Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Magnolia Chapter Gets College Students "Hooked" on FNPS


By Scott Davis

It is a wide known fact that the attention span of today's youth is short—and getting shorter. Twenty years ago, it would have taken hours (or days) of research to acquire the same amount of knowledge that can be obtained in just a few seconds of keyboard finger tapping today! Though the future of FNPS depends upon the successful recruitment of members from all age groups and cultures, it is obviously paramount to the society's future to adapt for the ever-changing interests of young people.

The Magnolia Chapter's outreach has included local
universities and the USFWS. If your chapter hasn't
forged partnerships with like-minded organizations,
now is a great time to start.
Recently, the Magnolia Chapter developed some ideas that have proven to be very effective in "hooking" local youth. Magnolia chapter officers voted recently to establish three chapter leadership positions for student board members. These three positions reflect Tallahassee's three large educational institutions: FAMU, FSU, and TCC. In establishing these positions, the chapter's primary goals were to achieve the creation of university student liaisons, receive feedback from individuals familiar with the wants and concerns of young adults, establish relationships with environmentally-oriented student organizations, and create activity/field trip leaders that potential youth membership are more likely to seek camaraderie with.

The first individual to be voted in as a student board member was Brent Williams. Brent is a talented chemical engineering student with an interest in exploring the vast number of plant species whose chemical properties have not yet been researched. Through chemical profiling, Brent seeks to find sustainable ways to balance nature and society through the development of sustainable native plant resources. Brent also manages the FSU organic garden and native plant permacultural guild, and he is a standing board member with the Tallahassee Sustainability Group.

Brent has three primary native plant interests: pollinator support systems, invasive plant species management, and native plant food sources. These interests have worked to facilitate the accelerated development of relationships not only with the university students in the Magnolia Chapter's region, but also to forge a strong relationship between FNPS and the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).

Brent worked closely with fellow Magnolia board members Gail Fishman and Scott Davis to develop a volunteer program cooperative between FNPS and USFWS. This program aimed to further the mission of FNPS, help develop the Educational Field Trip Initiative of the Council of Chapters, and assist a primary land management agency with society-sourced expertise and leadership.

A liaison to local educational institutions can bring able
bodied volunteers and future members to chapter events.
Nicknamed the "Groundpounders" by USFSW staff, Brent acts as a "hook" to the universities, exciting the interests of not only mainstream environmentally concerned students, but also to students that are simply looking for an opportunity to get outside, do something new, and make a difference. A number of high school students have also begun to volunteer their time.  Brent has worked effectively with refuge managers to develop (and schedule) a growing list of opportunities.  To name a few, this list includes citizen science volunteer opportunities, invasive plant workdays, educational opportunities with refuge staff, pollinator garden development projects, and off-site rare plant rescues for relocation to protected lands.

Brent says, "There is a strong demand from young folks to see tangible results that are brought about with their own hands." He also lives by the philosophy that "if there is work to be done, and if there are individuals willing to engage in the workings, then there is no reason for the work to not be done when good communication and leadership are brought into the equation." Currently, there are numerous workdays led per month by Brent that focus on invasive plant identification and removal techniques, hiking trail management, plant rescue and relocation, pollinator garden design and maintenance, fire crew prep work, and more.

In the last month, Brent has overseen the removal of invasive plants from environmentally sensitive areas inside of St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge; this includes over 600 invasive coral ardisias (Ardisia crenata) and three tons of invasive torpedo grass (Panicum repens). In addition to these achievements, in the last month he has also led the Groundpounders in projects that undergo pre-fire preparation work for USFWS fire crews, implemented a relocation program for various native plant species from refuge mow strips to designated recipient pollinator garden sites, managed the rescue team of 97 state-endangered moundlilly yuccas (Yucca gloriosa), and begun the process of installing pre-fabricated bridge piles across creeks in areas adjacent to the Florida Trail to give connectivity to through-hikers.

The "Groundpounders" in action...
Case in point, the assignment of Brent as a student board member is a fantastic example of one of the many ways in which FNPS can appeal to the next generation of environmentally aware citizens, strengthen its relationship with land managers, further its mission, and stratify its place as a power player in protection of Florida's native plant communities in the future.

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Posted by Laurie Sheldon

2 comments:

Cammie D. said...

BEST NEWS EVER. Scott Davis rocks and I love this Brent man, gotta meet him.

Anonymous said...

yes, love it.