A Day in the Life of a Restoration Fellow

Save The Bay Restoration Fellows work both in the office and by the shoreline. Photo: Bridgette Haggerty
Save The Bay Restoration Fellows work both in the office and by the shoreline. Photo: Bridgette Haggerty

Since the beginning of September I have been volunteering with Save The Bay’s Habitat Restoration team both out in the field and in the office. The team has really kept me on my toes and I’ve gotten to do a very wide variety of tasks, and lucky for me, a recent transplant from Colorado, I’ve gotten to see so many different restoration sites all over the Bay Area.

I’ve collected seeds up north at Sears Point (where a levee was just breached!), at Point Pinole Regional Shoreline overlooking the San Pablo Bay, and at Coyote Hills Regional Park where I spotted a few wild turkeys. On a sunny morning at Creekside Park in Marin, 40 lively third graders and I got to see a couple Ridgway’s rails, an endangered and endemic bird that seemed to be thoroughly enjoying a restored area of the transition zone at the park. I’ve hung out in both of Save the Bay’s native plant nurseries and I’ve discussed parts of the newly published Baylands Ecosystem Habitat Goals Update with one of the actual authors, Save the Bay’s Habitat Restoration Director, Donna Ball!

So really it’s hard to summarize what a day in the life of a Restoration Fellow looks like. Each day can be something totally different, but that’s a big part of what makes this opportunity so great.

One day in the field is still fresh in my mind, so here’s the play by play:

8:00 am – Bright and early we meet in a parking garage in downtown Oakland (not as creepy as it sounds) to all load into Save The Bay trucks. From there we head to one of Save The Bay’s native plant nurseries to get the plants we need and to fill up trailers with water.

8:30 am – Arrive at the nursery at the MLK Shoreline. There we attach a trailer to the truck. The trailer holds a large tank that we fill with water. This water will be used to water all the freshly installed plants out at the restoration site.

8:45 am – Head to Eden Landing Ecological Reserve. Like I mentioned before, I recently moved to the Bay Area from Colorado, and volunteering with Save the Bay has been a great way for me to see new parts of the Bay that I probably wouldn’t have discovered on my own. Having grown up in Colorado I was pretty used to spectacular settings (think snow capped mountains and pristine alpine lakes above tree line). However, Eden Landing is one of the coolest places I’ve ever seen! It’s amazing to be able to drive out onto the levees and work right next to the water as the tides come and go. On a  clear day the San Francisco skyline, downtown Oakland, Redwood City, Mount Diablo and Mount Hamilton are all visible. Don’t despair… Eden Landing is going to be opened up to the public in 2016!

9:15 am – Arrive at the site. We get to the site and have to fill as many buckets as we can with mulch (wood chips). We’ll use the mulch around each new plant in the ground. The mulch gives the new plants some protection and also helps keep more moisture in the ground and close to the plant. Even though we are planting so close to the water, the drought has definitely done it’s damage here.

9:30 am-12:00 pm – Once the buckets are filled with mulch we get to work planting! Someone from the restoration team uses a planting auger to dig holes. Someone else lays out plants next to each hole, and the rest of the team and volunteers get down and dirty with a trowel and a bucket of nutrient-rich soil.

12:00 pm – Lunch! Time to stretch out our legs and backs, hydrate, reapply sunscreen and see what everyone brought for lunch.

12:30 pm-3:00 pm – Continue planting, mulching and watering. Generally everyone gets into the zone and pops in some headphones. I catch up on a bunch of great podcasts, and the day really flies by. Sometimes you can see people taking breaks to stretch or drink some water. And it’s always a nice break to look up and watch hundreds of sand pipers form incredible murmurations.  It’s beautiful and mesmerizing and a little bit mind-boggling.

3:00pm – We load up the trucks with empty racks of planters, and Jon informs us that we’ve planted about 850 plants today!

Save The Bay’s  fellowship program runs year round. We are currently accepting applications in Communications, Development, Policy, and Restoration. Apply today!