Dr. Lyons and her students pose for a photo in front of the San Antonio River
Trinity Participates in Mission Reach Ecological Restoration Project
San Antonio River Authority and Trinity volunteers plant more than 2,500 native grasses and wildflowers

On Saturday, February 10, volunteers from Trinity University, the San Antonio River Authority (SARA), the River Warrior Volunteers, and Microsoft gathered to plant over 2,500 native grasses and wildflowers along Mission Reach as part of a 23-month ecological restoration project.

Mission Reach is a stretch of the San Antonio River that starts at the San Antonio Missions and extends past the River Walk. Throughout the years, this area has been ravaged by river channelizations, invasive plants, and the loss of biodiversity. The Mission Reach restoration project brings together SARA, Trinity University and its students, and the public to help determine best practices for controlling invasive Guinea grass and Kleberg bluestem along Mission Reach, enriching native plant and animal diversity, and improving native food resources that support a thriving local ecosystem. The project is funded by the Society for Ecological Restoration (SER) Standards-based Restoration in Action program and supported by a grant from Microsoft's Community Environmental Sustainability (CES) program.

“As stewards of our waterways, it is fundamental that we address the encroachment of non-native grass species like Guinea grass,” says Peter Pierson, SARA’s natural resource management specialist. “We are grateful to Trinity and Microsoft for this collaborative effort to preserve the San Antonio River Basin.”

“The program was designed to bring together the public and students from my research laboratory and courses. The project manifests the spirit of Trinity’s dedication to vigorous training in undergraduate research and experiential learning,” says Trinity biology professor Kelly Lyons, Ph.D. “It was a glorious day. Approximately 40 volunteers showed up early in the morning on a day with rain in the forecast. We are grateful to SER and Microsoft for making this collaboration possible.”

Trinity biology professor Kelly Lyons, Ph.D. (left), serves as the scientific guide for the Mission Reach restoration project. Through her lab, Lyons' students (right) have participated in the project, gaining field-based research experience.

Lyons has been an integral member of this project since Fall 2023, offering scientific guidance, project design and monitoring, and volunteer training. Through her hands-on lab, Lyons’ students have participated in this project, gaining real-world, field-based research experience outside of the classroom. After completing their work, Lyons’ students will be co-authors in a scientific journal publication and will present their research at conferences, such as the annual meeting for the Texas Chapter of the Society for Ecological Restoration.  

“I feel lucky to have been a part of it. It was beautiful to see people from different organizations and backgrounds come together to restore the land,” says Joslyn Boyer ’26, one of Lyons' research students.

Volunteers from Trinity University, the San Antonio River Authority, the River Warrior Volunteers, and Microsoft came together to plant over 2,500 native grasses and wildflowers along Mission Reach.

Following Saturday’s event, each fall, Trinity volunteers and members of the public will collect data on the efficacy of suppression treatments and the establishment of native species, involving between 20 and 30 volunteers per event. SARA will provide equipment, personnel, and expertise for conducting the large-scale restoration projects. Through this initiative, dozens of Trinity undergraduates will be trained, and over 100 members of the public will gain exposure to the Mission Reach project.

SARA staff and Trinity will use the project to continue developing a knowledge base and best practices for invasive species removal, control over time, and native grassland restoration.

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