Envs 120 Internship
This internship involved working with the Walla Walla Backyard Stream Team, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting healthy riparian habitat, stream protection, and stream restoration. This organization is a subgroup of the Walla Walla Watershed Planning's Outreach Sub-Committee. The focus of this group is on the urban aspects of watershed planning and restoration. There are two different components to this program (and internship) currently: the Pledge project and the Garrison Creek Restoration project at Fort Walla Walla Park . These outreach programs are all being run through the Washington State Department of Ecology Fund for Watershed Planning. The internship specifically involved communication between the Walla Walla Backyard Streamteam coordinator and volunteers, in this case mostly students of Whitman College .
This internship had two different projects- The Pledge program and the Garrison Creek Restoration. It was the interns' responsibility to take aerial maps of Walla Walla and set up route maps for distribution of pamphlets to riparian owners along Yellowhawk Creek. A protocol for distribution was also established as was a brief description of the project and a set of questions to ask each resident. These questions will then be analyzed by Whitman Professor Deborah Winter's class in upcoming semesters and evaluated on the basis of environmental impact. Additionally, the interns assisted with planting and volunteer coordination (including planting demonstrations) for the Garrison Creek re-vegetation project.
The Pledge program is intended to provide education and support to landowners along riparian zones (Yellowhawk Creek in this case), by distributing informational “Stream Team Pledges” to residents. These pamphlets detail out environmentally friendly methods of taking care of ordinary household tasks such as washing cars, mowing lawns, changing oil, gardening, and taking care of pests. All of these methods outlined in the booklet are aimed at encouraging people to conserve water, plant beneficial native species, reduce the use of lawn/garden herbicides and pesticides, and most of all to preserve healthy riparian habitat. This project is especially important and relevant in Walla Walla because several endangered fish utilize Garrison and Yellowhawk Creeks, namely the Bull Trout and the Steelhead. Several factors contributing to the degradation of habitat include removal of riparian vegetation, alteration of stream flows and increased sediment input. All of these factors can be dealt with through education and demonstration and the Backyard Stream Team is hoping that the distribution of fliers will inform residents of the simple changes that they can make in order to improve the quality of the stream and make it a better habitat for fish and other animals.
The Garrison Creek Restoration/Re-vegetation project involves the restoration of 1,000 linear feet of riparian vegetation along Garrison Creek at Fort Walla Walla , in order to provide a sample of how a natural and native section of stream should look. The Stream Team hopes that this will encourage community members to embark upon similar projects of their own. The funding for this project has been provided for by several generous grants and the hard work of Walla Walla citizens, Whitman Students, and other area high school students. In the last several semesters, the stream bank was stripped of the invasive blackberries and re-seeded with native grasses. The most recent installment, accomplished during this internship, was to plant native shrubs, groundcovers, and trees along the stream bank.
As of the Beginning of the Semester
I met with Judith and Dave (the other intern) and we discussed this Stream Team project. We hoped to do several things throughout the course of the spring and the duration of this internship. It was our goal to involve people in resource conservation and become more aware of issues here in Walla Walla . This was to be done through the projects that happened through our internship. We hoped to do several work parties at the restored riparian area along the creek at Fort Walla Walla Park and plant native species. We also planned to distribute the Backyard Stream Pledge booklets to those residing along Yellowhawk creek. We intended to first look at a map of the Walla Walla area along with our database of residents when planning routes. Then we would have several days in the spring where we distributed the booklets, hopefully with the help of some WW high school students and potentially some Whitman students as well. Additionally, I wanted to speak with the biology department here at Whitman and find out what has been done in the past in terms of water quality monitoring along the rivers/creeks in the area and any studies of macroinvertebrates. If there was any information, we would use it to compare with any further information I could personally collect throughout the semester, or at least set up an experiment for someone to do as a biology thesis.
This project really began after Spring Break although quite a bit of the prep work was done beforehand. Dave and I worked on route maps and completing the database of Yellowhawk residents (addresses with phone numbers…) as well as setting the dates for planting at Fort Walla Walla . Because this project centers on the outdoors and yard work, we were waiting for spring and warmer weather to launch our two projects. This made it nice in terms of weather but had a substantial affect on the numbers of volunteers that we could obtain for each of our projects. We also did not want to carry out these two projects concurrently so that we could have those same volunteers potentially help us with both projects. Unfortunately this caused us to run the second project through finals week for Whitman Students and with so much other work for students, we had an extremely difficult and frustrating time getting students to help us out with flier distribution.
We nailed down two dates for replanting at Fort Walla Walla park (the 10 th and 17 th of April) and were a little bit shocked when we realized how much work there was to be finished in just two sessions. Judy, the Stream Team coordinator, even said that her ‘mouth must have been bigger than her eyes.' Instead of being able to finish all of the planting in two weekend work parties, there were a total of five weekends with planting and the work still wasn't all done. What was frustrating about this was the reason behind the excess number of plants. The Stream Team was carrying out this project through several grants and the grant money needed to be spent by June or the organization would lose it. The Backyard Stream Team is getting another grant this upcoming year but the sums of money can't be lumped and used when needed, they need to be used up during their allocated time period. This forced the Stream Team to buy more plants than they would have otherwise and try to plant them with the help of an extremely small group of dedicated volunteers. Judy also informed me that she was misguided in her purchases of the plants because someone informed her that less than sixty percent of the baby plants would survive the planting. However, after five weeks (since the initial planting), she had found only one dead plant. To add to the frustrations, after setting up tables in the campus center and sending out numerous campus emails, we only had half a dozen volunteers for our first work party and they were almost all personal friends of Dave and myself. It was definitely a negative statement about Whitman – that so many people claim to be into the environment and conservation yet hardly anyone would actually physically put in the effort to help. The second work party was a bit better because it coincided with Service Saturday and more people seemed to be interested in this, although we would still have been seriously undermanned had it not been for the 20+ Phi-Delts who came. We managed to get quite a bit of work done but the total project was still daunting and these two work days put only a dent in it. The remaining weekends spent planting resembled the first work party with a poor (if any at all) showing of Whitman Students to assist.
The second project was even more frustrating than the Garrison Creek Restoration project although it wasn't quite as large and Dave and I could have more of an impact as individuals and carry more responsibility individually. We had volunteers lined up through several groups on campus as well as a number of individuals and not a single person showed up for our distribution day. Dave and I had protocols, the pamphlets, all the different routes, and maps detailing how to get to each section and no one came. This project would have taken such a short amount of time had we been able to get enough people to do it all at once, plus each person or pair of people would have only had a small section, but Dave, Judy, myself, and three friends ended up doing six of the nine sections (which had been divided into even smaller pieces for the distribution day) and community members agreed to take the three last small sections, which happen to be located well into College Place and spread out. What again made this so annoying is the fact that so many people at Whitman believe in this type of project and there was so little assistance. I even had one friend who I challenged to help out with this project instead of just sitting back and complaining about environmental issues and I couldn't even get him to help.
I have learned an incredible amount from this experience and am much more motivated to become involved with these types of projects when they happen through Whitman in the future. It has increased my awareness of the positive impact that Whitman Students can exhibit if we are aware of how we can help out in the community. Time commitments really don't become extraordinary (unless you are organizing) and it makes such a difference if more people help.
Working with the Walla Walla Backyard Stream Team was an even better experience than I first thought. Judy was great to work with and the other Stream Team members that I met were helpful and full of energy, which I find amazing because of the amount of time that they volunteer to this cause. Participation in an organization such as this, which is non-profit and depends on volunteers and grant money, can get to be incredibly discouraging. The positive attitude that these volunteers exuded was amazing and made me want to continue to work for this type of cause in some regard. I do have to say that the amount of work that is required in order for this to be carried out successfully at a high quality level is enormous. I felt bad at certain points during the internship where I wanted to help out more and stay and plant all day but I was giving a huge amount of time to this on top of all the requirements of being a full time student.
Interacting with the public sector was one of the most enjoyable parts of this internship. Having the chance to enlighten people on a subject that they might be somewhat unfamiliar was a lot of fun. Going house to house and distributing pamphlets was intimidating at first but people were, for the overwhelming majority of the time, very receptive to what we had to say. They were willing to answer our questions and listen as we explained the pledge program and booklets. It helped a great deal that we weren't asking for money and were just focusing on this as a friendly way to educate people on the importance they play in the Walla Walla Watershed by living along a riparian area. It was exciting to let people know that this year is the first in about 45 that salmon have returned to Walla Walla and that Yellowhawk Creek is home to two different types of endangered fish. This internship tackled some very relevant environmental issues and I believe that this internship had a very important tie to the community.
For the future I absolutely recommend that this internship be undertaken by at least two interns. I would have not accomplished nearly as much over the course of the semester had it not been for Dave and more might even be accomplished with three interns. I think that in the future the Backyard Stream Team will most likely do a better job of purchasing a more manageable amount of plants to be planted, when they tackle the next phase of the Garrison Creek Restoration Project. I don't have any brilliant ideas of how to get more students to volunteer but getting these projects more widely publicized by Whitman Professors, most specifically those involved in the Biology and Environmental Studies Departments, might help. It would also help not to wait until the latter part of the semester to do these projects and this might be a lot more feasible in the fall, when you want to complete the projects by the Winter, and then students might be more willing to volunteer their time.
As for the flier distribution and questionnaire, I think it went by a lot better than the last semester, which involved calling people and spending about 20 minutes on the phone with each house. People were much more receptive to having a conversation in person and answering six questions instead of over twenty. We also went in the late afternoon, hoping to catch people as they were returning home from work. This protocol and approach worked well it should just be polished for the future.
I definitely suggest follow ups to these houses in some manner, if we haven't gotten pledge cards back from them and just letting them know that the Stream Team is there as a resource and there are lots of numbers to call for more information, as well as just stressing the importance of the stream in the watershed and as a habitat for wildlife and fish.
Deborah Winter's class is also going to be analyzing the answers given to us by residents and seeing how the behavior is having an effect on the habitat. It would also be very interesting and useful for the stream team if someone was to do extensive water/macro invertebrate testing (even a thesis) on these different waterways in Walla Walla so that a long term study could be set up and water quality could be monitored on more than just an observational basis. I asked the Biology Department and no one has done any testing on the waterways, with the exception of Mill Creek. I was not able to do any testing of my own as I have neither the experience nor anything with which to compare my results, however this project would be something interesting to think about for the future.
Judith Johnson is the primary contact for this internship. She is heading the Walla Walla Backyard Stream team and can be contacted via email at email@example.com. She has been so patient and helpful as we have gone through the process of attempting to round up volunteers for these projects and set up protocols. She is very knowledgeable on this subject and a great resource. There are several other community volunteers that have been very helpful throughout this internship – Pat, Priscilla, Brian, and others – and they can be contacted through Judy. Also a big part of this organization is the Walla Walla Watershed Planning Committee (www.wallawallawatershed.org) and the Washington State Department of Ecology.
This was a valuable internship to both myself and the community. I would highly recommend it to someone. I learned a lot about the Walla Walla watershed and working with a non-profit organization.