Biohabitats Projects, Places & People
Forest Master Plan Guides Urban Oasis Upgrade
Few people may know that Baltimore, a city known for its iconic seaport and industrial legacy, is home to one of the largest urban forested parks in the eastern U.S. Established in 1901 as a small pocket park, Gwynns Falls-Leakin Park has since grown to span over 1000 acres. As in many urban parks, however, human and natural disturbances have hindered native forest regeneration, resulting not only in habitat and biodiversity loss, but also in changes to forest succession, soil microbiology, plant-animal relationships, and hydrologic and fire regimes.
As part of its mission to safeguard Baltimore’s tree canopy, and in an effort to chart a course for a resilient forest park system, the City’s Department of Recreation and Parks turned to Biohabitats for help in crafting a plan to guide future forest management. After reviewing existing information and conducting a forest assessment that included more than 200 sampling locations, Biohabitats is mapping out the data to analyze forest conditions and determine key management needs. We will soon recommend strategies to help the City improve species diversity, reduce negative impacts, and improve overall forest health and resiliency. Once finalized, the plan will not only strengthen the park’s resilience to future disturbances, but it will help protect and enhance the treasured natural, cultural, historic, and educational resources that are contained in this forested urban treasure.
Every Great Team Needs a Playbook
Across the country, communities are recognizing the potential of connecting natural systems to communities as a key way to address environmental, economic, and social challenges. Mid-America Regional Council (MARC), a planning organization representing nine counties in the greater Kansas City area, is no exception. Seeking a model to integrate community needs with ecosystem enhancement, MARC initiated the development of a Green Infrastructure Framework. Working alongside teammates BNIM and BikeWalk, Biohabitats is thrilled to have just completed the first phase of the project. After developing a preliminary Atlas, which maps ecosystem value throughout the region with an overlay of socioeconomic factors, we worked with more than 75 stakeholders from dozens of organizations to select priority subwatersheds and opportunity areas for action. The stakeholder process was invaluable, as it revealed the communities’ desire to have projects that would not only deliver ecosystem services and neighborhood improvements, but would be visible, accessible, and understandable to residents. Stakeholders also told us that they wanted projects to take place in communities where there was already some momentum. With that input in mind, the team then developed “playbooks” illustrating opportunities for projects in two priority subwatersheds. We look forward to continuing this work as MARC moves into the second phase of this project and in other regions around the country as opportunities arise.
Envisioning Baltimore’s Green Network
Baltimore, Maryland boasts an extensive waterfront, numerous parks, three major river corridors, four nature centers, and more than 2.6 million trees. Yet many of these resources lack connectivity to each other and to a majority of city residents. At the same time, many of Baltimore’s neighborhoods are blighted by abandoned properties and vacant lots, as well as economic and access disparities that span generations. The city has over 16,000 vacant homes. Recognizing the opportunity to improve life in Baltimore by addressing both of these issues, the city’s Department of Planning and the Office of Sustainability initiated an effort to create the Baltimore Green Network Plan – to revitalize communities, transform vacant lots, and create an interconnected system of green space across the city. The Green Network will include everything from pocket parks with native wildflower gardens to integrated stormwater management techniques along bike-friendly streets; new recreation areas and expanded habitat along our prominent stream corridors. Biohabitats is thrilled that the City turned to us to lead a multi-disciplinary design and planning team to work with them in crafting a city-wide vision plan for a more connected and cohesive green network.
Last fall, we completed a Site Suitability Analysis to determine which vacant sites across the City are most appropriate for inclusion in the green network, followed by a Prioritization Analysis of sites across the city. After sharing the results with community members at a series of public meetings, the City held several design charrettes in key focus area neighborhoods around the city. These meetings provided further insight into the needs of the community, and concepts for initial greening strategies. Baltimore’s Green Network Plan is envisioned as a network of nodes and corridors. The nodes, or hubs, are destinations that provide opportunities for recreation, social gatherings, improved habitat, or economic revitalization. Corridors provide connections between the nodes, linking all neighborhoods into the Green Network. Corridors take the form of streams, streets, or trails to provide safe and comfortable routes that connect green spaces throughout the city. We can’t wait to join the City in unveiling their draft vision plan for the Baltimore Green Network, and we’re even more excited to see it begin to come to life in the coming months and years!
“Urban Revitalization” In Its Truest Sense
Located in the northwestern corner of Ohio, the city of Defiance contains three rivers: the Auglaize, Tiffin, and Maumee. Downtown Defiance, which is situated at the confluence of the Auglaize and Maumee Rivers, has been in the midst of a major revitalization. Improvements to streetscaping, parking, and amenities have helped bring new businesses and economic life to the city. But with nearly 17 miles of waterfront and three riverside parks, the city also recognizes the value of investing in healthy riparian areas. That is why they are initiating a riparian management plan for five areas along the Maumee and Auglaize Rivers. Biohabitats is thrilled to help the City get started by preparing a technical memorandum to identify priority areas and recommend strategies to enhance biodiversity and overall ecological function, protect and conserve riparian habitat and streambanks, manage invasive species, and manage viewsheds. We began by reviewing and synthesizing existing information in order to prepare baseline mapping for the five areas of the project. This spring, we’ll be heading back out in the field to assess aquatic, terrestrial and near shore conditions. We’re thrilled to work with folks who understand the true meaning of “revitalization,” and who know that protecting and enhancing a city’s natural systems will imbue life and vitality for the broadest of communities.
Forest Conservation in the Washington, DC Area
Drive through parts of Rockville, Maryland, and you just might forget that you are in the densely populated Washington, DC region. Known for its tree-lined streets and network of parks and open space, Rockville is deeply commited to protecting its natural resources. Among those resources are city trees. For the past five years, Biohabitats has been helping the City Forester’s office maintain and protect those trees as part of their Forest and Tree Preservation Program. Whether we are assessing the health of a street tree, ensuring trees are properly protected at a construction site, checking a contractor’s mulching techniques, conducting a pre-planting inspecting of soil or plant material, or reviewing a Forest Conservation Plan, we’re proud to be helping to preserve and enhance urban forest in Maryland’s third largest city.
From Flashy to Functional in Santa Fe
How do you solve urban flash flooding in Santa Fe, NM? “Slow it; flow it; grow it,” says Melissa McDonald, Santa Fe’s river and watershed coordinator. We’re helping the City of Santa Fe do just that by restoring the Arroyo de los Chamisos. Emerging from the Sangre de Cristo Mountains above Santa Fe as a small ephemeral creek, the arroyo ultimately flows through town, collecting drainage from the urban area, growing in size, and becoming more flashy and prone to channel and bank erosion along the way. Further complicating matters is the fact that soils in the watershed are sandy and quite erodible. Over time, the arroyo channel has widened and eroded its banks, exposing utility lines and threatening nearby homes and park trails.
After performing a geomorphic assessment and reviewing innovative restoration techniques in use on similar streams in the region, Biohabitats worked with the City and the prime engineering consultant, Santa Fe Engineering, to craft a restoration solution. The design meets the City’s desire to use natural materials rather than concrete and steel. Locally available timber post vanes and boulder toe walls stabilize the channel at the outside of meander bends and boulder drop structures provide grade controls. Construction is now underway at five locations along the arroyo, and will be followed with native, riparian grass and shrub plantings. The plantings will help stabilize banks while adding beauty and wildlife habitat. The restored sites should be completed just in time for Santa Fe’s brief monsoon season, and we look forward to seeing this arroyo transition from flood-prone to well-grown.
Water Remediation Summit at Georgica Pond
In recent years the waters of Georgica Pond (an estuarine pond along the South shore of eastern Long Island) have been subject to excessive nutrient loading. This has resulted in toxic algal blooms that have led to low dissolved oxygen and caused fish kills, as well as the deaths of household pets. To restore the pond’s natural function, a series of short term and long term actions are required to decrease nutrient inputs and filter the water that flows into the pond from shallow groundwater sources. The Chapman Perelman Foundation and the Friends of Georgica Pond have rallied around these water quality issues by engaging with and supporting the monitoring of the pond’s water quality by Dr. Christopher Gobler at SUNY Stonybrook. Their intent is to preserve and protect the Georgica pond ecosystem, “through science-based, watershed-wide policy and restoration” practices.
Biohabitats was honored to be approached by the Chapman Perelman Foundation to help facilitate a Waterbody Remediation Invitational Summit at the beginning of March. This summit brought together some of the leading thinkers and researchers in water quality remediation of sensitive ponds and estuaries. It included academics from such renowned institutions as Florida Gulf Coast University, UNC’s Institute of Marine Sciences, the University of Vermont, Rutgers, and the University of Wisconsin, as well as the head of the EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program, researchers from Sandia National Laboratories, The Nature Conservancy, and environmental engineers and designers including Michael Ogden and John Todd, of OceanArks and Living Machines, and still others from AECOM and Hazen and Sawyer. The two-day workshop was an inspiring tour de force of knowledge-sharing and brainstorming that has provided the Foundation with a set of goals and initial projects that they can begin to move forward with, after the completion of a watershed-wide management plan. We are excited to see what comes next for this beautiful and critically-important watershed, as well as how this work can be applied to waterways experiencing similar issues further afield.
Landscape ecologist Kevin Grieser will be in Grand Rapids, MI this week attending the annual gathering of the Midwest-Great Lakes Chapter of the Society for Ecological Restoration. This year’s conference theme is Assembling the Restoration Community. Kevin is an active member of that community, and he looks forward to sharing a case study on the Morely Road Stream Restoration Design/Build project with its many members.
If you plan to attend the Smart and Sustainable Campuses Conference, which will be held March 26-28 in College Park, MD, you won’t want to miss the session on Ecological Landscape Stewardship: A New Approach to Operations and Maintenance. Presented by Chloe Cerwinka of The University of Pennsylvania, Jesse Forrester of Jonathan Alderson Landscape Architects, and Biohabitats’ own Jennifer Dowdell, this talk will examine the goals and challenges of developing a management plan that promotes regenerative practices while adhering to a university’s mission.
The U.S. Department of Energy’s Better Building Webinar Series takes on the most pressing topics facing energy professionals, with new experts leading the conversations on proven best practices, cost-effective strategies, and innovative new ways to approach sustainability and energy performance. One of those experts is our own Erin English. On April 4, Erin, along with on site wastewater treatment experts from Volvo and Sustainable Water, will present the free webinar: Because Wastewater Matters: Evolutions in Wastewater Treatment and Examples of Distributed Treatment.
To register, click here.
Ecological landscape designer Jennifer Dowdell looks forward to presenting “Harnessing ecological patterns and processes in community planning: The Baltimore City Green Network Plan” to fellow members of the U.S. Chapter of the International Association of Landscape Ecologists when they gather in Baltimore, MD for their annual conference April 9-13. Landscape Architect/ Urban Ecologist Aiman Duckworth will also attend the event.
From April 19-21, Pete Muñoz will instruct participants in the EcoDistricts Incubator, a three-day intensive course designed to empower district-scale teams to accelerate sustainable projects forward.
The Regional Plan Association is an urban research and advocacy organization dedicated to improving prosperity, infrastructure, and sustainability in the New York-New Jersey-Connecticut metropolitan region. Their annual Assembly will take place in New York City this year, and landscape architect Michael Spina from our Hudson River Bioregion office plans to be there.
The Rocky Mountain Green Conference, hosted by the USGBC Colorado, will be held in Denver April 26-28. Ecological Engineer Mike Lighthiser of Biohabitats’ Southern Rocky Mountain Bioregion office plans to be there. Do you?
Landscape architect Michael Spina will be at the American Planning Association’s National Planning Conference in New York City May 6-9.
Biohabitats is proud to sponsor the 2017 Ohio Stormwater Conference, which will take place in Sandusky, OH May 10-12. Don’t miss presentations by Biohabitats’ staff on Green Bulkheads and MS4/TMDL issues in the Mid-Atlantic, and be sure to stop by the Biohabitats booth to say hello to senior water resources engineer Jennifer Missett and Biohabitats’ Great Lakes Bioregion leader Tom Denbow.
Senior engineer Pete Muñoz will head to St. Paul, MN May 9-11 to attend the National Adaptation Forum.
Crystal Grinnell, Pete Muñoz, and Erin English will be in Seattle, WA May 17-19 attending the Living Future Institute’s annual UnConference. As a sponsor of the Living Future Institute, Biohabitats is particularly excited to be a part of this forum for leading minds in green building.
Whenever senior environmental scientist Peter May and ecological engineer Chris Streb get together, fun, creativity, and innovation inevitably ensue. We’re sure this will be the case in Athens, GA May 23-25, when Pete and Chris head to the 17th Meeting of the American Ecological Engineering Society.
From May 31 to June 2, Biohabitats Great Lakes Bioregion leader Tom Denbow will be in Detroit, MI to attend the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Green Infrastructure Conference. This is the first conference to focus on using green infrastructure across the landscape with a primary goal of protecting the surface waters in the Great Lakes region.
Engineer Justin Lyon will attendNext Generation Water Summit June 4-6 in Santa Fe, NM.
Senior ecologist Kevin Nunnery will give a talk on Regenerative Stormwater Conveyance at the annual meeting of the Society for Freshwater Science, which will take place in Raleigh, June 4-9.
The Rocky Mountain Stream Restoration Conference will take place June 13-15 in Breckenridge, CO, and senior fluvial geomorphologist Vince Sortman wouldn’t miss it for the world!
Beth Forbes, Water Resources Engineer
When Cleveland’s polluted Cuyahoga River caught fire in 1969, a little girl named Beth was paying attention. The horror of that event in her hometown, combined with an ethic she learned from Girl Scouts to leave a place better than you found it, sparked in Beth a passion for improving the environment and cleaning up man-made messes. To acknowledge the first Earth Day, which took place the year after the Cuyahoga fire, Beth coordinated an effort to make construction paper buttons for everyone in her elementary school containing messages such as “Save the Earth” and “Clean Water Now.” Fortunately, Beth ultimately channeled her passion toward a career devoted to improving water quality. Since accepting a job at the Washington (DC) Suburban Sanitary Commission in the late 1980s, she has been doing just that. We are delighted to welcome Beth to the Chesapeake/Delaware Bays Bioregion office, where she is managing restoration projects to reduce the impacts of impervious surfaces, nutrients, and sediment to Montgomery County, MD waterways. Thankfully, the Cuyahoga River no longer burns. The same cannot be said of Beth’s passion for clean water. The tools of her trade may consist of simulation models and GIS applications, but we wouldn’t be surprised if she keeps a stack of construction paper handy.
Markku McGlynn, PLA, LEED Green Associate
As a child, Markku McGlynn dreamed of flying planes through remote backcountry. Fortunately for us, the only puddles he’s jumping these days are those he comes across when conducting field assessments to inform his planning and design work. Before joining Biohabitats, Markku was an environmental protection specialist with the DC Department of Energy and Environment. He also spent seven years as a landscape construction engineer with the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. With his extensive experience conducting stormwater facility inspections and developing plan review guidelines, Markku infuses a strong sense of constructability and performance into his green infrastructure design. Drawn to Biohabitats by the chance to preserve and restore ecological balance to the land, he is already applying his skills toward improving water quality in the Chesapeake/Delaware Bays Bioregion. In fact, when it comes to helping Montgomery County, MD meet its MS4 permit requirements, we’d say Markku’s career at Biohabitats is definitely taking off!
Visha Lewis, Administrative Assistant
If you have phoned Biohabitats’ Lowcountry field office recently, you’ve likely spoken with administrative assistant Visha Lewis. That smile you sensed on the other end of the phone? It’s genuine. Eager to find an eco-friendly company where she could apply her educational background in business management and Applied Sciences, Visha joined Biohabitats last November. The skills Visha has amassed while working in retail management and airline customer service have already proven invaluable to the firm—and we don’t just mean the ability to multitask with a smile. She is the mastermind behind Keith Bowers’ ever-changing travel itinerary, keeper of the office files, and Lowcountry office expert in our web-based document management platform. When she’s not working, Visha can be found outside-running, playing with her daughter, or strolling on the beach.
Elena Stachew, University of Akron Biomimicry PhD Fellow
Summer camp is the setting of many a teenage love story. So it was for Elena Stachew, who, as a 10th grader attending a science and engineering camp, discovered her passion- materials science. Today, Elena is a polymer engineer, a materials scientist, and Biohabitats’ first PhD Biomimicry Fellow. Biomimicry is an approach to innovation that seeks sustainable solutions to human challenges by emulating nature’s time-tested patterns and strategies. Over the next five years of her fellowship, Elena will be applying nature’s genius to develop and test innovative biomimicry applications to green infrastructure, stormwater management, and coastal and nearshore habitat restoration in the place she calls home: Northeast Ohio. She will also be developing educational tools to help facilitate the application of biomimicry into our daily work and operations. The fellowship is the result of a partnership between Biohabitats, Cleveland Water Alliance, Ohio Department of Natural Resources, University of Akron, and Great Lakes Biomimicry. As you might expect from a materials scientist, Elena spends a great deal of her non-working time making things. She can often be found experimenting in the kitchen, with locally sourced ingredients and exotic dishes, or with homemade cleaning and hygiene products. She also enjoys travel, something she combines with service as International Project Management Lead for her local chapter of Engineers Without Borders. We’re thrilled to have Elena camping out in our Great Lakes Bioregion office in Cleveland, and we look forward to working with her to apply biomimetic-inspired approaches to design, restoration and planning!
Can You See Yourself Here?
Biohabitats is hiring! If you seek meaningful work, share Biohabitats’ values, and meet the qualifications for any of these open positions, we’d love to hear from you!
- Controller, Baltimore, Maryland
- Ecological Restoration Specialist, Baltimore, Maryland
- Senior Ecological Restoration Specialist, Baltimore, Maryland
- Construction Operations Lead, Baltimore, Maryland
- Water Resources Engineer, Cleveland, Ohio