Barry Kogan, Wave Hill’s Senior Manager of Youth Programs, manages Wave Hill’s Forest Project, a six-week, paid summer internship for teens that works to improve the ecology of the Bronx, and the Woodland Ecology Restoration Mentorship (WERM), a 14-month program for high school students.
It is the start of a new summer at Wave Hill, and both our Woodland Ecology Research Mentorship (WERM) and Forest Project (FP) internship programs are officially underway. With a wonderful group of fresh students and a couple of exciting new initiatives, we here on the Youth Programs team are optimistic that this 2018 session will be our best yet. Out of 170 applicants, a total of 45 students were accepted into our programs in June. These are high schoolers between the ages of 15 and 18 who have a demonstrated interest in learning about forest restoration and scientific research.
This summer, 22 WERM research interns are already at work, including nine ongoing interns who are beginning to work with their mentors, and 13 new interns who are just starting their 15-month, WERM journey. They are pursuing a full schedule of college-level courses, restoration field work, workshops on data collection and analysis and a medley of lectures on restoration topics.
Our 22 Forest Project interns are likewise carrying out restoration work and data collection this summer. Seven of these FP interns—all high school seniors—will be taking a class on Geographic Informational Systems (GIS) at the College of Mount Saint Vincent, while the other 15 will be taking a Restoration of NYC Natural Areas course here at Wave Hill.
As the summer progresses, we will be posting blog entries that go into greater detail about all aspects of our programs, including the students’ courses and research.
Wave Hill as Part of a Larger Ecosystem
Our youth internship programs continue to be rooted in the authentic setting of New York City ecological restoration. The eight-acre forest on Wave Hill’s grounds—the Herbert and Hyonja Abrons Woodland—serves as the perfect setting for our students to put their restoration work into practice. Situated within Riverdale, our forest is part of a larger ecosystem in the Bronx. While our students carry out their restoration work here on Wave Hill grounds, our WERM interns conduct research projects in their second summer that enable them to explore other areas within this larger ecosystem. For example, in their second summer these Senior WERM students are working on projects with their respective mentors at The New York Botanical Garden and in Inwood Hill Park. We place a great deal of emphasis on continuing to work closely with partners across the NYC area, as well as translating our interns’ education into practice.
While Wave Hill has been a leader in urban forest restoration for over 38 years, our internship programs and curricula are constantly being updated to provide a foundation in modern scientific restoration methods. Our students learn a data collection protocol that is based on methods used by the Natural Areas Conservancy (NAC). In 2013 and 2014, the NAC conducted the first standardized assessment of 10,000 acres of forests and wetlands across the entirety of NYC. Our students carry out a similar assessment in our Wave Hill forest to draw conclusions about its natural history, as well as to assess threats and deduce how to restore and sustain the forest and its native species.
New Collaboration with PRISM
The newest exciting initiative being incorporated into our program this year is our collaboration with Partnerships for Regional Invasive Species Management (PRISM). This is an initiative to provide working data about the diversity of species present across New York State, and particularly to spread awareness about invasive plants and their effect on natural ecosystems. This summer marks the start of our PRISM pilot project. Consistent with the idea that our forest here at Wave Hill is part of a larger ecosystem, our PRISM surveys will take place in the Riverdale area. In addition to Wave Hill’s eight acres of woodlands, work will take place in Riverdale Park, Van Cortlandt Park, and a few patches of woods in the surrounding areas that are on private property, such as the College of Mount Saint Vincent campus. The goal is to have these patches of urban woodland in Riverdale be viewed and used as a connected ecosystem that is routinely explored, restored and valued by the local community. With this PRISM initiative we are helping to increase and improve restoration and invasive management in the local Riverdale area, increase the numbers of youth and adults trained in restoration and invasive monitoring skills in the Bronx, as well as increase awareness and understanding of the importance of urban forest restoration and monitoring.
Participating in PRISM is a natural fit for us here at Wave Hill because of our authentic natural NYC setting and promoting community awareness and participation in restoration. The goals of PRISM tie in perfectly with our Forest Project internship, enabling us to engage our local high school students, college students and community members in the restoration efforts. Information gathered about the presence/absence of invasive species will be entered into the iMap Invasives app—a useful tool for crowdsourcing data. This initiative will be particularly active during the NY State Invasive Species Awareness Week, taking place this summer from July 9 through July 15.
Stewardship Mapping Project Part of Gallery Exhibition this Summer
While the focus of our attention this summer is on our beloved WERM and Forest Project internship programs, there is a myriad of other related and exciting programs happening at Wave Hill this summer that are worth noting. An educational program for a group of students from Bronx Institute at Lehman College will be hosted at Wave Hill on Fridays. These students will develop their knowledge of urban forests and learn how to compare and assess attributes of healthy forests through a course similar to our Restoration of NYC Natural Areas course. In Wave Hill’s Glyndor Gallery, the exhibition this summer, Ecological Consciousness: Artist as Instigator, will include a STEW-MAP project. STEW-MAP (Stewardship Mapping Assessment Project) is a searchable database and map of stewardship groups in New York City. This is a wonderful project highlighting the civic groups and social networks that comprise the multitudes of environmental stewards in local communities. Additionally, our Public Programs department is constantly leading exciting events and activities at Wave Hill, including local hikes that often have a restoration theme to them.
We hope you come visit beautiful and historic Wave Hill this summer, and if you take a stroll through our grounds you will most likely catch a glimpse of our WERM and Forest Project interns hard at work restoring the forest.