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NWP Global Registry of Apprentice Ecologists - Boulder, Colorado, USA

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Boulder, Colorado, USA
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Healingearth



Registered: November 2019
City/Town/Province: Longmont
Posts: 1
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When I moved to Boulder, Colorado at age eleven, I was amazed at the beauty of the unique landscape of the Flatirons and the Foothills where the prairie and the mountains meet. The first time I did restoration work back in eighth grade, I was shocked. I hadn't put the two together that the trail I hiked in the foothills of Boulder County with footings and supports had to be built by somebody. Little did I realize that without the native plant species, the local animals would have nothing to eat. I became fascinated about how everything was so connected around me and started to understand the necessary components, goals, and work needed to get there. I became more and more involved and restoration soon became a big part of my life. I was trained as a Crew Leader and then a Project Leader when I got more involved with local volunteer organizations.
As I reflect back on the year, it strikes me how much I was in my element healing precious public lands through managing and running projects to bring native seeds into the Colorado landscape. As a volunteer leader, I had the opportunity to educate and explain to people how valuable it is to come together as a community to see the bigger picture. Whether it be collecting, cleaning or spreading the seed, each step of the seed cycle is necessary and appreciated both by people who run restoration efforts and by the volunteers. This type of work is our social responsibility; humans impact the environment just as much as it impacts us. As I continue my 3-year battle with chronic illness, I find it a calling to feed the good (such as the native plants) so that the bad (invasive species) can't take root.
In 2019, I partnered with four local organizations in order to make my vision a reality: Wildlands Restoration Volunteers (WRV), Boulder County Parks and Open Space (BCPOS), Open Space and Mountain Parks (OSMP), and Denver City and Mountain Parks. My project consisted of eight official projects this year and will be continued into 2020. I have volunteered on over 120 projects between the three organizations over the years. However, as part of my taking charge after a few years of bouncing back from chronic illness this year, I decided to take my volunteerism to the next level; this included building on my leadership skills to recruit, organize, and run my own projects. I also was responsible for reporting to appropriate staff members, and strengthening relationships between the organizations so that everyone was working towards common goals.
My main goals of this project consisted of getting volunteers to participate in the seed cycle process and educating people about how they can make a difference in our local eco-system if we work together. We cleaned seed for the City of Longmont, the City of Boulder, Boulder County Parks and Open Space and Denver City Parks and Mountain Parks. I gained advanced leadership skills by completing the seed cycle process with 73 volunteers so far and felt empowered to make a difference in our environment. Plus, the organizations were massively grateful because the staff typically shrinks during the winter season and it is expensive to have seed cleaned professionally.
One species I helped organize and clean with volunteers was from a Summit Lake seed collection this fall. I just dropped the seed off at the Denver Greenhouse where it is currently stored in a refrigerator. In January, I will take a volunteer group to Denver to plant the various species of plants and grow it out. Once the seeds have sprouted and have been transplanted into bigger flats, we will plant them back at Summit Lake in a summer volunteer project with WRV and Denver City Parks and Mountain Parks. The focus this year involved cleaned multiple species (12 different) but the primarily, and most labor intensive, was a Carex species.
Another very labor-intensive species we cleaned called Needle and Thread Grass, which was collected at Sandstone Ranch in Longmont. Needle and Thread Grass is great for erosion control alongside stream banks especially since Colorado is still recovering from the 2013 flood. Getting the seed to the City of Longmont in a reasonable time allows them to have the seed ready for their spring restoration efforts along the St Vrain River, which was devastated during the flood. Volunteers were able to clean all the seed from a 34- person seed collection in a record-breaking time of a month and a half.
An important part of restoration is inspiring the next generation to get involved. I chose to do an Apprentice Ecologist Project because the goal of the program is to inspire youth from around the world to set tangible goals to solve environmental issues. Being a part of this project reflects my vision and values and I wanted youth to experience the magic of the work that I was lucky to have in my life. I went to a local school in Boulder County to educate high school students about the importance of this seed cycle. I was able to explain how the milkweed they collected locally would help beetles and butterflies thrive. We went over the Pure Life Seed (PLS) with the percent of pure seed and the germination rate to determine how much seed to use for a given area. I also informed the students of the different methods seeds use to grow in nature such as scarification and stratification, which determines how scientists test and clean the seed. I personally cleaned all the milkweed seeds the students didn't finish. At our next lesson, we planted the seeds into plugs and came up with a plan on who would take care of the seeds, as the students would be going on winter break. I have two more schools lined up in January and February to educate them on this same process and hope to have another school by early March.
From October 2019 to the end of December, I have accumulated 167 hours and had 73 volunteers be a part of this project. While the seed projects had a start and end date, these seeds will take root in devastated areas and affect these areas positively for the long term. What people learned will always be with them and they can use that knowledge to continue doing restoration in the future. New volunteers asked me to organize more seed projects because they had a day full of laughter, completed goals, enjoyed eating yummy snacks and they felt like they were "saving the world". Getting involved all those years ago convinced me that this is my calling and has changed my career goals and path. With the Apprentice Ecologist Project money, I hope to be able to continue helping restore lands with my education at Colorado State University in ecological restoration. I am so grateful I was able to help out massively with cleaning seed and educating people while learning about the ins and outs of restoring and protecting the planet, one seed at a time.
Date: December 29, 2019 Views: 453 File size: 15.5kb, 96.7kb : 640 x 480
Hours Volunteered: 167
Volunteers: 73
Authors Age & Age Range of Volunteers: 18 & 15 to 80
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