The Friends of Alewife Reservation 2009 Ecology Camp of Rindge and Latin students is in full swing with ecological training, earth science education, and environmental management skill-building. Tree pruning and mulching were taught by David Lefcourt, arborist at the Cambridge DPW, and pole sawing with Renee Toll-Dubois of the Eagle Eye Institute. Over 25 trees have been mulched and pruned in the restored meadow leading to the Bulfinch Company Discovery Park and Acorn Park Drive. Campers’ interest in the care for the Reservations’ trees goes beyond pure maintenance, as they have taken a preservation interest in the history and protection of the silver maple forest. Observations of “the mother tree”, that seeded the land 100 years ago, and led to a rare forest in the Boston region, noted to be "unique" by wetland scientist Charles Katuska. An ever-changing marsh-uplands ecosystem was compared with 1970s diverse vegetation, soil and hydrology maps. Engineer Ingeborg Hegemann used historical maps to illustrate the changing route of the Little River and the wetlands. Campers were given the chance to work within Muskrat Marsh, removing the invasive species, purple loosestrife, and observing signs of the galarucella beetle, placed by the DCR to combat its spread.
Bikers watching campers have delighted in their maintenance of the public North Trail. The youth cleared overgrowth of the old fishing trail to the forest while identifying native and invasive plant species. Russ Cohen of Arlington taught the campers about edible plants and different recipes for teas and medicinal uses. Youth have spotted three deer, a red fox, two hawks, and a grouse. Darren Barnes, a sophomore wrote, “The deer looked as if it wanted to run into the forest away from us. It was likely born on the reservation because of its size. This is a good place for it to live because of the trees and plants for food and cover.” Deer sightings were a first for many of the campers.
Education of plants and wildlife by consultants has enhanced the critical thinking of campers, illustrated by daily journal writing and WIKI web pages. Art teacher Janet Hobbs, conducted a session in plant drawing and landscape painting. Afterwards, campers visited the recently opened Friends of Alewife Reservation photo show at 150 Cambridge Park Drive (showing through August 14) to enjoy the professional photographers' rendition of Alewife Reservation. The campers met photographer Brooke Mohnkern to discuss light and perspective and were able to compare the photos with their own drawings.
During the next three weeks FAR Ecology Camp will visit the sustainable Blue Heron Farm in Lincoln for a hands-on organic farming experience. They will take a work shop in solar energy with last year’s specialist John Francis in order to connect their lessons on home energy practices to solar and wind energy dynamics. They will continue studying and practicing water quality monitoring techniques with Matt Wilson and compare them to the actual tests of the Mystic River Watershed Association. The campers have learned about the floodplain nature of the Alewife Reservation and how CSOs are the present-day polluter differing from the 1800's tanneries. These skills and observations of water quality management will assist in their day of studying macro-invertebrates with Arlene Olivero.