Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Rooting out the invaders

Hello friends!

I (Kaitlin) am the second half of the “Who” described by Bryarly in the previous post. I’m a recent graduate of Swarthmore College with a Biology major, originally from South Salem, NY, and I’ve spent the last years focusing on plant and forest ecology.

This summer, I’m hoping to harness my love of all things leafy and green by assisting Bryarly in her examination of the meadow and by taking the fullest advantage of what the VINS Nature Center property has to offer. Which is to say, a lot. With its winding nature trails and beautiful grounds, it’s been easy for this New Yorker to fall in love with Vermont.

So, what exactly will I be doing this summer? I’ll be examining arthropod biodiversity in the soil of the VINS property, concentrating on the Meadow mentioned by Bryarly in the previous post. They might just be creepy crawlers to most, but the biodiversity of soil microarthropods is a convenient way to monitor and detect possible declines in the health of an ecosystem, as microarthropods are integral to good soil quality.

I’m excited for this week since all necessary equipment is arriving and I’ll be taking samples very soon. I can’t wait to see what squirmy things we extract from the soil. But more on that later!

For now, I’d like to share what else Bryarly and I have been up to. But to do that, I’ve got to introduce you to some enemies of mine:

From left to right: Dame's rocket, water milfoil, and garlic mustard
[Photos courtesy of Fish and Wildlife Service]

These aren’t just my enemies. These are the enemies of all land managers. These seemingly innocuous plants are invasives, which means that they aggressively colonize areas that could have otherwise been utilized by native plants—plants that belong in Vermont.

In a volunteer effort that brought together workers from Student Conservation Assocation, US Army Corps of Engineers, VINS, Marsh Billings Rockefeller National Historic Park, Vermont Youth Conservation Corps, and Queechee State Park, Bryarly and I participated in a collaborative work day to weed the land (and water) of these opportunistic pests.

The first part day was spent on land, clearing patches of garlic mustard and Dame’s rocket all along the Ottauquechee River. There must have been twenty of us, and the sight of us all hunkering down and pulling weeds must have been a sight to see for cars passing along Quechee Main Street.

We were careful to place the offending plants in black plastic bags, where their seed pods could be carried safely away.

The bagged garlic mustard
[Photo courtesy of Treenen Sturman]

The second part of the day was spent on canoes on Dewey’s Pond, and the entire afternoon, all I could think was, “I can’t believe how lucky I am to be here!” The sky was the perfect blue that belongs to Vermont alone, and the lily pads were crowned with little stars of white flowers.

Unfortunately, Dewey’s pond is also subject to an invasive plant, an aquatic species called Water Milfoil that has finely whorled leaves. The far end of Dewey’s pond, opposite from the landing, is covered with the plants, so we paddled our canoes out and started pulling.

We looked like sea monsters, pulling out slimy, green coils of leaves, but I’d be lying if said I didn’t thoroughly enjoy myself. It was a wonderful afternoon in the sun, made more wonderful by the fact that we were able to actively rehabilitate the land and water in our community...all by removing invasive plants.

Members of the USACE Crew
[Photo courtesy of Treenen Sturman]

1 comment:

  1. My goodness little one, who knew you had been doing such good honest work up around Quechee. But really, I always knew. When we come up at the end of the month, be sure to point out some of these aliens that you and your team have piled up into what looks like many, many bags, and to think that I've just been getting fat in New York. "cause it's a long way to go/a hard road to hoe/yes it's a long way to go/but in the meantime"...good luck and see you soon!