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Restoring a Wetland: Enhancing the Conservation and Ecosystem Service Values of the Colorado Front Range Watershed

Boulder County, Colorado

Featured image for the project, Restoring a Wetland:  Enhancing the Conservation and Ecosystem Service Values of the Colorado Front Range Watershed

Wildlands Restoration Volunteers work to restore wetlands in northern Colorado. Photo by Cathy Tate.


Wildlands Restoration Volunteers (WRV) is a Colorado nonprofit that completes numerous conservation projects throughout the state each year. First starting in 1999 with only 20 volunteers coming together to plant willows near Longmont, CO, the group has now grown to thousands of volunteers working to complete over 150 projects per year. WRV works to foster a community spirit of shared responsibility for the stewardship and restoration of public, protected, and ecologically significant lands across Colorado and beyond.  

The main goals and priorities for participating in this program are to continue carrying out their mission and to establish protocols for monitoring changes in vegetation and soils as well as to assess their restoration efforts over time. 

Working with AGU Thriving Earth Exchange and the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) would help to quantify the results of the hard work the community has put into restoring Colorado’s lands. 


The Project 

The specific project involves converting a wetland currently impacted by invasive species and adjacent bottomland farmland to a wetland dominated by historically present but climate adapted species. Initial efforts began in 2020, and a formalized plan is a goal prior to the 2022 field season. 

Phase 1: Protocol adaptation & plot establishment 

Phase 2: Joint WRV/NEON day 

Phase 3: Data collection 

Phase 4: Possible data presentation 


Timeline & Milestones 

The project is multiyear in scope, with species additions and removals ongoing through this interval.  Initial plantings and initial beaver dam analog structures installed in 2021 provide guidance for the next phase of projects. Vegetation plots will be installed using NEON protocols, and data collection will start in the spring/field season of 2022.  

Project Team

Community Leads

David Fulton-Beale is the Program Coordinator for Wildlands Restoration Volunteers in Longmont, CO. He earned his B.S. in Ecological Restoration from the University of Montana in 2015. Since then, he has worked for WRV in a variety of capacities to help connect people to the land and restore ecosystems.  


Tim Seastedt is a semi-retired research ecologist for the University of Colorado in Boulder and a volunteer and instructor in restoration ecology.  He believes that rewetting increasingly arid landscapes in the West provides maximum benefits to conservation and ecosystem services for the Front Range of Colorado.  These actions also reduce the negative impacts of climate change on these systems. 

Community Science Fellow

Janelle Hakala is an Instrumentation Field Ecologist for the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) in Boulder, CO. She maintains four Eddy Covariance Flux Towers across the Southern Rockies and the Central Plains as part of NEON’s Terrestrial Instrument System. The automated instrumentation Janelle services collects meteorological and soil data to study ecosystem-level change over time. She received her B.S. in Atmospheric Science from the University of North Dakota in 2017. Janelle looks forward to watching a local community come together around science.

Scientist Wanted

Wildland Restoration Volunteers is seeking an individual to help manage this citizen science project and adapt protocols for them based on established NEON protocols.


Desired Skills and Expertise:

  • Previous experience in wetland restoration ecology;
  • knowledge of local native and introduced plant species and traits;
  • interests in monitoring groundwater (e.g., piezometer use) and building beaver dam analogs


Thriving Earth Exchange asks all scientific partners to work with the community to help define a project with concrete local impact to which they can contribute as pro-bono volunteers and collaborators. This work can also position the scientists and communities to seek additional funding, together, for the next stage.

Interested in volunteering on this project? Apply now!


Collaborating Organization(s)

Wildlands Restoration Volunteers, CU chapter, Society of Ecological Restoration, NEON