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NWP Global Registry of Apprentice Ecologists - Tule Ponds, Fremont, California, USA

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Tule Ponds, Fremont, California, USA
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Registered: December 2007
City/Town/Province: Fremont
Posts: 1
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Looking at the area, it was difficult to imagine that any living creature could possibly call it home. The skeletons of the past littered and deteriorated the plot of land. Tangled, thorny blackberry bushes infiltrated the earth, and plastic and glass bottles were strewn heavily throughout the dead vegetation. A murky, trash-filled stream ran through the area. This impenetrable wasteland used to be home to some of the most majestic birds – herons and egrets. Four other teens and I were determined to fix this area at Tule Ponds in Fremont, California, and to bring the birds back.
There were a couple of reasons why the herons were not living at Tule Ponds as they once did. The blackberry bushes completely covering the ground made it impossible for the herons to nest and painful for them to walk. Plastic bags and glass bottles are dangerous and potentially life-threatening; the plastic bags suffocate the birds and the glass cuts their feet. Also, the herons had no source of nutritional food. The stream that once used to be a home to small fish and frogs was now only a home to trash and oil spills. What the area needed was a dramatic makeover into a suitable home for the herons and egrets.
We came to Tule Ponds every Saturday for three months. The first two months were completely dedicated to the blackberry plants. These plants were old and dead, but they were massive. It was difficult to remove them since most of them had to be removed by digging all the way to the roots, which were usually located a couple of feet below the ground. Once all the blackberry plants were removed, the trash had to be removed. There was a lot of trash, but the trash wasn’t as difficult to remove as the blackberry plants were. It was amazing the variety of things that people dumped there. We found many rubber balls of sports games past, countless alcohol bottles, and even a full shopping cart buried in the dirt. Not counting the shopping cart, we collected about sixty-five kilograms of trash. Finally, after the plot of land had been completely cleared, we planted nine willow trees, native trees to the area. The willow trees, the natural nesting sites for the birds, will be big enough for the birds to nest in within a year. Although the willow trees will not serve as homes for the herons immediately, right now they are helping to hold the soil together that was broken up by the blackberry bushes and are helping to combat the omnipresent affects of global warming by releasing more oxygen into the atmosphere.
After three months of hard work, it made me feel wonderful to see the final result. It was a complete transformation. Before, the area was completely covered by brown, dead blackberry bushes and trash. Now, it is clear with willow tree saplings, and it has a clear stream. On our last couple of visits, we saw a Great Blue Heron, a Green Heron, and two Snowy Egrets! It made me so proud of myself and my group to see that through our efforts, we were bringing these wonderful birds back to Tule Ponds. What’s more, two of the birds that are making a comeback at Tule Ponds, the Snowy Egret and the Black-Crowned Night Heron, were recent members of the endangered species list.
Our group gave a presentation (with PowerPoint) in front of our high school about our project and the importance of throwing away one’s own trash. We taught our high school peers about the repercussions of littering through the use of this local example. After our presentation, I had a couple of students and teachers come up to me and tell me how impressed they were with our initiative to combat a local problem and to educate our school about it.
I genuinely admire the goal and the mission of the Apprentice Ecologist Initiative. By getting teens such as myself more involved in the environment, it will not only teach them to respect the world they live in more, but it will also beautify the world they live in, for themselves and for others.
Many people spend time helping the environment in some way – cleaning up plots of land, picking up trash, or making homes for endangered species of plants or animals. However, sometimes a crucial step is missed, and that is education of the public. Doing the project is one thing, but sharing with the public the importance of one’s project is another, just as important step. If more people knew about the opportunities that are out there and how they can help, the world would be a much cleaner place for herons, for all animals, and for us.
Date: December 30, 2007 Views: 12421 File size: 28.1kb, 107.0kb : 678 x 650
Hours Volunteered: 80
Volunteers: 5
Authors Age & Age Range of Volunteers: 14 to 15
Area Restored for Native Wildlife (hectares): 0.5
Trash Removed/Recycled from Environment (kg): 65
Native Trees Planted: 9
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