Anacostia Watershed Blog

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


Our annual Earth Day Cleanup & Celebration event is less than 2½ weeks away! Please join us this year in honoring Earth Day on April 21 by helping clean up the watershed. Most cleanup activities run from 9 am to noon; for specific locations (nearly 40 total!) and times, please visit our Earth Day Google Map. Following the cleanup will be a celebration (part of The Nature Conservancy’s Picnic for the Planet) at RFK Stadium parking lot #6 from noon to 2 pm featuring live music, guest speakers, exhibits, organizational tables, and free food and drinks prepared by Seafarer’s Yacht Club. For more details please visit our Earth Day webpage.

Transforming the 11th Street Bridge Project

By Guest Blogger Scott Kratz, 11th St. Recreation Bridge Project Volunteer

Conceptual Image

Rivers have always been a place for gathering. Our earliest settlements were natural venues for the cities that would eventually spring to life along the riverbanks - think Paris, London, New York, and New Orleans. Unfortunately, industry and commerce brought pollution, too, and we turned our backs on once lush landscapes. We built highways along embankments, left once busy shipping piers to rot, and littered our shorelines with abandoned warehouses and rust.

But imagine what could be. Change is in the air as cities across the US are beginning to realize rivers can become assets, not merely polluted liabilities. For the last several decades, groups like the Anacostia Watershed Society have been working to restore local rivers and educate the public about resources often hidden in front of us, in plain sight.

Rally for Clean Water, Annapolis

Gov. Martin O'Malley takes the stage to address the crowd.

Organized by Clean Water, Healthy Families (a coalition of environmental organizations in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, of which AWS is a member), on March 28, 2012, more than 100 people gathered in front of the Maryland State House (an area known as the Lawyer’s Mall) advocating for clean water legislation. Currently there are 3 bills moving through the Maryland General Assembly that would protect the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries, helping to make them safe to swim and fish in, create jobs, reduce stormwater runoff, and protect public health:

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.

Georgetown Day School Gets a Jump on Spring!

The AWS education and stewardship teams were fortunate to have sixteen students from Georgetown Day School over on February 28 for a morning of watershed education, hard work, and even a little bit of fun. These students spent most of their time planting rice sprouts in preparation for a wetland stewardship project in several weeks. So far they have been responsible for creating a healthy sand and soil mixture, filling several flats with this mixture, and then very delicately placing the germinated seeds just under the surface of the soil. All told, we now have 512 new rice “plugs” under grow lights here in our office. It is obvious that these students did an excellent job, as many of these rice plants have sprouted stems of a couple centimeters and a few even have tiny leaves already! This was our first Rice Rangers planting activity of the season and it has set a great precedent for our work to come. Thanks to the Georgetown Day School students for all their hard work!

Voluntarily Happy

According to a Gretchen Rubin, volunteering has a much more profound benefit than you might imagine. It turns out that the service you provide by donating your time and efforts has just as many benefits to the volunteer as it does to the recipient of the service.

In her article Voluntarily Happy, she explains how the benefits of volunteering reach far beyond just those you are serving. "Studies show that this habit boosts happiness; those who work to further the causes they value tend to be happier and healthier, experience fewer aches and pains, and even live longer. They show fewer signs of physical and mental aging" (Rubin, 2012). 

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.

The Wildlife of the Watershed

With the help of our outstanding stewardship interns last year, we started an exercise of compiling checklists of the wildlife reported in the watershed, for which there is a considerable amount of information available out there. We were able to determine the conservation status of the species, at least on a state level (for Maryland and DC) by using NatureServe's Conservation Status Ranks. We consulted several sources including the District of Columbia Wildlife Action Plan, the National Park Service, the Anacostia River Watershed Restoration Plan, the website of Friends of Sligo Creek, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, and others.



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