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Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station [Rutgers Environmental Stewards]

Certified Rutgers Environmental Stewards 2012

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Certified Rutgers Environmental Steward
Intern Projects and Impacts - 2012

The following projects were completed in fulfillment of the internship requirement of the Rutgers Environmental Stewards program. Graduates of the 60 hour lecture portion of the program are required to complete an approved intern project of 60 hours or more to become Certified Rutgers Environmental Stewards.


Ellen Gerber               Bloomingdale                Belvidere 2012
Ellen Gerber assisted the Pequannock River Coalition in developing a plan to promote the purchase of open space along the Wanaque River and the streams that flow into it. Although much open land exists along the Wanaque River and its tributaries, little of it is publicly owned or accessible, particularly in the towns of Wanaque, West Milford (along the West Brook), Ringwood, and Pompton Lakes. Ellen gathered data about land ownership along the Westbrook, a Wanaque tributary that flows through West Milford and Ringwood before entering the Wanaque Reservoir. This stream hosts a population of sensitive wild trout, and is an important feeder to a public water supply. A short section of public land in Ringwood and a public park in West Milford offer the only preserved property there now.

According to Ross Kushner, the Executive Director of the Pequannock River Coalition, the data Ellen gathered on potential open space parcels will be
incorporated into PRC’s larger greenway plan.


Albert Horner Medford Lakes            ACUA 2011
Albert produced a high definition video documentary for the Pinelands Preservation Alliance called: "Pinelands Preservation Alliance: Advocates for New Jersey's Suburban Wilderness" , it is a short film about the PPA: who they  are, what they  do, why their work is so vitally important. It includes overviews of the Pine Barrens and Pinelands National Reserve; beautiful Pine Barrens landscapes and ecology; interviews with PPA staff; the threats to the Pine Barrens; and how the viewer can help!

Favorable comments on the video were received by PPA Board members and a representative of the NJ Historic Trust. It can be viewed at the following links:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CT3FCBP3ubw or http://vimeo.com/47033255


Holly   Horner            Medford Lakes            ACUA 2011
Holly developed a “Guide to Patcong Creek” for the Great Egg Harbor River Council. Fred Akers, Administrator for the Great Egg Harbor Council described her work as “an artistic, historic and cultural masterpiece”. Plans are to publish the Guide to permit wide availability to the public. The project was also well received by the GEHWA trustees and River Councilors. The guide is intended promote appreciation and stewardship of the Patcong Creek.


Jenny Isaacs             Newton                        Belvidere 2012
Jenny worked with three cooperating non-profits (Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey, The Nature Conservancy, and the New Jersey Audubon) to enhance the stewardship of and conduct data-gathering necessary for the protection and conservation of horseshoe crabs and endangered migratory shorebirds along adjacent closed beach sections of the Delaware Bay. Several Delaware Bay beaches were closed from May 7 to June 7, 2012.  Jenny assisted researchers who gathered data on those beaches which were closed to protect the rapidly-declining population of migratory shorebirds including the red knot, an endangered species in NJ.
As a Shorebird field technician for New Jersey Audubon she extracted birds from mist-nets, banded, weighed and measured birds, recorded data, point counts, surveying for color-banded birds, and performed data entry. Delaware Bay is recognized as an internationally important staging area for shorebirds during spring migration.

As a  Shorebird Steward for Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey  she was present at closed beaches to educate the public about the interaction between the shorebirds and horseshoe crabs. Surveys were also conducted with beachgoers about their reactions to closure.

For the Nature Conservancy she conducted nighttime surveys of horseshoe crabs and spawning activities. Detailed maps of the closed areas can be found at: http://www.state.nj.us/dep/fgw/ensp/beachclozmap.htm


Keith Johnson            Livingston                     Essex 2007
Keith conducted a long term effort to develop a new tree ordinance for the Township of Livingston. This involved working with the Environmental Commission, the Planning Board, the Township Council and the town attorney.  The story is best told by Gary Schwarz, Chair of the Livingston Environmental Commission:
“The clear-cutting of several properties in town raised a concern about the strength of the existing ordinance.  Though the reasons varied for the clearing, the end result had been very detrimental to the aesthetics and the environment in the town. 

Three LEC members were appointed as a subcommittee to draft a new, stronger, and comprehensive ordinance. Keith Johnson was a part of this group.  Keith was instrumental in setting the tone of the ordinance and making it firm but still politically acceptable.  His knowledge of trees was an important addition to the broad range of experience that the subcommittee members brought to their deliberations. 
It took hard work and patience, but the project came to a very successful conclusion.  With the Township of Livingston ordinance approval in November 2011, the Town has an up-to-date tree ordinance that will ensure and enhance its preservation and continue to serve as the town's natural and precious resource.”

Livingston Mayor, Rudy Fernandez commented on the project, “Keith Johnson played an essential role in drafting the ordinance and then working for two years with the environmental commission, the Planning Board, the Township Council, and the township attorney to achieve support for a strong ordinance that balances environmental concerns with those of property owners. I thank him and the others who worked so diligently to provide this ordinance to the town. Livingston now has a tree ordinance that will protect the rich abundance of trees throughout the community.


Linda Kuhn                 Bloomsbury                  Duke 2011
Linda Brown-Kuhn used her professional writer’s skills to help New Jersey Audubon heighten awareness about the importance of deer management in the State. She did this by working with the Government Relations department on projects that develop New Jersey Audubon Society web content, specifically by updating New Jersey Audubon’s "Forest Health and Ecological Integrity Stressors and Solutions" Policy White Paper and developing the Society’s written position statement on deer management. She also compiled a collection of a deer management best practices based on information gathered from past deer workshop participants (held this past July at Duke Farms), New Jersey Audubon staff, and other experts. This material was put on the NJ Audubon website, and Linda emailed the chairpersons of all environmental commissions in Hunterdon and Sussex counties.

There are approximately 20 townships or boroughs in each county. These two counties were selected because they have the highest and second highest numbers for deer harvested by hunters in the state.  When looking county by county, this is the best available data that may indicate where deer are most numerous/problematic in the state.   Linda let them know of these new materials and she requested that the chairpersons forward the email to their commission members. She also suggested that they may want to include discussion about a deer management plan or update of current plan on their agendas. The email ended with a link to a survey intended to measure the impact of this deer management material on the opinions and possible future action of those who respond.

Results of the survey were included as a final part of Linda’s internship project.
Of the 34 people who received this survey and documents, 13 completed the survey, an impressive 36.2% response rate, 86.4% felt that current numbers of white-tailed deer are creating problems for residents in their communities, yet only 23.1% have deer management plans in place. After reading the two new documents she provided, 76.9% said that those resources may be useful in present or future deer management efforts in their township or borough.

Several of the EC chairs took the time to send emails in addition to completing the surveys. 


Susan Liegner            Randolph                      Duke 2011
Susan helped develop ae plan and oversee its execution by an intern and volunteers to restore the Schiff Natural Lands Trust’s Native Plant Garden.

Schiff Natural Lands Trust, Inc. is a community based, membership supported local land trust of over 400 acres with a three-fold mission:  preserve open space within Morris and Somerset counties in N.J.; steward our properties to maintain or restore the highest ecological functioning possible; and to inspire an environmental ethic in the community via education and outreach.  Schiff operates an active Nature Center, with over 100 programs and 2,000 visitors annually.

In 2004, volunteers created an almost quarter of an acre native plant garden at Schiff to serve as an educational tool for children and adults alike.  The primary goals of this garden were to educate the public on the benefits of native plants; the effect of deer on our forest habitats; and instill a love for plants and gardening.  The garden became an integral part of Schiff’s Summer Nature Program for Children, which each week has a garden and botanical themed component.
Additionally, school field trips, music events and other program offerings have centered around the garden.

After a number of years, the garden needed restoration.  The intern project included a work plan, a recommendation on diversification of plants as well as a more cohesive design.  Schiff relies on a volunteer work force of 100 throughout the year, and having a work plan that guides their work, as well as teaches them about gardening is critical to the continued success of the garden.

The restoration effort encompassed instruction of a Morris County Parks – Langdon Palmer conservation grant – summer intern and also evolved into facilitating the installation of a Native Plant Sensory Garden/Nature Program Curriculum Guide for a local Girl Scout Gold Award.

The environmental impacts of native plants are varied.  Native species are well adapted to local environmental conditions.  Therefore, they are hardy and do not require much watering, fertilizer or pesticides.  This helps protect our water supplies by reducing run-off of chemicals into our streams and aquifers.  Native plants also attract native pollinators and provide habitat for wildlife and songbirds.


Martha Mahady        Vernon                         Belvidere 2012
Martha devised and implemented a plan to remove the invasive plant, Purple Loosetrife, from the campus of Sussex County Community College. The Sussex County Community College covers 167 acres in Sussex County.  All areas of the campus, especially the shorelines of the ponds, the stream banks, and the drainage depressions were surveyed to determine areas suitable for the growth of purple loosestrife.  Purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) plants were found around all four of the campus ponds, on the banks of one of the four streams, in the three detention basins and in one parking lot..  Purple loosestrife was most extensive on the shoreline of Horton Pond, the banks of the Mill Street stream, and the E Detention Basin.

Marl Mayer, Supervising Entomologist of the Phillip Alampi Beneficial Laboratory, Bureau of Biological Pest Control was contacted for information on the loosestrife leaf beetles.  He visited the campus on August 30th and examined loosestrife plants around Horton Pond.  He determined that the beetles were already present on campus, having spread from Space Farms, where they were released about ten years ago.  The beetles,   Galerucella calmariensis and Galerucella pusilla, will prevent the loosestrife from spreading extensively, maintaining a lower carrying capacity than without the beetles.  However, these beetles will not eliminate purple loosestrife from an area, and the extent of purple loosestrife infestation on the Sussex County Community College campus will continue to increase until it stabilizes at that carrying capacity.

In order to eliminate purple loosestrife from the campus, purple loosestrife can be pulled by hand.  This can be accomplished with the help of Dr. Robert Larsson’s Ecology students, as well as other volunteers on campus.  The extent of purple loosestrife must be monitored each year in order to determine if the infestation is spreading or being kept under control by the beetles and hand pulling.  Surveying the campus will establish a baseline to allow for future evaluation of clearing the campus.  The outcome can be determined by the extent of the area cleared of loosestrife.    

The A Detention Basin, approximately six thousand square feet, and Plotts Detention Basin, approximately 20,000 square feet, were cleared of loosestrife, as well as Parking Lot 12.  Further work clearing the loosestrife is planned for Fall 2012 and Summer 2013.  Robert Larsson, Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies at the College commended the work and Martha as “selfless, motivated, and hard working.”


Arnold Mercer           Lebanon                      Duke 2012
Arnold assisted staff at the Rutgers  EcoComplex in doing a 28 page long  “Assessment of Food Waste Generation in Mercer County,  NJ.” 

The project required investigating sources of food waste in Mercer County that could be utilized for Anaerobic Digestion to biomethane and compost. The intern then built upon the information contained the 2007 NJ Biomass Assessment conducted by NJAES and added additional current information for Mercer County. As part of this project, local demographics including population, number of restaurants, grocery stores and schools were needed.

The intern was responsible for collecting as much information as possible on the quantity and characteristics of food waste sources in Mercer County from restaurants, schools, hospitals, food processors, grocery stores and other large generators.

Arnold’s supervisor at the EcoComplex, David Specca, commented that Arnold did a terrific job on the report and rated the quality of his work as A+++.  This work aids the ongoing effort to find more sustainable and efficient ways to handle organic waste in NJ.

A copy of his report is available Here: “Assessment of Food Waste Generation in Mercer County,  NJ.” 


Karin Rindal               Centreville, Va.             Essex 2010
Karen assisted the US Botanic Garden in Washington, D.C. increase awareness of endangered plants by manning a Discovery Cart at the Garden. During the course of this effort she interacted with approximately 1200 people. Discovery carts are a common education vehicle at botanic gardens and other environmental education sites. A standard cart can be moved throughout a garden, and different supplies are used with the cart depending on the lesson being taught. BGCI has developed a plant conservation discovery cart module for distribution to botanic gardens, arboreta and other sites.
The discovery cart includes a series of activities that communicate the importance of plants and showcase endangered plant species. The activities also convey the important message of how individuals can help save threatened plants.
The discovery cart activities are guided by the theme, “Plants for Life,” with the following subthemes:
Plants are important to all life.
Plants are endangered both locally and globally.
What you can do to help save plants.

She also presented a "train the trainer" session of the discovery cart for museum studies master's program participants from George Washington University and regularly answers questions for attendees at the garden's monthly sustainability lectures that are another element, beyond the discovery cart, in their education efforts.


Dan Rita                     Mount Holly                 ACUA 2011
Phyllis Rita                 Mount Holly                 ACUA 2011

In a team effort, Dan and Rita volunteered and took a leadership position on the local Green Team in order to help Mount Holly achieve Sustainable Jersey Certification. They worked with the Environmental Advisory Committee and the members of the Mount Holly Town Council on this project.

They organized a notebook for the Town Manager and Town Council with suggested sample resolutions and ordinances that they might pass to gather points toward the goal. The notebook was constructed to be user-friendly for Council members with suggested action plans clearly highlighted.

Their first project from the Sustainable Goals was to draft a Five-Year Community Forestry Management Plan. The plan was successfully completed and approved by Town Council. In the first year of the plan a tree inventory and training on how to evaluate problem trees that line the streets of Mount Holly.

They applied to The College of New Jersey’s Bonner Program, which was endowed by the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation specifically to assist four cities and or towns in New Jersey to achieve Sustainability certification. Mount Holly was selected and this has led to collaboration between the TCNJ students and the residents of Mount Holly. The following is a description of the projects that the TCNJ students, and the Mount Holly Environmental Committee / Green Team, accomplished to gain points toward Sustainability Certification:

Rain Garden Project- two rain gardens were constructed on municipal and county property.
Buy Local Campaign- residents were canvassed in Mount Holly and asked about interest in shopping in downtown Mount Holly. The canvassers also took notes on any suggestions that the residents had about how to improve the downtown shopping experience. Information was passed out concerning the buy local concept as well as a list of local shops and a map pinpointing their locations. All the responses were compiled and shared with Main Street Mount Holly and township officials.
Eradication of Evasive Plants on the Mount- about 25 students and members of the Environmental Committee / Green Team met at the Mount in Mount Holly to begin the process of eradication of English ivy that had taken over nearly one-half of the Mount or about 4 acres of land.  Vines were clipped at the base around trees while another team of students canvassed the neighborhood surrounding the Mount talking to residents and giving them literature about how to eradicate the English ivy spreading from their backyards into the Mount. Suggestions of alternative ground cover plants were given to the homeowners. As a result of this campaign Mount Holly signed up with the New Jersey Invasive Plant Strike Team in order continue to make inroads into the invasive plant problem on the Mount.
Renew Rancocas Creek Tributaries and Promote Water Quality – a tributary that runs through downtown Mount Holly was cleaned up.  The students and community members cleaned about 1/4 mile of creek running through town. Recyclable material and trash were sorted. All of the recyclables were taken to Public Works and trash was piled up for the municipality to dispose of. The students then canvassed the downtown neighborhoods and provided literature to the residents about the importance of keeping the waterway clear of debris and provided practical tips on how to conserve water. The students also took a survey of all of the storm drains in the downtown area and indicated if they were retrofitted to prevent stream pollution. The surveys were submitted to the Environmental Committee / Green Team for further review and possible action.
Public Education Film and Discussion Series- four films will be shown at the Mount Holly Library starting on November 8th this year and running into the Spring of 2013. This project will give the Bonner students an opportunity to take a leadership role in the Mount Holly community by leading the discussion group after presenting the films.

Other efforts made by Phyllis and Dan include collaboration with TCNJ and Bonner students to build a community garden in the Spring of 2013, a Green Arts project in collaboration with the local elementary schools in which art projects are made completely out of recycled material and planting about 200 trees and bushes as part of Mount Holly’s 2011 and 2012 Arbor Day activities sponsored by the Environmental Committee / Green Team which coordinated volunteers from the community at large and organizations including Boy and Girl Scouts and the Rancocas Valley Regional High School Junior ROTC.


Eric Sween                  Asbury                         Duke 2008
Eric helped expand the CoCoRaHS Climate Observer Network by working with Dr. Dave Robinson, NJ State Climatologist and his assistant Mat Gerbush.
He built gauges and snow boards for himself and Dave and Mat to use at training seminars. The demo models are balanced and have handles for easy transport. The gauge even has folding legs. Pictures, instructions and price lists for materials are included in the training kits. He assisted in training and support to volunteers
He contacted Environmental Clubs at North Hunterdon, Hunterdon Central, Delaware Valley and South Hunterdon and Voorhees High Schools to educate clubs about CoCoRAS and suggesting involvement at the high school and individual level. He also contacted science teachers at Hoppock and Conley elementary schools in Bethlehem Township. The numbers of volunteer observers continued to increase dramatically.