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From Seed to Soil: Howard EcoWorks' February's Environmental Endeavors


From Seed to Soil: Howard ecoWorks' February's Environmental endeavors header with little bluestem and lake background

February was a month of environmental maintenance and exciting professional growth for our team at Howard EcoWorks. Our crews were hard at work ensuring the health and resilience of local ecosystems. From removing invasive species to live staking workshops, dive into the diverse experiences that shaped our month.


February Metrics visualized with icons

In February the UpLift & Senior crew accomplished: 

  • 9 Stream Restoration Sites Maintained 

  • 15 Project Sites






Projects


Stream Restoration Maintenance | Howard County

Part of our crew's essential tasks is the maintenance of stream restoration sites throughout Howard County. Our team targets invasive plant species to allow native plants a chance to breathe and grow. We will also remove debris and trash found on site. This is part of an ongoing effort to create resilient forests and streams that breed habitat for pollinators and wildlife.

Throughout February we visited 9 different stream restoration sites, often with multiple visits. One of our crew's biggest difficulties were the trees overgrown with invasive vines or outgrowing their cages. It’s important for trees to be visited after planting events to be maintained and cared for to ensure their longevity. Learn more about our forest management services here. 



Biochar Burn

Under an Innovation grant from Howard County Government, EcoWorks is developing best practices for forest management to include a carbon management focus. In Feb., we converted invasive autumn olive and bittersweet into a valuable soil amendment at a forest site at Howard Community College. The biochar will be applied back to the  forest floor this spring. Special thanks to our guest Wihan Bekker from South Africa, who is developing an app to track small-scale burns like ours - the data will be aggregated for potential carbon crediting and/or financing. Thank you to Howard County Government for supporting this project to build local climate resiliency!



Live Staking Event | Climate Crew Network

Last month our crew participated in live stake harvesting, and in February, they were part of the installation team working to plant the stakes along a restored stream within the Ecotone Inc. Nursery. Live staking is a method of propagating plants where live branches or stems are cut from a parent plant and then inserted into the soil to establish new growth. The cuttings are placed vertically into the ground, where they take root and eventually grow into new plants. Live staking is commonly employed in ecological restoration projects to establish vegetation along water bodies, stabilize soil, and prevent erosion. This event was in collaboration with the Climate Crew Network. 


Triennial Inspections

Our crew was trained and then conducted triennial inspections on previously installed gardens. Any projects built by Howard EcoWorks that support Howard County Government's stormwater permit obligations under the Municipal Separate Storm Sewer (MS4) permit to the State of Maryland (e.g. rain gardens, tree planting, conservation landscapes etc), require monitoring every three years to ensure that the projects still exist and are functional.  Every year, EcoWorks inspects the current set of projects that are due for inspections, assesses their presence and functionality, assesses maintenance needs, and reports the information back to the property owner and the Howard County Government. This data and information is tracked in Geographic Information System (GIS) that is shared with the County, which is then reported back to the State.


Professional Development and Industry Exposure

At Howard EcoWorks, our workforce development program, UpLift, creates opportunities for growth in the green industry with certifications and training. Our team was immersed in a series of educational experiences throughout February, such as:



Seed Starting Activity

Ryan Briese, our newly appointed Nursery Manager, led the staff and crew on a seed starting activity. He began with an educational presentation about nurturing native seeds, stratification, and provided an overview of the activity. Our employees were then separated into rotating groups for harvesting seeds from deadheads, to mixing soil and compost, to packing seed trays and planting seeds. 



Leadership Retreat at Thorpewood | Climate Crew Network

Our crew and staff members had an opportunity to join the Climate Crew Network at Thorpewood Campgrounds for leadership training. This immersive two-day event was filled with fun, educational, creative, and team-building activities. Among the exercises, we also hiked among a restoration chestnut grove, built goat toys and garden beds for the campground farm, and more. Special thanks to the Climate Crew Network: Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Chesapeake Conservancy, Greater Baltimore Wilderness Coalition, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Grow Home, Defensores de la Cuenca, and Paul Kazyak from Thorpewood for collaborating on this event and giving us the opportunity. 


Matt, Xai, Kate, and Lori in a meeting room

Grant Writing Workshop

Lori Lilly, Howard EcoWorks’ Founder and Executive Director, led a grant writing workshop for our employees, who then had a chance to practice their newfound skills on real grants for which we are applying. This created a great educational and collaborative learning experience. 



Communication and Outreach Training Workshop

Lori Lilly and Elura Morris, Marketing and Outreach, collaborated on training our employees for outreach events. Additionally, they were training on elevator pitches and speaking confidently. We hope that our UpLift team can use these skills at any job they secure in the future as well as for networking opportunities. 


Webinar | Greenscape Symposium

EcoWorks crew and staff had an opportunity to listen in and join the annual Greenscape Symposium hosted by Montgomery Parks. Green industry leaders discussed sustainable and innovative landscaping practices. 


Green Industry Exposure | Lou Meyer from Davey Trees

Lou Meyer from The Davey Tree Expert Company visited Howard EcoWorks to educate our crew on arboriculture in the green industry, providing valuable insights and facilitating great networking opportunities. We appreciate his generosity in sharing his knowledge and time with us. 


Trya, May, Xai, JP, and Matt L. at Jim Duke's Farmacy in their work gear
Trya, May, Xai, JP, and Matt L.

Jim Dukes Farmacy Tour

Our crew had an amazing opportunity to tour Jim Dukes Farmacy. The garden serves as a haven for around 300 plant species, both native and non-native, celebrated for their medicinal properties and traditional uses. Over the span of six decades, USDA botanist James A. Duke, PhD, and his wife, Peggy, curated a diverse collection of medicinal plants. In 1997, they converted a portion of their pasture into an educational garden, showcasing specimens prominently featured in Jim's renowned work, "The Green Pharmacy.”The property is now under the stewardship of the Community Ecology Institute.


Milestones, Media, and Merits



Open House Night

This month, we hosted our second annual Open House Night. We were honored to have guest speaker Lauren Hubbard, President of the Maryland Native Plant Society, deliver a lecture on native plants and our local biodiversity. Furthermore, we provided informative workshops for the public; outlined the services we provide for the county, communities, and homeowners; and informed individuals about how they can get involved. 


CONCLUSION: 

As March unfolds, we reflect on a month filled with growth, learning, and meaningful connections here at Howard EcoWorks. From nurturing native seeds to leadership retreats in the heart of nature, our team has embraced every opportunity to expand their skills and deepen their impact on our environment. We look forward to the continued growth of our organization and the positive changes we'll make together. Thank you for joining us on this journey of environmental stewardship and community empowerment.




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