Oglethorpe’s neighbor, the Blue Heron Nature Preserve, received a $12,500 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to help eliminate non-native plant species that have settled in the 25-acre preserve. The Five Star Restoration grant, provided in part by Georgia Power, is one of the most notable wetland conservation grants in the country, and OU biology professor Dr. Charles Baube and his students were not only instrumental in securing it, but are playing a large part in seeing the project through.
To secure the grant, Dr. Baube and Blue Heron used data that Oglethorpe biology students collected to understand the problem of invasive species and to write the proposal. Now Blue Heron and Oglethorpe University will work together to tackle the project.
As unbelievable as it sounds, some 100 years ago, there was no such thing as kudzu or Chinese privet in the state of Georgia. Flash forward a century-plus later, and kudzu is the unofficial state flora—growing up to a foot a day and wrapping its roots around seemingly every thing in its path. But according to Dr. Baube, this species—along with several others—have no natural enemies in the area to limit their reproduction, and are a threat to biodiversity and the survival of domestic plants and animals in the area.
“We have an obligation (because of the destruction we do) to preserve, protect and regenerate these areas,” said Dr. Baube, who also serves as vice president and treasurer of the Board of Directors at Blue Heron. “[Humans] brought these non-native species to this region, and these plants take up the space and resources that native species need to survive, out-competing and destroying [them.] Georgia has a very rich variety of natives,…and the primary mission of the preserve is to create a space as close as we can to the environmental habitat of Atlanta 100 years ago.”
To do that, OU biology students and volunteers will leave campus to work on the invasives’ removal. They will also be responsible for monitoring the success of the effort. The goal of the project is to eradicate the remaining privet, English ivy, wisteria, and other invasives from the property, reducing them to a manageable level for volunteers to mechanically combat the re-emergence of these species.
Photo (right): Dr. Roarke Donnelly leads a class discussion at Blue Heron. For years, OU’s second semester general Biology II students have used the preserve as their classroom, researching subjects such as silt accumulation, fecal coliform concentration, and beaver habitat selection.