On Sunday, August 26th, and Monday August 27, over 80 students from Providence College and over 20 students from Roger Williams University spent the day volunteering at Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge (NWR).
Students were able to participate in a hands-on conservation experience by restoring native shrubland through the planting native shrubs, protecting wildlife by clearing debris and litter from the Sachuest Point NWR coastline and improving the beach habitat by removing invasive Asiatic Sand Sedge.
Native shrubland was once very common along the Rhode Island coast, consisting of a great diversity of large shrubs, small trees and wildflowers. Unfortunately, development of the Rhode Island coastline and forest succession has greatly reduced this important wildlife habitat. Native shubland is essential for many species of migratory birds, and Sachuest Point NWR is a critical stop-over point along their migratory pathway. Native shrubs, like the Northern Arrowwood, benefit migratory birds because of their high energy berries that birds need for their fall migration. Sachuest Point NWR is also working hard to provide habitat for the rare New England Cottontail rabbit, which will also benefit from the shrubland restoration efforts.
Beach cleanup was on the list of duties for the students along with controlling invasive weeds. Beach cleanup is crucial on National Wildlife refuges because garbage that washes up has the ability to harm and even kill many species of birds and other wildlife. Invasive Asiatic Sand Sedge replaces native dune grasses that are needed for the structure of the beach shores. To control the invasive grasses, students pulled the invasive sedges to make room for the native grasses and wildflowers to grow back. In the springtime the refuge staff and other volunteers are planning to further restore the land by planting native beachgrass plugs.
Providence College, Roger Williams University, as well as other colleges, seek out the national Wildlife refuges of Rhode Island because of the many volunteer opportunities that the refuges provide. These volunteer opportunities exist because the Fish and Wildlife Service and National Wildlife Refuges offer opportunities for people of all ages that are interested in improving wildlife habitat and educating the public about wildlife. If you or your organization is interested in volunteering, please contact Sarah Lang, volunteer coordinator for the Rhode Island NWR Complex at 401-847-5511.
More information on the National Wildlife Refuges in Rhode Island can be found at http://www.fws.gov/ninigret/complex/index.html.