This spring, the Aquarium's Conservation Team headed out to the Eastern Shore of Maryland to continue work at The Nature Conservancy’s Nassawango Creek Preserve in Wicomico and Worchester counties.
Nassawango Creek Preserve encompasses more than 10,000 acres of bald cypress swamps and upland forests. Over the past three years, we have worked with local community members and area middle school students to plant native Atlantic white cedars.
A group of 120 students from Stephen Decatur Middle School and Berlin Intermediate School participated in this year's event. With their help, the team planted a total of 895 trees! The planting took place in a 20-acre plot that once served as part of a Loblolly Pine plantation, which was cleared five years ago with a controlled burn to make room for native freshwater wetland species.
Atlantic white cedars were once common along the East Coast in freshwater wetlands, but have been over-harvested and are now rare due to the value of the waterproof lumber they provide.
The middle school students began working with Atlantic white cedar trees in the fall of 2010. With the help of Aquarium staff, they transplanted the Atlantic white cedar saplings to larger pots, and cared for them in wet frame ponds on their school grounds over the winter. Planting the trees at the Nassawango Creek Preserve was the students' final step in completing their project! Many of the students had grown attached to their Atlantic white cedars and took great pride in being involved in the rebuilding of a forest with native trees.
When the students were asked if they were having more fun being outside planting rather than being in class, one responded, “Yes, I would say because in class we just learn about it, but we don’t actually do any of it -- but out here we are learning and doing, so it’s pretty fun.”
This event would not have been possible without the support of our partners: The Nature Conservancy, Chesapeake Bay Trust, Maryland Coastal Bays, and Chesapeake Conservation Corps. We look forward to continuing this project and fostering a sense of environmental stewardship in local students by providing them with a unique hands-on experience that helps the Chesapeake Bay.