Environmental Monitoring: Sandhill Native Plant Restoration

Here at San Lorenzo Valley High School, students are offered many different opportunities to excel in all around school whether it is in athletics, theatre or science. In the field of science, Ms. Orbuch offers one particular extracurricular activity that appeals to science lovers school-wide. Under her watchful eye students conduct local environmental monitoring projects. These students spend many hours before and after school looking at different factors that play important roles in our environment. Some projects focus on weather patterns, river conditions, water quality and native animal populations. Each project focuses on a specific topic while gathering data.

This month’s featured project is a study of the Sandhills conducted by Lily Maness, Harena Haile and Veronica Varner.  The group of students involved in the project said that their study in the sandhills consists two main stages. First, they see how the sandhills’ native plant species are doing. The second stage, which they are currently involved in, is to plant the collected native seeds to influence growth.

Choosing a topic that the whole group is passionate about is the first and most important step. For Maness, the decision to study the sandhills came to her naturally. Maness said, “I was a freshman and my sister (who was a junior) and her friend were beginning an environmental monitoring project and they asked me to join. We looked at the open topics and Mrs.Orbuch told us about the sandhills. We went out with our mentor Suzanne to count the native plant species and we absolutely loved it!”

The Ben Lomond Spineflower.  Source: staticflickr.com
The Ben Lomond Spineflower.
Source: staticflickr.com

When asked why this research is important, Maness said, “The sandhills house a lot of plants that can’t be found anywhere else. The drought, invasive non natives and human mining/pollution have lowered the numbers of natives. We just want to help aid the regrowth of the sandhills.”

The Sandhills project was started two years ago. The first year was spent counting and collecting seeds, but last year, when they were supposed to start the second stage of the project the drought was too harsh for them to plant anything. This year the group working on this project hopes to begin the process of planting.

In anything you do in life there will be a bump in the road. For this group the drought was their bump. The drought played a huge role in their data and affected their ability to  plant the seeds they had. The success they will have with planting will be considerably lower if the drought continues, so this group is thankful  for the rain the valley has had lately.  The girls working on populating the native plant species on the sandhills are some of the many students that put in many hours of work and are dedicated to their scientific studies. If you would like to be a student working on these projects next year, contact Ms. Orbuch for more information.

-Amanda Rinnert

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