Planting trees – by Lukas

After a late arrival in Meckenheim, the group woke up at 8 am for a breakfast of sandwiches and yogurt with coffee and orange juice. We reconnected with our wonderful tour guides Sascha and Christoph. They guided us through the old city of Bad Neuenahr Ahrweiler, explaining how the old walls of the city contained the floodwaters inside, increasing damage in the interior but decreasing the damage outside of the walls.

The group then made our way to the fire station in Binzenbach. Two groups were formed and they each planted a tree to commemorate the lost lives during the flooding in 2021. One tree was planted in front of the station while the second was planted at a popular hiking trailhead 2 km down the road.

Lunch consisted of a variety of schitzel and sausage, followed by a presentation of the flooding events lead by members of the fire department. Videos were shared, showing the group a firsthand account of people watching the floodwaters rise, destroying everything in its path. Photos further helped put everything in perspective, but also showed how much the community has recovered in 3 short years. A long drive back to Amsterdam concluded the day with a picnic dinner in the hotel lobby. Tomorrow the biking begins and we are looking forward to it.

Ahr River Valley – by Lizzie

June 1st, 2024

Rise and shine! Today we were headed off to Rhineland-Falls in Germany to participate in a service project in the Ahr Valley, an area severely affected by flooding in July of 2021. 

We woke up at a bright and early 6:45 am and grabbed some breakfast at the hostel. We headed off on our three hour car ride to Germany and stopped short of the border for a bathroom and lunch break. We were all so amazed by the vistas and how scenic the area is. We took a couple wrong turns and had some great tunes for the ride and ended up a little late (unlike the German punctual way).

We met up with Sascha, Alex, and Christoph and started on our service project —picking up trash along the river. We picked up an assortment of shirts, plastic, styrofoam, and other miscellaneous materials.

We then took a detour and helped out a local woman weed out her front yard and clear out her greenhouse.

We found some snail and slug buddies in the process!!

In return we sat down with her and heard her talk about her experience with the flooding.

We headed out to dinner at a brewery nearby and had some traditional German meals! I had the pork medallions with spätzle (a classic you can never go wrong with).

Thanks for following along today!! See you tomorrow:)

Marker Wadden – by Patti

Insect habitat on Marker Wadden

Our first full day in the Netherlands had an exciting start as we ran to the train station, arriving at the platform almost exactly as our train entered the station. Two trains and a bus later had us in Lelystad, looking out at the Marker Wadden. The town was pretty with interesting architecture and sculptures overlooking the lake. It was hard to believe that the whole area was under water not that long ago. We then got on the ferry and met the 3 scientists who would be introducing us to Marker Wadden. Walking on the island, it was hard to imagine that it was human-made. There was a variety of wildlife present, from frogs to the 180 species of birds. While walking, we talked about the variety of things done to maintain and monitor the island. Various researchers monitor almost every aspect of the island through a variety of ways including monitors in the water to determine nutrient levels, tents to take bug samples, and observation towers to view the birds and other species.

Midge monitoring tent on Marker Wadden.

They maintain the island by introducing new sediment to areas sinking into the lake, planting grasses and other vegetation to prevent eroding, and promoting swamp growth by putting tape and other barriers to prevent geese grazing.

Going into today, I was instructed to view this experience through a social lens. While on the island, the sense of community was very prevalent. People who came appreciated the natural world and everyone was extremely respectful to nature and to each other. While talking to Ben Viveen, one of the engineers who was responsible for building Marker Wadden, he talked about how the island gets 20,000 visitors every year and how people even went out there to vote in elections, showcasing how these islands and the wildlife on them is so important to the people who live there. All and all, it was an amazing first day and I am excited to head to Germany tomorrow morning to start the service project.

Final preparations! – by Kris

May 28, 2024

As I type this, most everyone from NR2990 is likely packed or getting packed to travel to the Netherlands in the coming days. This year’s course, called Water Management and Sustainability in the Netherlands also includes a visit to Germany where we will learn about devastating floods that occurred in summer 2021 and engage in service projects to attempt to assist the affected communities in their continued recovery. Traveling primarily by bicycle, we will also travel on planes, trains, busses, ferries, and in vans. We will be privileged to meet with and learn from Dutch and German water management and sustainability professionals as we make our way from community to community.

Each day, students in the course will consider the topic of the day from one of three sustainability perspectives: environmental, economic, and social. We will have daily debriefs following our site visits to consider what everyone learned and compare and contrast among locations – from the US to Germany to the Netherlands.