Volunteers, conservation groups plant to protect salt marshes

MD-planting at rerfuge 2x-032916

Special to Dorchester Banner/Pickering Creek Center A volunteer plants smooth cordgrass in Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge’s salt marshes.

CAMBRIDGE — On April 16, nature lovers from across the Delmarva Region will join Pickering Creek Audubon Center, National Audubon Society and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff for an “All Audubon Day in the Marsh” in Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge. Volunteers will participate in a restoration planting, hear from conservation experts, and tour a rarely-seen expanse of salt marshes in southern Dorchester County.

Matt Whitbeck is the supervisory wildlife biologist for Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge. Matt has over 15 years experience working in coastal marshes and resource management issues on National Wildlife Refuges. He has a BA in Environmental Conservation from Prescott College and an MS in Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences from Texas A&M University. He did his thesis work on the effects of fire on breeding seaside sparrows, an important topic in marsh management and salt marsh birds.

David Curson is director of Bird Conservation for Audubon Maryland-DC, the Maryland state office of the National Audubon Society. David oversees the Maryland-DC Important Bird Areas program. His work has been especially focused on salt marsh conservation and climate adaptation. David received his BSc in Ecology at the University of East Anglia and received MS and PhD degrees in the Department of Wildlife Ecology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Matt and Dave were two of the principal investigators for the report, Blackwater 2100: A Strategy for Salt Marsh Resistance in an Era of Climate Change, which examines climate-related threats to — and solutions for — wildlife and habitats, especially fragile bird populations like the Saltmarsh sparrow, Seaside Sparrow, Clapper Rail and Black Rail.

“Hands-on projects like this one are a lot of fun for people of all ages,” says Mark Scallion, director of Pickering Creek Audubon Center. “We have many dedicated volunteers who sign up every year because they love getting into the marsh. We see a lot of new faces too. People of all backgrounds and interests come together over their shared hope to protect birds, wildlife and the outdoors.”

Join Matt, Dave and neighbors from around the region on April 16 from 9:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. and experience a unique and spectacular part of Maryland. Learn how you can be a part of conservation solutions for birds and wildlife. Free lunch will be offered to participants. Space is limited. Please RSVP no later than April 8 by contacting Mary Helen Gillen at mgillen@audubon.org or by calling 410-822-4903.

This project is supported by the Conservation Fund and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

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