Leaf Litter

Biohabitats Projects, Places, and People

From a rural stream restoration on tribal land in Colorado, to the development of a park in metropolitan Cleveland that will be the nexus of watershed restoration research and education in Northeast Ohio, see what we’re up to at Biohabitats.

By Amy Nelson

Article Index


Stewardship Center Planned for Parma, Ohio

In a collaborative partnership, Cleveland Metro Parks, the West Creek Preservation Committee, the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District and the City of Parma, Ohio are working to establish a natural park and Stewardship Center in the West Creek Preserve, a large undeveloped parcel along West Creek. Biohabitats is participating on a team, led by The Portico Group of Seattle, that is developing a master plan and schematic design options for the Stewardship Center and surrounding park. The Center is envisioned to provide environmental education and interpretation, watershed resources and training, and community participation. We are providing expertise in conservation biology, ecological restoration and sustainable design initiatives.

Big Creek Headed for Big Improvements

As part of a team led by DLZ, Biohabitats will prepare designs for the restoration of 4,500 linear feet of the Chevrolet Branch of Big Creek in Ohio. The creek, a major tributary to the Cuyahoga River in one of the most highly urbanized watersheds within the Lake Erie Basin, has suffered from the impacts of point and non-point source pollution, storm water runoff, failing infrastructure, and poor land use practices. Primary goals of the restoration are to stabilize channel banks, develop a riparian zone with native vegetation and channel clearing to restore the stream’s flow and sediment carrying capacity. The channel improvements are based on natural channel design techniques within an urban context. The project, which is also addressing a diversion pipe and storage basin, embodies a multi-community, multi-agency approach to stormwater management, combining both structural and non-structural best management practices. With field reconnaissance complete and site selection underway, we are eager to hit the drafting table!

Working With The Southern Ute Indian Tribe On Rural Stream Restoration

In an effort to improve water quality, aquatic and riparian habitat, and protect natural resources, we were recently honored to work for the Southern Ute Tribe on the restoration of over 1,500 linear feet of channel and riparian area of Rock Creek. This first-order stream is located on the Southern Ute Indian Reservation near Ignacio, Colorado. Irrigation return flows have altered the flow patterns in the creek, causing bank erosion and sediment loading. Past land use practices – largely overgrazing by livestock – have also contributed significantly to the stream’s degradation. The restoration project involved stabilizing steep embankments by creating bankfull benches, lowering point bars and transplanting sod material to the benches, protecting toes of slope with rock material from a local quarry, installing riffle structures and enhancing existing riffles, seeding and matting exposed slopes, and planting riparian shrubs for long-term bank stability. Local tribal members were hired to assist with planting, and a high school science class volunteered their time one morning to learn about restoration.

A New Urbanist Plan for City of Visalia, California 

Biohabitats recently worked on a multi-disciplinary team led by Moule & Polyzoides Architects and CPS Landscape Architects to develop a new plan and form-based code for the City of Visalia, California. The Visalia Southeast Area Master Plan offers an alternative to conventional sprawl development, reserving approximately 30% of the available 850-acre land area for public landscapes. By holding a “discovery” charrette and an intense, week-long design charrette open to City officials, developers, various stakeholders, and the general public, the team was able to tap into the wisdom of the community members and engage them in the planning process. The ecologically designed landscape includes the restoration of an irrigation channel into a public greenway of restored woodland and prairie. The greenway is connected to a regional park that preserves monumental valley oaks, provides valuable bird and rare species habitat, and offers residents a beautiful central park that reflects the historical character of the Central Valley landscape. The plan also features public landscapes that double as stormwater management facilities, promoting groundwater infiltration in the San Joaquin Valley. The Visalia Southeast Area Master Plan demonstrates how higher density, traditional neighborhood design can allow development and natural landscapes to coexist in ways that support the natural ecological functions inherent to sustainable communities.

Completing Final Season Of Missionary Ridge Noxious Weed Inventory

The Missionary Ridge noxious weed inventory and treatment project enters its third and final year. Our first year, 2004, was focused largely on weed inventory.  In 2005, inventory work was completed and weed control began during the summer in selected locations. This year, we are devoting nearly all of our resources to treating weeds across the project area. Much of the Missionary Ridge fire area is very difficult to access for weed treatment due to steep slopes, hazard of falling trees, or lack of water for herbicide spraying. Therefore, we are concentrating our effort in areas along roads, trails, drainage bottoms, and in open parks where we mapped weeds in 2004 and 2005.


If you’re attending the 2006 Annual Southeast Watershed Roundtable & North Carolina Statewide Roundtable in Asheville August 2-4, stop by the Biohabitats and chat with Kevin Nunnery of our Southeast Bioregional office.

For those of you planning to join hundreds of international scientists, researchers, scholars and practitioners at the 5th European Conference on Ecological Restoration, keep an eye out for Keith Bowers. The conference, hosted by the European Chapter of the Society for Ecological Restoration International will take place at the University of Greifswald, a 550-year-old university in eastern Germany. Set amidst extensive forests, peatlands, lakes, seascapes, and ecological agriculture, the University is the perfect spot to address the challenges of land use changes in and outside Europe by exchanging knowledge and experience on the ecological, economical and ethical dimensions of ecological restoration.

Our Office Earns Recognition!

Our new home in the Stables Building at Clipper Mill, recently won a 2006 Preservation Project Award from Baltimore Heritage, a city wide historic and architectural preservation organization. The award recognizes excellence in the restoration, renovation, rehabilitation or adaptive use of interiors and/or exteriors of individual structures or groups of buildings. As collaborators with the building’s architect, Cho Benn Holback + Associates and developer Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse, we are particularly proud of this achievement. Come visit us and check it out!


Water resources engineer extraordinaire Ted Brown joined the Biohabitats team in April, bringing with him over 12 years of experience in watershed protection, restoration, and planning. Although he’s a Maryland native who earned his M.S. in Civil Engineering from the University of Virginia, Ted’s true allegiance is to the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, where he earned his B.A. in Economics. Our resident tar heel and self-proclaimed “stormwater geek” holds an impressive resume, which includes four years with a Colorado based water engineering firm, and eight years as Director of Watershed Implementation for the Center for Watershed Protection. Experienced in stormwater design and program guidance, Ted has helped develop stormwater management manuals for several states, including New York, Minnesota, Georgia and Vermont. He also co-authored the EPA funded national guidance manual on Illicit Discharge Detection and Elimination. When he’s not busy saving our watersheds, Ted can be found running, skiing, listening to music or enjoying time with his wife and three kids.

This spring, we welcomed Environmental Technician, Sarah Murray. A former Soil Scientist for the NRCS, Sarah is one of very few people we know who can boast experience participating in an initial soil survey. (She mapped soils for the initial Floyd County, Virginia survey.) Next on Sarah’s list of career highs was teaching principles of soil and water conservation to more than 40,000 boys at the 2005 Boy Scout Jamboree. (Pebble counts must seem easy by comparison!) Sarah holds a B.S. in Environmental Science from Virginia Tech. Her education included a summer spent studying environmental law and camping in the Australian Outback. Drawn to the Biohabitats mission and the opportunity to work in different bioregions, Sarah can usually be found applying her knowledge out in the field. Sarah truly enjoys the natural environment she works to protect. A West Virginia native, she spends her free time canoeing, kayaking, camping, and hiking along the Appalachian Trail with her dog.

GIS Specialist Jennifer Pfister came to Biohabitats from the Patuxent Wildlife Refuge Center, where she was performing GIS mapping and data collection geared toward migratory bird populations. Prior to that, Jen spent five years at Towson University’s GIS Center – first analyzing patterns of forest fragmentation in relation to migratory birds and later as a GIS Specialist. Having experienced her own migratory journey – from high school science teacher to GIS guru – this lifelong environmental advocate brings a valuable mix of skills to the Bio team. Jennifer’s expertise includes spatial analysis using a variety of software packages, GIS applications to landscape ecology and public outreach.  The wife of a tennis instructor, she also boasts an imposing forehand with wicked topspin. Jen holds a B.A. in Biology from the University of Maryland and a Masters in Geography and Environmental Planning from Towson University. She also carries the distinction of being the only Bio staff member to have been married aboard a kayak in the Prince William Sound. Whether she’s wielding a racquet, paddle, ski poles, hiking stick or waterfall repelling harness (yes, she does that, too), Jennifer is destined to be a powerful force in the world of ecological restoration, conservation planning and regenerative design.

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