Invasive plant species have been a problem in the Sehome Arboretum for several years and a summer student internship is being proposed to survey and map the invasive plant population.
In the Sehome Arboretum invasive plants including English Holly, Ivy and Vinca take over several native plants, such as ferns, by crowding them out of their native area and killing them.
Although the official plans for the internship have not yet been finalized, the hope is to find one or two students to take on the project, said John Tuxill, an associate professor in the Fairhaven College of Interdisciplinary Studies.
Once hired, the interns will gather field data, including the location of invasive species, from the arboretum and input it into a Geographic Information System, or GIS, database.
This is a computer program used to analyze spatial information, he said.
Once the information is integrated into the GIS, it will be analyzed and interpreted in order to identify areas in the arboretum most affected by the invasive plant problem, Tuxill said.
The Sehome Hill Arboretum Board of Governors is hoping to begin the internship either this summer or in the fall of 2014.
The Board of Governors is made up of appointees from the community, including four city members, two university staff members and one student representative.
In order to address the invasive species problem the board needs to have more information on the size, extent and location of the plant populations, Reed said.
The purpose of the internship is to collect and analyze information needed in order to target the right places in the arboretum for invasive plant management, Tuxill said.
“Non-native invasive species are one of the highest-priority management issues for the Sehome Hill Arboretum Board,” Tuxill said.
Reed said he would meet with the city to hopefully get a GPS system to map out all of the current trails through the arboretum. He would then look to find funding for the removal of the plants at a later date.
The goal is to use the maps to provide the students involved in the internship, as well as other volunteer groups, with a resource to navigate through the arboretum and locate the invasive species.
There has been a lot of volunteer interest in restoring the arboretum, said Western sophomore Ellen Zocher, the student representative and secretary of the Board of Governors.
“We don’t really know where exactly the worst problems are,” Zocher said. “We don’t have any past maps, so there is no way to keep track of where the need for the invasive species removal projects would be.”
The invasive species problem will never be completely eradicated, but the hopes for the project is to better understand the state of the arboretum and the ecosystem in general, Zocher said.
Many different restoration opportunities exist in the arboretum including fallen trees and trails that need fixing, but the board has yet to ask the city for the funds to do that, Zocher said.
Funding for the internships comes from Western, Reed said.
Another goal of the project is to direct additional volunteers outside of the internship program who are willing to give their labor for free.
The Learning Environment Action Discovery (LEAD) program through Huxley holds regular work parties to remove some of the most prominent invasive species present in the arboretum.
In addition to that, a few courses through Huxley do small restoration projects where they remove invasive species such as English Ivy and Holly and attempt to plant native species in their place, according to Zocher.
The Sehome Hill Arboretum Board of Governors works closely with Western as well as the City of Bellingham in managing and restoring the arboretum.
Students interested in more information about the internship are encouraged to attend the next board meeting at 4 p.m. May 15, Reed said.
Summer internship details:
Survey invasive species
Most damaging invasive species: English Holly,
Ivy & Vinca