The Wrack: stewardship

blog of the wells reserve & laudholm trust

Monarch Rescue 2016

August 26, 2016 By Suzanne Kahn Filed under Article Tags: citizen sciencemonarchsstewardship

The Reserve held its sixth annual Monarch Rescue yesterday! Two education staff and seventeen wonderfully enthusiastic volunteers of all ages set out in search of monarch butterfly eggs and caterpillars in fields that will be mowed within the next couple of weeks. Select Reserve fields are mowed each year in an effort to maintain this vital habitat, rather than allow it to eventually grow into forest. The mowing also serves to keep invasive plant species in check.

Monarch caterpillars

Each year since 2010 (with the exception of 2011, when no rescue was conducted), the Monarch Rescue teams were tasked with combing the fields while inspecting individual milkweed plants to look for signs of monarchs. Any found eggs and caterpillars were then brought to a field not slated for mowing that year. Milkweed leaves with eggs on the underside were stapled to secure milkweed leaf undersides. Caterpillars were moved to secure milkweed plants. The graph below shows the number of eggs and caterpillars found during each of the six rescues.

Monarch Rescue Data

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Monarch Rescue 2015

September 4, 2015 By Suzanne Kahn Filed under Article Tags: faunafloramonarchsstewardship

The Reserve's annual late summer effort to save monarch eggs, caterpillars, and chrysalises from the mowers that cut our fields happened last week. The mowing is essential in preventing the fields from growing into forests over time, and also as a management strategy for invasive species.

Monarch rescued

Thanks so much to the eleven volunteers who spent several hours in the warm sunshine combing the ubiquitous milkweed plants for signs of monarchs! We saved 38 caterpillars of all sizes, removing them from the fields that will be mowed within the coming weeks to fields that will not be mowed this year. The smallest of the caterpillars measured less than one inch in length, whereas the largest were several inches long. A handful of monarch butterflies were spotted fluttering over the fields during the rescue mission, providing hope that some of the rescued caterpillars will also reach adulthood.

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Creating Habitat for Bats

October 22, 2013 By Suzanne Kahn Filed under Article Tags: batseducationfaunahabitatstewardship

Associated People Kate Reichert

This past Saturday evening, over 20 community members participated in the "Bats: Friends of the Evening Sky" program offered in partnership with the Center for Wildlife. We all learned about the many myths surrounding bats and the real truths (they don't fly into human hair, there are only 3 species of vampire bats among the over 1,200 species of bats worldwide, and vampire bats do not live in the United States—they live in tropical climates and prey primarily on livestock). Brownie

We were amazed to learn, too, that Maine's insectivorous bats eat 1,000 mosquitoes in a single night! The next time a mosquito bites you, think of all the mosquito control bats provide us!

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Monarch Rescue 2013

September 9, 2013 By Suzanne Kahn Filed under Article Tags: milkweedmonarchstewardship

Associated People Nancy Viehmann

Several weeks ago, a dedicated group of volunteers set out into the milkweed fields to rescue monarch eggs and caterpillars, just before the Reserve's annual mowing. This is the third annual Monarch Rescue effort, and this year the results were sobering. After nearly three hours of searching the undersides of milkweed leaves, our team of fourteen only came up with two caterpillars (and one already empty monarch egg case). In 2010, 37 eggs and 25 caterpillars were rescued by our team, and in 2012 we rescued 90 eggs and 22 caterpillars (we didn't have a Rescue in 2011).

monarch rescue

Scientists in the monarch's wintering grounds in Mexico documented a 59 percent decrease in butterflies last year. Loss of habitat, drought, the use of pesticides, and climate change are all thought to play a role.

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TOTE 2013: Climate Stewards in Action!

August 1, 2013 By Kate Reichert Filed under Article Tags: climate changestewardshipteachertoteworkshop

Associated People Suzanne Kahn

"We have the opportunity to re-invent the world."

That was a final thought from one participant at the end of last week's Teachers on the Estuary (TOTE) workshop here at the Reserve. After four busy days of guest speakers, hands-on activities, and visits to field research sites, the eight middle and high school educators hailing from states along the east coast from Maine to Florida shared their ideas for implementing stewardship projects in their own schools and communities.

TOTErs measure water quality parameters on the marsh

This year's TOTE Climate Stewards in Action workshop focused on the topics of climate change and ecosystem services. Cameron Wake, professor at the Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space at UNH, kicked of the week with a powerful presentation about climate science and the effects that a changing global climate will have on us, from rising seas to the inevitable dissapearance of Arctic sea ice. While the data was sobering, Professor Wake suggested there was a great deal of hope in teaching students about climate change. He encouraged the teachers to focus on the solutions to climate change rather than the problem, and promote social activism through student-driven projects.

To better understand the current and potential impacts of climate change, the teachers learned about "ecosystem services" (the benefits that people obtain from ecosystems, essentially for free, such as clean air, flood regulation, water filtration, and even simply aesthetic beauty). The social and economic effects of diminished ecosystem services as a result of climate change were felt strongly as we immersed ourselves in a role-play simulation game borne from a collaboration between the Consensus Building Institute, several Reserves, and the Massachusetts Insitute of Technology (MIT). Teachers took on the roles of landowners, business leaders, town planners, elected officials, and other concerned citizens of a fictional coastal town (based on Wells) dealing with rising sea level. This fun activity was a great way to spark conversation about how educators might begin to talk to students about the very real conversations that will be happening in their own homes and communities in the near future regarding climate change.

Because no trip to the Reserve is complete without time outside, TOTE participants enjoyed time out in the field observing ecosystem services first-hand. They learned about habitat assessment work in the Branch Brook from Research Associate Jake Aman, took water quality measurements on the Reserve's salt marsh, and then relaxed and reflected on the week with a beautiful kayak up the Little River.

TOTErs kayak up the Little River

By the end of the week, TOTE teachers left with new ideas, tools, and partners. They will now endeavour to create meaningful, service-based learning experiences throughout the upcoming school year. We are looking forward to their updates, photos, and experiences as they share what they have learned with their students and attempt to "re-invent the world" of science education in a rapidly changing environment. Good luck, TOTE Climate Stewards, and thank you for a wonderful and inspiring week!

Many thanks to the NERRS Science Collaborative for their generous funding of this year's TOTE workshop!

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The nearly 40 people who attended Dr. Stephen Mulkey's "Crisis and Opportunity in the Environmental Century" Climate Stewards lecture in mid-May left with a clear message: We are out of time and we must act now.

Mulkey began his talk with a quote from David Orr, "All education is environmental education… by what is included or excluded we teach the young that they are part of, or apart from, the natural world." Mulkey crowdMulkey spoke of his (incredible) work as President of Unity College, becoming the first college in the country to divest from fossil fuels, as well as recently integrating climate change education across the entire curriculum. Unity's students study the complexity of interactions among the economy, society, and nature--a framework for the future known as "sustainability science."

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Jennifer Hatch, Marketing Manager for ReVision Energy, provided an informative introduction to solar energy options for homeowners on Wednesday evening in Mather Auditorium. Over 40 people attended this Climate Stewards evening lecture, and one lucky winner, Mr. Jed Thomas, went home with the solar charger door prize (below)!

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New England Cottontail in Cape Elizabeth in 2010. Photo by USFWS.On Monday, a 13-ton machine rolled down the reserve's "F field" to make habitat for a 2-pound rabbit. The "Easter Excavator," a Caterpillar 311, was specially modified for working in sensitive areas such as ours. Despite its burly bearing, the excavator exerted less than 5½ pounds of pressure per square inch on the work site. Evidence of its visit is visible along the Muskie Trail for now, but as the grassland greens up this spring the fresh signs should quickly fade away.

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Tom Twist, Sustainability Officer at The Chewonki Foundation, visited the Wells Reserve last week to present our very first Climate Stewards evening lecture. This series is funded by NOAA's Climate Stewards Education Project. Tom TwistThe lectures aim to enable community members to develop a greater knowledge and understanding of climate change, thereby appreciating the impact of their choices more, reducing their carbon footprints, and becoming more impassioned stewards of the planet.Tom Twist's presentation sent us all down this path towards climate stewardship.

Tom began his talk with reasons to move away from fossil fuels: They run out, they pollute, they cause climate change, they fund tyrannical dictators, and they help widen the divide between the wealthy and the poor. Tom explained the inverse relationship that exists between freedom and the price of oil (learn more in Thomas Friedman's Hot, Flat, and Crowded), and echoed Bill McKibben in saying that Exxon Mobile is the "richest company in the history of money."

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Two landowner actions for protecting streams

August 15, 2012 By Rachel Scarola Filed under Article Tags: bufferstewardship

Trees and shrubs along a stream help slow stormwaterWhile spending my summer as a research intern at the Wells Reserve, I have had the opportunity to participate in a project monitoring how land development in southern Maine is affecting freshwater ecosystems that provide habitat for many macroinvertebrate and fish species like brook trout. Though it has been observed that the land development occurring here has not reached the scale of the degradation found in other areas along the east coast, like the Chesapeake Bay region, it is imperative that this does not change as future development occurs. When new homes are built in an area, there are simple steps local landowners can take to help preserve the existing natural ecosystems on or around their own property.

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Associated People Tin Smith

WELLS, Maine, July 25, 2012 — A 34-acre woodlot in Wells is seen as a testing ground for managing timber for long-term gain while maintaining its value for wildlife, clean water, and recreation. The Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve will complete a partial harvest of its Yankee Woodlot this fall while hosting a series of four workshops that will encourage participants to get involved in the process.

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Yankee Woodlot Timber Harvest

June 12, 2012 By Paul Dest Filed under Project Tags: foresthabitatstewardshipswim

Associated People Susan Bickford Tin Smith

Project Goal

The Yankee Woodlot is a 34-acre demonstration site where visitors enjoy a New England forest and learn how managed woodlands can promote both wildlife habitat and healthy trees.

Project Theme

A managed forest can be a healthy forest for wildlife, recreation, and timber.

Related Information

Objectives for the Yankee Woodlot are in keeping with the 2011 report Forest Habitat Assessment and Management Recommendations, prepared by Forest Synthesis LLC for the Reserve and available to download from the Stewardship section.

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Associated People Paige Rutherford

David Word is an 11th and 12th grade AP biology and environmental science teacher at St. Francis High School in Louisville, Kentucky. Thanks to his participation in Teachers on the Estuary last summer he has been very busy with his students this year, removing invasive species within a 200 square foot area of riparian forest along the Beargrass Creek. Species of invasives within the plot included Bush Honeysuckle, English Ivy, and Winter Creeper.

After the removal, the group planted 70 native plants within the same area. Native species planted include: Great Blue Lobelia, Joe Pye Weed, Mistflower, Thimbleweed, Slender Mountain Mint, Wild Geranium, and Jack in the Pulpit.

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Associated People Paul Dest

WELLS, Maine, January 26, 2012 — A 105-acre property that connects 540 acres of existing conservation land has been permanently protected by the Town of Wells in partnership with the Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve at Laudholm.

The Tilton parcel, as it is known, contains 5,250 feet of frontage along the Merriland River, ecologically significant wetlands, and forested uplands. It protects habitat for a variety of wildlife, scenic views, and historic stone walls, and will provide for recreational and educational opportunities for the public.

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Associated People Chris Feurt Tin Smith

On the heels of the environmental communication course with Eric Eckl at the Great Bay Reserve on August 3rd, the CTP hosted Eric and local environmental leaders and community members for a sunset boat cruise upon our research vessel on the Salmon Falls River.

SF boat cruise

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Associated People Chris Feurt Jacob Aman Annie Cox Tin Smith

Project Goals

  • Understand and measure the value of services and benefits provided by waterfront buffer lands and wetlands
  • Provide place-based economic information to support decisions that reflect the true consequences of land use, restoration, and conservation practices in southern Maine

Project Summary

Along the coast of southern Maine, the need to conserve natural buffers to protect rivers and wetlands has become a focal point for tensions between development and conservation interests. In this rapidly developing landscape, decision-makers often feel they must choose development over conservation or restoration to support local economies. While there is scientific evidence that underscores the value of protecting natural buffers around sensitive water bodies, local decision-makers need additional, place-based, economic information about the ecosystem services that these lands provide and the range of tradeoffs that are implied in related land use decisions. A team led by the Wells Reserve addressed this need by working with local, state, and federal stakeholders to better understand, measure, and communicate how southern Mainers value natural buffers and the tradeoffs they are willing to make to protect these critical resources for the future.

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Associated People Tin Smith

Flooding in York County — is it becoming more common? Roads impassable, bridges washed out, basements full... the stories have become all too familiar in recent years.

Skinner Mill bridge closureThe Mother's Day storm in May 2006 seemed an anomaly till the Patriots' Day storm hit in 2007. This March, the Wells Reserve measured 16 inches of rainfall, 5 inches more than Portland's record-setting 11. The roads closed and the sump pumps hummed again.

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Spring Peeper

It is the first warm spring day and just as the sun starts to set, the air comes alive with high pitched peeping and what sounds like ducks quacking in the woods. That is when you know spring has officially arrived. The sounds are coming from two types of small frogs: spring peepers and wood frogs.

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Beached Eider

"You never know what the day will bring!" That is especially true of my job as Natural Resource Specialist here at the Wells Reserve. For instance, last week my task was to walk down the length of Laudholm Beach with Nancy Viehmann in search of beached birds. This is part of a monthly survey for a nationwide program called SEANET.

The Seabird Ecological Assessment Network (SEANET), based at the Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, is an ongoing project assessing seabird mortality along the eastern seaboard of the United States. Over 100 citizen scientists volunteer to walk an assigned stretch of beach once or twice a month, record environmental data and report both dead and live birds seen on the beach.

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Straight line at controlled burn, 17 April 2009

April 17 was warm and dry with a light breeze, a Friday at the end of a dry week. Early in the morning, a fire crew from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service judged the conditions were just right for burning the 2-acre grassland just beyond the Wells Reserve flagpole.

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Bobolinks were back in force at the Wells Reserve today. Their song might be the craziest in the region — it's so much fun to hear them bubbling with enthusiasm! Today, at least four sang from fields near the main campus, sharing the space with Eastern Meadowlarks.

It's fortunate that the reserve's Resource Advisory Committee created a grassland management plan several years ago, recognizing the value of nearly 100 acres of open fields for birds like Bobolinks and meadowlarks. The mowing regimen, needed to keep shrubs from taking over, specifically avoids the nesting period for these birds.

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