Planting a 'Wildlife Corridor'
Gretchen Coffman and her environmental studies students are pioneering a community-based conservation project on the western slope of USF’s Hilltop campus.
That is where they’ve seeded a native dune restoration initiative, now in its third year. Over 300 students, faculty, staff, and community volunteers have planted more than 1,500 native plants, including a federally endangered native manzanita shrub, to return the hillside to its native state and foster the micro-region’s wildlife.
The Lone Mountain Native Plant Preserve, as the class calls the project, is a natural laboratory that is part of the university’s long-term mission to restore native plants to campus and promote service learning among students.
The effort was started by Coffman and USF’s Ecosystem Restoration Club in 2014. With over 800 student service hours to date, the restoration team continually measures the growth of the plants, including height, biomass, and number of flowers produced. The 90 percent native plant survival rate has delighted Coffman, her students, and the neighboring community who have witnessed the undeniable comeback of local plants thriving in their native dune habitat.
The preserve aims to improve more than just the one-acre plot on the Hilltop. The team is also contributing to a citywide effort to build a wildlife corridor between USF’s campus, the Presidio of San Francisco, and other coastal dune ecosystems. As the project grows, the plots will link native birds and bees with a richer habitat to feed on and pollinate.