Community Based Partnerships
The RVCC Center for Environmental Studies works closely with local municipalities and environmental non-profit organizations such as The Raritan Headwaters Association and Duke Farms to offer services including, but not limited to, deer population density surveys, rare and endangered plant surveys, forest health monitoring, rain garden planting and maintenance, stream monitoring, and water quality testing.
A complete list of services can be found here
Research & Service Projects
The RVCC Center for Environmental Studies attempts to address a variety of pressing needs for research and restoration in local communities and ecosystems in New Jersey and beyond. Our work includes some of the most comprehensive studies yet conducted of forests, beach ecosystems, deer populations, and rare plant species in New Jersey. These studies help provide valuable information for government, non-profit and private citizens to more effectively protect, maintain or restore the natural areas in the state, while at the same time providing opportunities for students to participate in real-world ecological research and contribute to solving important problems affecting local communities.
Since 2016 RVCC has hired two students or alumni to serve as campus sustainability interns for the year. The interns propose, design, and implement sustainability projects on campus with Dr. Stander’s supervision and input from RVCC’s Office of Facilities and Grounds. Interns take full responsibility for their projects; they communicate with stakeholders on campus to build consensus for their ideas, coordinate volunteer efforts, and source funding to purchase supplies necessary to implement their projects. Examples of ongoing projects include: constructing garden beds on the roof of the Bateman Center to grow organic vegetables; piloting a student ridesharing program to address students’ transportation needs; and instituting a recycling program in faculty and staff offices. To learn more about sustainability on campus view our sustainability webpage or check out our intern projects.
Beginning in 2008, RVCC initiated a pilot project protecting a mile-long section of beach habitat annually at Island Beach State Park to demonstrate the potential for supporting rare beach species, dune development, and recreational use of NJ beaches. Building on these successes, we partnered with Pinelands Preservation Alliance and other groups in 2016 to expand these efforts to additional parks and public beaches throughout the state. Approximately 30% of the NJ coastline is now receiving some level of protection through our program; endangered species and dunes are making a remarkable comeback all without negatively impacting recreational use. The endangered Seabeach Amaranth, for example, attained its highest population levels ever recorded in 20 years of monitoring because of these efforts, and other species such as Seabeach Sandwort,
Piping Plover, and American Oystercatchers have returned to beaches where they haven’t been seen in decades. To learn more, view our conference poster.
Since 2013, RVCC has studied more than 300 forest sites in northern and central NJ, amounting to one of the most comprehensive studies of forest conditions ever conducted in the state. By comparing our results to historical studies of the same forests we were able to document major changes in forest structure that have occurred since the mid-Twentieth Century as a result of the increased densities of white-tailed deer. These changes include: average declines of 70-80% in tree regeneration and native shrub and herb cover; major shifts in plant community composition; major increases in exotic invasive plant species, especially in younger forests on post-agricultural soils; and increases in deer-resistant native species. Our ongoing studies have helped to inform forest management at the local, state, and regional level. RVCC is currently providing technical assistance of this kind to a variety of local partners. To learn more, view our forest ecology flier.
RVCC conducts extensive research on the biology and conservation of endangered plant species in New Jersey and the region. These projects are primarily focused on the eight federally-listed plant species in the state, but have also involved surveys and research for many of the other 800+ plant species currently listed by the NJDEP as rare or endangered. These projects primarily take place in the strongholds of rare plant diversity in NJ, including the pine barrens and broader coastal plain, and the mountain and wetland habitats of northern NJ, but are not limited to these regions. Typical activities include rare plant population inventories and monitoring, research on ecological relationships to habitat, and design and implementation of recovery initiatives based on this science.
The Water Quality Laboratory at RVCC was established in 2016 and it serves as a platform for student research and technical training. In collaboration with local environmental organizations, students and interns conduct several water quality related research projects in the local community. Examples of ongoing projects include biweekly monitoring of nutrient and bacteria concentrations in local streams to measure pollutant levels and investigate potential pollutant sources (partnered with Raritan Headwaters Association) and measuring nutrient levels and presence of algal toxins in the South Branch of the Raritan River to assess the potential for downstream transport of toxins produced by harmful algal blooms in the watershed, most notably at Spruce Run Reservoir and Budd Lake (partnered with the NJ Water Supply Authority).
RVCC has been conducting wildlife research since 2007, including studies of birds, deer, small mammals, amphibians, ticks and lepidopterans. The majority of our recent research has focused on conducting surveys of white-tailed deer in NJ and the region to help local communities and park systems accurately assess deer populations and their impacts. By ascertaining the number and density of deer, local officials are better able to determine to what extent deer populations may be elevated above ecologically or socially acceptable levels, develop plans or goals for deer management, and/or assess the effectiveness of existing programs. Depending upon the needs of the project partner, we offer infrared surveys by drone, road-based spotlight surveys, and fecal pellet counts as measures of deer population sizes and/or site use. We also offer forest monitoring plots, deer exclosures and analyses of deer-vehicle collisions to assess deer impacts.
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