Urban Riparian Restoration: An Outdoor Classroom for College and High School Students Collaborating in Conservation


Despite the biological, social, and physical challenges that exist in urban creek restorations, there are opportunities to effectively involve local residents in ecological rehabilitation projects. An urban riparian restoration project along Strawberry Creek (Berkeley, CA) began with the goal of removing exotic vegetation and restoring native plant coverage. However, through the involvement of local high school and college students, the project accomplished an additional goal of educating the local community about restoration and conservation. Undergraduate students at the University of California, Berkeley conducted pre-restoration vegetation surveys of species richness and cover in order to assess initial species composition at the restoration site. Berkeley High School students, under the guidance of UC Berkeley graduate student mentors, removed exotic vegetation from an 800 marea of the riparian zone and replaced exotics with over 500 individual native plants. Post-restoration vegetation surveys found that this project succeeded in reducing the cover of exotic vegetation and increasing native species richness. A smaller area adjacent to the student plantings was more intensively maintained by the University of California, Berkeley Office of Environment, Health & Safety and had a higher survival rate among the natives planted. Student attitudinal surveys indicated that students’ involvement in the restoration activities increased their awareness and appreciation of the creek’s value and educated them about scientific concepts of restoration and conservation. In spite of the various challenges of coordinating several interest groups, the involvement of local students has the potential to increase the likelihood that the project will succeed in the long term, especially if such involvement signals greater appreciation for the creek habitat.

Jeffrey D. Corbin
Alison H. Purcell
Publication date: 
January 1, 2007
Publication type: