The Mid-Atlantic: The Periodic Newsletter of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Seed Bank
Issue #: 2- December 2013
Activities and Accomplishments
In the spring of 2013, with support from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Native Plant Conservation Initiative grant program, MARSB hired a new Seed Collection Coordinator. Clara Holmes joined MARSB after working for the New York City Parks Department, conducting vegetation surveys throughout parks on Staten Island. A native of Mobile, Alabama, Clara has a long history of exploring the outdoors and her curious nature is a great fit for exploring the plant populations throughout the Mid-Atlantic Region.
Throughout the spring, summer and fall, Clara traveled throughout seven of the eight states that MARSB encompasses. She worked with local parks departments and state agencies to establish relationships that will be crucial to the success of MARSB in these states. Additionally, and with the help of volunteers and workshop attendees, she made over 100 seed collections throughout the region and held six seed collection workshops.
Tim Chambers, our consulting botanist, worked with the Species Selection Committee to combine the many species lists that regional botanists submitted to MARSB. This long term working list is representative of the diversity, geography, plant communities and habitats throughout the Mid-Atlantic and will continue to change as more suggestions and collections are made. From this list, we hope to develop smaller lists that can be used for more specific regions and or projects. Furthermore we will use these lists, in combination with our current seed accessions, to target specific species that could round out future seed mixes.
Workshops and Outreach
It was a busy year for seed collection workshops. During several of Clara’s collection trips, she held workshops to introduce local plant enthusiasts and professionals to the importance of seed collecting and train them in the Seeds of Success protocol. In order to strengthen our partnership with the Long Island Native Plant Initiative, we joined forces to train their volunteers in the collection protocol so that some of their collections can also be sent to the National program.
As MARSB continues to grow, we hope more organizations and groups like LINPI will be able to collect seed as cooperative partners with MARSB. Workshop co-hosts and participants in 2013 also included West Virginia DNR’s Elkins office; the Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry’s Tioga county office in Wellsboro PA; the Albemarle County Parks Department and the Ivy Creek Foundation, who co-hosted a workshop in Charlottesville, VA; Mt. Cuba Center, outside Wilmington, DE; and, in an effort to save the last of the ash trees in New York’s Catskills region, the Cornell Cooperative Extension and the Catskill Center co-hosted an Ash seed collection workshop at their facility in Acra, NY. Participant numbers ranged from seven to more than thirty and each workshop made evident the need and desire for local, genetically diverse seed. Many thanks to all of the partners involved for ensuring the success of the workshops!
As the primary seed collector for MARSB, Clara had a large task at hand to reach all of the states within the region and make 100 seed collections. With the help of volunteers and Greenbelt Native Plant Center staff, Clara was able to accomplish this goal. She made 79 collections from the MARSB early successional target list, four collections from the Allegheny National Forest, Regional Forester Sensitive Species list and eighteen ash seed collections.
These collections add up to a total of 101 seed collections made throughout seven states and eleven ecoregions. These collections represent 61 unique species from 54 genera in 25 families. Four of these collections, including Panax quinquefolius, Filipendula rubra, Taxus canadensis, and Hieracium venosum were collected as part of a partnership with the US Forest Service and the Chicago Botanic Garden to collect and store seed from plant species that are sensitive to a given forest region, in this case the Allegheny National Forest.
Furthermore, Clara was able to deepen our relationship with the US Forest Service’s National Seed Lab efforts to collect and bank seed from all Fraxinus species to help protect the the species’ from the Emerald Ash Borer or EAB. With the help of a few volunteers, she was able to make eighteen ash collections, representing three species, including two collections of the less common Fraxinus nigra. These collections will be stored with the USFS at the National Seed Lab in Indiana.
Over the winter, with help from staff at the Greenbelt Native Plant Center, Clara will focus her efforts on cleaning seed. The collections made for MARSB fill more than fifteen crates and will have to be cleaned before getting shipped to the Seeds of Success program and stored in the proper location in our seed bank on Staten Island. Often described as soothing, but sometimes called repetitious, cleaning seed is primarily done by hand using rubber stair tred and small wooden blocks. It is a very labor intensive process and will take many hands over several weeks to clean all of MARSB’s seed.
USFS Awards Three Year Grant to MARSB
During the fall of 2013 we were awarded a grant from the Northeastern Area State and Private Forestry Competitive Allocation Program to increase our efforts to collect and bank seed from ash species throughout the state of New York. This grant will be administered over the next three years and, in addition to making as many ash collections as the biology of the species will allow, will result in five workshops on collecting Ash seed in New York State each year for the next three years. We will be working with our partners this winter to discuss the best locations for these workshops as well as the most efficient way to reach people who will be able to help us collect seed from these species should a masting year occur in 2014. Anyone in NY State interested in assisting MARSB in this effort should contact Clara Holmes.
Unfortunately, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation canceled the Native Plant Conservation Initiative grant program in the fall of this year, which has been a major source of funding for MARSB since its inception. As a result, we have less funding to focus on our early successional species throughout the region. We are currently seeking additional funding to strengthen the MARSB program. If you are aware of potential funding sources you would like to share or if you have ideas for cooperative fundraising efforts, please contact Ed Toth, the Director of MARSB.
We are thrilled to announce the launch of our brand new, up and running website: www.marsb.org. On our site, you can find information on who we are and what we do as well as resources for making seed collections, links to our various partners in seed collecting, and lists of species that we are targeting in our efforts to collect and bank seed for conservation and restoration. The launch of the website would not have been possible without the tireless work of designer and illustrator Genevieve Hitchings (www.artorium.com), who donated all of her time and energy to MARSB to make this website happen, and, our consulting botanist, Tim Chambers! Genevieve is an Assistant Professor in the Advertising Design and Graphic Arts Department at New York City College of Technology, and specializes in interactive design. Please, visit often and stay long!
Call for Support
Because MARSB has less funding in 2014, at least going into the year, we would encourage our supporters that have attended a seed collection workshop to get out there more than ever to scout for plant populations that are suitable for collection and volunteer to make some collections for MARSB. We are more than happy to assist in helping determine specific species and whether populations are large enough for a collection. We can also send volunteers any supplies needed to make these collections. Please contact Clara as early as possible if you are interested in helping in the seed collection efforts for 2014. It would be great to have a few groups working together throughout the different ecoregions making collections!
If you are interested finding out more about the program and its efforts, please contact Clara Holmes at firstname.lastname@example.org or Edward Toth at email@example.com. Both Ed and Clara are available to discuss the possibilities of hosting a MARS-B workshop or presentation in your area.