In 2008, Dr. Jere Boudell, associate professor of biology at Clayton State University, started a long-term study of the Jesters Creek restoration project an urban stream restoration. Four years into the project, Boudell, along with both current Clayton State SEEDS (Strategies for Ecology Education, Diversity, and Sustainability) chapter members and alumni, are currently in the second round of the study, and the restoration project has expanded.
Jesters Creek is an urban headwater stream of the Flint River and is located about five minutes from the Clayton State campus, Boudell explains. Her study is also investigating Little Falling Creek as a reference site.
“Urban stream restoration is a relatively new tool used to increase river channel stability and habitat and water quality,” she says. “Because most urban streams are in poor health, and because stream restoration is a relatively new tool, I began this project to monitor project success and offer suggestions to improve urban stream restoration methods.”
Boudell’s study, which is being done pro bono, is funded by the Ecological Society of America's (ESA) SEEDS program which is designed to increase the participation of underrepresented students in the ecological sciences. It has also been funded by the Clayton State College of Arts and Sciences and the Clayton State Department of Natural Sciences.
Boudell points out that long term studies such as this provide valuable data that could not be discovered through short-term studies. As the primary investigator on the project, and the Clayton State SEEDS chapter mentor, Boudell has involved various past and current members of Clayton State SEEDS as active participants as interns and student researchers. This project is a vehicle for the chapter members to participate in meaningful community-related research, and the long-term nature of the project allows current students to interact with past participants.
“It's like a learning community for research,” Boudell exclaims.
She also notes that, in the past four years, students who've participated as student researchers have presented their portion of the project at the annual meeting of the Ecological Society of America (the largest ecological science organization) and have also participated in related outreach activities.
“We are planning to present the preliminary results of this project on campus in the fall and next summer at the annual ESA meeting,” she says. “A few of my students and I are writing manuscripts about the project too. Several students (who were previously involved in the project) are now in graduate school pursuing their careers in ecology and related fields.”
There are currently six Clayton State SEEDS chapter members working on the project, one of whom, Japhia Jacobo, is a Clayton State biology alumnus from McDonough, Ga., and also Boudell’s Masters student at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, where she is studying soil characteristics and mycorrhizae fungi. Jacobo also trained some of the students working on the Jesters Creek project in soil techniques.
Generally, Boudell has an interesting and diverse group of students working on the project.
Kiley Mitchell is from Burley, Id., and is a student at Oregon State University in the fisheries and wildlife program. She is a transient student this summer at Clayton State. Mitchell is a soil science intern studying soil nutrients.
Joe Mikula is from McDonough, and is a biology major at Clayton State. He is a new SEEDS member and research student studying plant communities.
Charli Mattice is from Jackson, Ga., and is a biology major at Clayton State. She's Boudell’s intern studying vegetation collection and identification techniques.
Thiago Silva is an international student from Brazil and a biology major at Clayton State. He is a research student studying plant communities and soil characteristics.
Savannah Thompson is from Jonesboro, Ga., and is a relatively new biology major at Clayton State. She is assisting Mitchell with soil sample processing.
Michael Hanft is another Clayton State biology alumnus who is currently working at the Fernbank Museum. He has volunteered with sampling in the field.
Jacobo, Boudell and another Clayton State biology alumnus who previously worked on the project, Serge Farinas, are currently writing papers on the project. Farinas, a native of Stockbridge, Ga., is now a Ph.D. student at the University of Michigan.
Boudell also reports on some preliminary outcomes of the studied river characteristics from her now four-year study, notably that the Clayton County Water Authority has improved river channel stability and habitat.
“Their watershed approach to improving water quality and habitat is more than commendable,” she says. “Jesters Creek has definitely improved; however, it is not similar to its reference site Little Falling Creek, and therefore does not meet the technical standard required of `restoration’ projects for the studied parameters(.)
“Ecosystem recovery occurs over the long-term and therefore requires a long-term study to track the progress of the ecosystem as it recovers. Jesters Creek is being monitored and our study complements the monitoring by providing an in-depth, `under the microscope’ investigation of the project’s progress.”
Boudell also points out that, while restoration is extraordinarily difficult for urban streams, rehabilitation and improved function are possible.
“We hope that our committed involvement with this project over the long-term will provide a rare peak at urban stream recovery and will ultimately improve restoration or rehabilitation of these impacted streams,” she adds.