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Archive for the ‘Suzanne Whelan’ Category

Introduction by MMWD Volunteer Coordinator Suzanne Whelan

For 16 days in October the federal government ceased all but the most essential operations. But our lands and the creatures that inhabit them do not curtail their operations when we humans hit a budget impasse. Luckily for MMWD, interns from the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, who unexpectedly found themselves with free time, volunteered with MMWD for two days in October helping with habitat restoration and vegetation monitoring on the watershed. We were so happy to provide meaningful work and training for them and to benefit from their enthusiastic assistance.

The following summary of the two-day event is by Jaimie Baxter, a former MMWD Americorps intern and watershed aide. She is currently the trails stewardship manager for the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy.

Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy Joins MMWD for Two-day Habitat Restoration and Vegetation Monitoring Event
by GGNPC Trails Stewardship Manager Jaimie Baxter

Photo of GGNRA Intern pulling yellow star thistle

GGNRA intern pulling yellow star thistle.

On Wednesday October 9, more than 15 Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA) Park Stewardship interns and staff congregated near the top of Mt. Tamalpais at the Rock Springs area. This oak woodland and grassland area is known for its epic views, slabs of serpentine outcrops and hordes of rare plants. MMWD Volunteer Coordinator Suzanne Whelan and her two watershed aides explained the district’s mission of providing clean drinking water to their customers in south and central Marin County and protecting the 21,635 acres of watershed lands under their management. Director of Park Stewardship Sue Gardner then discussed the burgeoning Mt. Tamalpais Collaborative and the goals of all natural resource agencies in the area to join forces in the Mt. Tamalpais region.

Photo of Park Stewards

The thistle-pulling team of GGNRA and MMWD.

After all that talking, it was time to get to work! MMWD and the Park Stewardship team strategized their assignment for the day — removing invasive, non-native yellow-star thistle (Centaurea solsitialis). Spreading out like a fan, the group surveyed the area for this invasive species, pulled and eventually bagged the prickly plant. The group was later joined by MMWD Vegetation Ecologist Andrea Williams, who discussed the interesting geology and ecology of serpentine soils, what makes a plant rare and ways that MMWD manages invasive species. And this was just the first day Park Stewardship collaborated with MMWD!

The following day the same team plus a few Park Trails interns jumped to the north side of Mt. Tamalpais to the Sky Oaks Ranger Station. Thursday’s mission was to identify and map the non-native, perennial grass species in Sky Oaks meadow. This meadow ecosystem, which has been heavily managed in the past, is a good example of an oak woodland ecosystem. The meadow is relatively healthy as it is mostly free of French broom, has woody species that do not overcrowd each other and has at least three species of oaks.

However the meadow is not without its problems, including Sudden Oak Death (Phytophthora ramorum) and non-native, perennial grasses. Our crew learned how to identify a multitude of these species including velvet grass (Holcus lanatus), sweet vernal grass (Anthoxanthum odoratum), wild oat grass (Avena fatua) and many more. The team then split into groups and headed off to map the non-native grasses using GPS-enabled cameras, compasses and datasheets. The team worked all morning and after lunch until they became cross-eyed from looking at SO many grasses! The day ended with a hike to Alpine and Bon Tempe lakes where much of MMWD’s drinking water is stored.

The Park Stewardship team is grateful to have a partner such as the Marin Municipal Water District. Thank you, MMWD, for your time, expertise and hosting Park Stewardship during the federal shutdown. We welcome any opportunity to join you in your efforts on the Mt. Tamalpais Watershed!

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by Suzanne Whelan

To mark our centennial anniversary this year, MMWD is partnering with the California Academy of Sciences on a series of bioblitzes to document the flora of the Mt. Tamalpais Watershed.

At our most recent bioblitz on June 23, our six teams:

  • Made 162 observations total (collections and/or photographs of individual plants)
  • Collected 107 specimens

To date, from several outings this year, we have:

  • Made 502 observations total (collections and/or photographs of individual plants), comprising approximately 300 different species
  • Collected 323 specimens total, comprising approximately 225 different species

These are great numbers: Since there are roughly 900 species of plants on the watershed, we’ve already documented close to a third of them! The MMWD watershed lands comprise just 0.01 percent of the state but are home to 15 percent of the state’s plant species. If we are talking Marin, 50 percent of the county’s plant species are found on the watershed.

bioblitz

Bioblitz volunteers documenting plants on the Mt. Tamalpais Watershed

Our citizen science model aims to mobilize a cadre of volunteers to collect data to answer a scientific question. By training volunteers we build a sense of stewardship among participants, initiate folks to the process of science and provide meaningful scientific data which can build support for local sustainability initiatives. We offer a tiered approach to involvement—botany or field science professionals mentor those who are students or amateurs. Members of the general public participated in guided hikes and presentations during our all-day centennial celebration June 23. We are thrilled with our successful forays working with Cal Academy and so many enthusiastic and knowledgeable plant lovers!

Our next bioblitz is August 25. Please contact volunteerprogram@marinwater.org for more information.

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by Suzanne Whelan

Earth Day MarinThis year we honor the Earth by celebrating the 42nd year of Earth Day.

Here at the Marin Municipal Water District, we feel we have a unique opportunity to connect people with the Earth. Your watershed, more than anything else, defines your ecosystem. The Mt. Tamalpais Watershed not only provides drinking water to 185,000 people in Marin every day but also provides people with the incredible chance to explore their relationship with each other, with the land and with water. Through our schools program, volunteer program and conservation program, we try to help each other become better stewards of the land and to build community through sense of place.

This year Marin has a remarkable collection of anniversaries to celebrate: MMWD’s 100th, Tomales Bay State Park’s 60th, Point Reyes National Seashore’s 50th, and Golden Gate National Recreation Area’s and Marin County Park’s 40th. On April 21, these agencies will celebrate their anniversaries—and Earth Day—at the Earth Day Marin Festival at Civic Center Lagoon Park in San Rafael.

First, kick off the day and give back to the land by joining us for a habitat restoration event from 9:00 a.m. to noon on the lakeshore of Bon Tempe. Help remove invasive French broom, learn to identify native plants and birds, and win raffle prizes from REI! We’ll meet at Lake Lagunitas parking lot; volunteers receive a free day parking pass.

Then, join us at the Earth Day Marin Festival at the Civic Center. MMWD and all the land agencies celebrating birthdays will have space at the festival showcasing our connections with nature, educational resources, fun games, and staff on hand to answer your questions. Pull on some boots and a helmet and climb aboard our water district fire engine or ranger truck—guaranteed great smiles for photos!

The Long Haul Relay Race

The Long Haul Relay Race

At noon we will be hosting The Long Haul Relay Race, our popular athletic water challenge. Participants work in teams to compete in a water-hauling game and gain an appreciation of water scarcity and abundance throughout the world in the process.

Without open space, Marin wouldn’t be the absolutely spectacular place it is today. Celebrate our accomplishments in conservation and take part in new acts of stewardship! We hope you to see you on the watershed and at the festival on Saturday.

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by Suzanne Whelan

Watershed AmbassadorInterested in building skills working with the public and being part of a committed team? Want to share your knowledge about Mt. Tamalpais and the rich flora and fauna to be seen? Then consider applying to become a volunteer Watershed Ambassador.

This summer a new opportunity was created for volunteers to support the work of MMWD in sustaining the Mt. Tamalpais Watershed. Through the Watershed Ambassador Program, a friendly and helpful face can often be found at the Sky Oaks Entrance kiosk. Specially trained volunteers hand out maps, answer questions, assist with the cumbersome parking pass machine and educate visitors about the resources of the watershed.

Four incredible Ambassadors have been trained and have been sharing their love of the watershed up to 20 hours per week in this unpaid position. One of our Ambassadors says: “After working in the corporate world for 36 years, it is a pleasure to come up to the watershed and meet so many people enjoying life in nature and being around people who remember to smell the roses. It is very refreshing.”

A second round of Ambassador recruitment is scheduled for this fall in order to have a steady presence in the kiosk through the busy annual pass purchasing period this winter. There are a limited number of positions available. The application deadline is November 1, 2011. Please contact volunteerprogram@marinwater.org or call (415) 945-1128 for more information.

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by Suzanne Whelan

BiketoberfestCome visit MMWD’s booth at Biketoberfest on Sunday, September 25, 11:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. in Fairfax. We’ll have information on watershed volunteer and recreational opportunities, water conservation and more. Be sure to drop by and say “hello”!

Biketoberfest Marin is a celebration of the bicycle for all ages. This fun day-long event features a bike expo, vintage bike show, kids’ activities, group rides, live music and a brewfest of over 40 beers from 24 West Coast brewers. Proceeds from the brewfest benefit the Marin County Bicycle Coalition and Access4Bikes.

Admission is free. For more information visit www.biketoberfestmarin.com.

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by Suzanne Whelan

National Trails Day 2011Friends and neighbors are invited to join us in celebrating National Trails Day 2011 by participating in trail maintenance and vegetation management followed by a hosted barbecue at Phoenix Lake on Saturday, June 4.

The district will be making improvements to Gertrude Ord Trail at the western end of Phoenix Lake near the town of Ross. Projects will include rebuilding a bridge and stairs, improving drainage and vegetation maintenance. Volunteers are asked to meet at 9:00 a.m. at the dam at Phoenix Lake. The gate at Natalie Coffin Greene Park will be open from 8:30 to 9:00 a.m. and from 2:00 to 2:30 p.m. so volunteers can park by the dam (there is space for 25 cars). People who arrive late or need to leave early will need to find their own parking. The barbecue will be from 12:30 to 2:00 by the Log Cabin at Phoenix Lake.

Basket-maker Charles Kennard will bring his creations and talk about the materials and techniques used in the ancient craft of basket making.

Dress for changing weather and bring a hat, sunscreen, work shoes, a water bottle and work gloves if you have them. MMWD provides snacks, water, instruction and inspiration! Trail events are generally suitable for ages 13 and up. Volunteers under 16 must be accompanied by an adult, and volunteers under 18 must bring a permission form signed by a parent or guardian. Please contact MMWD for a form.

More information about this and other volunteer opportunities is available on our website: www.marinwater.org. Advance registration for National Trails Day is requested for planning purposes. Call (415) 945-1128 or email volunteerprogram@marinwater.org.

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by Suzanne Whelan
 
Natural Resource Management InternshipsThe district is offering unpaid internships to college students or recent grads in the field of natural resource management on the Mt. Tamalpais Watershed. The internships provide practical experience, direct application of skills in a professional setting, the chance to learn from personal observation and synthesis and to participate in problem-solving activities.

Internship positions are in the areas of vegetation ecology, biological monitoring, GIS (geographic information systems) and GPS (geographic position systems). Internships may be structured towards a discrete project or assist with ongoing projects, such as monitoring sudden oak death, identifying non-native, invasive plants as part of the district’s weed watcher program, updating the district’s rare plant inventory and participating in the Douglas-fir encroachment project. Interns must commit to 35 hours during a semester and have substantial knowledge in one of these disciplines or the aptitude to learn. More information and an application are available on the district’s website. Four to six interns will be accepted per semester. The closing date for applications is May 30 for the summer semester, September 1 for the fall semester, and January 15 for the spring semester.

Interested? A Saturday volunteer event would be a great place for potential interns to get an introduction to the watershed and meet staff. We have habitat restoration events one or two Saturdays per month. Visit our website for more information, details and directions.

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