Monthly Archives

August 2020

Chesapeake Conservation Corps Profile: Sam Myers & The Nature Conservancy

By Blog No Comments

Sam coring a white pine as part of her Capstone project to study the impact of historical fires on forest structure at TNC’s Sideling Hill Creek preserve in western Maryland. (Photo: Deborah Landau/TNC)

Participating in the Chesapeake Conservation Corps (Corps) is a unique experience. We are showcasing the individual Conservation Corps members in the 2019-2020 cohort along with information on their host site and descriptions of the incredible work they are doing. This month’s featured Corps member: Sam Myers.

Growing up in Maryland, Sam’s love for the environment was ignited by her experiences in the marshes of the Chesapeake Bay. Sam will always remember her middle school field trip where her class spent time out on the water setting out crab pots, netting fish close to the shore, and mucking in the nearby marsh. She states, “this hands-on learning is what drew me to environmental science and sparked my love for ecology and environmental conservation.” During her time at Washington University in St. Louis, she pursued a degree in environmental studies and worked in their research labs studying plant population ecology and plant pathology. In college, Sam was able to visit the Mojave Desert in California, and Hawaii to study the unique ecology and geology on federally managed lands. Sam also studied abroad in Panama learning about tropical ecology and indigenous resource conservation. Her time traveling helped her realize that there is so much more to learn about the natural world and how different communities work to manage and preserve it.

Chesapeake Conservation Corps members learned how to core trees and helped collect data for Sam’s capstone project at TNC’s Sideling Hill Creek preserve as part of a site visit that she hosted in February.

Upon beginning her time in the Corps, Sam initially wanted to learn about and contribute to environmental conservation projects and spend time working out in the field. She feels lucky to have been placed with The Nature Conservancy (TNC) in their Maryland/District of Columbia office where she learned about restoration, land management, and conservation science.

Spanning 79 countries and territories alongside all 50 states, TNC is a science-based organization whose mission is to “conserve the lands and waters on which all life depend” by working with partners to advance conservation locally, regionally, and globally. Sam supports their mission as part of the Land Management team by assisting with controlled burns, monitoring rare plant species, and removing invasive species on their preserves. Sam has been able to work on multiple research projects of her own, including an ecosystem services analysis of TNC’s preserves in Maryland and a Capstone project, which is part of each Corps member’s work plan for the year, and is a graduation requirement.

One of her favorite things to experience (before COVID-19 restrictions were put in place in Maryland) was exploring the different landscapes across the state encapsulated in TNC’s preserves—from the Delmarva bay wetlands on the Eastern Shore to the Central Appalachian forests and montane bogs in western Maryland. Even though she grew up in Maryland, Sam admits, she had no idea of the vastly diverse ecological communities feeding into the treasured Chesapeake Bay.

Assisting with a controlled burn at Plum Creek Cedar Swamp on the Eastern Shore in January 2020. The burn helped to prepare two grass fields for a longleaf pine planting in February. (Photo: Chase McLean/TNC)

For her Capstone project, Sam studied the impact of historical fires on forest structure at TNC’S Sideling Hill Creek preserve in western Maryland. Sideling Hill Creek preserve is an 800-acre oak-pine forest with areas of shale barrens that harbor the unique biodiversity of plants and animals. TNC has been conducting controlled burns since 1962 and uses fire as a management tool to sustain fire-dependent ecosystems and prevent catastrophic wildfires. In Maryland, TNC has been conducting controlled burns on the Eastern Shore since 2008 and has started to develop a burn program in western Maryland (central Appalachians). Though fire was once common and widespread throughout this region, fire exclusion during the past century has threatened the dynamics of this forest. Sam’s capstone project examines how the fire history at Sideling Hill Creek may have shaped today’s forest dynamics. It will serve as a baseline to inform TNC’s management of the preserve and can also inform management of forests regionally across the central Appalachians.

At TNC, Sam has been able to dip her toes into different conservation projects and learn about the interdisciplinary functioning of a global non-profit conservation organization. Sam states that through this opportunity she has gotten to know some wonderful people who have enriched her Corps experience, including her mentor, Deborah Landau. Among other professional development opportunities, the Chesapeake Conservation Corps program also provided a variety of opportunities to learn about other environmental organizations and work alongside other Corps members. Sam will be attending the University of Massachusetts – Amherst to further her learning in their Master of Science program for Environmental Conservation, where she will take a sustained connection to the Chesapeake Bay watershed and the people she has met through the Corps. Sam hopes to continue developing interdisciplinary skills to bridge the gap between conservation practitioners and scientists.

Gearing up for a controlled burn at Sideling Hill Creek preserve in western Maryland in November 2019. (Photo: Sev Smith/TNC).

The 2019-2020 class of the Chesapeake Conservation Corps graduated on August 13th, 2020 at a virtual ceremony, where Tamara Toles O’Laughlin the North American Director of 350.org gave an inspiring speech. The graduating class has members who are attending graduate school at the George Washington University, the University of North Carolina – Wilmington, and Yale University; working in other “corps” positions like AmeriCorps or TerraCorps; and working at organizations like the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, Horizons Outdoor Learning Center, and ShoreRivers; to name a few.

The 2020-2021 class of the Chesapeake Conservation Corps had orientation on August 18th, 2020 at a virtual ceremony. To find out more about the new members and their host sites please see their member placements, here. The Chesapeake Bay Trust is also excited to announce the first Corps Alumni web page is now available here, showcasing 10 years of the program.

The Chesapeake Bay Trust thanks the 2020 – 2021 Corps program supporters, BGE an Exelon Company, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, the National Parks Service Chesapeake Bay Office, the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, American Chestnut Land Trust, Baltimore City Department of Recreation and Parks – Carrie Murray Nature Center, and Maryland Department of the Environment.

Engaging Diverse Groups in Environmental Stewardship is Essential

By News No Comments

In 2015, the Maryland League of Conservation Voters Education Fund, working through their Chispa Maryland (Chispa) program, received an award through the Prince George’s County Stormwater Stewardship Grant Program to engage members of Prince George’s County Latino community in educational experiences designed to improve local water quality and the health of the community. Through this project, Chispa Maryland also sought to establish strong, longstanding leadership within the community to carry the efforts of this project forward.

Chispa Maryland was launched by the Maryland League of Conservation Voters Education Fund in 2014. This group works with Latino families, community groups, faith-based organizations, and elected officials to identify and address environmental issues. Chispa seeks to empower the Latino community to take action to protect natural resources and build healthy neighborhoods.

This project focused on working with Latino community members predominantly from the Transforming Neighborhoods Initiative (TNI) designated area of Langley Park. The TNI is a county effort that aims at uplifting neighborhoods with significant needs. Chispa began by consulting with several Latino community leaders, Prince George’s County agencies, and other Latino-serving organizations to develop a curriculum and delivery plan that best served the needs of the community. The resulting curriculum comprised of both in-class and hands-on learning experiences. The in-class learning consisted of an introduction to the water cycle, the impact of stormwater runoff on the environment, and the actions that can be taken to manage stormwater runoff. The classroom session stressed the interconnectedness of individual actions and the cumulative impact these actions have on natural resources. Chispa also illuminated the relation between local water quality and the health and quality of life of the community.

The outdoor active learning sessions were designed to allow participants to experience firsthand and put into practice some of the concepts covered during the in-class session. A partnership with Anacostia Watershed Society (AWS) brought Latino families and individuals out onto the Anacostia River through boat trips. AWS lead conversations on the biodiversity and water quality of the Anacostia River, as well as the impact of stormwater runoff on the Anacostia and surrounding streams and rivers. The boat trip sessions concluded with participants identifying the various ways their actions impacted natural resources, to change behaviors with negative impacts. Participants also had the chance to implement low impact development projects at the Langley Park Community Center. Participants created a 1,000 sq. ft. native plants garden and installed six rain barrels throughout the community center.

After the completion of both the in-class and hands-on activities, Chispa conducted leadership training with a group of participants that demonstrated a commitment to improving their natural resources and build resilient communities. Six instructional sessions were held and a total of 13 participants completed the training and were graduated as promotores (trained individuals who take on an educational role). The training of promotores enhances the sustainability of this project, as these leaders are empowered to lead and coordinate projects in their communities that promote environmental education and increase community participation in environmental activities.

Congratulations to Chispa Maryland on a successful and engaging project!