Environmental science

Marist Sustainability Committee Offers Fern Tor Tours — MARIST CIRCLE

The Marist College Sustainability Committee held tours of the Fern Tor Nature Preserve on March 26. The event was led by Emily Ackerman ’23 and Benjamin Gadreault ’25, who are both a part of the committee’s Physical Environment focus group.

Students were guided along the preserve’s three main trails during the tour. Along the way, Ackerman and Gadreault identified the species living in Fern Tor, from the Siberian Squill flower to the largest tuliptree on campus. They also showcased the preserve’s vernal pool, a kind of wetland supplied by seasonal rainwater. The pond is home to frogs, toads, salamanders and one of Ackerman’s favorite species, slime moulda type of fungus.

“They’re not the most common fungal growth in Fern Tor, but I love when I find them because you can spot them from really far away,” said Ackerman.

When the tour group reached the North Ridge Trail, they were rewarded with a beautiful view of the Hudson River Valley — but not so beautiful was the amount of pollution in this popular part of the preserve, including water bottles and cans. However, that was part of the reason why the committee wanted to hold these tours in the first place.

“We wanted to encourage a respectful use of the land to show people that you should follow the trails and to get people associated with the land in a nice way instead of just going there and trampling around with their friends,” said Ackerman.

As the group made its way out of the preserve, attendees received a tote bag, eco-conscious stickers and a pin.

One student, Christina Fitzpatrick ’25, found out about the event after seeing a poster in Steel Plant. She enjoyed the experience – so much so that she hopes to return to the preserve sometime in the future.

“The people who ran the tour were very knowledgeable; it was so fun,” said Fitzpatrick.

The 13-acre Fern Tor preserve, which belongs to Marist, was obtained in 1997, but most students may be unaware of it due to its secluded location on the north end of campus. In fact, Gadreault has not met a single freshman — besides himself — who knows it exists.

That’s because science majors are the main individuals who interact with the flora and fauna residing in the preserve. For instance, Richard Feldman, chair of the Marist department of environmental science and policy, worked with his students to remove almost all of the Japanese knotweed from Far Tor.

“It’s a really hard species to tackle because it grows like no other, and it grows to be 10 feet tall,” said Ackerman. “It’s hard because it’s pretty, so it’s tough for people who don’t want to get rid of it.” Eliminating this invasive species from the ecosystem was quite an accomplishment.

Even though Fern Tor is primarily used by environmental science students for research purposes and capping projects, Ackerman wanted to stress that it is open to everybody. “It’s not just for science majors; everyone can go.”

To further engage the non-science Marist community with environmental awareness and dedication, the sustainability committee has plans for other events as the spring semester wraps up, including a composting demonstration on Wednesday, April 20, and a tour of the Donnelly greenhouse on Saturday, Apr 30

As Gadreault said, “I don’t feel like there’s a big sustainability community at Marist; there’s no real focus on it. We can spread awareness by having fun events and get people here.”

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