefully future stewards will learn from them as well. We benefited from their presence; we have worked hard on restoring native species, have a greater understanding of the soils and conditions we are working with, and it was his team that designed and created the beautiful signs we now have on the preserve. Thank you to Trinity College. Maybe his replacement will come explore our area.
Our collaboration with Trinity College will be wrapping up.

Moving piles of invasives is a great way to burn off energy.

Working with Connecticut College

Now, in the spring semester, I am working with the Connecticut College Goodwin Neiring Center for the Environment and their class of very special students; another group of smart and enthusiastic young people wo are willing to share their ideas and energy with us for a few months. Sometimes their efforts have really long and far reaching results. In the past students tried stewardship projects, habitat work in the field, and plantings. But in the past two years we have been thwarted by snow and poor conditions in March and April for actual on-site projects. This year the students are working on outreach projects in several areas for Avalonia. We discussed that one of our organizational goals is to become more a part of the public awareness. People see our signs, but are not sure “what” we are or that we are an organization based on memberships. The students are reaching out in a number of ways. They will have a presence at local Farmers’ Markets with a setup promoting Avalonia and even focusing on Arbor Day, a good thing for a land trust. Another group will work with a local High School teacher in Stonington and her students in Ecology/Environmental Science classes, to explore how we can get younger students engaged in helping us. Many of us are getting a little older now! Other groups will focus on managing some social media outreach and doing a fund raising “Meet Avalonia” event. There may even be some guest writers of this blog, giving readers a different view, and me a break.
One team from Connecticut College is exploring the history of the Perry Natural Area.

When we work together, great things happen, like clearing this wall of invasive species.

We have already done walks to explore historic properties. More on that at a later time. And several work parties where the energy of the students truly matched, and over whelmed, the persistence of invasives on several sites
Watching the students study and work in the field, watching them think and be engaged, gives me such hope for the future, that these young people are going out into the world with an education and opportunity that was not available, for me, almost 40 years ago. With these young people, we will be in good hands.
Youth and energy from Marine Science Magnet School worked wonders at Dodge Paddock.

Photographs by Beth Sullivan and Marina Stuart.

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