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NWP Global Registry of Apprentice Ecologists - Ridgefield, Connecticut, USA

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Ridgefield, Connecticut, USA
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Shoms



Registered: October 2012
Posts: 1
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Removing the Barberry
When growing up in New England, there are certain experiences which a person becomes accustomed to. Marveling at fiery autumn foliage, building snowmen from freshly fallen flakes, and smearing on layers of sunscreen in the unforgiving August rays, are a few examples. One experience which almost every New Englander can relate to is tick checks. After basking in the unmistakable glow of a spring afternoon, immediately checking my limbs, back, and face for the mini midnight nuisance known as the nymph tick became second nature to me. After years of lectures by parents, doctors, and teachers, I learned that the nymph tick is not your ordinary pest. Nymph ticks can cause Lyme disease, a condition which entails a rash, flu-like symptoms, and even neurological damage. I personally learned about the magnitude of Lyme disease when my friend’s sister contracted it. It did not seem fair that a high school athlete would be forced to battle fatigue, extreme migraines, and intense physical pain with due to a tick bite.
During that time, I learned about the Nicodemus Wilderness project, which encouraged youths to become environmental stewards. Inspired by the many young ecologists and after hearing her diagnosis, I wanted to make a change. I met with another student and his teacher who had been studying environmental sciences. Through them, I learned that one way to combat the Nymph tick population was through removing the invasive Japanese Barberry. Barberry lowers the natural pH of the soil; consequently, making the environment hostile for native plants. Additionally, the Japanese Barberry houses the white - footed mice, who in turn, encourage the tick nymph population. We needed to begin our work in a contained and accessible area, so we chose a local Connecticut high school next to the Silvermine River. This area was important because children often play in the tick-infested woods. Consequently, they are susceptible to tick bites and Lyme Disease.
In November, we went out to survey the area in order to find the locations of each individual Japanese barberry plant. We found that there were 19 Japanese Barberry plants scattered throughout the area. In addition, we also employed the cut-and-spray-with-herbicide method to remove large amounts of the Japanese barberry plants. We would also remove the detached branches in order to clear the site and make it easier to work in. The bushes were located everywhere from steep hills to the strip of land which positioned around the river.
Our method required the barberry chute to be trimmed until only one leaf remained and was then sprayed with high strength roundup. We were able to clear all the barberry from a particular stream area near the school and decided to follow this up by slowly removing or significantly reducing invasive plants in the area while managing the flow of the stream along with the introduction of native plants to the region.
In order to keep track of the data we collected, our team used two methods. First and foremost, we were able to monitor the development of our project by taking pictures. As we walked to the site, we would stop before we started working in order to capture the landscape of the site in a photograph. This juxtaposition allowed us to monitor the progress we made with the Japanese Barberry plant. In this area, the data was qualitative and required visual observations.
When it came time to observe the nymph tick population, the data required a more quantitative approach. We went to each bush and calculated the amount of ticks living within each Japanese Barberry plant. After averaging the tick population for all 19 bushes within the area, we calculated that each plant houses approximately 30 nymph ticks. After going through the initial stage of cutting and spraying with the Roundup solution, the population decreased about 75% to approximately 6 nymph ticks on average. After the second application of the solution, the population decreased even further to about 2 ticks.
Seeing the difference in the tick population showed us that we have the power to make a huge difference in our community. Our Apprentice Ecologist project gave us new confidence as young change makers. In the future, we will continue our efforts and we plan to share our experience with others. Our community will benefit because there will be less ticks to infect people with Lyme. In addition to more healthy people, our work also will lead to a healthier environment. The overarching idea of removing invasive species can help communities in every corner of the globe. From the oceans to the rainforests, indigenous life is being destroyed by species which do not really belong there. Native species should be able to thrive and contribute to their natural habitats. Variation within these ecosystems is integral and all environmentalists should work to ensure that local habitats will always be protected.
The other lesson that my project taught me was the power of passion. When I shared my sister’s friend’s story, so many people were touched and decided to aid our efforts. Students, Boy Scout Troops, and even a few sympathetic parents eagerly volunteered to join us. I learned that a simple story can ignite a wild fire of compassion and motivation. The environment benefited from their dedication and the entire town did as well.
Date: December 28, 2012 Views: 7194 File size: 27.2kb, 1107.8kb : 1552 x 1164
Hours Volunteered: 200
Volunteers: 25
Authors Age & Age Range of Volunteers: 16 & 14 to 58
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