Anacostia Watershed Blog

Imperviousness & Stream Health

By Michael Schramm, Stewardship Intern

I joined AWS last month as one of several stewardship interns. I have gotten to meet and talk with many volunteers at cleanup events and our Paddle Nights. From those interested in the health of the Anacostia, some of the questions I’ve heard most frequently so far are:

Beating Back Phragmites

Our 2 years of hacking, mowing and spraying Phragmites in the mud are paying off! There's only about 37% regrowth of Phragmites reeds at our wetland restoration site north of NY Avenue Bridge in Colmar Manor, MD. This fringe wetland is located on the west bank of the River between the confluence with Dueling Creek and the NY Ave. Bridge, the MD/DC border. This site used to be part of a wetland revegetation effort that was left unattended (not by AWS, though!), the result, a 30,745 sq. ft. dense population of Phragmites (Phragmites australis). For the newbies, Phragmites is a fast-growing grass native to the Old World that aggressively outcompetes the local native wetland plants, forming monocultures that encroach upon both natural and restored wetlands and reduces the species diversity in the wetland ecosystem.


The yellow area shows the 30,745 sq. ft. population of Phragmites we have been removing for the last 2 years right by the MD/DC border.

Concocting a Solution to our Trash Problem, Thoughts from the Trash Trap Site

By Kelci Schexnayder, Stewardship Intern

Hello from AWS! Last week we had a group of elementary school girls come out with us to the river, take a ride on our pontoon boat, and do some activities to learn about the wide variety of sources of pollution. A fellow intern told me about one gal who drew a beautiful solution to the litter problem, a trash can smack dab in the middle of the river for people to use instead of tossing their litter into the waters. What she didn’t know is that the AWS already has their own similar version of this! Our "trash trap" was installed in early 2009 and replaced with an updated version just last summer.


This trash was intercepted by our trash trap during a rain event at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens in Northeast Washington, DC. AWS has found that bottles make up 45% of the trash volume.

How not to be a “TREE KILLER!”

By Chase Bergeson, AWS Stewardship intern

The other day, I helped to lead a group of elementary schoolers on a field trip to the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens in Northeast DC. Out in the mud some of the kids seems a little dubious about planting wild rice and were mostly worried about getting dirty. I wasn't thinking that we had a new group of environmentalists under our wing, but apparently they took their educational experience to heart. Upon passing a maintenance man pruning some trees along the trail, the kids began to shout: "Stop that!" "You’re hurting it." "Leave that tree alone!" "TREE KILLER!" I was astonished to learn that we had some tree huggers all along.

And while their hearts were in the right place, their shouts were uncalled for. The man was actually helping the trees. If you want to make sure that you don’t have a group of 40 ten-year-olds coming after you (they can be pretty scary when they want to be!), then keep reading for some tips about properly taking care of your trees!

Of Bees and the River

By Jason Martin, AWS Stewardship Intern

Hello, my name is Jason and I'm a Stewardship Intern here at AWS. In addition to the many wonderful projects that are done in and around the watershed, one new project that we will be doing throughout the summer focuses on the native bee populations in the watershed. Some of you might be thinking, "What do bees have to do with the Anacostia?" Well, bees are some of the best (if not the best) pollinators in nature and much of the plant life in and around the Anacostia River and its watershed depends on them to survive and thrive.

Outdoor Classrooms are Good for Brains

The outdoor classroom is the perfect environment for people to learn, using both sides of their brain actively -- so 200 students at Kelly Miller Middle School built one at their school. Their outdoor classroom has garden space, fruit trees, and circular seating to promote participation. Funded by the District Department of the Environment through the RiverSmart Schools program, and with the help of American University and the Anacostia Watershed Society, students hammered nails into 2x6s, dug holes for trees, and moved 23 cubic yards of soil and mulch. And they did it all in one day like a Yard Crashers episode! 

Check out these pictures of their great work:

outdoor classroom at Kelly Miller Middle School

Understanding the Anacostia’s Water Quality Report Card

During Earth Month AWS released the second annual State of the Anacostia River report card. The river received an overall water quality score of C- based on the parameters we assessed. But what does that really mean?

Partnering to Teach Kids About the River

AWS has been fortunate to partner with the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation and FedEx to expand our environmental education program and give DC schoolchildren hands-on experiences in helping to restore the river and understand their environment. NFWF and FedEx recently created a video showcasing this work. Check it out!

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.

A Leafy Way to Spend a Saturday

This past Saturday, more than 70 volunteers of all ages joined AWS staff and interns to plant trees on the hillside surrounding the Bladensburg Wetlands!

Many thanks to the wonderful volunteers pictured below, as well the others who have joined us in the last two weeks! As a direct result of their hard work, we have planted more than 100 of the 900 trees planned for this location.  

We still need your help! Tree plantings with AWS are scheduled for every Saturday in April! Click here to visit the calendar to sign up, or call our Volunteer Coordinator at 301-699-6204 ext. 109. 

See you there!


Austin (AWS intern) helps two volunteers break up soil that has been compacted over the years, giving roots room to grow!

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