Warren Conservation Commission chair Jito Coleman is managing five UVM interns this summer who are working on knotweed eradication in the town.
Warren is in its third year of a multi-prong effort to slow/stop the spread of knotweed on higher elevation roads and also to demonstrate and educate people about how to do the same on their own property and town property. Additionally, the conservation commission and interns are continuing to work on what is called the knotweed lab, a place where knotweed is taken to examine its ability to regrow once cut.
The project is funded with $10,000 from the Warren town budget plus a $2,000 grant from Lawson’s Finest Super Session program.
The five interns work two days a week for about six hours a day plus they work at home on outreach, writing articles and making posters. They began in late May and will work through August.
“This is the third year we have used interns or Vermont Youth Conservation Corps. This is the biggest crew and we are able to tackle a significantly increased number of sites. The enthusiasm and capability of these interns has been fantastic. It makes my work so much more productive and fun. And it is enlightening to see how the youth culture is embracing environmental causes. Not to mention their senses of humor and ability to work well as a team. We are lucky to have such a wonderful group of college kids making a significant impact on our local environment,” Coleman said.
He explained that their work focuses on three components: 1) onsite eradication via manual extraction; 2) community outreach to make sure the message is reaching as many folks as possible to increase their awareness of the plants habits, growth process and weaknesses; and 3) continuing to work on the knotweed lab to learn more about the plant and it's response to various eradication techniques.
Who are these interns? Coleman brought them by The Valley Reporter offices recently prompting the newspaper to ask the interns about themselves and their thoughts on the program.
Noah Levin is from Takoma Park, Maryland, and he’s a rising junior majoring in environmental studies with a political science minor.
“The best part about working with Jito and the town of Warren is seeing the impact we’ve made as a team in cutting down on knotweed in The Valley, which has in turn fueled the return of native species. I’ve also especially enjoyed hearing the various perspectives from local Vermonters on their thoughts and aspirations for getting rid of knotweed. While this project is less than a decade old, Jito’s resourcefulness and connections around Warren and The Valley have helped others learn how to properly manage knotweed,” Levin explained.
Eleanor Jaffe is from Sebastopol, California, and is going into her junior year at UVM. Her major is natural resources, ecology. She said that the best part of this internship has been getting to know Warren and East Warren and understanding how an invasive species like knotweed can be accidently spread and take over an entire river valley.
Desmond Kager is from Ridgefield, Connecticut, and is a recent UVM environmental science graduate.
“My favorite part of this internship is to be able to visibly see the positive impact that the knotweed team is making while having such strong support from the town of Warren. I started to get into invasive control when I realized the effects that knotweed has on streambank erosion and how this affects the entire river ecosystems. I think that if people knew that pulling knotweed creates healthier stream and river habitat that they would get more involved,” he said.
Natalie Bingham is from Hollis, New Hampshire, and will be a senior this fall. She is majoring in environmental science with a minor in wildlife biology. She said she is fascinated by invasive species, in particular, how nonnative plants or animals can have impacted effects on native species even at very small levels.
“Though I do enjoy being out in the field and getting my hands dirty, reaching out to and talking with the Warren community has been the best part of this experience. Getting the word out about what’s going on will help ensure the knotweed project lasts beyond the scope of our team’s internship and live through the lives of the locals,” she said.
Caroline Walther is from Middlesex, New Jersey, and will be a senior this year. She’s an environmental science major with a minor in wildlife biology. She is most enjoying the hands-on nature of the internship and learning how knotweed works and how to combat it. “There is only so much I have been able to learn through school and reading. Being outside working with this plant has given me so much insight into how something like this functions in the wild. I became so interested initially because I had a project for one class that dealt with knotweed. They painted the picture like it was evil and could not be dealt with without serious planning or equipment. But it was fun to come do this with the Warren Conservation Commission and see a lot of the information that I had learned was actually not completely true and that there is a lot of misinformation surrounding the plant,” she explained.