Kristen MacFarlane joined Wave Hill as High School Programs Coordinator in June. She graduated from Cornell University a year ago, and recently received her Masters in Geographic Information Science at Lehman College.
Phase II of Wave Hill’s Woodland Ecology Research Mentorship (WERM) program is underway! This 18-month program begins in the summer. Then, after a nearly month-long break, it resumes for the school year—Phase II—mostly on weekends, and it finishes up the following summer.
Now back after the post-summer break, our WERMs enjoyed a fun-filled “re-orientation” in mid-September, where we discussed what was in store for them this academic year at Wave Hill. This was followed by training in the methodology used for the TreesCount! 2015 census. The interns eagerly signed up to spend several weekday afternoons participating in the tree counting project. So far, with help from Wave Hill’s Forest Project summer interns, Wave Hill has mapped more than 1000 trees on over 150 blocks!
For the past few weeks, our 11 high school WERM interns have been exploring natural areas in New York City and the surrounding region. Our first full-day field trip, on September 19, took place in Van Cortlandt Park here in the Bronx. The interns worked with the Van Cortlandt Park Conservancy on a forest restoration project, planting native grasses in the Memorial Grove. This first shot shows them planting native grasses in the Grove. Following that, the Urban Park Rangers led a tour along the John Muir Trail, which is the only trail that runs east-west. Our WERMs learned about something of the history of Van Cortlandt Park, as well as working more on plant identification, building on what they learned this past summer.
Next, we visited the Urban Field Station in Fort Totten, Queens to meet with a WERM mentor from this past year, Novem Auyeung, and learn the very basics of soil chemistry and PEA testing. (PEA testing measures a tree’s photosynthesis efficiency.) Novem also taught them some statistics, an area of study with which the students have been very eager to become familiar! Captured in the photo above: a moment for quiet reflection at Fort Totten.
The following week, we explored Inwood Hill and Fort Tryon Parks. Starting with a tree walk led by naturalist Leslie Day—as shown here—the interns solidified their understanding of some more of the concepts learned during their first trip to Inwood Hill Park over the summer. They also interacted with members of the public who were taking the tree walk with them, and showed off some of their ecological and restoration knowledge! After a scenic walk overlooking the Hudson River, we all went to the Little Red Lighthouse Festival under the George Washington Bridge. This fun-filled annual event celebrates the Jeffrey’s Hook Lighthouse, one of the few surviving lighthouses in New York City. There was a long line waiting for the same experience! The interns went on a scavenger hunt that required them to talk to Urban Park Rangers, fisherman and others utilizing the park.
We spent the first Saturday in October at Mianus River Gorge in Bedford, NY, where we went on a long, beautiful hike through old-growth hemlock stands and saw a waterfall, sustained by some serious munching on homemade trail mix.
In this next shot, Forest Project Manager Barry Kogan is teaching interns about old-growth forests. Following the 4-mile hike, we went apple-picking and enjoyed some local seasonal treats, like warm apple cider and apple-cider donuts. Although it was overcast for the most of the day, the interns enjoyed the gorgeous fall foliage—as you can see in this group shot, interns clutching their handpicked apples!
This past weekend the interns were very excited to go to the Rockaway Waterfront Alliance in Queens. They interacted with interns from a similar mentorship program, checked out some recent dune plantings, learned about coastal restoration and looked at oyster cages. The highlight of the trip for everyone, though, was kayaking! We went out on the water to observe different aquatic birds, saw the Dubos Point Wildlife Sanctuary and Rockaway Community Garden and tried not to get too wet! No pictures were taken on the water, since who would take their phone into open water? However, we did get pictures of us trying to move 6 kayaks across a busy street!