Temple University Students Win Ecological Restoration Scholarship Contest

DSC_0248Temple University Students Win Ecological Restoration Scholarship Contest

“Washington, DC (October 9, 2013) — Island Press and the Society for Ecological Restoration are pleased to announce the winners of their video contest scholarship, Teresa Pereira and Taylor Keegan. Both are master’s candidates at Temple University studying landscape architecture and ecological restoration. Pereira was in attendance at the formal announcement yesterday evening during SER’s 5th World Conference in Madison, WI, thanks to a $500 travel scholarship associated with the contest.

“Projects such as this one are crucial to the field of ecological restoration, as it facilitates the movement of information and creates momentum,” said Keegan. “I watch parts of our society point the finger when it comes to environmental degradation, but believe this project is an example of what we can do to change; it demonstrates that we can still reclaim our environment through individual acts, through community mobilization and then as a society.”

Pereira and Keegan’s video shared experiences from a summer program incorporating work at several different sites in Pennsylvania, including data collection in Rickett’s Glen State Park to understand the characteristics of an old-growth forest and a project in Ambler that converted invasive shrubbery into streambank reinforcements.

“I really liked how [Pereira and Keegan] went from field observations to lab design and mock-up of how restoration would occur and then go back into the field,” said Margaret Palmer, professor of entomology at the University of Maryland and a member of the five-judge panel that evaluated the finalists and chose the winner. “[Their video had a] strong message on how restoration is a scholarly endeavor, a social endeavor, a creative endeavor.”

Ecological restoration, which has been developing rapidly over the past three decades, uses ecological principles to assist the recovery of ecosystems that have been degraded, damaged, or destroyed. Even seriously damaged ecosystems have the potential to heal by themselves when negative forces are removed, but the process can take centuries. The people who design and execute ecological restoration projects use science and humanpower to help speed recovery.

“I believe in the importance of engaging diverse perspectives and tools to achieve collaborated progress,” said Pereira. “Through film and video, we can make our work as practitioners (and students) accessible to the public.”

Five finalists were determined by a week of popular voting, with almost 600 votes cast. Other restoration projects featured included a wetland restoration project in Logansport, Indiana; a biorock coral reef project in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, Florida; and a project that used mushrooms to clean oil-polluted soils in Ecuador. Island Press is pleased the videos reflected the diversity of ecological restoration projects and the fact that successful projects do not necessarily need to be large or fall under official review to be valuable to the ecosystem and the community at large.

“‘Why restore?’ is the most important question to ask at the start of a restoration program,” said James Aronson, restoration ecologist and SER board member. “Oddly, it is often overlooked!  Asking stakeholders to think about and answer this question is a powerful tool for focusing effort and building consensus.”

In addition to travel support for SER’s conference, Pereira and Keegan also won the opportunity to meet with the Island Press publishing team to explore the potential of writing a short electronic-only book about their restoration work for inclusion in the Island Press E-ssentials series, which examines timely environmental issues.”

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