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STOCKTON FWO: Service Mentors Local Youth Through the Student and Landowner Education and Watershed Stewardship Program
California-Nevada Offices , June 29, 2012
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Donnie Ratcliff (left)and students from the Delta Vista Academy investigating soil samples and learning how to write scientific journal entries using samples from various locations throughout the Vino Farms Ranch vineyards.
Donnie Ratcliff (left)and students from the Delta Vista Academy investigating soil samples and learning how to write scientific journal entries using samples from various locations throughout the Vino Farms Ranch vineyards. - Photo Credit: Matthew Bronson, CLBL
Delta Vista Academy Students, CLBL staff, and SLEWS mentors gather on the final day of their restoration project at the Vino Farms Ranch.
Delta Vista Academy Students, CLBL staff, and SLEWS mentors gather on the final day of their restoration project at the Vino Farms Ranch. - Photo Credit: Matthew Bronson, CLBL

 Donnie Ratcliff, a fishery biologist with the Service’s Anadromous Fish Restoration Program (AFRP), recently completed three days serving as a mentor to Delta Vista Academy students through a program run by the Center for Land Based Learning (CLBL). According to the CLBL website, The Student and Landowner Education and Watershed Stewardship (SLEWS) program “engages high school students in habitat restoration projects that enhance classroom learning, develop leadership skills and result in real habitat restoration.”

Through the SLEWS program, high school students are able to become an integral part of local restoration projects. Students are trained and guided by mentors with expertise in ecosystem restoration and they work with landowners on projects while learning about restoration. This approach allows conservation and stewardship values to be shared while important habitat restoration is accomplished.

The students from Delta Vista Academy in Stockton, Calif., completed a restoration project during the spring of 2012 at a wine grape vineyard in the Mokelumne River watershed owned by Vino Farms, LLC. On three separate days in January and May 2012, Mr. Ratcliff joined the students, CLBL staff, and other SLEWS mentors at Vino Farms Ranch to install irrigation and plant native vegetation around the reservoir that serves as the primary water source for the vineyard. In addition to learning about and implementing water-conserving irrigation practices and planting native vegetation, the students learned about a wide array of biological processes, ecosystem functions, and progressive agricultural practices that strive to reach a better balance between humans and nature. Students also engaged in many exciting team-building activities and created journals to describe their activities, document the important lessons learned, and hone their skills at observing an environment that was relatively new to most of them.

During the course of this year’s SLEWS activities with the Delta Vista Academy, mentors and CLBL staff have been able to reach out to students from an underserved part of the community and share with them many of the processes and benefits of ecosystem restoration. Many of the students have commented that without a program like this, they would have had little opportunity to learn about the diverse ecosystems of California’s Central Valley and the restoration opportunities that exist therein.


Contact Info: Ramon Martin, 209-334-2968 ext. 401, ramon_martin@fws.gov



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