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Trash to treasure

Guilderland students helping to expand Pine Bush habitat

Farnsworth Middle School students are helping the Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission document a restored area land just beyond Albany’s Rapp Road Landfill.

Farnsworth Middle School students are helping the Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission document a restored area land just beyond Albany’s Rapp Road Landfill. Photo by John Purcell.

— Beyond a mountain of garbage, there are signs of wetlands returning to an area near the Albany Pine Bush Preserve.

Students from Farnsworth Middle School are helping to monitor that development. Science teacher Alan Fiero on Tuesday, May 14, took a class of seventh-grade students to just past the City of Albany’s Rapp Road Landfill, where the students looked for signs of life native to the Pine Bush at restored portions of land. This is the first time such a project has been undertaken at the Pine Bush.

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Students dip their nets into the pond near plants to try and skim up some small aquatic spices. The Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission then collected the samples.

“This will be the first step in a long-term research program to monitor the restoration of this area of the Pine Bush,” Fiero said. “The data students collect will provide valuable information to the Pine Bush Commission.”

The student involvement is funded through a $5,000 grant Fiero was awarded from the Bender Scientific Fund and in collaboration with the Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission. Grant funding is used to cover student transportation costs and the purchase of research equipment for the project.

“What the kids are doing here today is part of a project called Habitat Watch, where we’re collecting baseline data on the wetlands,” said Erin Kinal, education program director of the Pine Bush Commission.

Students were tackling four different areas, Kinal said. They were observing what birds were coming to use the new wetlands and also what aquatic insects were present. They also monitored the water quality and took “photo point” pictures that involved taking a picture from the same spot over and over to document the wetland’s progress.

“They get a sense of how things are changing, and how does it change over time visually?” she said. “They are actually doing real research and collecting real data on a project that is happening right here in the Capital District.”

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