The South Plainfield Environmental Commission and the Friends of the Woods are seeking citizen scientists to help study the plant species at Highland Woods Environmental Education Reserve.

 

Volunteers with or without botanical knowledge are invited to a workshop on Sunday, October 27 from 1-3 p.m. to learn more about the plans to inventory the three-quarter acre deer exclusion area recently fenced behind the Nature Center. The fencing is protecting a small portion of the nature reserve from browsing deer. The deer have severely damaged the wildflower plant population, which once numbered 150 species. Volunteers need no expertise in botany, but an interest in plants and gardening would be helpful.

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A large portion of the nearly 36 acre nature reserve’s plant species was classified between 1996 and 2002 by Dorothy and Sarah Miele. This mother-daughter team of citizen scientists produced 5 volumes of information about the plant community. The photographs, illustrations, preserved samples, and descriptions provided the basis for calculating the community’s Plant Stewardship Index. The PSI is a recently-developed tool for evaluating the quality of a landscape. The PSI at that time was quite high, because 75% of the wildflowers were native to this area.

Citizen Scientist programs are a world-wide phenomenon; from the Lab of Ornithology at Cornell University in New York state (Great Backyard Bird Count, Project Feeder Watch) to the Great Eggcase Hunt Program which asks volunteers to search the strandline on UK beaches for shark, skate and ray egg cases.

The workshop will be held at the Highland Woods Nature Center located at 115 Sylvania Place in South Plainfield. For further information, please contact Dorothy Miele at spnaturetrails@verizon.net or Dr. Alice Tempel at 908-226-7621.