Engaging students and the public in stewardship and participatory research
For those who take the time to look and listen, the Raritan River is a haven for an astonishing variety of wildlife, including at least seven endangered or threatened bird species. Along with federally threatened plant species like swamp pink and Nuttal’s mudwort, those bird populations are clinging to life in the watershed by a thread. Conservation groups like New Jersey Audubon are anxious to figure out how best to protect these species, but there are still huge gaps in knowledge about species site preferences and how urbanization affects these species nesting productivity and migration patterns.
With their Innovation Grant, New Jersey Audubon partnered with Raritan Valley Community College (which has the largest environmental program of any community college in the country) to work with 80 environmental science and field biology students and 30 people from the community to conduct river clean-ups and collect data on bird and plant species in the watershed. Data collected was used to help determine the key places to protect and restore. In addition, the project team challenged a handful of the students to conduct a service project to educate others about the river, collect more valuable data on the river’s wildlife, and restore a portion of the watershed.