Anacostia Watershed Blog

Is It Summer Already?

The saying goes "April showers bring May flowers," not "April droughts bring May sprouts." This spring, we are experiencing some interesting weather that is making our work a little more strenuous: the combination of rising temperatures and little to no precipitation is testing the endurance of our plants and of our watershed overall.

First, as I've mentioned before when talking about our wetland plant nursery, the early rise in temperatures has had an interesting effect on our work. There have been some nice impacts of this trend, such as seeds germinating and trees budding early, but the early jump leaves a few concerns on our minds.

This Week at AWS

This week is a busy one in the stewardship office. Actually, all of April is pretty action-packed for us, but this week, we have been working on a smorgasbord of different projects. So, let's review...

On Monday, Jorge and I took our DNR StreamWaders gear and headed to a channelized stream in Colmar Manor to do some macroinvertebrate sampling. We were surprised that in this concrete waterway, with almost no natural habitat, we found a big crayfish in our bucket! That's interesting news for the folks over at DNR, no doubt.

A big crayfish (cambarus acuminatus) found in our sample

Laying in bed all day ... wetbeds, that is!

Last week, our stewardship interns Austin and Kristen went out to the wetbeds at the Bladensburg Wetlands (ANA-11) to plant a bunch of the wild rice and other wetland plants we collected over the fall. We plan on using all 19 wetbeds that we installed last year with Lori's Chesapeake Bay Trust grant award (the All Hands On Deck project, another of which I will be leading in a couple months! Details to come.). Most of our beds will fill with wild rice, as well as arrow arum and pickerelweed.

Two of our interns this spring, Kristen and Austin from University of Maryland College Park, preparing trays and planting wild rice seedlings.

This year's wild rice harvest

Wild rice trays at AWS office
Trays of wild rice growing in the AWS office

It's been quite a winter (and now, basically, spring!) for these wild rice seeds, which have come a long way from when we harvested them last fall. Looking at what we've done to store and propagate them, it's really interesting to compare it to the normal cycle of life for a wild rice plant in our watershed.

Let's start with the seed. The wild rice around our watershed usually are ready to harvest around September, all the way through October. Around that time, as the fall weather gets colder and turns to winter, the wild rice seeds that remain are either eaten by the birds or lie dormant in pockets of mud.

AWS Species Special: The Paw Paw

This time around, we're focusing on a sweeter species than usual. The paw paw is a well-known but little-publicized fruit, native to almost the entire East Coast and central Midwest. Its use has been traced back to early indigenous peoples in America, from ropes and nets to a vital food source.

This tree is the northernmost tropical fruit this side of the Equator, and as such has many similarities to pineapples, mangoes, and bananas. Its texture is rough and it has many seeds, and it also doesn't preserve well, so it is not popular in grocery stores. It is, however, quickly becoming the topic of study of many nutritionists as the next "superfood," similar to the pomegranate in its rich nutritional content.

Stewardship Team presents the new "Species Special"

New Species Special series! First edition: Tulip poplar

We are excited to announce our new spotlight series, called the Species Special. Each episode, we're going to highlight one of the species (be it a woody plant, herbaceous, wetland, a combination, etc.) that we at Anacostia Watershed Society favor in our conservation work, that are native to the Chesapeake Bay watershed and have high value for wildlife, streambank stabilization, nutrient reduction, or any number of other benefits that our projects yield.

This edition is on the Tulip Poplar, or the liriodendron tulipifera. This species's native range goes from southern Illinois east to New England, and as far south as Louisiana and Florida. It is the state tree of Indiana, Kentucky, AND Tennessee.

Volunteer with the AWS crew; Saturday's cleanup at Indian Creek was a success

This Saturday, AWS partnered with Citizens to Conserve & Restore Indian Creek (CCRIC) in Beltsville for an extremely productive and fun cleanup. We collected more than 825 pounds of bagged trash, 435 pounds of large trash items, and 250 pounds of tires.  In the video, AWS Volunteer and Membership Coordinator Maddie Koenig talks about the day's progress, Vicky of CCRIC shares about the work CCRIC does, and I share a bit of what we've done in the past year as a whole!

Baltimore Aquarium Conservation Team visits AWS

ACT staff with Stewardship Team Masaya presenting at Nash Run Trash Trap
Aquarium Conservation Team staff at Bladensburg Waterfront Park (above) and visiting the Nash Run Trash Trap (below).

On Monday, my fellow Chesapeake Conservation Corps Volunteer Laura Cattell brought her Conservation Team at the National Aquarium in Baltimore down for a visit.  We had the pleasure of introducing them to our watershed, engaging them in some cleanup work and sharing trade secrets.

As we always do, we highlighted the historic quality of the Anacostia River -- how much life in the early colonial period of this area depended on the river -- as well as showing our organization's approach to the challenges we face today.  Our guests were amazed when Eric mentioned that prior to agricultural development and unsustainable settlement, Bladensburg was a bigger port than Baltimore!

First ever podcast! Jorge collects seed for meadow project

This is our first ever video here at the Anacostia Watershed Society!  I went with our conservation biologist Jorge to collect seed at Beltsville Agricultural Research Center (aka BARC) to collect seeds from the National Plant Materials Center that we will use in revegetating the Anacostia Riparian Meadow Restoration (ARMR) site.

Special thanks to Sara Tangren of Chesapeake Natives for letting us collect the seed and teaching us a little about the plants we harvested.

Stay tuned for many more videos -- from highlights on volunteer opportunities, to DIY & Bay-friendly watershed stewardship activities, to spotlights on the many programs we manage throughout the watershed!  Enjoy!

What it means to be a Chesapeake Conservation Corps Volunteer

Canoes at Bladensburg Waterfront Park

Hello! This is Jamie Phillips, AWS’s newest team member.  I am working with the Stewardship team through the Chesapeake Conservation Corps program through next summer.  To me, this program is a win-win situation for the environmental movement: not only do organizations such as this one get extra help at no cost to them (which I’ll explain shortly), but young environmentalists such as myself get a great learning and service experience as a full-time part of an environmental nonprofit group.