Community Involvement through Education
NewFields staff is committed to the exchange of knowledge and ideas in the field of ecological restoration. Staff regularly present papers at professional conferences, as well as help organize educational workshops and meetings.
NewFields is also dedicated to ecological science education, particularly through community-based public education projects. Our involvement includes:
- Planting a native wildlife garden in Los Angeles with local youth interns and volunteers.
- Establishing a native habitat restoration ecology and natural resource enrichment program for high-school students.
- Developing an educational website and science curricula focusing on a wetland restoration site.
- Participating in science outreach events.
- Establishing restoration research programs with local colleges.
Native Wildlife Garden at Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area
We teamed on a Metropolitan Water District (MWD) community grant with Los Angeles Audubon, Friends of Baldwin Hills, and the California Native Plant Society, Los Angeles and Santa Monica Chapters to plant a native wildlife garden in Los Angeles at the Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area. This project included training local youth as interns at the site, to check plant health and monitor wildlife use of the developing plant community. The interns gained insight into the ecology of California and learned that there are professional opportunities as ecologist and biologists. NewFields continues to manage the native garden, conducting volunteer days where students and the community help to plant additional native plants, weed and mulch the site, and learn about the benefits of restoring natural habitat in an area surrounded by urbanization.
Baldwin Hills Outdoor Resources Enrichment Program
NewFields and Los Angeles Audubon, with a grant from the Baldwin Hills Conservancy, have established a native habitat restoration ecology and natural resource enrichment program at the new Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook that will support the Native Plant Garden planned for the visitor center. The program is a hands-on module for high school-level students in native habitat restoration ecology and natural resources management.
The Enrichment program emphasizes plant identification, Native American uses of plants, native plant seed collection and propagation, weed control, soil science, the foundation of native plants for bird habitat and wildlife habitat management, water quality, and watershed management.
Currently one high school is participating in the program and there are plans to add another high school in early 2009. Students from Dorsey High School applied for positions as science interns with a second program for restoration leaders. To date, the science interns and student restoration leaders have completed the following program activities:
- Participated in a week long restoration boot camp where they got hands-on lessons with soils, weeds and native plants as well as GPS and GIS technology.
- Science interns wrote project proposals for habitat restoration of cactus and native grasses that included literature cited sections and budgets. The student interns are now conducting those research projects within the State park and at the greenhouse.
- Habitat restoration at the Least Tern Colony at Venice Beach – removed invasive species, worked with biologists to set up experimental plots, and learned about sandy beach ecology
- Day long session at the UCLA library – learned how to access online databases and library holdings to research their project topics; viewed rare science and art books; toured the botanical garden; met a PhD candidate and learned about her research.
- Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area native wildlife garden – participated in two volunteer planting days.
- Some restoration leaders and interns have attended Los Angeles Audubon evening meetings. They recently attended a biologist’s presentation regarding GIS mapping of Important Bird Areas.
- Restoration leaders have all participated in birdwalks along the urban section of Ballona Creek. Both groups are working on a Power Point presentation about their respective research programs to present to fellow students in December.
- Greenhouse Halloween – interns learned about insect classification, insect and spider anatomy and morphology.
In addition to their participation in the program, both groups have taken on leadership roles in their respective campus eco-clubs, independent of their research and volunteer work within the Outdoor Enrichment Program.
Students actively participate in the comprehensive process to transform the former development tract at the current Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook into a functioning native ecosystem. Key to the program has been the upgrading and re-invigorating the existing greenhouse located at the site where the students will grow the plants that will be used to enhance the native plant garden and to contribute native plants for local volunteer planting events in the park. The greenhouse will become the hub for future volunteer programs as well as the Enrichment program.
Bonita Creek Interactive Classroom Website
NewFields coordinated the development of an educational website for the Transportation Corridor Agencies under a grant from the Metropolitan Water District. The website provides a virtual tour and science curricula focusing on the Bonita Creek wetland restoration site. The virtual tour provides the opportunity to explore Bonita Creek from a computer in the classroom or home. The web-based education curriculum allows teachers to download the science education program in the classroom or on-site at Bonita Creek. The website highlights the role of native plants in the environment and the importance of restoring wetlands and riparian habitats to improve water quality, conserve water, and provide habitat for wildlife. The website address is: www.bonitacreekclassroom.com.
K-12 Science Outreach
NewFields has participated in science outreach events sponsored by the University of California at Irvine, School of Biological Sciences. The programs bring real world science and research to high school and middle school students in the greater Los Angeles and Orange County areas. Events included science fair judging and “Ask-A-Scientist” evenings, where students learned about various careers in science.
Research Course at Irvine Valley College
NewFields partnered with a local college and created an advanced restoration research course that taught the community about the importance of native habitats and restoring their lands. Students with ongoing research projects worked with NewFields’ staff in the lab and field to evaluate ecological restoration methods. Simultaneously we gained insight into current restoration methods while providing research opportunities to undergraduate students. The program was highlighted at the 2002 annual joint meeting of the Ecological Society of America and the Society for Ecological Restoration in Tucson, Arizona.
NewFields Habitat Restoration Ecologists lead ecological tours sponsored by the Transportation Corridor Agencies every spring. This is a unique opportunity for the public to see native habitat areas that were preserved or restored in association with the construction of Orange County’s public Toll Roads. The Spring 2008 Tours included a burn recovery hike at Siphon Reservoir; wildflower and bird watching at Upper Chiquita Canyon; wildlife undercrossing hike at Upper Laurel Canyon; and a restoration and bird watching tour at the Bonita Creek wetlands. For more information about the annual Native Habitat Tour Series, call TCA at 949-754-3405 or watch for the announcements on the TCA’s website: www.thetollroads.com.