Monitoring and Analysis of Youth Restoration Projects

Carly Schmidt is a Masters candidate in Northern Arizona University’s program in Environmental Science and Policy. She spent the summer of 2015 with the Borderlands Earth Care Youth Institute, and developed a method for evaluating the personal, community, and ecological impacts of the program. 

Early Outcomes of BECY Restoration – November 13, 2015

This weekend, I will make the six-hour drive to Patagonia for my fourth round of pollinator habitat monitoring. While I am still working on compiling results from various metrics, I would like to share what I have learned over the past 4 months of analysis.

The terrace gardens at PUHS' living lab.Above: BECY students working on the Watershed Living Lab at Patagonia Union High School, with the 2014 terraces featured in front.

The past four months have mostly been spent compiling survey and observational information about the BECY Institute. The most measurable changes in BECY participants was seen in student learning over the course of the six-week summer internship program. This information will provide the basis of my thesis, but it is not the only element of the BECY Institute that I am interested in.

I have been traveling to Patagonia monthly to monitor the pollinator habitat garden that BECY participants implemented in June of 2015. Now that I have 4 of 5 measurements, I am able to piece together meaningful information about the efficacy of restoration design, implementation, and monitoring.

In order to measure the success of this new pollinator habitat, I will look specifically and the functional group diversity of plant-pollinator interactions based on the species that were planted and the insects and animals they support. A functional group is a biological category composed of organisms that perform the same kind of function in a system. For example, the California fuchsia, which was planted in the pollinator garden, functions as a critical late-season nectar source for hummingbird and bee species.

The following graph shows the main pollinator fauna that support the pollinator species planted in the new restored habitat. The academic literature on plant-pollinator interactions states that plant communities would benefit from a greater diversity of pollinator fauna. In other words, the success of a pollinator garden is defined in part by the variety of critters coming to visit. When it comes to a pollinator habitat, the more (diversity), the merrier!

 

WLLPollinatorChartNov15

 

My academic background is not in ecology, however I am enjoying about the unique characteristics of these pollinator species! I hope that this information might inform future efforts to restore pollinator habitat in Patagonia in the future.

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