Community Engagement in Wild Rice and Native Wetland Plant Restoration: Lessons Learned in Adaptation and Resilience

Although the pandemic year of 2020 dealt a blow to wild rice restoration efforts, the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Manoomin (Wild Rice) team decided to take a key lesson learned from this incredible plant: resilience and adaptation. The first challenge was the seeds: after being carefully stored over the winter, the wild rice seeds decided not to germinate this spring.

The team refocused their classroom education efforts by bringing native wetland plants to Mr. Zach Markhardt’s Green Bay East High School agriculture class. Students learned to care for the plant plugs in their greenhouse. Although students were unable to make a field trip, UWGB staff and students planted the plugs at Barkhausen on May 28. UW-Green Bay students will monitor and water the plants as needed to help them get established.

Project partners would like to send a big thank-you to Justin Kroening, owner of Stone Silo Prairie Gardens in De Pere, for his generous donation of 40 wetland plant plugs for use in the project, including some butterfly bush plants for the agriculture students to take home. Another component of the project focused on directly engaging community members in restoration efforts.

As part of a community conservation grant funded by the US Fish and Wildlife Service Coastal Program, UW-Green Bay staff and students hosted a field trip for Kelly Koller’s third grade students (Howard-Suamico School District) and their families at L.H. Barkhausen Waterfowl Preserve in Suamico on May 21, 2021. L

Leaders Amy Carrozzino-Lyon and Lynn Terrien shared the ecological importance of wild rice and showed students the marsh study area where the wild rice is at the floating leaf stage. They then spoke to students about the different development stages of wild rice. Kathleen Ratteree, UW-Green Bay Manoomin Student Researcher and First Nations in Education doctoral student, invited knowledge keeper Jeff Grignon , a citizen of the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin, to speak to the group. Mr. Grignon shared his deep understanding of wild rice origin stories, tribal restoration efforts, the complex interconnections between wild rice, animals and human communities, and the cultural significance of wild rice.

Students had the opportunity to “seed” wild rice at the marsh study area. Ms. Terrien and Ms. Ratteree provided samples of wild rice dishes for students and their families to taste test– wild rice casserole, wild rice blueberry muffins, and wild rice sorbet with maple syrup and berries. Mr. Grignon stayed after the field trip to speak more about wild rice restoration and the importance of plant communities to the UWGB student researchers working on the project. The Wild Rice Project team looks forward to more exciting opportunities to engage the community in the restoration of wetlands in Green Bay.

Submitted by Kathleen Ratteree
Manoomin Wild Rice Restoration Team