Aqua Crew alternates project work with three main local partners, and this week we got to work with both Artist Boat and Armand Bayou Nature Center. We began the week by going out to Artist Boat, a preserve on Galveston Island that promotes education about coastal environments. Artist Boat provides kayak tours of the coast that integrate recreation and education—tours include stops to paint watercolors and bird watch.
Artist Boat’s properties are home to a diverse array of flora and fauna, and in order to support them the land requires continual management. We worked at the corral area this week, where years of grazing by cattle has left a distinct mark on the land. Artist Boat is working to expand and improve its coastal prairies; the organization’s plant nursery is housed in the corral. This week, we completed several tasks for Artist Boat.
First, we removed Chinese tallow trees from the prairie. We were able to see large, rotting stumps of tallows beneath the persistent re-sprouted growth. This was not the first time these trees had been removed, and it probably will not be the last. Tallow is very resilient, and even when herbicide is applied to the cut stumps the trees can produce new growth.
We cleared old, rotting fence posts out of a corner of the prairie. Artist Boat has received a grant to plant coastal prairie species in this area, so the debris needed to be removed. During the process of carrying the posts, we accidentally disturbed a baby mouse nest. We secured them in their nest and tried to give them some space to recover from the scare we gave them! The old wood also provided great habitat for mushroom growth, and our crew appreciated the opportunity to admire the complex mycelium.
Long barbed wire fences remain on the prairie, vestiges of the ranchers’ handiwork. Now, these fences can harm the prairie. Birds perch on the fences, bringing undigested seeds which spring up and create lines of trees. Along the fence we began removing, the primary tree species was gum bumelia, a tree with long spines that our crew developed a healthy respect for.
Aqua spent the final two days of the week at Armand Bayou. On Thursday, we staged one-gallon pots of grasses and forbs to prepare for planting on Prairie Friday. On Friday we were able to get 300 plants in the ground before lunch, and spent the remainder of the day doing bayou trash clean-up.
Next week, our crew will return to Armand Bayou to work on their rookery—this will be different than any project we’ve tackled so far!
-Sarah Vande Brake, Aqua Crew member