Campus News

Grazing in the grass

Chew Crew Paul Van Wicklen Goats-h
Paul Van Wicklen volunteers with the Chew Crew.

‘Chew Crew’ of goats returns to help students learn about environmental responsibility

UGA’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 with 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 Office of Sustainability and the College of Environment and Design’s Material Reuse Program, dozens of students in landscape architecture, business, biology, ecology and other fields already have volunteered to help establish the vegetation monitoring plots. Undergraduate students in assistant 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 forestry and natural resources school are studying possible environmental impacts of prescribed grazing on water quality. Graduate students in Todd Rasmussen’s quantitative hydrology course are researching how the Chew Crew goats affect water quality within the creek. Students in Erin Lipp’s graduate-level course, “Advanced Topics in Aquatic, Microbiology, Health and Environment,” also are 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,” Rasmussen said.

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.

The Chew Crew will host volunteer workdays at the Tanyard Creek site Nov. 6 and Nov. 14 from 3-6 p.m. On Nov. 9 from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., the Chew Crew will help UGA celebrate Homecoming with tours, games and other educational and fun activities at the Tanyard Creek paddock.