See the SWEEP Assessment


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"This Program offers a wonderful opportunity to build on the existing connection between SSU and Cotati Creek Critters.  The upper reach of the Laguna de Santa Rosa we are working to restore is just ten minutes from the SSU campus, so it’s easy for students to get involved.  This gives them an opportunity for hands-on experience with a restoration project that
complements their academic studies.  It’s a collaboration
that has positive benefits, both ways."
—Jenny Blaker, Outreach Coordinator for the Cotati Creek Critters

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Community Impact

One of SWEEP's biggest impacts has been its work to develop a population of students who ask important questions, reflect upon their own values, possess a strong and principled work ethic, and base their decision-making upon scientific evidence.

Preserves Coordinator Suzanne DeCoursey values SWEEP because it has introduced students to "extremely complex" land management questions. She says that, through service projects, students intuitively gravitate toward asking the same questions that land managers ask, including the following:

  • "What makes a species invasive?"
  • "What makes an invasive species undesirable?"
  • "Are all non-native species invasive?"
  • "What conditon are we trying to restore the landscape to?"
  • "What effects do restoration projects have upon the watershed?"

Ms. DeCoursey says that when students grapple with the complexity of these questions they also gain an understanding of how "what happens on one piece of land affects adjacent pieces of land and... therefore affects the entire watershed, affects the entire region, affects them [students]."

She says that SWEEP also introduces students to the fact that "part of land management is determining what people want to see the land used for, not just by people but by other organisms. So human values play out in land management in a way that students don’t realize until they have had this hands-on experience."

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"Human values play out in land management in a way that students
don't realize until they have this hands-on experience."
--Suzanne DeCoursey, Preserves Coordinator"

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In 2010-2011, students' service work also impacted the community in the following measurable areas: education and outreach, habitat restoration, monitoring and assessment, and resource management and research.

Education and Outreach

  1. Students' entomology outreach efforts impacted approximately 12,000 K-12 students and community members.
  2. Students contributed to insect collections that will be used to support outreach and education efforts in four Preserves.
  3. Students helped set up, organize, and meet and greet members of the community during the Cotati Creek Critters' Inside/Outside Nature Education series and also at a Cotati Historical Society event titled Thinking Like an Oak.
  4. Students' descriptions of native plants used in restoration efforts will be helpful to future volunteers and interns as they identify plants and work to better understand the plants' use in restoration projects along the upper stretch of the Laguna de Santa Rosa Watershed.

Habitat Restoration (Fairfield Osborn Preserve)

  1. Students removed invasive Harding grass from the perimeter of the Fairfield Osborn Preserve parking lot. According to Ms. DeCoursey the benefits were immediately visible. " You can see where that happened; you can see that there was an impact," she said.
  2. Students removed what Ms. DeCoursey describes as a "huge, huge, twice-as-tall-as-a-person stand of invasive Himalayan blackberries" near the Marsh Trail. This physically demanding work made room for native blackberries, which will help increase biodiversity and availability of shelter resources. Ms. DeCoursey says, "Right now you cannot tell that an invasive species has ever been there."
  3. Students mowed invasive species they found growing along trails and also removed small patches of Harding Grass in the lower part of the Preserve. Ms. DeCoursey says students gained knowledge by working at the Preserve and then applied it on their own when off the Preserve. "That they [students] are performing some of these activities on their own initiative without prompting from Preserves staff or trainers is a neat side benefit I hadn’t anticipated at all," she said. "They really are taking this knowledge into the world."

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"That they [students] are performing some of these activities on their own initiative without prompting from Preserves staff or trainers
is a neat side benefit I hadn’t anticipated at all.... They really
are taking this knowledge into the world."
--Suzanne DeCoursey, Preserves Coordinator"

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Habitat Restoration (Classroom Garden)

Students planted two long, native habitat hedgerows in the Classroom Garden. The hedgerows extend from the Creek along the edges of the parking lot onto campus and are designed to increase habitat for insects, small mammals, and birds.

Habitat Restoration and Related Activities (Upper Stretch of the Laguna de Santa Rosa Watershed)

  1. Students helped plant approximately 36 new trees, shrubs, and understory plants in the hard adobe soil along the upper stretch of the Laguna de Santa Rosa. The trees will eventually form a shady canopy over the channel, which will cool water to benefit aquatic life and fish farther downstream. Tree roots help stabilize banks and prevent soil erosion and sedimentation, and trees and shrubs provide habitat for birds and other wildlife.
  2. Students helped maintain and enhance habitat by weeding, mulching, clearing storm debris, removing invasive plants, and pruning. (Pruning adhered to Sonoma County Water Agency guidelines for management of the flood control channel.)
  3. Students helped grow plants to be used in future planting efforts.
  4. Students helped remove trash from one and a half miles of the Laguna de Santa Rosa channel to prevent the trash from being washed downstream and entering into the heart of the Laguna.

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"Maintenance doesn’t sound as important as planting but actually it is,
to keep the existing plantings viable, many of which otherwise would be smothered by weeds or by winter storm debris."
—Jenny Blaker, Outreach Coordinator for the Cotati Creek Critters

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Habitat Restoration (Campus Portions of Copeland Creek)

Students removed invasive species and planted native species along the stretch of Copeland Creek that travels through campus; the work increased plant and animal biodiversity and also increased availability of shelter resources.

Monitoring and Assessment

  1. Students' insect inventories have been useful to five organizations who need the data to assess aquatic health and to monitor site biodiversity.
  2. Students' monitoring of water quality has identified directions for future inquiry. It is hoped the monitoring will increase opportunities for cross-collaborations with organizations working to restore and maintain watershed health.
  3. Engineering students' remote monitoring of water quality has identified future directions for inquiry about the limits and values of technology. It is hoped this work will increase opportunities for cross-fertilization between departments.

Resource Management and Research

  1. Students have contributed the following content to the Fairfield Osborn Preserve's Grasslands Management and Restoration Plan: 1) surveys of habitats and species found within the Preserve, and 2) GPS mapping to identify grasslands that are in good condition and that are highly invaded. According to Ms. DeCoursey, students' mapping work is "wonderful" and offers "a crucial piece of information" needed for systematic management of the Preserve.
  2. Students' research findings have already helped guide Harding grass removal at the Fairfield Osborn Preserve; the research will eventually be integrated into the Preserves'Grasslands Management and Restoration Plan.

See New Directions for more information about how students' service-learning projects will be conceived in future years.