Katie Wong

2021 Restoration Scholar – UC Davis

The connections in the natural world come in all shapes and sizes, and between species. When it comes to the relationship between companion plant species—particularly those that differ dramatically in size—there is much to learn.

River Partners intern and UC Davis student Katie Wong researched the survivorship, growth habit, and growth rate of Fremont cottonwood trees with and without the California wild rose companion plants at River Partners’s Beach Stone Lake site. 

“When they are planted, they’re both small plants, and I’m focusing on the smaller shrubs,” she said. “When the roses are planted next to the Cottonwood trees, the roses will initially grow faster than the tree, and then later on the tree will grow taller and provide shade for the roses.”

Wong’s research will give River Partners a better understanding of companion plants, how they help or hinder each other’s growth—and their impact on whether companion plants will continue to be used in future River Partners projects.

“My research is to see the impact on growing roses next to Cottonwood trees—is there no impact or a positive impact?” she said. “This is important so in the future, River Partners will know if these companions are beneficial to their restoration sites.”

This type of project feeds directly into Wong’s major, which is Landscape Architecture. Wong would be the first to admit that she doesn’t spend as much time outdoors as other River Partners interns do, but the work she’s doing from the River Partners Sacramento office, cultivates an interest that was initially piqued through an architecture program she took in high school.

“Then in college we went to San Francisco and visited different architecture firms and one was a landscape architecture firm,” she recalled. “They showed their projects and one of them was in Sacramento and I thought, ‘wow, I’ve passed this place before.’ I thought it was really cool that they had so many projects throughout the state and even in other states, even though they were in San Francisco.”

Wong’s River Partners internship allowed her to combine restoration fieldwork and research with her burgeoning passion for landscape architecture in natural settings—a breadth of knowledge and experience she thinks she wouldn’t have received had she interned at a landscape architecture firm.

“There are so many things that are connected in the environment and at River Partners, I was able to learn so much about the relationship between plants and the soil and wildlife,” she said, “In designing, you have to know all of that, and it’s hard to always incorporate everything. It was really nice to go out into the field and actually look at plants, learn how to recognize them, and to learn what they feel like.”

Set to graduate in 2023, Wong is keeping her options open for her post-collegiate plans. 

“After college, I was thinking about going to landscape architecture firms, but I haven’t really thought about which ones I want to focus on because each firm is so different, with different principles they follow and different projects they focus on,” she said. “I’d like to get more work experience before pursuing grad school, and I’ll see whatever path that takes me to do.”