Many hands make for short work. But, in this strange year of 2020, our restoration team has really missed being able to work with local volunteers. I was able to fill this emotional void by touring around amazing meadows in the Willamette Valley and Oregon coast with Team Blue 4, a volunteer National Civilian Community Corps, or AmeriCorps NCCC, team. The AmeriCorps program engages 18- to 24-year-olds in team-based national and community service in the United States. As the Restoration Technician, I had the distinct pleasure to work in the field with Blue 4 daily throughout the seven weeks IAE hosted them in Corvallis, Oregon. They functioned as a family unit, living and working together, making COVID-19 safety precautions a bit easier to manage for them. Working together we got lots of amazing work done at 11 wonderful locations! BIG shout out to Blue 4 for all the hard work!
Blue 4 had the opportunity to work at the beautiful Nestucca Bay National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), a site managed by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service South of Cloverdale, Oregon. Over the course of a week, we planted 15,000 early blue violets (Viola adunca)! This is a whopping number of plants to be packed into very dense violet islands in the middle of these coastal meadows. Early blue violet has a crucial relationship with Oregon silverspot butterfly (Speyeria zerene hippolyta), a threatened species. The butterfly lays eggs on the violet and the young larva rely on the violet as a food source. The work Blue 4 did at Nestucca Bay will have lasting benefits for the Oregon silverspot butterfly for years to come. Be proud, team! Great work! Thank you to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for their support of this project.
Meadow habitat is a very important ecotype to sustain Oregon’s biodiversity, and Blue 4 was able to visit and make positive impacts on many unique places in western Oregon. Invasive plant infestation and Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) encroachment are two things strongly impacting these wonderful places. We worked to remove Scotch broom (Cytisus scoparius) from meadows and invested time removing trees. Removal of Douglas fir helps open space for nearby Oregon white oak (Quercus garryana) to have room to grow, and also increases the amount of grassy meadow by allowing more sunlight to reach meadow plant species. Blue 4 worked hard to remove the massive amount of limbs and trunk biomass from the meadows, and really persevered when the rain came down upon us in full force.
Habitat restoration employs lots of different tools and techniques in order to meet our goals. Blue 4 had the opportunity to participate in many of these activities. IAE staff provided thorough instruction and safe spaces for team members to have introductory training on flame weeding, chainsaw use, axe and handsaw use, and hand seeding of native plants. Each member of Blue 4 was able to push their boundaries, learn new skills, operate new equipment, overcome environmental challenges, work together as an efficient team and gain some real-world experience with implementing science-based actions in order to enhance an ecosystem.
The experience gained by Blue 4 volunteering with Institute for Applied Ecology will have some long-lasting effects on the members of the team, much like the long lasting positive effects the team had on the 11 meadows they worked to restore. All of us who love our local meadows and the unique plants, animals and fungi residing within owe a debt of gratitude for the immense amount of work this team has given us. Thank you Blue 4!