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Below are links to descriptions of funded stewardship projects in the field of Habitat Conservation/Restoration. Some are only short descriptions, others are more robust articles that have been published in The Earth Scientist. We hope they inspire you to take positive environmental actions within your community, and consider applying to NOAA Planet Stewards for funding.

Invasive Beware

(Angela — Middle school teacher, Gorham, Maine)

Middle school students planting native species after removing invasive plants.

Middle school students planting native species after removing invasive plants.

Invasive plants are those from another region that do not belong in their new environment. They can cause extinctions of native plants, reduce biodiversity, compete with natives for limited resources, and alter habitats. Angela and her seventh grade students decided to do something about the invasive plants growing around their school yard. To engage and excite her students about science, Angela challenged her 82 seventh graders to identify local invasive planets, develop a removal and treatment program to keep invasive plants out of the school grounds, and choose and grow appropriate native plants for their area.

Starting in the fall, students counted and removed invasive plants in quadrats on the school grounds and measured the pH of the soil. When they weren’t counting and measuring, they researched and discussed potential native species to grow in the classroom to replace the invasives they planned to remove (based on their pH measurements). They continued the removal and watched their new native plants grow in the classroom throughout the winter. In the spring, the seventh graders conducted the final removal and transplanted their new plants to the cleared areas. By the end of the year, the students had engaged in 328 hours of stewardship activities and removed 405 pounds of invasive plants from their school grounds. Angela became a NOAA Planet Steward in 2019 and was invited to present her project during a NOAA Planet Stewards workshop at the National Science Teaching Association’s (NSTA) national conference in 2019. She teaches seventh grade earth science in Gorham, Maine.

Weather Ready Bay Point Nation

(Chris – GCOOS Outreach and Education Manager, St. Petersburg, Florida)

Students restore vegetation in a Florida coastal wetland.

Students restore vegetation in a Florida coastal wetland.

Storm surge inundation of low-lying communities in the St. Petersburg area prompted 60 students in grades 3-5 to take action to help their community. Over three months, the students learned about a variety of topics including the role of coastal wetlands and assessing vulnerability to inundation in the classroom and through field trips. To put their new knowledge to work, the students restored 231 square meters of bay grass at Bay Vista Park in St. Petersburg. The students also hosted an exhibit at the St. Petersburg Science Festival and worked with peers in grades 2-5 to develop adaptation and emergency evacuation plans.

Solarize Delta High School

(Ben — High school teacher, Delta, Colorado)

Students in the Solar Energy Training vocational course install a 2400 W solar array they designed

Students in the Solar Energy Training vocational course install a 2400 W solar array they designed.

A Colorado “community with deep roots in agriculture and coal mining is quickly transitioning into a booming destination for recreation, tourism, and renewable energy.” Ben decided to use that momentum to bring renewable energy to his school and train students in the burgeoning field. The project powered an outdoor classroom with a student-installed and monitored solar array, reduced the amount of carbon entering the atmosphere, and trained local students as solar technicians.

After learning phases of solar electric design and installation, the 14 students in the Solar Energy Training vocational course, designed and installed a 2400-watt solar array in the Solar PV Lap Yard. They planned the layout of the panels, diagramed the wiring, and installed and wired the array. The students collected data on the performance of the panels and created a Standard Operating Procedure (SOPs) for operating the array to maximize production. In addition, 75 environmental science students quantified and monitored the array to correctly predict the amount of electricity needed and to calculate the climate benefit of the array. As a result of the project, 1.38 tons of carbon dioxide were kept out of the environment, 14 students graduated from the training program, and 10 teachers completed a professional development program to bring solar energy and technology into the classrooms.

Ben became a NOAA Planet Steward in 2018 and has had two projects funded by NOAA Planet Stewards. He is a high school environmental science teacher and a Knowles Teacher Initiative Senior Fellow. Through his Solar Energy Training class, students leave high school prepared to be technicians in the solar industry.

Oakton School Rain Garden

(Claire – School Volunteer, Evanston, IL)

Students planting the rain garden at their school.

Students planting the rain garden at their school.

Storms have become increasingly severe in the Great Lakes region. Students at an elementary school in Evanston, Illinois noticed there was a steady stream of water flowing out of two the school’s downspouts. After learning about weather, its connection to climate, and ways to make a difference in their environment, students created a rain garden to reduce the amount of water running out of the downspouts onto an adjacent driveway and sidewalk. Eighty kindergarten through fifth grade students researched plants, created school and garden maps, and planted and tended the garden. By the end of the project, a 600 square foot rain garden reduced the amount of water going into the storm sewers by 60-70%.

Aquatic Invasive Education and Habitat Restoration

(Spencer - middle to high school teacher, South Dakota)

Edmunds Central students taking measurements of zebra mussel infestation to estimate biomass prior to removal.

Edmunds Central students taking measurements of zebra mussel infestation to estimate biomass prior to removal.

Recently, zebra mussels have shown up in dozens of lakes in South Dakota and Asian carp have spread up several of Missouri's tributaries to infiltrate waterways throughout East River South Dakota. Invasive mussels and carp decimate plankton populations, starving aquatic ecosystems of food for valued game fish and making lakes and rivers less productive fisheries.

Students engaged in habitat conservation stewardship by learning about invasive species impacting lakes in South Dakota and conducting boat inspections/cleanings, bait bucket inspections/cleanings, live well inspections/cleanings, and aquarium inspections along with site visits inspecting boat accesses for infestations. Students conducted 43 boat inspections and cleaned 22 of them, inspected 108 bait buckets and cleaned 19 of them, and inspected 34 live wells and cleaned 7 of them. In addition, 57 docks, 72 riprap locations, 32 boat lifts, and 37 boat trailers were inspected for invasive mussels. These efforts removed 72 Kgs of Zebra mussels, 5 Kgs of Quagga mussels, and 42 Kgs of Common Carp. Students engaged their neighbors, friends, businesses, and community members associated with fishing and watercraft to spread the word about the dangers of invasive aquatic species, how to recognize and remove them, as well as how to prevent their spread.

Young Stewards Promoting Border Resiliency

(Jennifer - Environmental Education Coordinator, Texas)

Colorado Coralition student cleaning coral nursery.

Colorado Coralition student cleaning coral nursery.

The underserved community of Border Region of West Texas, Southern New Mexico and Northern Chihuahua is uniquely situated in the critical ecoregion of the Chihuahuan Desert which faces a variety of threats: habitat loss, deterioration of freshwater resources and climate change. The Young Stewards Promoting Border Resiliency project aimed to restore one acre of riparian wetland habitat adjacent to the Rio Grande River in El Paso, Texas.

In the Rio Bosque Wetlands Park, 40 local high school students were enlisted to help combat land conversion and shrinking wild habitats by restoring approximately one acre of the wetland by clearing invasives and replanting native vegetation. The students removed 65.2 m3 of invasive plant biomass and planted 72 native shrubs and trees as well as seeded three dozens of native wetland plants.

One student shared, “I enjoyed how “real” this project was. We were able to physically go down to the wetlands, work, and see our progress as we kept going back. By work I mean do all the things a teacher in a classroom would tell us other people do but we were actually the ones getting down, digging, and making a difference!”

Wetland Connections

(Megan - Education Coordinator, Texas)

Student identifying wetland plants using a quadrat during the wetland ecology activity at the field experience.

Student identifying wetland plants using a quadrat during the wetland ecology activity at the field experience.

The Galveston Bay is the largest (by volume) and most productive estuary on the Texas Gulf Coast. Wetland Connections addressed issues with local wetland loss within the Galveston Bay ecosystem by including students in the education and restoration of this vital ecosystem. Students participated in two STEM workshops investigating the benefits of natural living shorelines compared to non-living shorelines and designing and implementing a plan to improve the health of their local watershed. Wetland Connections reached 1,624 students with 25,792 hours of project involvement hours during the 2021-2022 school year. Students grew, monitored, and transplanted enough essential marshland grasses to restore 0.2 acres of marsh wetland. These efforts help provide food and shelter for indigenous species, prevent coastal flooding, store carbon, and stabilize the sediment, protecting adjacent upland habitat from erosion.

One student stated, “I think I underestimated the importance of wetlands until I participated in the Wetland Connections Program as I never understood their true purposes. However, through participation, I grew to comprehend the significant role these wetlands play in everyday life, especially for preserving species diversity and maintaining a healthy overall environment.”

Pocket Prairie Restoration

(Stephanie — Middle school teacher, Maineville, Ohio)

Students planting plants.

Students planting native seeds and plants

At a middle school near Cincinnati, Ohio, students and teachers periodically heard the custodian running the gas-powered lawn mower back and forth across the 2.75 acres of lawn next to their school. The same area had once been a prairie. Because everyone lives in a watershed, Stephanie wanted to inspire students “to see native plants as beautiful and not weeds needing to be sprayed with pesticide and mowed regularly” and reduce the amount of atmosphere warming carbon emitted by the lawn mower (80 pounds per year according to the EPA).

The 89 students began their restoration effort by calculating a carbon footprint for maintaining the area to be restored. Working with the school custodian, they measured the amount of gas used to mow the 2.75 acres for the 30 weeks of the school year and calculated the resulting carbon emissions. They also recorded the types of plants and animals in the lawn area. After having the land tilled, the students planted native seeds and plants and took new measurements. Students recorded 20 types of plants in the restored prairie area compared to three types in the lawn area. The number of animals in the same area grew from 30 to 45 different species. And in the end, restoring the prairie area, which never needs mowing, saved 1,062 pounds of carbon from entering the atmosphere each year.

Stephanie became a NOAA Planet Steward in 2018. She is a middle school science teacher and the Conservation Teacher of the Year for her county.