The Squam Conservation Internship provides skills and experience for future conservation professionals while working as the driving force behind the SLA’s conservation mission. This volunteer internship provides hands-on conservation work experience and certifications over a broad range of activities. Interns serve as campsite hosts and caretakers at our backcountry campsites, work toward the eradication of variable milfoil, help preserve loon populations on Squam, engage both youth and adults in environmental education, and perform other conservation duties such as shoreline restoration and trail maintenance and construction. Squam Conservation Interns also regularly write about their experiences in the Squam Watershed. Learn more about the internship program here.
July 17, 2017
Three years ago, I attended a pollinator talk back in Minnesota when the decline of bee species was becoming more prevalent. My big take away from the talk was that pollinators need native plants for food and native plants need pollinators to reproduce. I know what you all must be thinking: duh. But, my big “ah-ha” moment was with that keyword “native”. Native plants are plant species that have evolved and adapted to a specific location without alteration by people (this is one of many definitions). This means that plant species are used to the climate, soil conditions, and wildlife (i.e pollinators!), and wildlife has evolved and adapted alongside the plants around them. The two go hand in hand. If one part of the relationship is declining, the other suffers. A huge reason why pollinators are in decline is because of the loss, conversion, and degradation of natural habitat and native plants by humans who alter the land to create farms, towns, baseball fields, etc. With less native plants, pollinators have a diminished food source which lowers their numbers.
Native plants are also important when it comes to erosion control since native plants have long roots that branch out. Their large root systems hold soil together and keeps the soil from washing downstream. Their root systems also hold much more water compared to some other plants such as turf grass, which have shorter roots. The root systems of native plants help reduce the amount of water that runs off the landscape and flows into water systems. In terms of home lawns, turf grass only holds a small percent of rainwater while the rest runs off into bodies of water, carrying along with it pesticides and other chemicals that are sprayed on lawns which impacts the water quality and wildlife.
Because of my love of native plants and pollinators, I hosted an adventure ecology program through the Squam Lake Association devoted solely to discussing and identifying native plants in Whitten Woods in Ashland. I planned on sharing information on why native plants are crucial in their ecosystems during the hike up to south peak. This did not happen since the nine participants, Dom, and I became engrossed in the identifying process. We spent the two hours really observing the plants along the trail, touching the leaves and stems, smelling the flower blossoms and crushed leaves to practice a more engaging way of learning about the world around us (none of the plants identified were poisonous). Although we did not have a discussion about why native plants are important, I hope that everyone there was able to walk away with a growing sense of appreciation, and excitement for the plants around them in their lives. Hopefully the excitement of native plants turns into the desire to learn more about them and incorporate native plants into home lawns to make small differences in this world.
The picture attached shows me and seven of the nine participants. Elizabeth’s lovely mom and dad left early and are not shown. Fun and educational Adventure Ecology programs will continue throughout the summer on Fridays hosted by the Squam Lakes Association interns! Click here to see this summer's Adventure Ecology programs.
Tamara is from Minnesota. She is currently attending the University of Minnesota- Twin Cities where she is majoring in Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology. Click here to read Tamara's bio.