The official website of the Elkhorn Slough Foundation and Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve
Press Release: Spring Break students volunteer at Elkhorn Slough

Elkhorn Slough Foundation
Contact: Diane Tworog
(831) 728-5939 x240

For immediate release
March 9, 2010

A party to remember: Alternative Spring Break students volunteer at Elkhorn Slough

While many students still flock to Cancun or Baja for a week of partying and sunning on the beach, a growing number of college students nationwide are choosing to spend their Spring Break volunteering. Known as an alternative spring break, the concept matches students with meaningful community projects. Here at the Elkhorn Slough on Central California’s coast, students from two universities, Vanderbilt and Northeastern, each spent a week assisting with land restoration and planting projects.

This week, a dozen students from Vanderbilt University in Tennessee arrived at Elkhorn Slough, enthusiastic and eager to get to work. The group is working with Elkhorn Slough staff on a number of projects. First up was a day of weeding at the Elkhorn Slough Foundation’s native grass farm. At the grass farm, native grass plugs are grown and their seeds are collected to plant on properties throughout the Elkhorn Slough watershed. Once planted, the native grasses help control erosion, provide habitat for wildlife, and prevent invasive species from overtaking the lands. Students laughed and chatted as they pulled weeds and learned about California plants. “Why lay on the beach when we could be pulling weeds?” joked sophomore Karen White.    

Projects for the remainder of the week include planting lupines at the site of a recent tidal wetland enhancement project as well as a fence project and greenhouse plantings at the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve.

Most chose to come to Elkhorn Slough for their alternative Spring Break to experience California for the first time and to learn about the environmental challenges facing western coastal areas. Rebecca Reed, a sophomore, explained, “I really like the direct service learning model. You learn so much more about conservation and environmental issues here in the field as opposed to sitting in the classroom.”

Alternative Spring Break does not appeal to a single major or type of student. Participating Vanderbilt students come from all over the country, even the world (Hong Kong and Istanbul). Diverse student majors include Math, Human Development, Neuroscience, and even Violin Performance. The Vanderbilt students are sleeping on the floor of a church in Carmel, but assure us that “there’s enough carpet to make it comfortable.”  

Vanderbilt students are lucky the weather is cooperating for their trip. A group of alternative spring break students from Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, arrived amid the heavy rains the first week of March. Despite the weather, students remained upbeat and energetic. While several of their projects were cancelled, the students took the opportunity to learn about California conservation efforts and the work of organizations including the Elkhorn Slough Foundation and the Big Sur Land Trust.

Vanderbilt students will be working at Elkhorn Slough again on Thursday. Media is welcome to interview and photograph the students while they volunteer. For more information, please contact Diane Tworog at (831) 728-5939 x240 or . For photos of the students please visit: (students weeding) and (planting lupines)

The Elkhorn Slough Foundation, established in 1982, is the only community-supported organization wholly dedicated to conserving and restoring Elkhorn Slough and its watershed. ESF owns or manages nearly 4,000 acres, or nearly nine percent of the watershed.
The Elkhorn Slough and its surrounding hills and valleys is an incredibly diverse ecosystem featuring the expansive tracts of saltwater marshes, oak woodlands, working farms, and the plant and wildlife that inhabit these regions. The Slough has been the focal point for innovative and cutting-edge research, conservation and education programs.



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