Citizen Science at Woodend Nature Sanctuary

You’ve probably heard about the ANS citizen scientists who have been monitoring streams in our region for 25 years.  These water protectors sound the alarm on threats to water quality.  But did you know there are several citizen science efforts happening at Woodend?  As we gear up to restore plant communities and wildlife habitat, volunteers are helping survey current conditions at our 40-acre sanctuary.

In the Woodend meadows, volunteers are tracking the abundance of native and non-native species.  Back in 2013, ANS restored an area of meadow by removing the existing non-native vegetation, scraping off the top layer of soil, and installing native meadow plants.  Since then, a team of volunteers has worked to keep invasive weeds out of the restored area and to inventory the plants that thrive in the restored meadow.  This year, ANS Master Naturalists initiated a survey in an unrestored meadow to compare species diversity and the proportion of native species between the two sites.  Another team is conducting a butterfly survey to determine what species are currently supported by our meadows.

Citizen Science teams are also active in the Woodend forest.  For several years, ANS has been working toward establishing a perimeter fence at Woodend that is tall enough to exclude deer from the property.  The overabundance of deer has had a devastating impact on our forest.  We hope to erect the fence in fall of 2017 and to see regrowth of a forest understory and the survival of native tree seedlings.  The return of lush vegetation in the woodland understory will improve habitat for bird and amphibian species that are dependent on the protection of this forest layer.  It will also help our eroded stream banks to heal. 

                In order to measure that future progress in forest health, a team of ANS Master Naturalists is documenting the current vegetation in sample plots, including herbaceous, shrub and tree layers.  Other volunteers are making observations about the presence or absence of understory-dependent bird species like the Wood Thrush during nesting season.  Another team is using coverboards, call observations and egg counts to document the amphibian populations supported by our woods and pond. 

                ANS is so lucky to have volunteers engaged not only in the work of stewardship, but also in citizen science projects that will guide our restoration projects into the future.  If these projects sound exciting to you, consider applying to become an ANS Master Naturalist!  We are putting together the 2017 training class now.

About Alison Pearce

Alison Pearce is the ANS Director of Restoration, where she manages the restoration of our historic Woodend Sanctuary to make it a premier environmental learning and demonstration site in the DC region.
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