Fall 2018 Watershed UGA / Sustainability Capstone Ideas


An array of Chew Crew opportunities are available for certificate student involvement.

Contact: Environmental Design professor Eric McDonald (eamacdon@uga.edu)



(Chew Crew Contact is College of Environment + Design professor Eric MacDonald at eamacdon@uga.edu)

(1) We always appreciate help with our botanical monitoring -- especially among students who are learning about botany, ecology, forestry -- which will most likely occur sometime in early October, and again in late March and mid-May 2019.

(2) We have a huge backlog of botanical data that has not been analyzed. The analysis may require someone with some statistical and ecological expertise -- perhaps a graduate student -- who could work with Lizzie King (egking@uga.edu). Aside from analysis, the data first has to be entered into Excel templates. I think this could be done by an undergraduate who is interested in what we're doing, and who is reasonably conscientious and moderately experienced with spreadsheets.

(3) We are still very interested in learning more about the insects that live at both of our main project sites, Tanyard Branch and Driftmier Woods. On a fundamental level, we would just be interested in knowing what kinds of insects the sites support. And maybe other people on campus would be interested in that, too? Going forward, regular monitoring of insect presence and diversity could also provide us with another way to measure whether or how our efforts are improving overall biodiversity. In theory, our efforts to reduce invasive exotics and increase in natives should translate into increased number and diversity of insect species. It would be interesting to see whether data on insects support that hypothesis! But, … we have no data, except for random casual observations here and there. [We'd have to do repeat sampling over time to see any change, but to start we'd need a baseline.]

(4) We've never systematically inventoried or mapped the large trees at Tanyard. This would be a potential project for a dendrology class? Or forestry/GIS? It would be great to do this for Driftmier Woods, too, but Tanyard is probably easier to start with since it is only about 2.5 acres as opposed to 10.

(5) In a similar vein, last year two students—Wade Alexander and Natali Hermann—began creating a GIS and an associated smartphone “app” for us to use in monitoring the health of newly-installed native plants at Tanyard. I’m afraid this needs some additional development, however. It’s a good start, but it is missing some data, and probably needs more thought and design before it is fully functional. This would be a great project for anyone who is interested in the intersection of “tech” and ecology and/or land management.

(6) In 2014 we completely replicated a 1994 botanical inventory of Driftmier Woods. Like the Tanyard data, the Driftmier data currently exists only in paper form in a file cabinet. It has never been entered into Excel or analyzed. Once that is done, it should provide a story about how the forest community has changed as a result of 20 years of neglect.

(7) The swath of cleared forest and compacted soil created by FMD's removal of the fallen tulip poplar in Driftmier remains a concern. I'm afraid that erosion due to stormwater has only been exacerbated in that respect. The area remains largely devoid of both groundlayer vegetation and leaf litter, and you can see evidence of silt buildup and new channels forming. There has never been any systematic collection of stormwater dynamics in the woods, and this would potentially be of great value. A first step toward addressing the problem would be to better understand it. (I am probably not the best faculty mentor for a project focusing on stormwater, but I do want to mention this because it is an urgent need for this site in particular.)

(8) For his sustainability capstone project last spring (2018), Justin Ford created a preliminary environmental history timeline of the UGA campus, and an environmental history “story map” of the Tanyard Branch watershed. There is more that could be done on this topic! For example, one could explore the environmental history of other campus watersheds, or even of specific landscapes like Driftmier Woods or Lake Herrick.


Resource list

Name Organization Contact/URL Tags
Tyra Byers Office of Sustainability, Facilities Management Division tyrab@uga.edu
Shana Jones Carl Vinson Institute of Government shanaj@uga.edu
water conservation
Office of Sustainability Interns Office of Sustainability sustainability.uga.edu/interns
zero waste
Residence Halls
Human Dimensions
Public Health
Georgia River Network garivers.org
Upper Oconee Watershed Network info@uown.org
water conservation
Oconee River Land Trust oconeeriverlandtrust.org
water conservation
Watershed UGA watershed@uga.edu
water conservation
Athens Land Trust admin@athenslandtrust.org
Built Environment
urban ecology