A garden oasis and cultural center overlooking the Hudson River

Forest Project Summer Collaborative XXX: Week 2

This post from the second week of the internship is the collective report of the Forest Project Summer Collaborative’s newly formed “Social Media Team”. Irene, Yuna and Yura are high school 11th graders; Camilla and Erica are 10th graders.

The second week of the Forest Project Summer Collaborative (FPSC) was also the first week of Plant Science and GIS courses at Lehman College for the FPSC high school interns. Plant Science, a four-credit course, takes place Mondays, while GIS, a three-credit course, is on Wednesdays.  Everyone was eager to finally begin their classes and learn new things. On Monday, July 12, 17 crew members headed towards Lehman College (instead of Wave Hill) at 9am.  When they arrived, they were greeted by Dr. Suroj Tiwari, a Lehman College Adjunct Professor who has worked in Venezuela, Guyana and Brazil researching ethno-botany. The first class consisted of an introduction to the course; the students learned about the intricate structure of plant cells and the details of mitosis, or cell division. Dr. Tiwari also taught his new students the chemistry that is basic to the course, explaining the chemical molecules of plants, such as lipids and proteins.  The important of this information will become clear as the course progresses. Dr. Tiwari explained how each class would reveal the links and the bonds between plants and society.

Let’s not forget about what the GIS interns were doing on this beautiful Monday! While the Plant Science students were furiously taking notes at Lehman College, the GIS students had Wave Hill’s grounds to themselves. They began working on a special project to restore our nursery, which has become overgrown and needs much work. For their special project, GIS students used tools such as rakes and shovels to remove the invasive species that had taken over the nursery, giving the baby native plants, such as dogwood and maples, room to thrive. This was a real emergency rescue mission to aid the plants so dominated by invasives and this incredibly hot summer. After a long day of arduous work, the GIS students cooled off by playing with the hose.

This past week, each work crew has completed a great amount of work on each individual site.  There were storms, which has had both positive and negative effects. On Tuesday, the crew members engaged in a regular day of field work, which included weeding invasive species, building trails and working around an obstacle course of poison ivy and thorny multifloral rose bushes. A sudden downpour of rain sent both Lelia and Debbie’s crews running to the gazebo for shelter. There, the two crews set their tools aside and passed the time playing Korean games until Barry came to the rescue with ponchos. Draping their fashionably colorful ponchos over themselves, the crews headed back to the Wave Hill House, where they watched King Corn, a riveting documentary about the influence of corn on society and the surprising extent to which corn is incorporated in our diets.

The following day, the crews were missing the eight GIS members, who were at Lehman College starting a course in geography and mapmaking. There they engaged in intensive hands-on activities, working with 3D computer models. They also worked with Google Earth, an innovative resource that maps global imagery via satellite. Teaching them is an amazing pair of professors, who happen to teach together and be a married couple. After class, the GIS students relaxed on the college campus and enjoyed picking and eating blueberries. Meanwhile, the Plant Science crew members went through a typical day of field work. After lunch, however, a downpour of rain obstructed their work, so they studied for their own college course at Lehman College, through an engaging game of Botany Jeopardy arranged by Corinne, Environmental Educator and Plant Science Facilitator. The winners of the game received pots as prizes.

This Thursday, the crew members experienced their first “site shuffle,” with three crew members rotating to another crew to see how the other sites are like and how each is coming along. Mikey’s site, for example, has many garlic mustard plants, a pest that plagues Wave Hill’s grounds, but it needed more trail work than weeding. Two of the crew members went “log hunting,” searching for logs that weren’t too rotten and could be used as trail bars to mark the trail edges or as water bars to help prevent erosion. The log-hunting expedition, however, was hampered by the storm; the dampness made it hard to find good enough logs, and one of the two logs that were brought back turned out to be rotten. However, it was “enlightening and fun,” as one of the crew members put it.

This week, crew members working at the Day Lilies’ site have been weeding honeysuckle veins which are incredibly long and seem as if they will never end. Another type of weed common to the site is the first- and second-year garlic mustard. First-year garlic mustard is tiny, so it is difficult to weed; the group weeds it together so it can get done quickly. Other unforgettable weeds: porcelain berry, wine berry and multiflora rose (which has been nicknamed Mr. F.). Porcelain berry grows on a tree’s canopy and chokes it, eventually killing the tree. This vine has to be pruned from the bottom and the roots should be pulled out. Wine berry and multifora rose usually grow near each other. These invasive plants are herbaceous, meaning they die out at the end of the growing season, and are very thorny. For many of the crew members it was a challenge having to fight the thorns and take all the bushes down. While some crew members worked on weeding, others were in charge of pulling out trees like the sycamore maples. The group as a whole accomplished a lot, and the site looks very different now. There is more space for mulching and planting to be done. By the end of this week, the Day Lilies crew is hoping to start doing some trail work on the site, but there is still a lot that needs to be done.

At Debbie’s worksite the crew worked diligently on the removal of the few weeds remaining. Located west of Wave Hill House around the border of Riverdale Park, Debbie’s worksite is low lying and prone to being swampy and moist.  This past week, the dampness was more pronounced due to the storms during the week.  This area has been a mecca for invasive species, such as multifloral rose (Mr. F), garlic mustard, and bishop’s weed. Hiding between invasive and native plants, poison ivy has nestled in surreptitiously. To prevent an increase in this potentially dangerous ivy, Debbie’s crew placed mugwort over the P.I to suffocate it and halt its growth. Debbie’s interns also placed mulch over areas they had weeded. The distinctively foul smell of leaf mulch sickened workers, but the end result will eventually nourish the soil beneath it. Hopefully, this will restore the site’s ecosystem and make the soil a lot healthier for the future.

At Nadilyn’s site, the main objective is to pull out all the mugworts in the meadow, which took up more than half of the field. Behind these pesky, invasive weeds laid beautiful, alluring flowers that did not get enough sunlight or attention. Only after having worked for two weeks were we able to remove all the mugworts and discover these beautiful flowers. The good news is that the pulled mugworts are not all that useless―they are high in demand in places where poison ivy is abundant, as at Debbie’s site. The outcome of all the hard work and effort was more than satisfying. By Thursday, Nadilyn’s crew had created several interconnecting paths to serve as a shortcut to the forest and also had a sufficient work area. Now that the not-so-friendly mugworts are gone and the flowers are visible, there has been a significant increase in the number of butterflies and bees in the meadow. On this particular Thursday, we decided to work in the forest next to the meadow for a change. We pulled out second-year garlic mustard and multifloral rose bushes, which were much easier to pull out than the mugworts because the soil was damp.   It is exciting that these new pathways will create an opportunity for visitors to walk through the middle of the meadow and experience it in a whole new way.

Stay tuned for next week’s blog, when we will have videos of the work sites!

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