As firefighters continue to battle the nearby King fire, Carson High School biology students are working with local agencies to help restore areas still damaged by the 2004 Waterfall fire that charred nearly 9,000 acres in the hills of west Carson City.
“We’re getting some hands-on experience for what we’re learning at school,” said sophomore Geraet Rauh, 16. “We can see how it affects the environment. What we do here will help for generations to come.”
Julie Koop’s honors biology students are teaming up with the city and Cooperative Extension to rehabilitate an area known as Quill Canyon in west Carson City.
Students took a field trip Thursday to the canyon — an area important to the collection of the city’s water supply — to begin observations. They will be planting native grasses and keeping careful records of plant and wildlife activity over four years.
“We’re trying to see less of the Russian knapweed and getting replaced by the natives that were already here and the ones we’re planting,” Koop said. “We’re restoring this area.”
Margie Evans, a member of the Carson City Open Space Advisory Committee, came up with the project last year when she served as the city’s weed coalition coordinator.
Water from seepages in the canyon is piped into reservoirs then to treatment plants for the water supply, Evans said.
“Non-native plants have a tendency to present cause erosion and that brings sediment into the water, which affects the quality and means additional treatment costs,” she said. “Native plants are the opposite. They help hold the soil in place. They support wildlife, and wildlife helps keep everything in sync.”
Students divided the area into sectors spanning 1,000 feet to collect, record and analyze data. They rotated through the stations, counting plant species and documenting evidence of wildlife.
“We looked around and if we saw scat, we would record it and record what we thought it was and take a picture,” said Victoria Defellippi, 14. “We actually found some bones. I also found a hole with some spider webs in it.”
Koop said the project is a good way to give students real-world experience while also helping the community and environment.
“If it wasn’t for this partnership with the kids, this project would have just fallen apart,” she said. “It’s cool that all these agencies are pulling together to solve a problem.”