The Art of Blackberry: UW Students Transform Invasives into Sculpture

Students in the UW’s School of Forest Resources combined restoration with art for a project in Jon Bakkar’s “Introduction to Restoration Ecology” course.

Amy Lambert, who teaches a class on art and restoration at UW Bothel, led the students in an environmental art project using blackberry canes they cleared from the Union Bay Natural Area. Students from her own class also worked at the site and created their own works of art from the blackberry canes. “The activities were about removing invasive species and transforming the material into sculptural forms,” Lambert says. “In addition, performance art was used to call attention to the historic context of Union Bay Natural Area. By engaging in inventive strategies, students demonstrated their concerns for the natural environment while challenging public perceptions about the role humans have played in shaping the landscape.”

Read more about this collaboration in the UW’s University Week.

Making Waves

Last month I attended the Partners in Community Forestry conference, hosted by the Arbor Day Foundation, in Portland, Oregon. A common theme echoing throughout the conference was how programs and ideas are making waves and subsequent ripples that extend beyond their own individual realms. At the end of the conference, the attendees were given a small rock with a “make waves” stamp. Right now, my rock is resting on my computer’s monitor, reminding me each day to go out and make a few splashes and ripples.

So, what kind of waves am I making? Since August, I was married amidst a five-day blur of family and friends gathered under large Ponderosa pines, went on a fabulous honeymoon to Corsica, helped my aunt and niece prepare for a move to Norway, surprised my best friend in her favorite Oakland cemetery for her birthday, and baked my first quiche with the fresh eggs from our three chickens, Gizzy, Squeaky, and Bhindi. Those are just a few of the lovely waves in my personal life.

At work, the waves are crashing on our shores daily. As the director of the Green Cities program, I am fortunate to have the opportunity to see the wide range of our work first-hand. Last week, representatives from all five of the Green Cities came together for the first time over a lunchtime brownbag, I was lucky enough to be a guest lecturer for an ESRM (Environmental Science and Resource Management) course at the University of Washington, and we finalized a Joint Venture Agreement with a stellar research team at the US Forest Service and King County. The brownbag was proof that the initial splash of the Green Seattle Partnership created waves and ripples that are now extending to more cities than ever imagined five years ago. The lecture was an excellent opportunity to show students how the basics of ecology and knowledge of forest systems are being applied to real-world projects in our Green Cities efforts; the splash of learning is creating waves and ripples in urban forest restoration. And, finally, the new research that will come from our partnership with the US Forest will surely produce a few waves and ripples for stewardship programs near and far. And, that was all in just three days!

Sometimes I feel like we are pushing a giant boulder, uphill both ways, while other times we are merely lobbing small pebbles. At moments, the work ahead of us seems insurmountable: “You are doing what?” “Trying to remove invasive species from how many acres?” “How are you possibly engaging the community at that level?” These are not uncommon questions. However, each answer is usually followed by a reaction of “how cool” or “wow, that’s amazing”. Those statements help us feel that we are up for the challenge, making small and big splashes each day and sending ripples out into the world along the way.

Happy End of 2009!

-Ara