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March 28, 2005

Campus volunteers giving nature a hand

By Louise Donahue

For the volunteers who join work crews each quarter to help preserve UCSC’s natural areas, the effort is a labor of love.

Photo: volunteers

Volunteers take part in a restoration planting project on an earthen berm buffer that separates the Long Marine Lab facilities from the Younger Lagoon Natural Reserve.
Photo: Scott Loosley

“It really is a wonderful way to get out, with a great group of people, and work to help the environment,” said paleoceanography researcher and volunteer Linda Anderson.

“There’s a problem here, and we’re out to address it,” she said.

The problems are invasive, non-native species and erosion. Work crews pull out the troublesome plants, replant areas with native species, and also monitor the campus to detect invasive species problems.

Scott Loosley, who heads the Site Stewardship Program of Grounds Services, estimates volunteers have added at least 2,000 plants to the UCSC landscape, mostly in the Long Marine Lab area.

The work can be demanding—Anderson said she could recommend it as aerobic exercise—but it also comes with a sense of satisfaction. “In the few years I've volunteered at Younger Lagoon I've been able to see once-tiny plants that we've planted thrive and form a thick cover that helps to keep out the weeds,” said volunteer Laura Goodhue. A 1991 UCSC graduate, Goodhue is a field assistant for the Fort Ord Natural Reserve rare plant survey.

Students—whether as volunteers or interns--are the backbone of the volunteer preservationists, though staff and faculty members also take part. Loosley made a presentation at the March 10 Staff Forum to encourage more staff participation.

Volunteers sign up to work for four hours on weekends through either the Site Stewardship Program or the UCSC Natural Reserves.

Maggie Fusari is director of the UCSC Natural Reserves and Sean McStay, is the reserve steward of the Campus, Younger Lagoon, and Fort Ord Reserves. The Natural Reserves are administered by the Division of Physical and Biological Sciences.

“The campus stewardship program is vital to the UCSC Campus Natural Reserve, the Younger Lagoon Natural Reserve, and the UCSC campus in general,” said Fusari. “Those of us who are charged to take care of these lands depend on students and staff to help us with basic land maintenance projects such as weed control, restoration of native plant communities, and monitoring of the conditions of our natural systems.”

“I am very proud to be working with Scott Loosley and Sean McStay (who did his own senior thesis on restoration of one of our interpretive trails) because they have made this program work,” said Fusari. “The volunteers love them and love working with them. And the entire campus benefits from the improved care of its precious natural lands.”

The largest numbers of volunteers usually turn out in the fall, when students in environmental studies associate professor Karen Holl’s Restoration Ecology class are required to participate in a restoration project of some kind. Several student interns also participate each quarter.

Many student volunteers have gone off to do credited work in ecology, restoration, plant science, and environmental management in classes, internships, and even senior thesis projects, Fusari noted.

Each workday includes an educational component. If the volunteers are rebuilding a forest path, for instance, Loosley will explain how taking a shortcut through the forest leads to root compaction, which can kill the trees.

“I’ve learned something each time; native plants are my avocation and my passion,” said Anderson.

Laura Goodhue has found her work at the Younger Lagoon Reserve especially rewarding. “There's lots to love about volunteering at Younger Lagoon Reserve,” she said. “It is good to be in the company of people who want to make a difference.”

Working in these areas also provides a chance to enjoy nature, Goodhue said. “There are gorgeous-smelling plants to smell, all kinds of birds to watch, and occasionally I've even seen a beautiful bobcat.”

This spring, there will be several opportunities for volunteers to do their part.

On April 9 and April 23, the Grounds Site Stewardship Program will be doing native planting and maintenance at Long Marine Lab. On May 14, the project will be in the Great Meadow Invasive Plant Removal. To RSVP and for additional details, e-mail grounds_interns@ucsc.edu or call (831) 459-2643.

UCSC Natural Reserves stewardship days will be held May 1 at Younger Lagoon Reserve. On May 7, and May 22, workers will concentrate on Campus Natural Reserve work. To sign up, e-mail mcstay@ucsc.edu.


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