Environmental Studies students take to the Fletcher Wildlife Garden [FASS News]

Dated 9 OCT 2012; Re-posted from Carleton University’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences News page.

Written by Nicholas Ward, Photos by T Stanton-Kennedy

FWG volunteer Renate found a way to incorporate learning goals with FWG’s objectives. Over two work sessions, her students helped clear an area by the Butterfly Meadow of invasive species, non-native dying birches and large woody debris. The woody debris will be mostly used for animal shelters – perfect timing given the early cool weather! Native White and Allegheny Birches were planted, adding more biodiversity to FWG’s canopy cover. The soil in this area was a joy to work with as it is very sandy compared to the planting projects in our Ravine – full of that glorious, heavy Ottawa clay! Below is the article as posted on the Carleton University website.

Environmental Studies students take to the Fletcher Wildlife Garden

This fall, students of the class Environmental Studies 2000: Nature and Environment crossed the Rideau Canal to help volunteers at the Fletcher Wildlife Garden with some urban wildlife habitat work.

Instructor of ENST 2000, Renate Sander-Regier, organized this field trip as a way of facilitating an important ‘outside of the classroom’ experience for her students.

“It’s good for students to get out of the classroom and get some hands-on experience related to their studies,” explains Sander-Regier. “I feel it’s particularly important for environmental studies students to get outdoors and help a local group with some environmental work. It can be a rewarding and empowering learning experience, and it’s a nice break from sitting in a classroom.”

Second year ENST student and field trip participant, Marisa Ramey, agrees with Sander-Regier on the importance of application.

“Information becomes more solidified when you have a mixture of reading, lecturing, and then actually applying…The experience was very rewarding and informative.”

Fortunately for Carleton students like Ramey, being a stone’s throw away from the Rideau Canal means that a variety of green spaces to study and work on are entirely accessible.

The Fletcher Wildlife Garden is a project of the Ottawa Field-Naturalists’ Club which is completely managed by volunteers. Now in its 21st year, the FWG has grown – literally – from mowed fields to a series of wildlife habitats. The major goal of the FWG is to encourage as many people as possible to create or restore natural landscapes on their urban or rural property. Habitat loss is a genuine concern for many species, whether animals, insects or native plants, and the FWG provides examples of various kinds of habitat, from the relatively wild to the highly managed.  Because of all of this, Sander-Regier believes that the FWG offers students an ideal setting to hone their preservation skills.

“The Fletcher Wildlife Garden is a great place for students to go and help out, because volunteers over there are doing lots of great work to create a place for wildlife in the city. And the Fletcher Wildlife Garden is so close to campus. It’s one of Carleton’s neighbours, when you think about it, so this field trip offers an opportunity to do community work that’s close to home – to help a neighbour.”

Barry Cottam, active volunteer, member of project’s management committee and leader of the invasive species removal team at the Fletcher Wildlife Garden helped conduct the field trip.  An intensely involved volunteer at the FWG, Cottam was grateful for ENST 2000’s contribution.

“When we heard about the CU student volunteers, Diane Lepage, who has been coordinating development of the Butterfly Meadow for the past 6 years, jumped at the chance to have some work done on a birch grove immediately south of the Meadow. The grove is a fairly small area, but was a tangle of invasive plants that were crowding out a lovely stand of white birches. The students had several jobs: to remove as much of the deadfall and invasive plants as possible, to plant trees in the resulting spaces; and to use the deadfall pieces to create shelters for wildlife.”

“The CU students helped tremendously by providing a lot of hands-on hard work. Last November, three of us regular volunteers spent a couple of weeks removing as much Asian bittersweet as we could, but it was growing back rapidly. This year, in the same amount of time, 60 students removed a small mountain of fallen birch and invasive shrubs and garbage bags of the invasive vines, planted over a dozen trees – digging the holes, clearing out roots and other debris, hauling barrow loads of topsoil and protective mulch – and built a number of shelters out of the birch pieces, which first had to be broken or sawn up into useable lengths. That’s the equivalent of 4 months work for my regular volunteers – a huge contribution! And several students have offered to continue to help further.”

Students were clearly very appreciative of having the chance to partake in this field trip.  Cottam said he was pleasantly surprised at how enthusiastic and eager to learn the ENST 2000 students were.

“I think one of the coolest things was to see such a keen group get together into teams and work in ways many had never worked before.  People had a sense of both discovery and accomplishment as they used a limbing saw for the first time ever to take down a buckthorn tree or tore out thick roots and stumps with a weed wrench or dug holes and planted trees that will grow for decades.  Some students also let their imaginations go, as they created shelters for living creatures they may never actually see.  Many students seemed to be really enjoying themselves – one said he was jealous when I mentioned I was out every week.  I was inspired by the results they achieved.”

Ultimately, Sander-Regier hopes that all of the students who got to experience ENST 2000 will take something of substance with them and incorporate it into their current and future lives as members of professions, communities, and families.

“I hope every student will have gained a deeper appreciation and understanding for the complexity and richness of the natural world, and for everything it provides. I also hope students will be inspired to get out there and take action to help keep the natural world strong and resilient … and also to inspire similar appreciation and action among other people along the way.”

If the words of second year ENST student, and field trip participant, Matthew Tirrell, are any indication, Sander-Regier has achieved her goal of helping to provide her students a with a newfound perspective, and appreciation of the natural world.

“The benefits of having a green space like the Fletcher Wildlife Garden extend beyond preserving habitat for species.  The beauty and tranquility of the Fletcher Wildlife Garden helps to restore stasis in our often overactive and achieving lifestyles.

Visit The Fletcher Wildlife Garden website, for information about the site and the project.

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