GEMS Expedition Weaves Its Way Through The Forests

What better way to discover what makes our watershed so special than to enjoy a hike through the forests? 

That’s how a group of 20 Chesapeake Conservation Corps members helped create the very first GEMS Expedition hike through the Sewell Spring ecosystem at the headwaters, where the Severn Run meets the Severn River. 

Explorers on the GEMS Expedition, 2021

The event was planned by SRA’s Field Investigator, Emi McGeady seated, to identify the trees, shrubs, flowers, marshes, streams, ferns and other features that were first identified in the seminal 1988 work, GEMS Of The Severn, by forester Colby Rucker. 

The GEMS Expedition is a project to update Rucker’s work by creating a digital map of the Severn River Watershed to highlight all the GEMS Rucker found and to include newly discovered GEMS.

These expeditions are hikes through the watershed’s trails where hikers learn to identify the special features that Rucker dubbed “GEMS Of The Severn.” 

Forester Bud Reeves points to explain evergreen bark patterns

This update will entail using GIS technology, locating the Severn GEMS by GPS, and by adding pictures and other descriptive ways of celebrating the diversity of flora and fauna in our watershed. The CCC crew helped develop the exploration protocol, which will be updated to train local residents on how to locate and identify the special GEMS in their own communities.

For our first Expedition, Emi created a customized field guild of the GEMS in the Sewell Spring ecosystem, provided GPS and other useful exploratory equipment.

Also on hand was Anne Arundel County Forester, Bud Reeves, (pointing in the image) to help with history and identification tips of the vegetation our hikers were searching for.

Bud not only helped plan the hike, but showed up to explain how to identify species of trees and joined the CCC teams on their expeditions.

Measuring tree diameter.

Bud was also on hand to help measure diameters of particularly older trees (ie. sediment trees in image at right). With one crew, Bud helped identify a rare Scarlet Oak that wasn’t listed in Rucker’s compendium.  

Tale Tales & Songs

The day also included a special presentation of songs and stories by noted Annapolitan writer, hiker, musician and storyteller, Jeff Holland, who conveniently brought along his baritone ukulele. 

Minstrel, Jeff Holland, sings about ecological wonders

The crew loved Jeff’s songs about underwater grasses and a novel solution to deal with invasive species.

A highlight was a tall tale that evokes Edgar Allen Poe’s sense of the macabre – Jeff’s curious tale of The Little Crab That Got Away.

Once the GEMS Expedition protocols are fine tuned, SRA will roll out the program to train local communities on how to identify GEMS in their areas and offer ideas on how to savor and protect these GEMS.

GEMS Hiking Gear

Tools Of The GEMS Expedition

     Photos: BlueMoonPhotography