Project GROW – year three

Sonoma Valley High School students build nesting boxes at Bouverie Preserve as part of Project GROW.

Over the course of the past three years, Sonoma Valley High School students have worked diligently to install what will, when completed, constitute all the components of an oak woodland at Glen Ellen’s Bouverie Preserve.

Under the aegis of Project GROW, which stands for Gathering to Restore Oak Woodlands, the students are guided by ecologists, biologists, teachers and volunteer mentors in this, the third year of habitat restoration at the preserve.  The ultimate goal, restore the oak woodland to its former glory.  Included in the deal, hands on science and agriculture programming for students who get to take the lesson outside the classroom and then apply it to real-world careers in a related field.

On this particular outing, their second of the year, 29 sophomore and junior students along with SVHS science teacher Christina Schreiber, first embarked on a habitat hike where they learned the importance of tree cavities for songbird nesting.  Following the hike, the students worked in teams to build nesting boxes for birds like the western bluebird, tree swallow, house wren, and nut hatch.  Following the nest box activity, students and mentors set out to monitor the survival of understory plants that they planted together during a previous field trip in November.  The students will be back again in April when they will monitor the survival of oak tree saplings planted earlier.

“Having multiple field days for students is a great opportunity to monitor the impact of their habitat restoration actions first-hand,” said Jeanne Wirka, resident biologist at the preserve. “The results of the February field day will help bring cavity nesting birds to the area – which are incredibly important to the oak woodland ecosystem.”

Other information gathered by the students will be used to track long-term project success and prioritize and future restoration needs, including irrigation repairs, replacement plantings and weed control.

Since the project began in December 2009, Sonoma Valley High students have participated in seven oak woodland restoration field days at Bouverie Preserve, assisted in planting more than 400 hand-gathered acorns, planted more than 1,000 native grass plugs, established GPS mapping of the restoration areas, created and installed irrigation systems and built and installed 15 nest boxes for three restoration sites at the preserve.

Project GROW is a unique partnership between ACR, the Southern Sonoma County Resource Conservation District, and the Center for Land-Based Learning’s Student & Landowner Education & Watershed Stewardship program to restore eight acres of oak woodlands at ACR’s Bouverie Preserve in Glen Ellen.  The project was made possible through funding by the California Department of Transportation to mitigate the loss of 117 oak trees during construction of widening and safety work on Highway 12 in Glen Ellen. Mitigation for the loss of oak trees is required by state law.

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