The Student Conservation Association has partnered with Duke Farms in order to inspire and shape the next generation of conservation leaders. This partnership gives young SCA interns the opportunity to work closely with our education and natural resource departments on conservation and stewardship projects throughout the property. In addition, SCA interns are also responsible for leading and completing an independent project. This year, the SCA interns’ “Legacy Project” is restoring, monitoring, and maintaining the trail developed by the SCA interns of 2015. This trail will be ideal for educating the public on species diversity, wildlife habitats, native and invasive species, and ecosystem health.
The Legacy Trail is considered a successional woodland habitat characterized by mature trees, a thick invasive understory, canopy gaps, and young forest. Sun-loving invasive plants have taken advantage of large canopy gaps along the trail, most of which are undesirable when promoting native flora and fauna populations. Restoration will focus on the removal of these invasive plants in order to maintain accessibility of the trail for visitors and encourage the growth of native plants—which, in turn, will promote growth of populations of various native animals.
This season, the interns are focusing on monitoring invasive plant regrowth and insect abundance on the trail. Monitoring and controlling the spread of invasive plants will allow beneficial native plants to flourish in the area. Efforts to monitor insect population and diversity are also important in revealing the health of the ecosystem. Insects are one of the most diverse groups of terrestrial organisms on the planet, and consistent monitoring may reveal any sensitive, rare, or endangered insect species. Data collected from these monitoring efforts may contribute toward efforts in scientific research.
One of the missions of Duke Farms is to inspire people to become stewards of the land. Interpretive signage along the trail contains information about the current research and restoration efforts. An outdoor classroom is being constructed to house public programs and school groups. This location is an ideal environment to learn about the history of Duke Farms, forest ecology, pollinators, and invasive plants. Immersive learning experiences on the Legacy Trail will encourage more personal relationships with the environment, and in turn promote a sense of stewardship of the land.