INTERPRETING NATURE

By Stacey Vigallon, Director of Interpretation, and the Baldwin Hills Greenhouse Interns

On May 14, 2016 students participating in the Baldwin Hills Greenhouse Internship Program presented their research to the public at a symposium hosted at Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook State Park. Projects this year addressed native plant germination, park visitor behavior, community engagement, species mapping, and creating dye from native plants. The information obtained through student research projects is available to California State Parks and the Baldwin Hills Conservancy staff, is used to inform habitat restoration at the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook, and serves as a foundation upon which new interns can build new projects. We are proud of the work that interns did during the 2015-2016 school year, and we’re looking forward to working with a new group of Greenhouse Interns and Restoration Leaders in this fall. Below we are pleased to present the 2015-2016 Greenhouse Intern project abstracts…

Sidonie Horn

Coast Live Oak Location and Seed Disperser Visitation at Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook

My project focused on observing the relationship between Western Scrub-Jays, Eastern Fox Squirrels, and Coast Live Oak in the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook State Park (BHSO) located in Los Angeles. The restoration of BHSO may depend on the spread of these backbone species. I believed that in the absence of Coast Live Oaks, Western Scrub-Jays would most likely be seen in areas frequented by people (the parking lot, etc.). I surveyed for Western Scrub-Jay and Eastern Fox Squirrel activity in different areas within the park. All scrub jays and squirrels were observed at the Greenhouse survey site, an area with several young oak trees and well established ground cover. By observing which locations in BHSO Western Scrub-Jays are most likely to visit, we will have a better idea of where to plant young oaks. This will help speed up the ecological recovery of the park.

Magaly Lopez

Better Germination in California Black Walnut

I studied germination conditions of California black walnuts (Junglans californica). Between fall 2014 and spring 2015, I observed the germination rate between non-refrigerated and refrigerated walnuts collected in 2014. I hypothesized that non-refrigerated walnuts would have greater germination. My data showed the opposite: 56% of the refrigerated walnuts germinated compared to 29% of non-refrigerated walnuts. For fall 2015 to spring 2016, I observed the germination rate of refrigerated and non-refrigerated walnuts collected in both 2014 and 2015. I hypothesized that refrigerated seeds, no matter the age, would have higher percent of germination than non-refrigerated seeds, which was true for refrigerated seeds overall. However, seeds collected in 2015 had roughly equal germination between refrigerated and non-refrigerated (28% and 29%, respectively). I predicted seeds collected in 2014 would have a higher percent of germination than seeds collected in 2015. This was true for refrigerated seeds (40% for those collected in 2014, 28% for those collected in 2015), but not true for unrefrigerated seeds (19% for 2014 seeds, and 29% for 2015 seeds). Based on two years of data, I recommend refrigerating seeds before planting, and seeds that have seeds that have been stored for over a year are still viable to plant.

Angela Mendia

Spider Abundance and Diversity: Frames in Isolation vs. Vegetation

This year my project utilized handmade spider frames to document spider abundance and biodiversity at the Baldwin Hill Scenic Overlook. Twenty spider frames, built by students in the Greenhouse Program, were placed on the hillside adjacent to the greenhouse: 10 in isolation and 10 within vegetation. I monitored frames from September 2015 through January 2016, recording 1-2 days a week any spiders and webs found on the frames. Overall, spider abundance was very low, and only jumping spider species were present. Jumping spiders occupied the isolated frames more frequently than the frames near vegetation: spiders were observed on 8 out 10 isolated frames but only 3 of the frames near vegetation. For future studies, I suggest that the spider frames should be put up by early summer and monitored through the fall in order to better capture the window of when spiders would be more active.

Ana Paola Rivera

Health and Safety at the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook

I studied exerciser behavior that might contribute to both safe and unsafe conditions at Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook during the 2015-2016 school year. Access to parks and nature is important to human physical and mental well-being, especially city-dwellers (Louv 2005, Gies, 2006, Reynolds 2015). Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook is an island of habitat surrounded by Los Angeles, Culver City, and Inglewood. It is important to the community because it serves as a connection to nature and a place to exercise for free. Park features make it very attractive to exercisers, however, steep terrain, vehicles, and high-use raise safety issues. Unlike what I predicted, there were roughly equal numbers of men and women observed using the park. Way fewer people than I predicted used headphones (44%) or walked backwards in the middle of the road (just 2%). However, I was correct in my prediction that about 50% of people would exercise in a group. I observed 11 instances of people walking backwards during just seven observation sessions. Based on my results, I would recommend for the park to conduct an Exercise Safety Workshop that would address how running backwards and using headphones may affect everyone’s safety at the park.

Karina Westby

Knitting and Native Plant Dyes: Connecting with Nature and Managing Stress

My project combined nature and knitting. I created dyes from native plant species at the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook, and I learned to knit and tracked my stress level. The presence of parks can encourage healthier lifestyles, and access to nature can benefit mental health (Gies 2006, Louv 2005). Activities like knitting have also been shown to help manage stress (Erhenfeld 2013, Craft Yarn Council 2015). I hypothesized that wool yarn would absorb more dye than cotton or linen yarn, which was supported by the data: wool was the only fiber that consistently had a strong dye result. I also hypothesized that twenty minutes of knitting a day would significantly reduce my stress. Though I was unable to knit every day, during 65% of my seventeen knitting sessions my stress level decreased. The process of creating dye from plants required patience and a deep understanding of nature that came from first-hand interactions with the outdoors and learning from a variety of cultural sources. I recommend trying additional native and non-native plant species found in the park for dyes. I also recommend knitting as a stress-reducing activity and that Greenhouse Program students should teach the skill to elementary students.

Emely Perez

Transplant Survival Rate of Five Different Native Species

Monarchs are important pollinators essential to nature, and they can’t survive without milkweed (Monarch Joint Venture A, Sandoval 2015). We need pollinators for life to function properly (Black, Shepard and Allen 2001). To prevent further pollinator extinction we need habitat conservation and restoration. My research involved testing the transplant survival of three Milkweed species, California Buckwheat, and Bladder pod at the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook greenhouse. I hypothesized that these species of native plants wouldn’t have the same transplant survival once they’re transplanted into individual pots, and this was correct. The transplant survival seemed dependent on how soon they were transplanted after being seeded, especially for Milkweed species. Milkweed species seedlings that were sitting in the seed trays for 67-81 days before being transplanted had lower transplant survival than those that were transplanted 30-38 days after seeding. Bladder pods had 100% transplant survival but buckwheat survival was very low (3%). I recommend that the seedlings be transplanted soon after the second set of leaves (after the cotyledon leaves) have appeared in order to increase the chances of survival. My plan for next year is to study milkweed transplant survival outside the greenhouse on the adjacent hillside.

Jibril Collins & Yesenia Vasquez

How Do People Interact with Nature at the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook?

Our project focused on how people interacted with nature at Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook. From December 2015 through February 2016, we observed park visitors at four different sites, recording the number of people at each site who stopped to look at the view/interact with nature, and the number of people who stopped to take a photo. In November 2014 and 2015, we had the “Be Nice Hike” event, in which Greenhouse Program students engaged park visitors in a high-five station along the main trail and a message station asking visitors to write/drawn what they like about the park. We observed 105 instances of people taking pictures, and even more instances of people stopping to look at the view/engage with nature (143 total). During the 2015 Be Nice Hike, 81% of people in the area at the time participated in the high-five station. Examining messages from the Be Nice Hike events in 2014 and 2015, nature (26%) and the view (28%) comprised the majority of the reasons why people liked the park. Based on these results, we conclude that nature is important to people at Baldwin Hill Scenic Overlook, a sense of community exists, and the park is an important resource.

Jose Rivera

Positive Effects of Nature and Meditation on Greenhouse Program Participants

People living in the urban environment suffer from chronic stress more so than people living in a non-urban environment (Wolf 2013). My project focused on nature and meditation as a way for people to manage stress within the Greenhouse Program, engaging 38 participants in two styles of meditation: coloring and sitting in nature. I hypothesized that on a week-to-week basis participants will report no difference in stress levels, which was proven to be incorrect. The majority of participants showed a decrease in reported stress level after taking part in either form of meditation. The percent of positive emotions listed increased after mediation and negative emotions decreased. My second hypothesis that participants will, upon reflection at the end of all mediation sessions, report that meditation helped them manage their stress, was supported by the data collected. Of the 24 people who completed post-assessment forms about their experience, 88% said that their meditation experience was positive or helpful in some way, and 87% said that they would consider meditating on their own in the future. I would recommend studying how meditation benefits elementary students and I would recommend meditation being used frequently in the Greenhouse Program.

Sindel Donaldson

Animation, Nature, and a Child’s Mind

Animated films are a huge part of children’s lives and have a heavy influence on the way children think and act. They give children ideas that tend to stay with them throughout their life (Goldman, 2012). These ideas include ones about how they should view nature. My project compares the way that a sample of animated films from the United States, Japan, and Ireland portray nature to children.  When viewing the films, I concentrated on which animals were portrayed as good or bad, how animals and humans interacted, and the antagonist’s motivation. To have a better understanding of how animated films might distort nature as a reality, I completed nature journaling activities at the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook two days a week. Between October 2015 and February 2016 I recorded the weather, the sounds, and the plants and animals I saw. I found that the American films portrayed nature as something to be controlled by humans, while the Irish films portrayed nature as something humans must be friendly and work with, and Japanese films portrayed it as something to fear and respect.

All the work that Greenhouse Interns do over the course of the school year takes place outside – including computer work like project proposals and data analysis.

All the work that Greenhouse Interns do over the course of the school year takes place outside – including computer work like project proposals and data analysis.

Intern Angela Mendia studied spider abundance and diversity, using frames made out of invasive arundo to encourage web-building.

Intern Angela Mendia studied spider abundance and diversity, using frames made out of invasive arundo to encourage web-building.

Germination of native plants species has always been an important aspect of the Greenhouse Program. The bladderpod and milkweed plants seen in this photo will be used in future restoration projects at Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook.

Germination of native plants species has always been an important aspect of the Greenhouse Program. The bladderpod and milkweed plants seen in this photo will be used in future restoration projects at Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook.

The arts and ethnobotany were incorporated into Intern Karina Westby’s project using native plants to dye yarns made of wool, cotton, and linen.

The arts and ethnobotany were incorporated into Intern Karina Westby’s project using native plants to dye yarns made of wool, cotton, and linen.