Restorative Ecology Training Program

Project Leads: Céline Pallud, Anders Olsen

Sponsor: Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management

TGIF Grant: $19,785

Project Theme: Habitat Restoration

Project Location

2013 Application Submission

Project Photos

Status: In Progress

Project Description: The Restorative Ecology Training Program will develop an intensive training course for UC Berkeley undergraduate students geared towards young ecological professionals interested in sustainable soil use and habitat restoration. The training program will include lab, field, and outreach components.


  1. To develop an intensive sustainable soil use and habitat restoration training course:
    1. Students will participate in an empirical research on in situ bioremediation, gain handsā€on experience in sampling soil, train in greenhouse work, train in field work to make compost and monitor the field site, gain experience with ecological restoration methods, and participate in creating a full report to document the project's success and methodology.
  2. To recycle food wastes on campus, thereby producing compost that will be used in the field.
  3. To educate the campus community on soil issues.
Project Implementation Plan (as of August 2013):

Time Frame
Site maintenance and monitoring  55 native plants on the student housing cooperative rooftop garden have been installed, ahead of schedule. Begin restorative plantings at the field site in November. Start: 10/16/13 (beginning of rainy season); Ongoing, 2-4 times per week
Amendment applications
Five types of soil amendments are regularly applied at the site
Every 2.5 to 4 months: 3-5 more cycles of amendment application for the duration of the project
Soil sampling and preparing samples.
Use a multi increment sampling approach to take composite soil samples. Triplicate sampling is performed. This methodology, though time consuming, results in more accurate data tracking of the arsenic contamination. Two samples were also taken that the student housing cooperatives. Twice in Summer 2013, October 2013
Laboratory analyses
Complete analyses of soil quality indicators including soil texture, C/N, pH, and aggregate stability have been performed this summer. In addition, soil samples have been sent away for nutrients analysis. Fall 2013, Spring 2014
Tracking arsenic concentration in plants and soil Samples from July 2013 have been determined by an EPA-certified lab
Summer 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014
Report preparation
Work on the outline for the project report to then develop into a research article. Students participate in research and write sections including background information of the site, the nature of arsenic pollution, and the soil characterization. November/December 2013
Instruction on soil ecology
Teach apprentices about soil organic matter, nutrient cycling, soil profile development, cation exchange capacity, reduction/oxidation, composting, and pH. Summer 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014
Career development of student interns Individual attention to bolster career development. Include a guest-speaker series and follow-up and counseling with interns as they graduate and set career goals Summer 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014
Public education about soil contamination
The Ecology Center is organizing this event in which the RETP Team will explain how to effectively prepare soil samples for backyard gardens, how to interpret the results of those samples (metal contamination), and information on the arsenic phytoremediation project. Start working with the campus Sustainability Team to increase our outreach efforts and begin planning educational activities and Earth Week programming. September 12, 2013
Creating educational materials for communities
Create brochure on arsenic phytoremediation on display at the Student Environmental Resource Center. Their goal is to develop, print, and distribute materials covering topics including: scientific sampling methods, health risks regarding soil contamination. Remediation by February 2014
Poster making
Summer interns created two educational posters displaying phytoremediation of soil arsenic and risks associated with gardening on contaminated soil. August 18, 2013
Supporting campus environmental organizations
Helped Strawberry Creek Ecological Stabilization Project facilitate a workshop on sustainable management of soil in terms of erosion control and offered to grow native plants for this project.  Reach out to campus environmental organizations including the Local, Berkeley Student Food Collective, and others, to make native plants available. Fall 2013

Waste diversion from student housing
Diverted wastes from Kingman Hall and Lothlorien Co-ops.  Start recycling up to 100 kg/ week of compostable material from Cloyne Hall. Summer 2013, Fall 2013
Safety Training
Work with Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S) to develop standard operating procedures, train students in safety protocol, and focus on decontamination at the end of each field section.  Fall 2013, Spring 2014

2013-2014 Accomplishments

  • Trained 15 students in plant and social ecology including composting, horticulture, soil characterization, critical assessment of ecosystem functioning, and public speaking about science
    • Intern safety trainings
    • Students produced posters about specific research projects, which they presented to the CalTeach conference.
  • Completed construction of the High Tunnel green house to facilitate rapid fern growth and and arsenic uptake.
  • Completed the first frond harvest of the arsenic-hyperaccumulating ferns at the South Berkeley research site.
  • Soil sampling was completed and native plants were successfully grown.
  • Completed restorative plantings by diverting organic wastes and producing compost at 3 student housing cooperatives.
  • Hosted a public workshop at the field site on September 12, 2013 to educate community members about arsenic contamination in urban soils and soil sampling.
  • Hosted an outreach event at the field site on October 12, 2013 to update the neighbors on the progress of the soil remediation project and celebrate the end of the frond harvest. 
  • Continued the guest speaker/ career development series with presentations on sustainable city planning, international aid, and low-tech agro-ecological methods
  • Supplied Kingman Co-op with approximately 200 native grasses provided training for planting on a slope and some education on micro-hydrology.
  • Using URAP and SPUR to recruit apprentices
  • Creating educational materials for communities.
  • Ongoing support to campus environmental organizations.
  • Follow-up for students who have left the program for career preparation.

Next Steps

  • Work through rehabilitating soil and plant communities in the student housing cooperative which was retrofitted fall term, as the construction reduced the project's capability to do on site composting as the outdoor space used for composting was not available anymore. 
  • Instead of distributing plants on Sproul, the team plans to plant in well-planned installations in cooperation with other campus groups (associating with Strawberry Creek Restoration Group and Student Housing Cooperatives).
  • Develop a system to quantify the training program's impact on each student. Create entrance and exit surveys that apprentices can complete to show what skill set they have developed over the training, and how the training course has affected their career plans.

 Final Report

Mission Statement

The Green Initiative Fund (TGIF) provides funding for projects that reduce UC Berkeley's negative impact on the environment and make UC Berkeley more sustainable. TGIF will allocate funds to projects that promote sustainable modes of transportation, increase energy and water efficiency, restore habitat, promote environmental and food justice, and reduce the amount of waste created by UC Berkeley. Portions of the fund also support education and behavior change initiatives, student aid (via return to aid), and internships. TGIF is supported by student fees and administered through a student-majority committee and a program coordinator.