As I reach the end of my Fellowship with the Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CUVA) it’s incredible to me how much I was able to accomplish in a rapid 12-week span. I started my time with the parks with a loose understanding of the work that needed to be accomplished, and no set protocols on how to accomplish it. Fast forward 12 weeks and I now have a wealth of data collected, and a sizable report written on the wetlands within the canal. I also had some incredible experiences and made some awesome memories. So as my time with the park comes to an end I’d like to highlight some of the tasks I accomplished for my project as well as share some of the exciting work I was privileged to be a part of during my time.
When I first arrived at CUVA the most important aspect of my project was very obvious, to map all existing wetlands within the Ohio and Erie Canal (OEC). I have now successfully done that. When it came time to crunch the numbers the results of my work were awe inspiring! In total, I documented 43 wetlands along a 11.7 mile long stretch of the OEC. These wetlands occupied 86% of the canal. Within those wetlands I identified 15 unique habitat types, which occurred 169 times within the canal. Additionally, I documented 16 streams which contribute to the hydrology of the wetlands in the canal and discovered 28 culverts along the canal, most of which have a negative impact on the ecology in the canal system. Finally, I identified 190 species of plants that grow in the wetlands of the OEC, three of which were state listed plants.
When I wasn’t out wandering around the OEC mapping wetlands and searching for cool plants I got to participate in some awesome projects the Resource Management department has going on at CUVA. This included helping deploy native muscle silos, which are concrete structures placed in water that house Fatmucket Clams (Lampsilis siliquoidea), for an experimental growth and survivorship study on the muscles of the Cuyahoga River. I also was given the opportunity to help in electro-shock fishing surveys, headwater stream surveys, eDNA collection, and a brief scouting trip around the park with my mentor, Ryan Trimbath, to look for potential spots for future ex situ rare plant introductions. But perhaps the most exciting multi-day project was conducting aquatic plant surveys by kayak along the Cuyahoga River with one of the region’s top aquatic plant experts, Mark Warman. This was an incredible learning experience for me as I rarely get exposure to native aquatic plants in Ohio. The tutelage and expertise of Mark Warman on aquatic plant ecology and identification was an experience I won’t forget.
Finally, getting to show off my work in the canals this summer to others was a lot of fun for me and was a very rewarding way to end my time with the park. I was able to help organize a tour by bicycle along the OEC, in which I curated several stops along the canal in interesting spots at which I shared the results and findings of my project. Being able to do it with two different groups of people made it even better, my coworkers from the National Parks Service and affiliated partner organizations, and a second tour for the general public. This was a summer I will soon not forget as it was one full of adventure, research, professional development, and networking.