Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station [Rutgers Environmental Stewards]

Certified Rutgers Environmental Stewards 2015

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Certified Rutgers Environmental Steward
Intern Projects and Impacts - 2015

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.

Veronica Armour                   Hillsborough, NJ                                                Duke 2014
Veronica worked with the township of Hillsborough to conduct an audit of the bike paths, bike lanes and green spaces. Hillsborough hosts a network of several fragmented bike paths, some of which are numbered and clearly demarcated while others are not so obvious. The town had initially compiled a list of proposed and existing bike lanes, as well as shared lanes and paths which were available on a map on the town’s website. It was determined that only six of the twenty bike routes currently existed and were clearly marked with the appropriate signage.

In addition, there were also several unmarked bike paths throughout the town, which served to connect several neighborhoods, yet were not clearly marked or included on the map. These bike paths were not in any way connected to the larger bike path network and were also not connected to one another. Further complicating matters, curb cut outs were not consistently used and there was no signage for these  unmarked paths. In an attempt to unify this network of convoluted paths and rights of way, Veronica worked on auditing the existing network and developing a more comprehensive bike path plan for the town.

 Through analyzing satellite imagery, open space plans and greenway planning, existing land use patterns, traffic patterns, parks, population and crash data, she was able to prepare an audit for the town which would clarify where bike paths existed and whether or not they had the appropriate signage to let the public known of their existence.
Veronica compiled this data and presented it to the town’s Deputy of Planning and Zoning and he was then able to submit the information to Sustainable Jersey for consideration of points which proved essential in getting the Township certified. Her audits and the plan that she developed will be applied to the Open Space Master Plan.  The township has intentions of utilizing her plan as the initial step towards achieving its ultimate goal of a more comprehensive Complete Streets Policy initiative

 

Robert Jacobson                                Beach Haven NJ                                  ACUA 2014
Robert Jacobson created a native vegetation garden on a Beach Haven Borough site located next to a popular tourist shopping and eating area which also features a playground and a boat launch to the bay. Bob consulted with the President of Beach Haven’s Council, the head of the Public Works Department, the Borough Manager and the Superintendent of Beach Haven School to find a project and location that would benefit the Borough. The site was chosen to provide interest and a learning experience for tourists, school children and the year round residents. The native garden also provides erosion protection and a wildlife refuge.

The Beach Haven Dune Planting Committee donated over two hundred dollars to purchase plants and plans to donate more money for signage. Beach Haven School children, under the supervision of their teachers, helped with the planting and are painting large rocks with the scientific and common names for each plant. Local residents also volunteered to work under Bob’s supervision. The Ocean County Public Works Department donated and delivered mulch, wood chips and compost for the project. Two benches were be added so visitors can relax and enjoy the garden. One of them was dedicated to Robert Jacobson. Bob spent over 116 hours in creating the project and he continues to volunteer time to monitor and maintain the garden.

Nancy Davis, President of the Council of the Borough of Beach Haven commended Bob’s work:
“As a representative of the municipality, I commend Robert Jacobson for his enthusiasm, time, and commitment to this project, which benefits not just the town and school, but the entire island. I am certain that his project will inspire more people to be more conscious of our environment.” She added, “The garden also demonstrates that you can grow many things in Beach Haven without fertilizer and irrigation.”

 

Mary K. Justice                                 Milltown, NJ                                        Duke 2010
Mary K. Justice has worked on several ongoing projects since completing the 2010 class at Duke Farms.  She is a Resident Volunteer on the Milltown Environmental Commission / Green Team (MECGT), a Rutgers Gardens volunteer, a TreadLightly Member and has completed a rain garden on private property.

As a MECGT volunteer, Mary provided feedback on the MECGT newsletter and became an attending resident for meetings and tasks. She participated in drafting a questionnaire for the town. She performed field research and compiled spreadsheet tracking of Milltown’s business disposal containers to determine the carbon footprint of the town for a Sustainable Jersey program.

Mary work with Rutgers Gardens was focused on public education. Mary had a variety of duties including regular garden weed maintenance.  But, she was also involved in work days where she learned about the removal of invasive plants, saw and learned what a climax forest is and how a rain garden works. She also manned event tables to educate the public on the location and activities at Rutgers Gardens. She helped to inspire others to appreciate plants and trees, attend classes, enjoy the grounds or take a personal interest in Rutgers Gardens and get involved by volunteering.

TreadLightly Member (https://www.treadlightly.org/  ) – This organization encourages members to be stewards and follow TreadLightly’s “outdoor ethics” which are:  Travel Responsibly, Respect the Rights of Others, Educate Yourself, Avoid Sensitive Areas, Do Your Part.  Members are also asked to “pay it forward” and tell people about TreadLightly so that they can become educated, as well, through TreadLightly’s educational materials and PSAs (Public Service Announcements). This education may result in someone else becoming a steward.

She worked with a designer and contractor to implement zone tolerant and native plants, a living wall, a water feature, a paver patio and an in-ground dry well tank. Although the ultimate goal was to address the water runoff issue, additional benefits were a habitat for the local birds and wildlife as well as helping neighbors to potentially do something similar for their own areas.

An ardent supporter of environmental stewardship, Mary says, “As always, my goal as a Rutgers Environmental Steward is to get more people educated, passionate, and involved with the environment and realize what we do does indeed have an impact.  Whether your involvement is big or small, everyone should be an environmental steward.”

 

Joan Kaplan                           Plainsboro, NJ                                      Middlesex, 2014
Joan Kaplan developed two resources to assist New Jersey farmers in adapting to climate change in partnership with the Rutgers Climate Institute and specifically, Associate Director Marjorie Kaplan.

The first resource is list of leading tools used to communicate climate change information to the agriculture community by institutions similar to Rutgers. Joan researched information discussing agriculture and climate change available on the websites of academic, federal and state sources that was directed towards farmers. The sources of the tools selected were similar to New Jersey either by the type of agriculture cultivated, the population served, and/or was a land-grant institution with an Extension Service. The tools include webinars, newsletters, fact sheets, or research reports. This list will be used internally at the Rutgers Climate Institute to inform faculty and staff about existing resources generated at public institutions.

Based on this research, Joan developed a new fact sheet for New Jersey titled “Our Changing Climate and Implications for New Jersey Agriculture” over the course of approximately 11 weeks from August through October 2014.  The focus is on changes that have already been documented in New Jersey and those predicted to arrive in the Garden State and the greater northeastern United States.  The fact sheet details types of greenhouse gases, effects of temperature rise, impacts on farms and fisheries, adaptations for crop and livestock producers, and economic impacts.

The fact sheet is currently in peer-review by the Rutgers Climate Institute and when completed will be distributed to farmers, NJ Department of Agriculture, agricultural suppliers and providers, and County Agricultural Agents.

           
Caroline Katmann                              Hillsborough, NJ                                    Duke 2013
In her role as Executive Director of the Sourlands Conservancy, Caroline secured funding with a grant from the Watershed Institute, the NJ Conservation Foundation and the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of NJ and  began a program dubbed the “Sourland Stewards” whose goals were:

1. Help residents of the Sourland Mountain protect the unique habitat of this region

2. Train residents about best practices to protect the rich diversity of animal and plant species and to preserve water resources within the Sourlands

3. Educate about the following areas: native vegetation, avoidance of pesticides, stream buffers, water quality and quantity, creating habitat, protecting trees and deer management.

4. Establish mechanisms to support residents and the continue the program beyond the grant project period.

The Sourland Stewards hired a coordinator who developed events, educational resources and a facebook page/networking tool to gather participants, stimulate them with knowledge to act and involve them in projects.  The Facebook group  currently has 104 members. Caroline reports they hope to soon be able to include businesses, municipalities and schools in the program in addition to residents who comprise the current target audience.

Planned outcomes will be:

  1. Municipalities and Sourland Residents will change through the acquisition of information, resources and support for good stewardship practices. They will gain user-friendly ideas, methods and tools to achieve their goals for becoming better stewards of their land.
  2. The Sourland environment will benefit by having improved water quality and quantity, habitat protection, decrease in invasive species and increased awareness and appreciation for the unique character and importance of the region.
  3. Enhancement of the Sourland Conservancy’s identity as the only organization dedicated solely to the protection of the Sourland Mountain region. Our efforts to keep this Program relevant, ongoing and evolving will focus our future efforts on water quality in the Sourlands, best “green” practices and climate change impacts.

The project is on-going and gathering support. More info can be found at http://sourland.org/stewardship/

 

Jeffery Kurt                           Hackettstown, NJ                                             Duke 2015
Jeff Kurt conducted an angler survey along the South Branch of the Raritan River from the lower end of the Ken Lockwood Gorge upstream to its source at Budd Lake as part of an internship with the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife.  The objective of the survey was to obtain data on the opinions of anglers and use this information to support potential changes to the 2018 regulatory cycle.  This particular stretch of river was selected because it is known to support wild trout populations and the data collected through the survey was intended to strike a balance between the need to protect these wild brook trout populations, while still providing an optimal fishing experience along the river.

The survey found that the majority of anglers preferred to do their fishing in the spring with an average of an estimated 8.1 days spend fishing.  Most (57.5%) practiced catch and release.  With regard to preference for stocked versus wild trout most anglers responded that while they would have preferred to see more wild trout, they relied on stocked trout for an optimal catching experience.  The majority of participants surveyed (87%) responded that they would like to continue to see the same ratio of stocked to wild fish.

Overall the majority of the anglers surveyed responded that they are satisfied with the general regulations for trout fishing in the state with 89% of the anglers rating their fishing experiences as either good or excellent.  Angler responses were mixed on whether or not they would support stocking of rainbow trout only.  A slight majority (54%) were in favor, but only in the case that it would prevent future problems with the outbreak of fish diseases.  A few suggestions that came out of the survey included; increase signage to let anglers know where catch and release is enforced, and a section on fishing etiquette in future NJ Fish & Wildlife pamphlets.

 

Pamela Lewis  Watchung, NJ                                 Duke 2013
Pam worked with the Northeast Organic Farmers Association of New Jersey (NOFANJ) to design and conduct a survey of their farmer members to identify the top 3 barriers to organic certification along with other issues that could improve the certification process. The results are best stated by her supervisor at NOFA, it’s Executive Director, Camille Miller:

“The results of her work allowed NOFA-NJ to design a program in concert with the NJ Department of Agriculture to better identify and support transitioning organic famers with the knowledge and assistance they need to allow more NJ growers to obtain certification. Pam showed a personal commitment to the task at hand and handled each interview as a dedicated and skillful intern. She crafted the survey with professionalism utilizing staff when necessary but worked independently. She went above and beyond what the internship required to complete her assignment and delivered a well-organized final report that will help our staff for years to come.

I would highly recommend Pam for any position seeking a smart dedicated professional.”

 

Mark London                                     Denville, NJ                                      Passaic 2014
Mark served as Chair on the Denville Green Sustainability Committee and work to update previous work towards a goal of recertification as a Bronze New Jersey Sustainable Community. Achivevements leading to recertification included Green Fairs in 2013 and 14, a Energy Tracking, Management and Facilties audit, a brownfields inventory,  a community garden,  a farmers market,  an anti-idling program, installation of a rain garden,  an update of the town Natural Resource Inventory,  and a township recycling and paper shredding day. Mark continues as chair of the Denville Green Sustainability Committee with plans for a visioning project and addition of the township schools to the Sustainable Jersey program in 2015.

 

Trish McGuire                                   Whitehouse Station, NJ                        Duke 2015
Trish developed, organized and coordinates the Property Stewards Program at Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve in New Hope, Pa. The program was developed as a solution to provide site specific restoration and maintenance care to key areas throughout the preserve. Volunteers were selected based on level of skill and knowledge of native and non-native plant identification.  In conjunction with Trish, the Executive Director and the Preserve Grounds Manager selected five key sites to be restored.

Trish established guidelines for the volunteers to operate under which included expectations, methods of communication and documentation, meeting requirements and goals. After a restoration plan was established for each site the volunteers worked autonomously to achieve their desired goals. As a result of her program two of the five sites have been cleared of invasive plant species and natives have begun to reestablish themselves in the 134 acre wildflower preserve. Currently she has two full time volunteers and two more that will be starting in the coming months. After the volunteers work with Trish and staff at the Preserve they are granted the autonomy to work on their own towards achieving their goals. This has established a direct connection between the volunteer and the property they are working on, and they gain a sense of leadership in the process.

Another key success of the program is that the Preserve is able to showcase the restoration areas during naturalist guided tours and utilize the areas as featured educational stopping points for the public. In   addition, by tackling the areas of concern through a volunteer basis, the program allows the Grounds Manager to oversee the bigger picture management of the entire preserve.

 

Caitlin Morrison                                Haddon Township                                ACUA 2013
Caitlin Morrison assisted the Cedar Run Wildlife Refuge in Burlington County pursue its mission of preserving  NJ wildlife through education, conservation and rehabilitation. The Refuge operates a Federally and NJ State licensed hospital which cares for more than 4000 injured, orphaned or displaced native wild animals each year. Caitlin’s volunteer duties included cleaning cages, cleaning dishes, preparing food dishes, bottle feeding and tubing, applying the necessary care for animals, and documenting facts sheets on the patients.

Caitlin offered support and care for the animals that are brought in.spending time with birds, raccoons, skunk, fox and groundhogs. Feeding baby birds, she learned about their diets and behaviors.

Volunteering at the Refuge sparked many emotions in Caitlin from the joy of working with baby animals to the sadness of seeing animals injured due to direct human impact. She feels fortunate to have been part of this caring, animal-loving community. She says that she has learned a great deal of information by interacting with the animals and the other people working or volunteering at the hospital. She has completed the current volunteer session and looks forward to joining them for 2016. In the time she wants to become wildlife rehabilitation certified so she can further her knowledge of this kind of practice.

Caitlin states, “I am glad that such a volunteer experience sparked a new passion for me. My time at a wildlife rehabilitation hospital has brought new experience to my environmental stewardship. As a volunteer, I feel like I have contributed to New Jersey's conservation for native wildlife.”

 

James Rokosny                                 Bridgewater, NJ                                    Duke 2014
James Rokosny spearheaded an effort to integrate several discreet non-profit programs focused on the Raritan River. These included the Raritan Headwaters Association and Clean Ocean Action, along with several others, who were seeking to promote greater awareness and participation in annual river clean ups and beach sweeps that were taking place during a one week stretch in April.  Utilizing social media, community outreach and coverage in the press, James and his partners managed to combine the efforts of over 15 different organizations in the Raritan River Basin to complete over 18 various clean up initiatives and cross promote all of the events under the unified title of Raritan River Week.

James and his partner organizations aligned these river focused organizations and to cross promote the individual events they were hosting as part of a regional effort to expand awareness and to maximize outreach potential for all.

The Raritan Headwaters Association’s Annual Clean Up Event drew in 1,003 volunteers who covered over 40 different sites along the river.  Approximately 9.6 tons of trash and refuse was pulled from the river filling 650 bags of trash.  In total 3,177 volunteer hours were accumulated during the clean up.  In addition, the Central Jersey Stream Team Clean Up event attracted 26 volunteers, who successfully removed 228 tires from the river.  Toward the end of the week the Clean Ocean Action Beach Sweeps event drew in 3,456 volunteers, and spanned over 67 different sites.

Collaboration on these clean ups and cross promoting each other’s events proved to be quite the successful formula. The Raritan River Week Project received the Sustainable Raritan River Award for Public Education at the 7th Annual Sustainable Raritan Conference and Awards Ceremony.  Additionally, James Rokosny was also personally awarded a Senate Citation for his work on the Raritan River Week Initiative.

 

Michael Rolli                                     West Caldwell, NJ                             Passaic 2014
Michael developed a 50 page “Conservation and Stewardship Plan for Wrensch Park of West Caldwell.”

Wrensch Park, a 13-acre forested passive park located in the center of West Caldwell, was purchased by the West Caldwell Environmental Commission in 1975 with a Green Acres grant, but has been mostly untouched ever since.  Excessive deer browse, invasive plant species, litter, erosion, and lack of maintenance are all major problems that need to be addressed.  Few residents know about the park, but interest in the park by members of the Environmental Commission in the past few years encouraged Mike to get involved.

Mike wrote a report for the conservation and stewardship of Wrensch Park for members of the Environmental Commission and others to use as a guideline for restoration efforts.  The report includes history and photographs of the site; a botanical inventory consisting of over 100 plant species found on the property; and recommendations for proper trail maintenance, dealing with problematic foreign plant species, addressing erosion concerns, and increasing community involvement. 

Despite the problems it currently faces, Wrensch Park is a beautiful natural area that offers a serene retreat from the main street just one block away.  Most people who visit the park remark that they never knew it existed and that they cannot believe how big it seems.  The Environmental Commission organized the first of many weekend-long community clean-up efforts, which took place in October 2015.  Nearly a dumpster's worth of litter was removed, trails were cleared and blazed, and a welcome sign was placed in the entrance kiosk for the first time.

 

Curt Rowell                                        Alpha, NJ                                 Belvidere 2012
Curt Rowell assisted and provided leadership for the expansion and operation of a communally run urban farm in Easton, PA. Curt observed that competing interests exist and in order to expand, the Urban Farm was badly in need of a Master Plan and coordination of sometimes conflicting interests.  This became his RES project.

Curt’s activity started in volunteer roles assisting the Farm Manager with farm labor and weekly Veggie Stand operations.  He assisted project sponsor Sophia Feller of the West Ward Neighborhood Partnership (WWNP) in volunteer coordination of Lafayette student and Community Service work days.  He planned a Visioning session in September of 2014 and led Farm stakeholders in a planning exercise using RES skills presented by Dr. Mary Nikola. 

Pennsylvania Department of Natural Resources grant funding materialized and Curt helped lobby the City in November, 2014 for a farm expansion from ¼ acre to 5/8 acre (250% increase). Approval was granted and Curt supervised the drafting of a fencing plan in AutoCAD which was presented to the City as a contract document.  Grant funds paid for the construction of a 6’ welded wire fence, buried for varmint control which was completed in April of 2015. 

Outcomes:  Weekly harvests made up the bulk of the produce for the 2015 Thursday Veggie Stand with surplus going to the Food Pantry at the Easton Area Neighborhood Center (EANC), adjacent to the Urban Farm, and to the Community Action of Lehigh Valley Second Harvest Program. 

2015 Veggie Stand Distribution:  5600 lbs.; 70 recipients/week, $82/week in donations
2014 Veggie Stand Distribution:  4300 lbs.; 62 recipients/week, $54/week in donations
2013 Veggie Stand Distribution:  1478 lbs.
West Ward resident demand has exceeded supply each week. Expansion plans continue for 2016.

With the help of Northampton County Extension, a Thursday and Saturday ‘on Farm’ stand was opened for the first time where an additional 1,000 lbs. of produce was sold.  It was staffed by Southside Easton neighborhood volunteers and deployed an EBT payment station.

A Sustainable Farm Future
In order for the farm to continue a new partner was needed in 2015.  Curt helped identify a willing partner next door to the Farm, the Easton Area Neighborhood Center (EANC). EANC will act as a non-profit umbrella for the Easton Urban Farm to allow funding to be secured from various sources for construction of a High Tunnel, in ground irrigation system, fully plumbed wash stand and possible stipends for farm staff.  A Farm Board of Advisors was formed to achieve these goals originating in Curt’s 2014 Visioning session.  He currently serves as Secretary of the Board and it has met monthly since August.
The outcomes continue to develop, but will embrace best environmental practice in agriculture and landscape design, education in soil and plant biology at both youth and adult levels as well as decision making in spirit of a community based consensus.

garden     garden
Thursday Evening Veggie Stand                 Southside Urban Farm Stand

 

garden

 

Joseph Smalley                      Highland Park, NJ                                Middlesex, 2014
Joseph Smalley, mapped and identified invasive plant species in the 1,479-acre Jamesburg Park Conservation Area in East Brunswick/Helmetta area of Middlesex County working in partnership with the Middlesex County Office of Parks and Recreation.  This protected open space property lies within the Spotswood Outlier—an area of Pine Barrens habitat separated from the main portion of the Pine Barrens in southern parts of the state. It contains several rare or locally unusual species of native plants and animals. 

Joe travelled by foot through the property and identified and mapped those species for later eradication.  Special attention was focused on invasive plants labeled as ‘emerging’ by the NJ Invasive Species Strike Team.  Joe created a usable map of invasive plant locations and detailed methods for eradication.  Joe’s data included 24 locations within the conservation area, covering 21.7 acres/944,512 sq. ft. of invasive coverage, with at least 16 different species of invasive plants. 

The map and eradication details have become part of the Habitat Management Plan for Jamesburg Park Conservation Area and is benefitting the Office of Parks and Recreation in their ability to protect and preserve this open space property.  The eradication methods is being utilized by the Middlesex County Youth Conservation Corps in their summer work season.  The project will improve conditions for native plants and animals as well as improve the experience of park patrons who utilize the property.

In addition, the Joe adopted a 1400 square foot section of the property where ongoing eradication efforts have been underway to remove Japanese Knotweed. Joe organized a Japanese knotweed removal event attended by 4 individuals in August 2014 who pulled out 4 bags of knotweed roots.

Plants found in the conservation area:

Black Locust (Robinia psedoacacia)
Chinese Bushclover (Lespedeza cuneata)
Spotted Knapweed (Centaurea maculosa)
Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris)
Fanwort (Cabomba caroliniana)
Japanese Barberry ( Berberis thunbergii)
Japanese Clemantis (Clemantis terniflora)
Porcelainberry (Ampelopsis brevipedunculata)
Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica)
Japanese Stiltgrass (Microstegium vimineum)
Callery Pear (Pyrus calleryana)
Himalayan Blackberry (Rubus armeniacus)
Honeysuckle (not identified to species)
Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria)
Silk Tree (Albizia julibrissin)
Periwinkle (Vinca minor)
Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima

 

  

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