Posts Tagged 'ACT!'

Our Conservation Re-cap for 2013!

2013 has been an exciting year for our Conservation team! We continued our work at some of our existing restoration sites, and also celebrated some exciting new events and projects!

None of our success would be possible without the help of our volunteers and partners. With their help, we restored over 24.6 acres this year! This awesome feat required the help of 1,312 volunteers who spent 3,057 hours planting 50,845 plants and removing 54,227 pieces of debris.

national aquarium conservation debris

Many of our projects this year took place right in Baltimore City. We planted living shorelines at the Masonville Cove Environmental Education Center and planted a forest buffer at Farring-Baybrook Park, the largest open space in Baltimore City! At our wetland field station adjacent to Fort McHenry National Monument and Shrine, we held our annual Spring Fort McHenry field day where we removed debris and planted trees to celebrate Arbor Day.

ft. mchenry

The National Aquarium spread conservation efforts outside of the city as well, with restoration projects all over the state of Maryland. In Salisbury, we worked with local students, community volunteers, and The Nature Conservancy to restore an Atlantic White Cedar swamp. In Southern Maryland we continued our long term efforts to restore shoreline on the shores of Naval Support Facility- Indian Head. In New York, the northern end of the watershed, we worked with local students to restore unique freshwater wetland habitats.

Here are just a few of the groundbreaking initiatives we participated in this year: 

  • In May, we congratulated our first class of Maryland Master Naturalists. This program is run by the University of Maryland Extension program, and trains volunteers in Maryland’s flora and fauna.
  • In June, the Choose Clean Water Conference was held in Baltimore, and the Aquarium hosted multiple field trips for participants to showcase our Chesapeake Bay Restoration work.
  • In May, we were joined by Maryland’s First Lady Katie O’Malley and our partners at the National Wildlife Federation, announced our part in a new initiative to make Baltimore truly a city for the birds! We’re cooperating to make Baltimore one of the greenest cities in the country by certifying Baltimore City homes and businesses as backyard wildlife habitats.
  • In September, The US Fish & Wildlife Service named Masonville Cove the first Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership. This new initiative is an effort to make more of our nation’s beautiful, natural areas accessible to all populations, including urban ones.

Want to join in the fun and be a part of our conservation successes in 2014? Sign up for our newsletter!

Potomac River Restoration at Indian Head Continues!

Since 2008 the National Aquarium has worked with the US Navy to restore portions of the Potomac River surrounding Naval Support Facility Indian Head and Stump Neck Annex. This newly created riparian buffer protects the shoreline from severe erosion while providing habitat to the local wildlife.

In June, 2013 the conservation team along with the Maryland Conservation Corps (MCC) returned to plant native wetland grasses best suited for the restoration area.

indian head conservation team

In total the operation included 15 Aquarium staff and 20 MCC to plant 20,000 grasses. The 1,806 trees planted in the fall of 2012 by community volunteers were also monitored and yield a survival rate of 95 percent!

Riparian buffers are essential to healthy ecosystems by preventing sediment, nitrogen, phosphorus and other pollutants reaching the waterway. They also provide valuable habitat for migratory songbirds and raptors. During the restoration several American bald eagles and osprey were observed occupying the area.

indian head restoration

The Aquarium has plans to complete the planting portion of the restoration by the end of 2013. At this time the success of the shoreline will be monitored annually with staff and volunteers.

Want to get involved with our conservation initiatives? Join us at our next field event

Thoughtful Thursdays: Atlantic White Cedar Restoration Continues!

Recently, more than 150 student and community volunteers helped the Aquarium Conservation Team (ACT!) restore a rare freshwater wetland at Nassawango Creek Preserve. In total, volunteers planted 3,000 Atlantic white cedar trees across 6.5 acres.

The barren area at Nassawango Creek Preserve where our restoration efforts are currently being concentrated.

The barren area at Nassawango Creek Preserve where our restoration efforts are currently being concentrated.

Through the Aquarium’s Wetland Nursery Program, students from three local schools have spent the last year caring for and monitoring Atlantic white cedar trees at their school. In the fall, the students re-potted the saplings or helped to propagate new trees.

A few of the saplings planted at Nassawango Creek Preserve.

A few of the saplings planted at Nassawango Creek Preserve.

Throughout the year, they have watered the trees and monitored their growth. Last week’s planting event was the culmination of all their hard work!

Students and volunteers worked together to plant 6,500 trees!

Students and volunteers worked together to plant 6,500 trees!

Nassawango Creek Preserve encompasses more than 10,000 acres and is owned and managed by The Nature Conservancy. Through controlled burns, regular planting events, and other best management practices, The Nature Conservancy hopes to restore the freshwater wetlands that once dominated the Preserve.

This area is home to 60 species of migratory birds and a number of rare plant species. We’re thrilled to see so many local  join National Aquarium in our commitment to creating a once-again thriving ecosystem at Nassawango!

A special thank you to all of our student and community volunteers! We hope to see you at another one of our conservation events.

Re-Cap: Eastern Neck Tree Planting!

Last weekend, our Aquarium Conservation Team (ACT!) hosted a tree planting event at Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge. Eastern Neck is a 2,285-acre stopover area for migratory and wintering waterfowl at the mouth of the Chester River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

Funded through the US Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Chesapeake Bay Trust, and National Wildlife Federation, community volunteers, students and partners planted 15,000 native hardwood trees creating a 300 foot forest buffer along the river. Since 2000, we have restored more than 12 acres of wetland habitat, demonstrating the beneficial use of dredge material. The wetlands provide refuge to a variety of wildlife including terrapins, birds, snakes and small mammals.

In total, 80 students from Rock Hall Elementary, Kent County High School and Aquarium On Wheels (an after school program for Baltimore City Youth) participated alongside 18 Maryland Conservation Corps, 19 Aquarium Conservation Team and 36 community volunteers. Our planting project at Eastern Neck is part of a larger initiative to educate local school children on the importance of marsh habitat around the Chesapeake Bay using these restored wetlands as a living classroom.

US Fish and Wildlife Staff will continue to monitor trees over the next several years to assure success of the newly-planted seedlings!

Want to get out in the field and give back to our local wildlife? Join us at our of our upcoming conservation events

Thoughtful Thursdays: Students Restoring Wetlands

Recently, the Aquarium Conservation Team (ACT!) traveled to Snow Hill, MD, to help restore a rare freshwater wetland at Nassawango Creek Preserve. Through an ongoing partnership with The Nature Conservancy and Worchester County schools, local students and community volunteers planted 700 Atlantic white cedar saplings and 700 shortleaf pine trees in two days.

The students have spent the last year caring for and monitoring the Atlantic white cedar trees in their schoolyard. In the fall, the students repotted the saplings and placed them in their schools’ wet frame pond. Throughout the year, they have watered the trees and monitored their growth. Under the students’ care, the trees flourished and this month were ready to be planted!

Nasswango Creek Preserve, the restoration site, encompasses more than 10,000 acres and is owned and managed by The Nature Conservancy. Through controlled burns, regular planting events, and other best management practices, The Nature Conservancy hopes to restore the freshwater wetlands that once dominated the Preserve. Students also had the opportunity to experience another rare habitat within the preserve when they planted the shortleaf pine trees among ancient sand dunes.

With beautiful weather and dozens of eager volunteers, the project finished ahead of schedule! The students enjoyed planting the trees they had raised and were amazed to see their trees at home in their natural habitat.

Volunteer Spotlight: Scott Barr

Get to know a little more about a member of the Aquarium Conservation Team (ACT!), Scott Barr, and what motivates him to volunteer.

How long have you been volunteering with ACT and what keeps you coming back to volunteer with the program?
I have been volunteering with ACT for about three years now. I began volunteering with ACT shortly after I started working at the National Aquarium because I thought it sounded like a fun opportunity to impact the world positively, and a chance to spend time outdoors getting to know coworkers that I might not cross paths with during routine day-to-day activities. That all turned out to be true and still holds true for my time with ACT; I meet new and interesting people on all of the trips. It is also a great time outdoors and, if you’re lucky, in the sunshine! The Aquarium Conservation Team does a great job of being welcoming and inclusive, which makes working with them always enjoyable.

Scott digging holes at Indian Head for a staff member to plant

What motivated you to join and become a team leader?
I guess for the most part I was motivated by the energy of the other ACT members and the Conservation Department leaders. It’s hard not to rise to the level of that enthusiasm. The groups that join us for the field days are looking for an impactful conservation activity and an opportunity to learn how we are helping to protect natural [environments]; being a team leader helps to facilitate these goals. It is also an opportunity to learn more myself. And who doesn’t like to play around in the mud once in a while, let the kid inside you live!

What is your most memorable experience from an ACT event?
The most memorable experience I had was a group of Girl Scouts that we had [at the 2009 Barren Island] planting. All I could think at the start was “I hope they bring some Thin Mints to get us through all of the squealing and giggles,” but it turned out to be a really strong group. The girls were all focused and eager to plant and didn’t mind any of the muck. They were vigorous and interested and actually kept me on my toes with all of the questions they kept asking; I didn’t know a steady stream of inquiries could be sustained through an entire day of digging holes and putting plants in the ground, but I can now attest to the untiring minds of youth. Luckily for me, their chaperones couldn’t maintain the same stamina or I might still be answering questions on that island.

Scott lays out wetland grasses for a Girl Scout troop to plant on Barren Island

Does your work with ACT tie into your job or other volunteer work you are engaged in?
It would be hard not to find a way in which ACT doesn’t tie in with working at the National Aquarium. The mission of the Nation Aquarium is to inspire conservation of the world’s aquatic treasures–what could be more true to the mission than the Aquarium Conservation Team? As part of ACT, you strive to inspire volunteers at the same time that you are working directly to achieve conservation. Teamwork, communication, and engagement are key parts of ACT that also blend into the regular duties of my job.

Sounds like fun, right?! Click Here if you are interested in volunteering at any of our conservation events or joining the ACT! program. And be sure to sign up to receive our Conservation e-newsletter.

A day of cleanup

Last Saturday a dedicated group of community volunteers joined the Aquarium Conservation Team at Fort McHenry to clean up debris in honor of Earth Day. They worked until the dumpster was overflowing, removing 10,944 pieces of debris from the marsh! 

Each spring the marsh is transformed into a living classroom for hundreds of students from Baltimore City schools. The cleanup day came just in time to give the education areas a much-needed facelift before the Aquarium’s AquaPartners students arrived this week. New gravel was added to the walking areas, and the butterfly gardens were weeded and given new mulch!

Fort McHenry Field Days could not be successful without the volunteers who step up to spend a Saturday morning in the mud. A sincere thank you goes out to all of our volunteers. And judging from the pictures, it seems like everyone had an enjoyable day!  Click here to see for yourself!

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