Cape May Point Science Center in Cape May Point, NJ

Day 1
(classroom instruction at Cape May Point Science Center, Cape May Point, NJ)

Tuesday, October 10th, 2023 | 9:00 AM – 4:30 PM ET

The Plant Communities and Ecological Processes of The Atlantic Coastal Plain (1+¾ hrs)
Daniela Shebitz

Understanding the patterns and processes that affect spontaneous plant communities is the foundation of ecology-based design. In this presentation, ecologist and ethnobotanist Daniela Shebitz will provide an analysis of the key forest, meadow, and wetland communities of the Atlantic Coastal Plain. She will discuss their physical environments and plant compositions, as well as the ecological processes that affect them, including successional dynamics and disturbance. She will place particular emphasis on an often neglected, yet crucial aspect of ecological analysis; how historic human activity has influenced, and continues to influence, today’s wild plant assemblages.

Designing Wildlife Habitat: Behind the Scenes (1+¾ hrs)
Pat Sutton

From the perspective of a life-long naturalist intimate with the workings of the natural world, Pat will  showcase the most important native trees, shrubs, vines, wildflowers, and even weeds, to birds and pollinators. Beyond simply naming species, she will discuss their specific faunal relationships, the layered spatial patterns that particularly enhance their habitat value for birds, and the landscape practices that accommodate the life cycle needs of butterflies, moths, bees, wasps and other pollinators. In concert with Doug Tallamy’s Homegrown National Park movement, Pat will illustrate how to foster a natural refuge everywhere – no matter how small or urban – to enrich the experiences of both people and wildlife.

Interactive Landscape Design: Plants, Wildlife, and People (1+¾ hrs)
Larry Weaner

Landscape designers and restoration ecologists both manipulate environments to influence vegetation, yet cross communication is all too rare. In this presentation Larry Weaner will show how the compositions, patterns, and processes of Coastal Plain plant communities can be incorporated into the designed landscape. He will demonstrate how an understanding of specific ecological concepts like disturbance, competition, conservatism, ecotype, senescence, and succession can lead to specific protocols that enhance the habitat value and experiential quality of landscapes designed to interact with people.

Comparing Notes: A Wrap-up Conversation (45 min.)
Larry Weaner, Daniela Shebitz, Pat Sutton

Here our presenters and session participants will participate in a freewheeling discussion on their real world experiences  and lingering questions regarding ecology-based landscape practice in the Atlantic Coastal Plain, and anything else ‘landscape’ that is on their minds.

Day 2
(in the field – 6 hrs)

Wednesday, October 11th, 2023 | 9:00 AM – 4:30 PM ET
(Registration will be limited)

Brett Ewald, David La Puma, Chris Miller, Bob Mullock, Larry Weaner

(Site 1 – full group) The Cape May State Park Hawkwatch Platform is one of the most highly regarded bird observation sites in the Eastern U.S. From the vast wetland vista that the platform provides, Ornithologists Brett Ewald and David La Puma will point out the bird species that are present, interpret the behaviors they are displaying, and explain the specific habitat requirements that the marsh is providing.

(Site 2 – split group) Here we will be introduced to three restoration sites on Cape May Point. First, Bob Mullock, president and founder of The Cape May Point Science Center, will guide us through dune restorations that are some of the most beautiful, tall, and protective on the East Coast. He will then introduce us to Lake Lily, where restoration efforts rescued the lake from siltation; and climate change-induced temperature rise, salinity, and algae blooms. Finally, Director of New Jersey Audubon’s Cape May Bird Observatory, Brett Ewald, will host us at the observatory’s habitat restoration site. Completed in 2017 and managed exclusively by volunteers, this 1.5-acre site exemplifies what residences can do to enhance habitat at a small scale.

(Site 3 – split group) We will visit and investigate Cape May Point State Park, one of the crown jewel natural areas of the region. The park contains 244 acres of freshwater meadows, ponds, forests, dunes, and beach. Ornithologist David La Puma will point out signs of bird use, the effects of invasive species, and the habitat enhancement that has been achieved in restored sections. Landscape Designer Larry Weaner will discuss how the native plant assemblages that are found here, and the restoration techniques that have been employed here, can be translated to the designed landscape.

(Site 4 – full group) Our day will conclude at the New Jersey Plant Materials Center, whose mission is to seek out, assemble, test, and provide the commercial landscape industry with superior performing plants for restoration; and develop innovative, science-based technologies to improve planting and seeding success. Conservation Agronomist Chris Miller will provide guidance for plant selection, planting techniques, and stabilization protocols for dunes, tidal shorelines, streambanks, and heavily disturbed lands.