30 November 2020

Seed Bank

Written by: Natalie Burgos

The chill is starting to set in around the Midwest. Some places are even starting to see snow drift in to cover the plants and buildings and people in either pretty white fluff or cold damp mush, depending on who you ask. This is also the time when restoration ecologists like to finish up seeding the prairies, forests and other places that they care for in these Midwestern states.

This may seem odd to many people, planting seeds right before the snow begins to pile up and the cold freezes everything over, but that is exactly what those seeds need. In this region, plants have adapted spectacularly to the cold and need that freezing and thawing process to eventually break their stubborn shells and sprout in the spring. But first, they need to already be in the soil, stored and preparing for spring, the reason we call it a seed bank.

Likewise, my time to sprout and branch out from this fellowship is on its way just like the seeds will in the spring. So, I’ve been taking time and stock of the skills that I have been working on, knowing that they will come in handy in the future. Beyond that, I’ve also been figuring out what there is left that I want to learn, and because I have a never-ending curiosity, that is everything. Despite my high ambitions, I know that I need to prioritize what I think will help me the most and am focusing on getting any and all the experience that I can in the short time left.

During my time with RTCA, I have been able to learn a plethora of different skills, including; facilitation, negotiation, community planning, creating master plans, conceptual renderings, and much more. So now, is the time to apply them; put my skills to the grindstone and hone them into something better for the future through lots and lots of practice. Luckily, I have plenty of people supporting me and giving me the opportunities to do this.

One partner recently asked me to assist with testing the water quality of a creek that they’ve been monitoring for changes to measure the health of the watershed. I joined in and was pleased to find out that I’d worked there on a previous restoration project and gladly, we found the water to be in the upper range of health for the area. For another group that is working on restoring a wildlife refuge, I’ve taken on an extra side-project for creating simple advisements to visitors to inform them of the restoration work that will be happening. Since I originally took on that project, I have been able to evolve it into a series of signage that will not only alert the public as to what is going on in the refuge, but will also educate them and tell them the story of local ecosystems’ history and give them a vision of the future that the project has. With another group that wants to create a coalition aimed at improving conservation efforts, I’ll be facilitating meetings that will help our partners better understand not only what they want out of the project, but also what they can bring to the table to achieve the group’s goals.

But, as I said before, putting my current skills to the test is not where I’m going to stop. A partner organization is also starting to look at funding and grants that will give them a little boost in their restoration efforts and I’ll be learning how they plan and parse it out to get the biggest beneficial bang for their bucks when it comes to improving the local river and watershed system. Beyond that, I’m also going to be assisting them with learning how they work with different environmental policies to either continue protecting the river or improve protections that are already in place.

So, despite the chill bringing what most people take as a sign to start buttoning up, turning up the heat in their cars and slowing down for the holidays, nature is still going full throttle. Plants are dropping the last of their millions of seeds, small creatures are scurrying to collect as much food as they can for winter, larger creatures are digging out dens and fluffing up to stay warm in the coming months, and a fellow is gathering as much as she can to learn, leading people to achieve their goals and working to help nature and herself be better for the future.

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