Woodland High at River Garden Farms

SLEWS Program | Sacramento Valley | January 21st, 2021

Location of the Field Day:
River Garden Farms

Partners/Landowners:
River Garden Farms
Audubon California
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Participating School:
Woodland High School

Mentors:
Fanny Ye, NRCS
Jared Borba, UC Davis
Katy Dynarski, UC Davis Soils and Biogeochemistry
Laura McGowan, UC Davis Atmospheric Science
Ross Brennan, UC Davis Entomology

Accomplishments: 200 shrubs planted

Summary of the Day:
Twelve Woodland High School students accompanied teacher Jerry Delsol to a cool, foggy riparian habitat restoration site for their second of three SLEWS days at River Garden Farms. The goals for the day were to help staff from River Garden Farms, Audubon California and US Fish & Wildlife plant a variety of different trees and shrubs native to the area, and to learn about some of the bird and mammal species that will benefit from these habitat restoration efforts.

After an Opening Circle and planting demonstration provided by Matthew Danielczek of Audubon California, the students divided into four groups and focused on planting native shrubs and trees along two rows of drip irrigation that they had installed during their first visit in October. The Woodland high school students upheld their reputation of being hard-working as they planted about 200 trees and shrubs alongside their UC-Davis mentors in saturated clay soils. As they moved along the irrigation line, students got to choose which species to plant from a variety of 16 different trees and shrubs, and made sure to alternate shrubs and trees to reduce competition for sunlight. Once the plants were in the ground and quality control was completed, River Garden Farms staff were on hand to install the emitters that will deliver water to each of the plants during the summer dry season. The collaboration resulted in an efficient habitat restoration operation!

Students were rewarded for their efforts with some sunshine and a hearty lunch of burritos sunshine before the focus shifted from habitat restoration to learning about native species that will benefit from this riparian habitat planting. Everyone played a game of “Who Am I?” to learn about different bird, mammal and plant species native to the Sacramento Valley. Once they identified the identity of the species on the card they were given, each student shared a fun fact about their species based on the information on the back of their card. To wrap up the day, SLEWS Coordinator Matt Lechmaier shared some study skins and animal artifacts of some interesting wildlife native to the area.

During their third and final SLEWS day scheduled for Thursday, March 16th, restoration efforts will include finishing the irrigation system and installing wildlife nesting structures, and learning activities will include soil testing and learning from mentors about their education and work experience.

Thanks to everyone for everyone’s contribution to a fun and successful day. A special thanks to Jeremy Channel Ferree for documenting the day’s accomplishments and for representing River Garden Farms staff. His blog and Facebook posts can be found here:

http://www.rivergardenfarms.com/news/river-garden-farms-has-its-second-slews-day/
https://www.facebook.com/rivergardenfarms/

A day of birds, boxes, and bugs

Woodland High School at Capay Open Space Park
SLEWS Program | Sacramento Valley | March 4, 2020

Participating School
Woodland High School

Partners/Landowners
Yolo County Resource Conservation District
Cache Creek Conservancy

Mentors
Grace Auringer, Technician, Genomic Variation Lab
Matt Clement, Facilities Steward, Center for Land-Based Learning
Mandi Finger, Associate Director, Genomic Variation Lab

Summary of the Day
For our fourth and final day with Woodland High School, we were back at Capay Open Space Park. By breakfast it was already shaping up to be a warm day, and students arrived eager to get to work. We started the day with a game of “all aboard”, a game in which students attempt to stand on one foot on a tarp that keeps decreasing in size by half. When the game became impossible, we met up with Corey Shake, a biologist who gave us an introduction to bird boxes.

Nest boxes provide valuable breeding habitat for cavity nesting birds like Western Bluebirds when natural cavities are difficult to find. Michael Perrone and Joe Zinkl of Yolo Audubon were on deck to demonstrate how these boxes are built, and then mentor groups set to work assembling the boxes and attaching them to a long pole for installation.

Once the nest boxes were ready to go, Corey gave an instructional demonstration on how to use binoculars. We went on a walk to the installation sites and stopped along the way to do some birding. Mentor groups competed against each other to see which group could identify the most birds – the winning group identified 13 species! Some of the birds we saw included: Peregrine Falcon, Northern Mockingbird, Western Scrub Jay, White-crowned Sparrow, Anna’s Hummingbird, Common Raven, Red-tailed Hawk, Turkey Vulture, Tree Swallow, Black Phoebe, Western Meadowlark, Mourning Dove, California Quail, House Finch, Great Blue Heron, Red-shouldered Hawk, Yellow-rumped Warbler, and American White Pelican.

Amongst blooming redbuds, we installed 4 bluebird boxes along Cache Creek before heading down to the creekbed for our next activity: macroinvertebrate sampling. Elise Stinnett of Cache Creek Conservancy gave an introduction that showed students the types of macroinvertebrates we might see, and what they can tell us about the health of the creek. Four students donned mud boots to enter the creek and collect samples, and students were able to identify macroinvertebrates like dragonfly nymphs, mosquito larvae, and mayfly larvae. Looking at the species overall, students determined that this was a moderately healthy creek, as it included species that you’d expect to see in a healthy creek AND an unhealthy creek. Students were also excited to see many frogs jumping around by the creek’s edge.

After lunch and a celebratory cake, we sat down to write thank you notes to someone who made this SLEWS project possible. As students worked on their thank you notes, I asked for autographs on a “SLEWS was here!” sign that will be installed at our other project site (and new CLBL headquarters), the Maples.

To conclude the day, students shared their favorite experiences from all 4 of our Field Days together. Responses included hanging out by the creek, riding the argo across the creek, building bird boxes, spending time with friends, and planting.

The need to weed!

Woodland High School at the Maples
SLEWS Program | Sacramento Valley | February 19, 2020

Participating School
Woodland High School

Partners/Landowners
Yolo County Resource Conservation District

Mentors
Grace Auringer, Technician, Genomic Variation Lab
Mandi Finger, Associate Director, Genomic Variation Lab
Matt Clement
Matt Young, Fish Biologist, California Water Science Center, USGS

Summary of the Day
As you may recall, our SLEWS project with Woodland High School is actually two projects – two days at the Maples in Woodland, and two days at Capay Open Space Park. This was our third field day after one at the Maples and one at COSP, making it our final day at the Maples.

We had a small crew on this day which made PVC golf trickier than usual (you have to run FAST to get to the front of the group before the golf ball does!) but two groups won the game incredibly quickly. After that, it was time to group up to learn about the restoration work for the day.

Since we planted all the plants on our first field day here, our next task was to make sure these plants are given the best chance at survival. Installing “tubex” tubes around each plant will help protect them from pests, herbicides, and wind and will create a mini greenhouse for the young plants. Before installing the tubes, students checked to make sure the emitter was working properly, and created a soil “berm” on the low side of the plant to prevent all the water from flowing into the basin. But one of the biggest problems for these plants will be competition from weeds! To combat this, we mulched around each plant with a THICK (two “leaves” or “flakes” worth) of straw. This will prevent weeds from growing up around the plant, so they’ll have better access to resources like water and sunlight.

Speaking of weeds – there was already tons of cheeseweed and milkthistle sprouting up in our planting area. After a quick lesson on how to identify these pesky weeds, students set to work attacking each and every one! Students were very inquisitive as they worked – asking what benefit weeding would have for the plants, and asking to be reminded of the species we planted last time and their role in the ecosystem.

After lunch, we donned binoculars and set off to explore nearby Cache Creek. We spotted many different species of birds and took some time to relax and enjoy the view from the levee.

At closing circle, students were asked what they had learned that day. Popular mentions were how to identify milkweed and cheeseweed, how to use binoculars, and the benefits of mulching. As for favorite moments of the day, the clear winner was a surprise – weeding!