Goats to help UGA students learn about environmental responsibility

Writer/Contact: Eric MacDonald, eamacdon@uga.edu
Volunteer workdays, Philosophers Walk to be held with resident goat herd

Athens, Ga. – The University of Georgia’s semi-resident goat herd, the Tanyard Creek Chew Crew, has returned to the area near the Hull Street Parking Deck, to dine on kudzu, English ivy, privet, and other non-native plants until the beginning of Thanksgiving Break. The goats also will be used in a number of university courses to help students learn about environmental responsibility, including invasive plant species, water quality and plant and animal health.

The herd of goats is helping remove invasive plants from the banks of a stream that flows through campus. The crew is part of an experiment in prescribed grazing, a process that uses livestock to improve the ecological quality of forests and streams. At UGA, students and faculty also are using prescribed grazing to further the university’s teaching and research mission, and to engage the surrounding community in environmental stewardship.

Lizzie King, a professor who holds a joint appointment between the Odum School of Ecology and the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, is helping the Chew Crew monitor the impact of grazing on the site’s vegetation. With assistance from the UGA Office of Sustainability and the UGA College of Environment and Design’s Material Reuse Program, dozens of students in landscape architecture, business, biology, ecology and other fields have already volunteered to help establish the vegetation monitoring plots. Undergraduate students in professor Jon Calabria’s Applied Landscape Ecology course are assisting with this effort by collecting vegetation data before and after prescribed grazing treatments.

In addition to the vegetation research, students and faculty in the College of Public Health and the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources are studying possible environmental impacts of prescribed grazing on water quality. Graduate students in professor Todd Rasmussen’s Quantitative Hydrology course are researching how the Chew Crew goats affect water quality within the creek. Students in professor Erin Lipp’s graduate-level course, Advanced Topics in Aquatic, Microbiology, Health and Environment, are also contributing to this research. Although both classes have just begun their studies, the students’ initial data suggest that Tanyard Creek is heavily impacted by other sources of contamination.

“We doubt that goats will cause any noticeable change in the stream quality,” said Rasmussen.

The students will investigate the issue and contribute to a better understanding of how prescribed grazing may affect urban streams.

“Students are really excited to study water quality and the Chew Crew,” said Keri Lydon, a graduate teaching assistant.

Sassy Morton, a student in the Warnell School, suggests that the Chew Crew might help draw attention to water quality problems that exist on the UGA campus

On Oct. 29 from 5-7:30 p.m., the UGA Environmental Ethics Certificate Program will host a “Philosophers Walk with the UGA Chew Crew.” The walk will include a visit with the goats and a tour of the Tanyard Creek paddock, followed by a goat-themed potluck dinner and discussion at the Founders Garden House.

The Chew Crew will host volunteer workdays at the Tanyard Creek site Nov. 6 and Nov. 14 from 3-6 p.m. Volunteers are invited to help the crew by picking up trash, sowing native plant seeds to help stabilize the soil, and cutting invasive vegetation that is too tall for the goats to reach on their own.

On Nov. 9 from 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m., the Chew Crew will help celebrate UGA Homecoming with tours, games, and other educational and fun activities for children and adults at the Tanyard Creek paddock.

For information about the Tanyard Creek Chew Crew, contact Eric MacDonald at eamacdon@uga.edu. For more information about the UGA College of Environment and Design, see www.ced.uga.edu. For information about the UGA Office of Sustainability, see http://sustainability.uga.edu/.

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Note to editors: A photograph of a volunteer helping the Tanyard Creek Chew Crew remove invasive shrubs is available at http://multimedia.uga.edu/media/images/Volunteer-Paul-van-Wicklen.jpg.

Cutline: Volunteer Paul van Wicklen helps the Chew Crew goats remove invasive shrubs and vines from the banks of Tanyard Creek. Photograph by David Bristow.