At Prince of Peace High School, an advance placement high school class is removing an invasive species from the waterways on the church property. They have started a mission which is estimated to last ten years, and be completed by future students after they graduate.
High school teacher Katharine Atkinson became interested in starting the project after she was alerted that something strange was showing up in the ground marshes. She and three of her students collected samples and took pictures and submitted them to the Department of Natural Resources. The tall reeds were identified as Phragmites, European reeds which compete with native plants for resources, but do not feed local wildlife.
Atkinson then began to work with biologist Curt Kemmerer to create the project for removal and write grant proposals. Around that time, the Iowa American Water company announced a grant opportunity to improve local watersheds. Atkinson applied for a grant, and received $850 for the purchase of herbicide.
Students have begin to remove the Phragmites. They hand pick seeds, preventing them from traveling into a nearby creek. In addition, they have spent time after school clearing out the reeds.
They’ve been helped by parish farmer Jerome Burken, who has mowed a drainage ditch that conntained beneficial cattails but was 25 percent Phragmites. . As the area grows back, Atkinson is spraying herbicide which will attack the invasive plants.
“I can tell cattails and Phragmites apart, so the cattails are re-growing to provide winter seed heads for redwing blackbirds,” Atkinson said.