May 11th 2015 – Kirk Mantay, South River Federation

Kirk MantayI’ve never had any doubt that I wanted to work in the marsh, and I’ve always been amazed at how water’s behavior fuels so many changes on the landscape.   I attended Virginia Tech, where I received a BS in Wildlife Biology focused on bird and herptile responses to habitat disturbance, as well as a BA in Geography focused on the remote sensing of habitat change.   After working as a wildlife technician on a US Army Base, I continued my education at Appalachian State University, where I received my MA focused on analyzing remote sensing tools that can measure habitat functional values.

I studied as a Ph.D. student at the University of Maryland, focusing on invasion ecology (or invasion biogeography) and attempted to establish remote sensing tools that could identify high-risk areas for invasion by non-native plant species, specifically Common Reed (Phragmites australis).   During that time, I was also employed as a wetland impact specialist for a consulting firm working on high profile highway and airport projects.   I began studying the science, history, and ecology of wetland and stream formation, and these studies ultimately derailed my interest in an 8-10 year Ph.D. attempt focused on Phragmites.

Ultimately frustrated with industry “snapshot” approaches to wetland and stream restoration and ecology, I began working in 2005 for non-profit organizations who are voluntarily creating, restoring, and repairing habitats in ways that lead to landscape sustainability. Designs account for (or at least attempt to account for) succession, rising sea level, erratic climate patterns, potential future plant invasions, changes in herbivore density, and other factors.   Not surprisingly, it turns out that some of our most special and endangered habitats are actually the most resilient to change.

For the last decade (and for four years at the South River Federation), I have been working to create, repair, and restore sustainable habitats with high ecosystem values – baldcypress swamps, headwater springs and bogs, vernal pools, and salt marshes. SRF both performs science to evaluate the value and net benefits of these projects and use new science from other partners and colleagues to better inform our project and program decisions.   I am currently spearheading a $15 million effort to restore one coastal creek by 2016, the site of numerous historic wetland dumps and currently 55% paved. Over 30 individual habitat projects are involved – 26 of them completed. The data collection for this effort already spans nearly a decade, and the results will inform us of the efficacy of different habitat approaches in both reviving fish and wildlife populations and decreasing toxic sediment loads to the tidal portion of the creek. If successful, we’ll then know how to restore coastal tributaries of the urbanized Chesapeake Bay.

During my biotweeps week I will tweet about current research on changing species ranges, invasion ecology, and frontiers in habitat restoration. Please ask questions – I’ll do my best to answer.

I tweet as @chesmud . I direct the habitat restoration efforts of the South River Federation ( who tweet as @SouthRiverFed .


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