Time to Celebrate: West Side Student Summit

The hard work is over and now it is time to celebrate. Students part of SOLVE’s Green Team Program on the West Side of the Willamette have been working tirelessly all year- learning about riparian ecology and doing active stream restoration. They have spent many days in pouring rain, thick mud, and weaving through thorny blackberry to improve the health of their watersheds. Now, it was time to share our findings and accomplishments with one another, our funders, scientists in the field, and the entire community.

Students arrived in clothes very different from the usual muddy rain gear we are familiar with and we began listening to Meghan (SOLVE) welcome us to the event and thank us all for our hard work. Next, Sarah Pinnock, Wetlands Education Specialist at Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve, gave our keynote speech. She has a degree in Environmental Science from Marylhurst University.  She has been an educator and naturalist in the Northwest for 25 years, and has been a Wetlands Education Specialist at Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve for almost 13 years. Sarah designs and delivers field science programs and traveling programs for schools and groups, summer camps, adult and family programs. She encouraged us to look for the thing we love doing and to never be afraid to pursue it. It was so great to hear her inspirational words of wisdom!

Next, students presented on topics of their choice from their year working with SOLVE. We heard about everything from how plants sequester carbon to how macroinvertebrates tell us about the quality of the water in our streams. We heard about the incredible amount of work students have done to remove blackberry, ivy, morning glory, Reed canary grass, and to plant native trees and shrubs and take care of them. As a whole, Green Teams on the West Side have planted 2,800 trees and shrubs this school year.

Then we headed out to the lobby to hear about summer internship opportunities and admire all of the incredible garbage art and writing reflections of fellow Green Team students.

Together, as Green Team students in the Portland-Metro area you all have demonstrated that the power of young, informed, and devoted students is unstoppable. Your willingness to learn about the rivers in your backyard and turn that information into positive change is absolutely unbelievable. This positive energy and eagerness to make a difference will truly make this world a better place- in honesty, it already has.

Thank you all so much for being a part of Green Team this year. Congratulations to all of you dedicated stewards of your streams!

Who is living in Council Creek?

This was the question members of the Resources for Health Roots and Shoots group was asking on Tuesday. One of the best ways to get a sense of the health of a stream is to look at the community of organisms that actually are living in it. Since they are spending all of their time in the stream they have to experience all of the pollution that flows through, whether chemicals, heat, or sediment. The most reliable organisms to take a look at are macroinvertebrates (macro meaning large* and invertebrate meaning an animal without a backbone, think: bugs). As some aquatic invertebrates are more susceptible to pollution than others, noting what kinds of invertebrates are residing in the stream can give a fairly accurate indication of health.

One of the ways in which they are going to survey the aquatic macroinvertebrate population in Council Creek is by setting out leaf packs. Students collected dead leaves in plastic bags, tied them shut and poked holes in them. Then they placed them in the middle of the stream and anchored them down so they wouldn’t wash away. Some macroinvertebrates prefer to eat dead leaves and the fungus growing inside so these leaf packs will attract a number of our notochordless friends. Next month when the Roots and Shoots Green Team comes out, the students will open up the leaf packs and investigate who decided to snack on the free buffet they provided and this survey will help give an idea of how healthy the stream currently is.

*Note on the use of “macro” in this term: we are not looking for bugs the size of German Shepherds, they are merely large (or macro) when compared to the rest of the invertebrate community, most of which are single-celled and/or microscopic.

Thank you Roots and Shoots!  Thank you to Clean Water Services for funding this project!

Our New Plants are Not Snacks!

…yet.

While we hope that one day our new plantings will grow big and tall and provide all sorts of wildlife with food, we can’t let them be eaten before then!  Our new Ash, Willow, Dogwood, and Cottonwood plantings at Council Creek are still very small and immature.  Until they can stand the insult of some rodent chew later in their life, it is our job to protect them!

And protect them we did!  We had an awesome group from Roots & Shoots step up to the challenge for a very productive Green Team event on Tuesday.  Students and parents placed coffee bags near our new plantings to prevent Reed Canary Grass from growing in right next to our plants and then caged them with hand-made rodent cages.

We also took the time to remember that while rodents and other wildlife enjoy our plants, people have found many ways to enjoy our plants for food and medicine too!  We played an enthnobotany game and learned about how American Indians have used Spirea, Ash, Black Hawthorne, and many more plants for all sorts of uses.

We ended the day with a winter treat of hot cholocate and tea and wished each other well for the holidays!! Great work, Roots & Shoots!!