Native Plant Stewardship Training

Our friends at the Washington Native Plant Society (WNPS) passed along word of some training opportunities this spring to become a Native Plant Steward and help restore King County’s forests!

Specifically, WNPS and the cities of Kenmore, Kirkland, Mercer Island, Sammamish, Seatac and the King Conservation District are offering ecological restoration stewardship training, with weekly classes scheduled from April 18 through June 27.

WNPSThe 100 hours of specialized training from regional experts cover: Puget Sound ecology, native plant identification and uses, urban forest restoration, invasive management and community volunteer management. In exchange for the 100 hours of training, stewards are asked to commit 75 hours of volunteer service in one of six designated restoration projects, and 25 volunteer hours to WNPS public outreach projects in King County.

Since 1996, WNPS has graduated more than 500 stewards who have contributed more than 120,000 volunteer hours dedicated to education, conservation and restoration of native flora in Washington State.

If you’re interested in contributing, applications are due by April 7, 2014, so learn more about the program—including a full position description—and sign up now! And if you have any other questions, you can contact Joy Wood and Kelsey Ketcheson, WNPS stewardship coordinators, at npsp@wnps.org or leave a message at 206.527.3210.

Photo © WNPS.

Grad Student Spotlight: Matt Norton

While Michelle Trudeau has been on maternity leave this quarter, we’ve had a few friends helping out Amanda Davis and Lisa Nordlund in the Office of Student and Academic Services. One of the cheerful folks you’ve probably seen, whether in person or as a name in your inbox, is Matt Norton, who began his master’s program at the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences (SEFS) this past fall. We’ve been hearing a few tantalizing rumors of his past exploits—from driving airboats to having a day named after him in Florida’s Volusia County (February 8, 2001)—so we sat down with him last week to learn a little more of his story!

Matt Norton

Matt Norton steers through the Everglades on an airboat.

Turns out the rumors are true, though Norton is exceedingly modest when relating the colorful experiences that brought him to SEFS. A six-generation Floridian from Ormond Beach, he moved to Seattle in 2012 when his wife Claire was placed in the Pathology Residency Program here at the University of Washington. He’s enjoyed the cross-country transition so far, especially getting to explore all the parks and mountains nearby. Plus, the cool, wet climate has been an enormous relief from those sweat-soaked days in Florida. “One thing I guess I didn’t inherit from my great-grandfather is that I still overheat!”

Back home as an undergrad at the New College of Florida, Norton majored in environmental studies. Some of his course work and research involved canopy ecology, and spring ecology and eutrophication of Florida’s spring systems. For his thesis he focused on beach sedimentology—specifically, looking at beach nourishment (adding sand to eroding shores), policies and practices surrounding it, and how it relates to sediment dynamics.

After school, from 2009 to 2012 he worked as a lab and field technician, and later became a project manager, under Dr. Todd Osborne in the Soil and Water Science department at the University of Florida. He helped to conduct and managed research on a number of projects: several investigating the soils and ecology of the Everglades, one involving restoration work in the Kissimmee River basin, and three others looking at various species of clams and their preference for soils in Cedar Key, Fla.

Part of Norton’s job was guiding students out to study sites in the Everglades by airboat (also known as a fanboat). “You can go over anything,” he says. “It’s got Kevlar® on the bottom and a 550-horsepower engine, so you can run it anywhere, even on dry land.”

Matt Norton

Navigation can be tricky in some parts of the Everglades, where the grass goes on forever and can get up to 15 feet high.

Yet aside from enabling you to access remote reaches of the expansive Everglades—and scaring away gators—airboats are also “hellishly” loud and dangerous. From the risk of your engine blowing up to breaking down in 115-degree heat to getting lost in the endless sea of grass, tree islands and gator holes, Norton has more than a few harrowing tales from his time as an airboat pilot. So for all the fun memories of cruising through beautiful waterways and seeing all sorts of wildlife, he wasn’t terribly sad to leave that task behind when he moved to Seattle.

He spent his first spring here volunteering and later working as a surveyor with the digital mapping project at the Washington Park Arboretum. Norton spent some of that time, as well, researching possible graduate programs. “I really want to do something related to being outside and trying to help the environment in some way,” he says. And since his wife’s work as a pathologist will keep them fairly close to a larger city, Norton started thinking how he could apply his experience with restoration ecology and soil science in an urban setting.

Norton’s search quickly led him to SEFS, where he’s now working with Professor Darlene Zabowski. He’s currently studying stump decomposition and creating a model for carbon related to tree farms and biofuels with Erin Burt under Professor Rob Harrison, and he has a separate project involving restoration work in Magnuson Park.

He’s had a hand in a great many other projects along the way, too, from his days as an Eagle Scout to interning at a nuke site, but we don’t want to spoil all of his stories. So stop into the advising office sometime to introduce yourself and learn a little more about Norton!

Photos of Norton on the airboat © Ben Loughran; photo of Norton in the grass © Justin Vogel.

Matt Norton

Campus Project: Help Restore the Kincaid Ravine Forest!

Our friends at the UW Chapter of the Society for Ecological Restoration (SER-UW) and EarthCorps passed along word of a few volunteer work parties coming up to help restore Kincaid Ravine to a healthy and beautiful campus forest!

A 2.2-acre urban forest located in the northeast corner of campus, Kincaid Ravine is currently dominated by invasive species and deciduous trees that are coming to the end of their natural lifespan. It is a declining forest that is gradually losing the ability to perform important ecological functions.

Restoration EventsAs part of the process of restoring this forest to health, the first event of the quarter—organized by SER-UW—will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 15, along the Burke-Gilman Trail under the 45th Street Viaduct. You’ve probably walked or cycled through there countless times, and now you have a chance to get involved and remove some invasive plants. Tools, gloves and refreshments will be provided, so all you have to do is show up ready to dig in!

After this kick-off work party, EarthCorps has partnered with the UW Campus Sustainability Fund to line up five additional opportunities at Kincaid Ravine for the winter and spring quarters. Among the other key partners in this effort are Martha Moritz, a graduate student in Environmental Horticulture who is serving as the student project manager, and SEFS Professors Kern Ewing and Jim Fridley (as well as administrative support from UW Botanic Gardens).

As before, tools, gloves and refreshments will be provided for each event, but EarthCorps asks that you sign up beforehand if you’re able to come.

Saturday, Feb. 22: EarthCorps work party from 10 a.m-2 p.m. Invasive plant removal. Sign up now!

Saturday, March 1: EarthCorps work party from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Planting and mulching. Sign up now!

Thursday, March 6: EarthCorps work party from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Invasive plant removal. Sign up now!

Saturday, March 15: EarthCorps work party from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. This will be the last work party in winter quarter. You’ll be doing a lot of planting and mulching. Sign up now!

Saturday, April 19: EarthCorps Earth Day work party from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. to kick off spring quarter. Sign up now!

Learn more about the Kincaid Ravine restoration project, and please contact Yiyan Ge, volunteer coordinator, or Martha Moritz, student project manager, with any other questions.