MAD staffer earns drone certification

Aaron Laver practicing for drone certification

While most people today know what a drone is, many people don’t directly see how drones are changing the world around us.  The utility of drones is limited only by the imagination, and as such, their use is revolutionizing many industries across the globe. In agriculture, drones are being used to quickly and efficiently assess crop yields, and even care for crops.  In real estate, drones are being used to inspect anything high, hard to get to, and out of reach, such as roofing and high-rise buildings. In archaeology, drones are uncovering lost civilizations at a never-before-seen rate (check out this article, “Lost Civilizations, Found by Drones” to see how thermal imaging is revolutionizing archaeology). Marketing, tourism, engineering and infrastructure inspection—all being changed by drones.  In ecology, drones are no doubt changing the game, too, but drone capabilities are largely still being realized.  Here at MAD, we see how drones are revolutionizing the industry for the better across the globe, and that’s why we’ve taken great strides to ensure we’re joining industry leaders with this relatively new and effective technology.

Aerial drone shot taken by Aaron at Heckert Nature Preserve - Crawford County Park District

Today, our efforts have paid off! Aaron, our GIS specialist, after many hours of study,  education, and flight time, recently received certification to fly small Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS; more commonly referred to as drones) under Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Part 107.  In layman’s terms: While he’s been flying recreationally for quite some time, Aaron is now qualified and capable of performing aerial operations in a commercial setting.  This new certification will be put to good use starting immediately, as MAD will now specialize in providing our clients with low altitude, high resolution aerial photography and videography services.  We anticipate adding other drone-related services in the future as demand dictates, but for now, we will incorporate UAS aerial imagery both as a standalone service, as well as an addition to our existing field activities to increase our own efficiency.  As a standalone service, aerial photography and videography will be available for our clients for whatever reasons may be needed (e.g., inspection, marketing, property aquisition, etc.).  As an addition to our existing field services, we may use UAS imagery for projects such as mitigation monitoring and site selection, wetland creation and restoration, and perhaps even large-scale delineation efforts to increase efficiency prior to getting our “boots on the ground.” It’s clear that drones have made evident their place in the future, and we’ve made it our top priority to ensure that our clients are receiving today’s most accurate and efficient service, while utilizing state-of-the-art technology.  We’re here to move forward to better understand, evaluate, manage, enhance, protect, and utilize lands and waters to improve our world, one project at a time.  If you’re interested in our UAS aerial imagery services, please contact us to get more info!

MAD Stream Mitigation Monitoring Support for The Wilderness Center

In mid-October, our team finished collecting stream profile measurements on a recently-restored headwater stream at The Wilderness Center in Wilmot, Ohio.  While there, they also conducted a brief survey of the fish community with Stewardship Manager, Gary Popotnik. With just a few seine hauls within the restored mitigation reach, they were able to document 12 species, 3 of which were previously undocumented in the original channelized ditch. The team was pleased to see such major improvements in just a year's time!

Pictured here is the banded darter (Etheostoma zonale), a common predator of small streams with ample riffle habitat. Though not visible here, during breeding season (April-May) this species and many other darters are ornately clad in vibrant striping and streaks of red, teal, green, and blue.

We would like to thank Environmental Design Group for getting us involved in this project, The Wilderness Center for accommodating the mitigation for impacts at the Akron-Canton Airport, and ERC (Environmental Remediation Contractors) for doing an excellent job on the construction.

Crawford Park District: Heckert Nature Preserve Wetland Creation

AERIAL DRONE SHOT TAKEN BY AARON AT HECKERT NATURE PRESERVE - CRAWFORD COUNTY PARK DISTRICT

The Crawford Park District received a grant through The Nature Conservancy to enhance a farm ditch (a recently daylighted drainage tile line), that is a tributary to the headwaters of the Olentangy River in Crawford County. MAD Scientist Associates designed a flow-through wetland system that would receive both surface runoff and farm tile drainage.

In MAD's design, surface runoff is guided through a series of wetland step-pools before reaching the lower emergent marsh pool and mixing with the tile drainage in the southern half of the original ditch. This design optimized the wetland area and water quality enhancement opportunities, while eliminating the need for costly hauling of soils for off-site disposal. The high quality vernal pools in Heckert Nature Preserve, downstream of this water quality wetland, should be better protected from excess nutrients and agricultural chemicals now that the drain tile no longer releases directly into the stream at the edge of the woods.   

We're hoping to see more progressive projects of this nature to combat nutrient runoff in the future. Thank you to the Crawford Park District for allowing us the creative license to create this unique wetland system. We hope it serves the watershed well!

MAD collaborates with Columbus State Community College to create wetland at Sharon Meadows Park

Collaboration can accomplish great things. Debra Knapke, of Columbus State Community College, headed this wetland creation project at Sharon Meadows Park, owned by the City of Columbus. The Park (site) previously housed the Sharon School building. The 10-acre park features open space, ballfields, a playground, and a paved walking path. Several low-lying areas near the playground were periodically flooded, making them unusable and unattractive.  Mark and Daniel completed a soil assessment and topographic survey and determined that a wetland creation project would be possible. Planning and design work was completed in part by BrightView, Columbus State, Friends of the Lower Olentangy Watershed (FLOW), and MAD. Columbus State students and faculty, members of the Sharon Heights Community Association, and MAD staff helped plant the newly constructed wetland, which include sedge meadow, emergent marsh, and scrub-shrub zones. The Clintonville Fire Department arrived after the planting to literally hose down the wetland. It was quite the spectacle! Park guests are encouraged to explore the new wetland using the mulched walking path and enjoy unique vantage points from rock slabs. The project was largely funded by U.S. and Ohio EPA grants. 

Click HERE to see a video about the project!

Greenacres Foundation embraces wetlands for their environmental and educational benefits

MAD has been working with the Greenacres Foundation, a non-profit environmental education and sustainable farming organization in Cincinnati, Ohio, on two exciting wetland projects. Earlier this year, MAD designed and oversaw the construction of a treatment wetland to reduce nutrients in runoff from within and around their cattle weight house. A multi-cell wetland system was created to encourage sedimentation, colloid removal, nutrient sequestration (in plants and soils), and infiltration, before this facility runoff enters a tributary feeding Sycamore Creek.

We are also pleased to report that Greenacres has broken ground on another wetland project near their education building. This one, a failed farm pond, turned emergent marsh, will be restored and expanded for Greenacres to use as an outdoor education site. Our team is working closely with Greenacres' staff to build and plant a wetland that is accessible for student use, and will provide improved water quality and wildlife habitat functions. A bioretention basin at the upstream end of the wetland drainage will receive pasture runoff before entering the marsh. This basin will feature an exposed concrete wall with a glass window that will allow students to get a unique view of the soil profile. As part of their sustainable practices, much of the plant material for this wetland will be grown in-house, or locally sourced.

Click the video GO button below to see how fast our team works!

2017 Make a Difference Day at Boyer Nature Preserve

On Sunday, October 29 [NOTE DATE & TIME CHANGE DUE TO WEATHER], MAD Scientist Associates will be working with the City of Westerville Parks & Recreation Dept. and FACT to host the annual Make a Difference Day event at Boyer Nature Preserve in Westerville, Ohio.  We'll be continuing the battle against invasive species in the Preserve, targeting bush honeysuckle and non-native plant removal will be our focus. 

This is a family-friendly and group-friendly event, so bring yourselves and everyone you know! There's lots to do.

The event will run from 12:00 noon-3:00.  

Boyer Nature Preserve is located at:  452 E Park St., Westerville, OH 43081

Outdoor classroom wetland creation to benefit Etna Elementary students

Etna Elementary School (grades 4-5) hired MAD to enhance their existing outdoor classroom through the addition of created wetlands and additional native habitats. The original area included mowed paths and a meeting area surrounded by unmowed turf grass. The Etna teachers were specifically interested in improving the existing low-quality emergent wetland, and add native habitat areas, such as hardwood forest, tall-grass prairie, and scrub-shrub wetland.  MAD completed a wetland delineation and obtained approval for the project with the Ohio EPA. Thanks to a motivated team and a helpful Etna parent, earthwork began in late April and was finished in August. The team is hard at work applying for grants to complete the project. The Southwest Licking Local School District is eager to have this one-of-a-kind outdoor classroom ready for school use!

NEW Ecological Restoration Certifications

Congratulations to Mark Dilley earning approval as a Certified Ecological Restoration Practitioner (CERP) and to staffer Jim Palus on earning his CERP-in training (CERPIT) from the Society for Ecological Restoration.  The Society intends for this certification to encourage a high standard for practitioners who are designing, implementing, overseeing, and monitoring projects throughout the world.   We are proud to provide this level of restoration services to our clients!  

Contact us for your next restoration job!

Residents of Kendal at Oberlin enjoy wetland enhancement

We were pleased to get our hands dirty during the final phase of the Kendal at Oberlin wetland enhancement. This was our first major planting event of 2017, with the installation of over 4,000 native wetland and prairie plugs (28 species)! Work on this 2-acre wetland enhancement began in late 2015 with a delineation and permit application. In 2016, the design was completed and put out to bid. Wildlife was relocated to other wetlands within the Kendal property in preparation for earthwork. That October, the wetland basin was shaped and planted with native seed, shrubs, and trees. The basin was completely filled by February of 2017.  Residents of the Kendal community have enjoyed monitoring the wetland's development, and will soon have a beautiful view of a wetland system that includes emergent marsh, scrub-shrub, and open water. In order to ensure project success, we will monitor the wetland for water quality, plant establishment, and to manage invasive species over the next two years.

2017 Frog Fridays at Highlands Park Wetlands

In 2016, Frog Fridays began as a fun way to get the community involved in wetland exploration when amphibian activity is at its peak, and Mark had a free Friday evening. Since then, they have evolved into regular events hosted by the City of Westerville Parks and Rec. department with attendance records exceeding 100!
Events were held periodically on Friday evenings from 7:45 to 9:00 pm. MAD provided amphibians and macroinvertebrates for viewing, as well as sampling equipment for participants to use while exploring the wetland. Frequently observed wildlife include American toads, green frogs, bullfrogs, and gray treefrogs. Oftentimes participants saw the silhouettes of mallards and great blue herons flying in to roost for the night, as well as bats and swallows who emerge in the evening to eat flying insects. 
We had a few unfortunate weather events that caused events to end early or be postponed, but we were amazed that diehard amphibian fans were undeterred by cold, rain, and on one occasion, lightning! 

Wetland Weekend 2017 - Great turnout and great weather!

The City of Westerville City Council proclaimed May 2017 as National Wetlands Month and called upon all citizens of Westerville to aid in the continuing efforts to preserve our valuable wetland resources.  In celebration of wetlands, Westerville Parks & Recreations Dept. and MAD Scientist Associates held its 17th annual Wetland Workshop on Sat., May 20, preceded by a Frog Friday on May 19, the night before.  Both events were well-attended, with over 70 participants in Saturday's Wetland Workshop.  In addition to the City, we would like to thank Schneider's Bakery for their doughnuts and Starbucks on Polaris Parkway for the coffee donations!  As you can see in the photos below, great fun was had by all!

All Sides Interview

TRIANGLE LAKE BOG STATE NATURE PRESERVE | BISNICKS / WIKIPEDIA COMMONS

On April 25th, Mark was invited to speak on behalf of MAD and as President of the Ohio Wetlands Association, on WOSU's All Sides with Ann Fisher, regarding the recent Rover Pipeline spills in northeastern Ohio. Other guests included Craig Butler, the Director of the Ohio EPA, and Jennifer Miller, the Director of the Sierra Club Ohio Chapter.

Christine Dilley elected to NAWBO Board of Directors

NAWBO Board swearing in

On April 6, 2017, Christine Dilley was elected to the NAWBO (National Association of Women Business Owners) Columbus Board of Directors as Vice President of Corporate Partners.  She is excited to work with other female business owners and businesses who want to support women in business.  NAWBO Columbus is the largest chapter in the United States and strives to advance women entrepreneurs toward economic, social and political achievement.  [RIGHT: NAWBO Columbus Board swearing in ceremony]  [BELOW: Presentation of new corporate partners Sharon Adams of Service Title Agency and Helen Colon of Ameriprise Financial Svcs. The Seeley Group.]

MAD welcomes two new staff members!

Jenna Odegard & Jim Palus

We are happy to welcome Jim Palus and Jenna Odegard to the MAD Scientist Associates team!  Jim received his B.S. in Environmental Science and M.S. in Environment and Natural Resources from Ohio State University, both degrees specializing in ecological restoration.  Jenna is a Minnesota native who obtained her Bachelor of Science in Biology from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, and her Master of Science in Environment and Natural Resources- Fisheries and Wildlife from the Ohio State University.  Visit Our Team page to learn more about our newest Environmental Scientists!

Mark is renewed for Level 3 Qualified Collector Status with Ohio EPA

MAD Scientist Associates is pleased to announce that Mark has successfully completed the renewal process to maintain his Level 3 Qualified Data Collector status with the Ohio EPA for fish studies and Qualitative Habitat Evaluation Index(QHEI) assessments.  In the fall of 2016, Mark and staff members Aaron Laver and Jacob Zink sampled a reach on the Olentangy River and two reaches on adjacent tributaries.  This sampling effort was performed in collaboration with the Friends of the Lower Olentangy Watershed (FLOW), and Joe Bevan, FLOW volunteer extraordinaire, assisted with a significant portion of the field work (thanks, Joe!) 

The waterways assessed in the study were sampled using an electrofisher unit that temporarily stuns fish for ease of capture.  An Index of Biotic Integrity (IBI) and QHEI score was then calculated for each site (as well as a Modified Index of Well-being, MIWb, for the mainstem Olentangy).  A summary of his findings and a link to the report can be found on FLOW’s website.  The current list of Ohio EPA QDCs is available HERE.  Mark’s certification will be valid through February 2020.  Staff member Mary Skapof is a Level 2 QDC for invertebrate studies, as well.  If you need credible fish, invertebrate or QHEI data for your next project, we would welcome the opportunity to assist you!

Aaron Earns Certification as a Mussel Surveyor

Environmental Scientist Aaron Laver has passed the test to be certified as a mussel surveyor in Ohio.  This certification will allow Aaron, an avid diver and underwater photographer, to be MAD’s lead surveyor for projects with proposed impacts to Group 1 and 3 streams and rivers.  A list of these streams and rivers is provided in the Ohio Mussel Survey Protocol, which can be downloaded here.  To prepare for the exam and hone his skills, Aaron spent weeks reviewing the taxonomic literature in our library, including The Freshwater Mussels of Ohio (highly recommended, by the way) and the Field Guide to the Freshwater Mussels of the Midwest.  He then completed some intensive review of the bivalve collection at The Ohio State Museum of Biological Diversity

The test, administered by staff at the museum, consists of identifying 100 bivalves based only on external characteristics (and, for certain species, location data) during a three-hour exam.  To earn this certification, Aaron had to correctly identify more than 80% of the mussel species, and could not miss a single Federal or State-listed Threatened or Endangered Species.  Congratulations to Aaron on this accomplishment! 

If you have a water-dependent project that will involve disturbance below the Ordinary High Water Mark of a Group 1 or 3 stream, we hope to hear from you!

New Field Indicators of Hydric Soils Manual

The National Technical Committee for Hydric Soils has published a new version of the Field Indicators of Hydric Soils handbook.  This update comes 6 years following the distribution of version 7.0 in 2010 and many questions and recommendations regarding the wording of indicator criteria.  The new manual replaces the word “within” with “at a depth ≤” additionally, thickness requirements are now given as “starting at a top depth” rather than “entirely within a bottom depth.”  These changes are a further departure from the diagnostic language used in the Keys to Soil Taxonomy which commonly makes reference to features “within” a particular depth.  Additionally, the term “faint” in the Glossary, which refers to the contrast between redox concentrations colors and matrix colors has an additional figure to clarify its lack of distinction.  Apart from these small changes, and a new set of cover photos, none of the indicator criteria have changed so don’t go running to reevaluate old data sheets.  As a result, the old 7.0 manuals will still work out in the field if you’re accustomed to the “within” language.  The new version is available digitally online at the NRCS Soil Use web page or you can order physical copies through the online NRCS Distribution Center.

Dilley named OWA President

January 2017 - Mark was recently elected President of the Ohio Wetlands Association, having spent two years on the board and serving as the organization's Education Chair. The OWA is a state-wide, non-profit organization dedicated to promoting and protecting wetlands throughout Ohio. Mark looks forward to his new leadership role in furthering the important work of OWA, particularly as it pertains to raising awareness of these very crucial ecosystems and encouraging wetland restoration efforts across Ohio. As President, one of Mark's main goals is to grow this important conservation organization and garner a broader base of support.  He'll be encouraging our clients and colleagues to consider becoming members.  If you're interested in becoming a member or wish to learn more about OWA, check out their website.

MAD Stream Restoration

If there's one thing we love at MAD Scientist Associates, it's a restoration project! 

CHANNELIZED STREAM ABOVE AND RESTORED MITIGATION STREAM SEGMENT BELOW

For this stream restoration, we partnered with The Wilderness Center and Environmental Design Group to mitigate a stream impact. 

This aerial was taken by The Wilderness Center shortly after the earthwork was completed. Since then, hundreds of native trees and shrubs have been installed and herbaceous wetland plugs have been planted on the stream benches. This project replaces 600 feet of channelized and incised stream with over 800 feet of meandering channel with floodplain benches.  These features will provide better aquatic habitat and improved water quality functions through increased sinuosity, improved substrates, and riparian buffer enhancement. 

Remember us for your next stream restoration project!

Highlands Park Wetlands featured in Westerville news program

"Focus Westerville" is an online video series produced by the City of Westerville. The most recent episode highlights the topic of environmental stewardship and how community members can make a difference by understanding and caring for their natural resources.

One of MAD Scientist Associates' favorite projects, the Highlands Park Wetlands, is featured in this production (from 11:25-16:30 in the video).  Mark is interviewed about the project background and purpose of the Highlands Park wetland renovation. Footage was captured during the 2016 Wetland Workshop, which is held annually in May, National Wetlands Month. This wetland intercepts stormwater runoff from the aquatic center, parking lots, and neighboring housing developments before it enters Spring Run, a degraded tributary to Alum Creek. After four years of development, the wetland now supports a complex array of habitat types, which has increased use by migratory and resident wildlife. It has also shown to be effective at removing sediments and nutrients within the water column, which means cleaner water for downstream for Spring Run and Alum Creek. 
If you watch the entire video, you can learn about stormwater management, hazardous waste disposal, water quality, tree care, and energy conservation!  Click the photo above for our segment or click  HERE check out the whole video!