Monday, May 5, 2014

GNCE Work Day

by Marina Stuart and Cian Fields

On a cloudy Sunday twelve members of the Goodwin-Niering Center for the Environment (GNCE) at Connecticut College made their way out to Knox Preserve to participate in a workday. This workday was in part to give some of the GNCE students time to work on their individual projects, and was also advertised around the Stonington and Mystic area to invite any one to participate. When everyone had arrived and plans were discussed, we all got to work. We split up, to either tackle our own individual projects or to work on other areas of the preserve. We first went to help with installing a nesting gourd system for the Purple Martins.
One Team helped setup the new Purple Martin houses.

After that we checked in with our other GNCE members. Aly and Olivia were in the process of deciding where their different plants should go; they were planting native shrub plants to restore habitat where invasives had been removed. They planted native wildflowers in hopes to attract bees and other pollinators.
Emma and Emily had arrived with their plants and were measuring out their test plots in the field and turning the soil. Their project is also about introducing diverse native plants to Knox, but also seeing how well they survive in comparison to the invasive species present in the field.
As we walked on, we ran into Caitlin and Anna; they were collecting soil samples. They were working with Cameron Douglass, a researcher from Trinity College who will analyze their soil samples. Their project is focused around the salinity in the soil and figuring out which plants work best in different areas of the preserve.
Anna and Caitlin went deep into the bushes to get soil samples

Brush piles to the rescue 
Finally we came to Natalie and Jessica who were also being assisted by Matt and Maia. Their project was to clear non -native and invasive shrubs from a corner of the preserve. Invasives provide poor quality habitat for native birds and animals. By removing them, over time they can be replaced with better quality natives. In the meantime, leaving brush piles will help provide shelter for many creatures. Since this is where they needed hands, we decided to help their project and began pulling out invasive species. The most common ones were Oriental bittersweet and Honeysuckle. We worked on the project from 10:30-3, stopping once for lunch. By the end of the day we had accomplished more than we had expected. Yes, we had made one large brush pile on the side that will be great protective cover for wildlife. But we also created a huge pile in the middle of the clearing, with large amount of space all around it; we had cleared so much out you could walk down to the water! It was incredible. Natalie and Jessica were extremely pleased. The pile in the center of the clearing will be mowed down and used for ground cover, and the other brush pile will be used for attracting more birds to the area.
A big brush pile was created.

Jessica worked on bittersweet.

Maia enjoyed tackling the vines.

Matt took a saw to the bigger branches.

Natalie attached Honeysuckle.

As we gathered together at the end of the day, we were all very impressed with what we got done. Aly, Olivia, Emma, and Emily had all planted their plots, Anna and Caitlin had gathered samples to be tested, Natalie and Jessica had cleared out their area and created their bird habitat. Maia and Matt have their project on the Dodge Paddock so they helped by first contributing to Natalie and Jessica’s project, and later went around with Beth Sullivan digging up multiflora rose plants invading the main field on Knox. We got to help and also got material to write more blogs! Thanks for reading and look out for more blogs about the individual projects coming soon!
Several GNCE students dug out the multiflora rose invading the fields.

Photographs by Marina Stuart and Cian Fields.

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