Category Archives: Education & Training

Healthy Waters Coalition – What’s on Our Minds, In Our Hearts

At my Healthy Waters Coalition meeting tonight, where we discussed the value of accurate, balanced information about oil spill prevention, I accidentally spilled pink lemonade across the agenda.  (From now on, the incident will be remembered as the “pink spill,” and it can be added to a long list of funny things I have done while leading coalition meetings.) I began to think about what’s really motivating our efforts to inform and educate Sebago Lakes Region citizens and local businesses about watershed issues.

We are a water-based economy here in this part of southern Maine. Boat rentals and recreation-based businesses, real estate and restaurants, florists and landscaping contractors, summer camps for children and accommodations (think: Inn by the Pond), not to mention waterfront property in towns–and property taxes paid to Towns–all bring in millions of dollars in annual revenue for the Sebago Lakes Region. The State of Maine tracks the annual revenue for freshwater fishing and accommodations for several Lakes Region towns. Wetlands are valued for their ecological services, too, and that translates to dollars. Real dollars. Wetlands attenuate flooding and aid in filtering waters to provide good water quality in our groundwater, which produces the drinking water for those who have private wells.  All of the headwater streams (94-100% of streams) in the region are located in Source Water Protection Areas (SPAs), meaning that they directly feed into a public drinking water system. In our region, that system is Sebago Lake, which is so clean, it’s exempt from the federal filtration requirement, an expensive option if ever it were to become necessary for the Portland Water District to put in place.

I want to reach out to other groups engaged in an open dialogue about the possible transportation of oil sands through New England and the importance of protecting our local watersheds, local economy–as the two are interconnected.  While the HWC already has members in 8 Lakes Region towns, representatives from local government boards and committees, watershed organizations, local businesses and other interests, such as Saint Joseph’s College, and we have partnered with some fantastic environmental and conservation-oriented nonprofit organizations already, I’d like to connect the Healthy Waters Coalition with a broader network.  I’m interested in connecting with folks at ConservAmerica, town and city revitalization committees, regional Chambers of Commerce, and the business community. We have so much invested in our waters. While pondering this, I scribbled some thoughts and turned it into this info-graphic (below). I like how it came out. Let me know what you think.

HWC_wordle3

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Wetland Ferns Webinar

February is one of my favorite months. Some may dislike “dreary February” but I am biased; it’s my birthday month. As a special treat, I participated in an afternoon “Swamp Seminar” to learn how to identify northeastern wetland ferns. The webinar is part of an online training series offered by Swamp School. After the training, I earned a certificate.  Since I’ve written about ferns a few times for this blog, I thought I better brush up on fern morphology, before I made a fern faux pas. And as it happens, I was wrong about one plant: sweet fern (Comptonia peregrina) is a member of the heath family, not a true fern.

The “Swamp Seminar” on wetland ferns started with the parts of a fern. Prior to this class, I knew to refer to the frond, which is the whole fern leaf, and I understood that rhizomes are the roots, but the rest of a fern’s morphology was new information. It was fascinating to learn that a fern might be identified based on whether it is once, twice or thrice pinnate–meaning, the number of cuts on the pinna, or leaflet. Lady Fern, a common fern that grows throughout the northeast, is three-times pinnate with a rough-edged leaflet, making it look lacy. Several ferns have similarly feminine names like Venus Hair Fern (Adiantum capillus‐veneris) and Northern Maiden-Hair Fern (Adiantum pedatum), or Maiden-Hair Spleenwort (Asplenium trichomanes), which grows near waterfalls and is said to be “good for the spleen.”

For wetland professionals, the training addressed whether each fern is an Obligate Wetland species, meaning that it always occurs in a wetland, also known as a hydrophyte (loves water); a Facultative Wetland species, which means that the fern usually shows up in a wetland, but can also be found in upland areas; or, thirdly, it may be a Facultative species, commonly occurring in both wetland and upland areas. Ferns that fit this last category–facultative, are still important to know because they may help someone identify the edge of a wetland.

Identifying wetland plants is fairly complex. See this USDA page on wetland indicator information, for a more specific explanation. Last fall, the National Wetland Plant List was updated and published by the Army Corps of Engineers. ASWM offered a training session on how to use the NWP List website (see this recorded presentation).  Several publications are also available that aid in using this plant list, including A Field Guide to the National Wetland Plant List: Wetland Ratings for Plants of the United States by Steve Chadde, 2012.

Among the many types of ferns covered in the Swamp Seminar, participants learned how to identify Sensitive fern (Onoclea sensibilis), Fragile fern (Cystopteris fragilis) and Interrupted fern (Osmunda claytoniana), which has a distinctive shape. The Swamp School webinar included access to an online tool kit, which allows participants to reference handouts. The website and webinar training are well-organized and condensed to relay a great deal of knowledge. It’s suitable for intermediate and advanced levels—and ideal for wetlandkeepers. Swamp School also offers classes on wetland delineation–in both classroom, field and webinar formats with live, interactive training.  For more information, visit SwampSchool.org.

Update: Hydric Soil Indicators Webinar March 20, 2013. For more information, visitSwampSchool.org

Green Degree Programs

I completed my bachelor’s and master’s degrees at an unusual small liberal arts college in Bar Harbor, Maine that has only one major: human ecology. That is an interdisciplinary approach to solving environmental problems—which can range from ecological to economic, with an emphasis on application in the real world, ateaching model the world wants to copy. Many of my classmates and fellow College of the Atlantic (COA) graduates went on to work in environmental fields. Others were entrepreneurs and started “green businesses,” or spearheaded nonprofit initiatives; my classmate and friend, Jody Kemmerer, for example, founded the first women’s health center in Tibet. COA’s unique program was created by a few Harvard folks back in the ‘60s in an idealistic attempt to start a new trend of multi-disciplinary, holistic thinking about world problems and to prepare young people for the challenges that the world was beginning to face. It offered one of the first “green degrees” in the country. Maine Congresswoman Chellie Pingree is a COA graduate. COA is one of the five founding schools in the Eco-League College Consortium. For more information, visit: http://www.ecoleague.org/

Now “green degrees” are quite popular and multi-disciplinary programs are more common. Many students are no longer looking for a program that prepares them for just one type of work but an education that better adapts them to a changing world climate—both ecologically and economically speaking. So-called “green collar” jobs are cropping up and the recent federal stimulus package called for the creation of more of these types of positions. In response to these trends, more schools are offering green degrees. Employers are also looking for a “green ethic” or “green consciousness” in candidates for many types of positions—not just in environmental fields. Some college students are going to career counselors and saying, “I’ve read about wetlands and watersheds and green technology in the paper. I want to do something with that. I’m not sure what it all means…but I think it’s important.” Many more students today are interested in college majors that will easily translate into a green collar job after they graduate.

Green degrees span a wide variety of disciplines: there are “green law” degrees, environmental studies degrees, which can include wetlands ecology, climatology, human ecology, political ecology and human adaptation, to name a few. There are also environmental management and policy-related degrees, environmental engineering degrees (including green chemistry, hydrology), and even green auto-mechanic technical degrees to train people for building hybrid vehicles.

Here’s a good short list of colleges that offer green degree programs related to water and wetlands: http://www.ed-reference.us/00110/environmental/water,-wetlands,-and-marine-resources-management/colleges

A longer list of green college degree programs is here:http://www.citytowninfo.com/education-articles/green-careers-and-education/environmental-green-degree-programs

Some other interesting green college degree programs:http://www.solutionsforourfuture.org/site/PageServer?pagename=green_education

Edmonds College Sees Interest Up in Green Degrees (WA)
http://www.seattlepi.com/local/6420ap_wa_green_college.html?source=mypi

Hottest Green College Degrees Around (July 2009)
http://college-degrees-programs.suite101.com/article.cfm/hottest_green_college_degrees_around

Antioch University New England – New Environmental Studies Program MS in Sustainable Development and Climate Change degree
http://www.antiochne.edu/es/sdcc/default.cfm?nav=1

MS Resource Management & Conservation degree
http://www.antiochne.edu/es/rmc/default.cfm?nav=1

Update: Treehugger.com’s list of Top 10 Environmental Science Degree Programs
http://www.treehugger.com/culture/10-of-the-best-college-environmental-programs-in-the-us.html

A new website helps students find the right Environmental Science Degree Program.

Update: College of the Atlantic is listed as #1 Green College in the U.S.http://www.greenstudentu.com/green_campus/10_green_campuses_around_the_world.aspx

Scouts Earn Wetland Merit Badges

When I was a girl scout, my grandmother sometimes led my troop on field trips into the woods and wetlands in midcoast Maine. She taught us how to make “sit-upons,” which consisted of a stack of newspapers inside a trash bag; the sit-upons kept our butts from getting wet when we sat (inevitably) on the wet ground to hear Gramma talk about the wonder of nature, and all about her experiences as a girl scout. But most of my scout troop’s patches concerned arts & crafts and community service, not nature. I don’t recall ever earning a nature badge, although I spent most of my time outside, learning about wildlife and conservation, playing in creeks or building fairy houses in the roots of trees. My brother was a boy scout. I recall that he earned outdoorsy badges.

Today’s Boy Scouts strive to earn badges for projects they do in wetlands. For example, boys can restore a wetland, study birds, learn about conservation, study forestry or insects, etc. in order to earn an Environmental Science badge, Fish & Wildlife Management badge, Soil & Water Conservation badge, Bird Study badge, or for their final Eagle Scout project.

These New Hampshire boys earned their badges by building a bridge in wetlands:http://www.cabinet.com/merrimackjournal/merrimacknews/637153-308/five-scouts-earn-rank-of-eagle.html These Southwestern boy scouts worked on a river restoration project: http://www.southwestcoloradowetlands.org/Sample_Projects/Sample_
projects_main.html
 This boy completed an Eagle Scout project,blazing a trail to provide public access to a wetland in Alabama:
trails_for_eagle_sco.html
In Iowa, local scouts teamed up to work on wetland projects:http://www.ag.iastate.edu/centers/iawetlands/
cases/Ftdodge.html
http://blog.al.com/live/
2010/01/teen_cuts_

Since I was a girl scout, many new patches have been created. Girls can earn a Water Drop Patch by learning about watersheds, water quality and completing a related project.http://www.epa.gov/adopt/patch/

Everett Scout is an all-around golden girl
http://www.heraldnet.com/article/20100927/NEWS01/709279951