Capstone Identified Needs

Projects in need of good students


The group project(s) will be part of the course ECOL 3770S: URBAN ECOLOGY.  This course will use a socio-ecological framework to study how urbanization influences biodiversity, ecosystem function, and the provisioning of ecosystem services to human populations. We will study the ecological effects of urbanization among regions with variable climate, time since human settlement, and socio-economic conditions. Key topics we will consider include biodiversity and the management of plant and animal populations, biogeochemical cycling and ecosystem metabolism, human population growth, development trajectories, and environmental justice. Students will be responsible for mastering both biophysical and social science concepts in this course. We will consider global, regional, and local urban issues, using lectures, activities using primary scientific literature, and through the projects generated through our community partners. This is a service-learning course.

We will be working with EcoAction and American Rivers to develop an online curriculum to support urban watershed learning networks. As a class, we will work together to generate an online resource for people interested in creating urban watershed networks throughout the world. These are real clients who are working in historically marginalized communities. Therefore, upon successfully completing this class, students will have generated educational products (e.g., handouts, lectures, and videos) that will be available online and can be part of their professional portfolio.

Therefore, I am looking for students from diverse backgrounds who are motivated to create professional products and interested in ecology and the environment to join this class. I hope to create a team of students who are devoted to producing materials reflective of a rich understanding of urban ecology and are passionate about integrating stakeholder ideas and needs into our work. I plan to create a supportive and exciting environment that supports learning and gives students an opportunity to meaningfully engage with clients. Together, our work has the potential to make a difference in communities throughout the globe!



Herb Dryer: we are working on applying for a grant through the Office of Sustainability to construct an herb dryer out of a used shipping container that is insulated and climate controlled. This semester we need to identify the elements needed and work out how it will be constructed, develop a budget and write the grant proposal. If the funds are awarded, then next spring we will need help identifying and preparing a good location at UGarden and constructing the herb dryer. 

Implementation of a tree/shrub planting area for medicinal herbs for demonstration and education. Help is needed identifying medicinal species, sourcing plant material, planning out the plantings, preparing the ground, and getting the plantings installed. 



Microbial Sampling for US EPA  

Assist with sampling for fecal coliform in three streams on and off-campus as part of a Citizen Science Project to help EPA test the application of its “Virtual Beach” statistical modeling tool (currently used in recreational beaches) to urban streams. 

 All necessary sampling supplies will be provided; students will be trained in sampling and will collect samples at the sites and days/general times established by EPA and Watershed UGA and deliver the samples to Erin Lipp’s lab.  It might be a good idea for students to work in pairs and Ashwini could use several pairs to help him.  References: Micro CSI-Urban Edition: A Microbial Citizen Science Initiative in Urban Watersheds (EPA internal proposal)-- will send to you upon request. Contact: Engineering graduate student Ashwini Kannan ( 

 Watershed UGA Videos 

We are using the short videos produced by Mark Johnson’s storytelling class for a number of purposes/audiences and would love more of these (2-3 minute maximum)!  We could use these on a number of topics: dog waste, dumpster waste, invasive species, each of our streams (including the newest—Trail Creek), our partnership w/ Stroud Elementary and another on Barrow Elementary, etc.  Contact: Tyra Byers (  

 Chew Crew Collaborations  
(Chew Crew Contact is Environmental Design professor Eric McDonald at 

 (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 September, and again in late March and mid-May 2018.  

(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 ( 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) In addition to the thrice-yearly botanical sampling data, we also now have quantitative and spatial data on some new herbaceous invasives at Tanyard: Asiatic hawksbeard, hedge parsley, Chinese yam, and perilla. I think dealing with this would be a little more straightforward (and also there's less data overall), and potentially could be suitable for an undergraduate, perhaps CURO.  

(4) I've always wanted to get a handle on what's going on with insects -- particularly at Tanyard. On a fundamental level, I'd just be interested in knowing what kinds of insects the site supports. And maybe other people on campus would be interested in that, too? But this could also provide us with another way to measure whether or how our efforts are improving the local ecology. In theory, a reduction invasive exotics + an increase in natives should translate into increased number and diversity of insect species. [We'd have to do repeat sampling over time to see any change, but to start we'd need a baseline.]  

(5) One possibly related or possibly just curious aside: This spring we had a pair of bluebirds who decided to nest at Tanyard. That's somewhat surprising in itself, since bluebirds generally do not inhabit highly urbanized sites. But, it also suggested to me that, perhaps, they are responding to the fact that the site is now a viable habitat in terms of providing both suitable nesting sites (tree cavities) and sufficient food. [You probably know this, but it's something to talk about with students: non-native plants like kudzu, privet, honeysuckles, etc. support very few insects compared to natives. So, by removing non-natives and re-establishing natives we should see greater insect abundance and diversity, which should eventually lead to greater vertebrate diversity, (such as bluebirds)). BTW, I'll add that I and some of the other "frequent volunteers" have also observed a noticeable increase in the number of raptors visiting Tanyard. We've also observed great blue herons hunting chipmunks. [We'd also love it if anyone would be interested in doing a survey of small mammals at either site.]  Another reason for paying attention to insects: I've become interested in the possibility of improving the sites as habitat for little brown bats. One of my graduate students recently completed a thesis on this topic, and I think t would be an interesting project for students and the community. As you may know, native bat populations in the Americas are currently experiencing catastrophic decline due to an introduced fungal disease. Some of the ways that have been devised to respond to the effects of this disease involve creating new bat habitat. The first step in doing that, however, is to determine what kinds of food resources are currently available. For that, we need information about insects!  

(6) 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?  

(7) 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.  

(8) 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.  

Outfall Inspection 

In the past we’ve been very successful in identifying leaking sewer lines through inspections of stormwater outfalls and manholes.  We need a class to develop a map and monitoring schedule for all of the outfalls/manholes throughout campus and then actually begin the monitoring process.  This will involve some interaction with the Athens-Clarke County Stormwater Program’s Cecile Riker.  References:  Philipp Nussbaum’s video on ACC outfall inspections which we will send upon request, existing maps.   Contact: Office of Sustainability’s Tyra Byers (  

Develop Plan and Programs for Environmental Education at Lake Herrick 

Help us develop a plan for UGA students and K-12 students from Clarke County to use the facilities at Lake Herrick and the Oconee Forest to learn more about the environment, especially water resources, and sustainability.  This builds on previous work from a faculty/student committee.  References:  Lake Herrick Watershed Restoration Ad Hoc Committee Report of Recommendations (on the Watershed UGA website under “resources” then “files”). Contact: Tyra Byers ( 

Develop Trail Creek Wetland Protection Program 

Many of the county’s wetlands are located in the Trail Creek watershed.  These filter pollutants from the creek and store water during storm events.  Previous planning efforts, including recommendations of a citizen task force established in 2015, suggested the development of a wetlands protection program using the voluntary donation of conservation easements permanently prohibiting the development of the wetlands and a purchase of development rights (PDR) program.  These wetlands are not extensive and many are located on industrial sites rather than in fragmented ownership so their protection is feasible.  We need students interested in policy research to help us develop a framework for (1) an easement recruitment program which the Oconee River Land Trust could use and (2) a PDR program using funding from Special Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) and other sources for county staff and elected officials to consider for adoption as a county program.  A lot of this work will involve researching successful wetlands protection programs developed by land trusts in the U.S. and PDR programs adopted by local governments and identifying elements that you think would contribute to success in Athens-Clarke County.  References:  Nine-Element Watershed Management Plan for Trail Creek (on the Watershed UGA website under “resources” then “files” see especially pages 11, 12 and 20),  Saved by Development and Saved by Development 2 (by Rick Preutz at the RBC library).  Contact: Odum and Law School’s Laurie Fowler ( note interim address while Laurie is on sabbatical). 

Define More Public Access to Trail Creek and its Tributaries 

Much of Trail Creek and its tributaries are underground as are the streams that run through campus.  And where it does run above ground, it is not easily accessible as it runs through private property.  Walk the creek and/or follow it on google maps and help us map and identify opportunities and partners for projects (restoration, invasive species removal, art, etc.) that provides access (visual if not physical) to the streams. Resources: Nine-Element Watershed Management Plan for Trail Creek (on the Watershed UGA website under “resources” then “files”); Watershed UGA Community Outreach Liaison Scott Pippin ( 

Watershed UGA App 

We’ve long longed-for an app that would let folks have access to info about campus streams as they walk, bike and drive through campus as well as a mechanism to report any problems (or inspiration) they observe!  Can your class develop one of these for us?  Resources: Campus Sustainability Maps, Nine-Element Watershed Management Plan for UGA Campus Streams, Nine-Element Watershed Management Plan for Trail Creek, Lake Herrick Watershed Restoration Ad Hoc Committee Report of Recommendations (all on the Watershed UGA website under “resources” then “files”).  Contact: Tyra Byers (  

Implementing a Post- Watershed UGA Community Survey  

Help us develop and conduct the follow-up on a survey that was implemented among community members prior to the start of Watershed UGA to determine whether we’ve had an 

 impact we've had on awareness/knowledge of campus streams. Resources: we will send you pre-Watershed UGA Community Survey results upon request.  Contact: Tyra Byers ( 

Stroud Elementary Trail/Creek Restoration (please document the number of students, the number of hours and the types of activities your students were engaged in on these projects so we can provide match information to our donors) 

We’ve received Five Star funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to restore an abandoned walking trail, creek and urban forest on the grounds of Stroud Elementary School!  Funding will be used to remove invasive species and replant native vegetation, build three outdoor classrooms (focusing on the natural resources on the site and strategies for their protection) for use by the children at Stroud and the broader community and manage stormwater at the site.  We could use help Fall Semester in the following areas and will be providing a list of additional opportunities for Spring classes later this semester: 

  1. We’ve already compiled a list of the wildlife species (birds, amphibians, mammals, reptiles, etc.) that are likely to be found on the site and we can share this with your students.  We need to inventory wildlife species currently on the site and develop curriculum on the value of these critterswhat their habitat needs are, and how humans can manage their activities to protect these animals.  What clues might we find at the site of an animal’s presence even if we don’t see the animal itself?  Develop a checklist or other means that the Stroud Elementary students can use to survey wildlife at the site on a monthly or quarterly basis so we can determine whether our restoration activities are having an impact.   This might be a project for several different classes—one could focus on birds, another on herps, etc.  Contact: Five Star coordinator Liz French at 

  2. The tributary that runs through the Stroud property to Trail Creek is currently unnamed.  We’d like to change that!  Look at the U.S. Geological Survey’s guidance on how to go about naming a stream—clue: local usage is most important.  Develop a framework or process for Watershed UGA to host a naming competition that would involve the students at Stroud and the broader Trail Creek community.  Contact: Watershed UGA Community Outreach Liaison Scott Pippin at and Five Star coordinator Liz French at 
  3. Brian Bledsoe’s engineering classes are looking into stormwater management at the site and he is interested in collaborating with some other classes in this regard.  Contact: 

  4. We’re looking for case studies on outstanding educational nature trails and outdoor classrooms that we can hold up as examples as we get deep into designing the outdoor classrooms next semester.  Where are those great examples?  What features did they incorporate?  What were the learning objectives for both children and other community members?  How did they involve the community in the development of the design and implementation for the trails and outdoor classrooms?  Contact: Five Star coordinator Liz French at 



Dawg Day of Service—Saturday August 26, 2017 

This annual event takes place on August 26th and will include several Watershed UGA Sites which can take 50-100 volunteers.  Contact Madison Crosby at  Madison is the Watershed UGA Intern at the Office of Sustainability. 

Rivers Alive Volunteer Coordination—Saturday September 30, 2017 

We need 8-10 students to help coordinate volunteers for Rivers Alive on September 30, 2017.  This will include day of on-site registration of volunteers at Sandy Creek Park, handing out t-shirts, managing check-in etc.  After registration, volunteers will move to sites across the county, joining about 25,000 other river cleanup volunteer around the state.  Contact Madison Crosby at  Madison is the Watershed UGA Intern at the Office of Sustainability. 

MLK Day of Service—Monday January 15, 2018 

Mark your calendars for next semester; we’ll need a number of volunteers on this day and will provide more information later this semester!  Contact will be Madison Crosby at and Five Star Coordinator Liz French at