Have you ever wondered what an ecosystem has experienced over time? Did you ever look around and wonder who was there before you? What animals scurried, flew, and hopped through the forest? How big were the trees?
This past fall, Saturna Ecological Education Centre (SEEC) students had the opportunity to explore these curious questions while completing Module 1 of Forest Forensics, a 6-day Restoration Field School. Forest Forensics is a program that gives students the opportunity to put their detective caps on – and focus on the forest around them in a way most never have before. Students determined which successional stage a forest is in, analyzed its health, and prescribed a restoration treatment.
We hiked directly into experiential learning with fourteen high-school students and their teacher Dorianna. The Pebble Beach Reserve trail led us into a mature healthy forest and allowed us to draw a comparison as we then transitioned to a dark plantation forest. These nature savvy students were challenged to learn in depth about native ecology and plant communities. The field school extensively covered forest structure, composition and function. There was no time for cell phones!
“Does that moss have teeth? What is a nitrogen fixer? Why do trees and mushrooms need each other?” These are questions students investigated excitedly during the field school. We were met with many mysteries in different plant communities along the way, and the students were challenged to solve them using independent inquiry.
Students also honed their compass skills while participating in an orienteering course, and mapped stumps in the mature forest. By understanding the spacing of a healthy forest, students gained an idea of the number of trees to remove in order to allow more light in a dense plantation.
Keep your eyes peeled for Forest Forensics Module 2 when SEEC students return to Galiano in the spring. The students will continue their restoration efforts in the planted forest by implementing a student-led treatment plan.
“I never thought there was so much to learn about a forest’s make up and whether or not it’s healthy. Going to Galiano has inspired me to learn how to read a forest’s history by looking at various indicators.”
– SEEC 2016 student.
“I learned a lot throughout (our) trip to Galiano. Now when I walk through a forest I look at it in a different light. I think, how old are these trees? What made the forest the way it it? Is it healthy? I’m now considering going into forest conservation after graduating.”
– SEEC 2016 student.