2017 volunteer service hours

I’m at the end of my second year as a master naturalist, and this time I had an entire year to get my 40 hours of volunteering in. Once again I concentrated on stewardship activities, with just one event that was another volunteering category (citizen science).

There were lots and lots of events to remove invasive species, but this year it went well beyond buckthorn — mostly to garlic mustard, but also several others. On the other side of the spectrum, I got to plant native plants on several occasions. The fall once again brought some seed collection events, my favorite activity of all, though I was pretty disappointed that two long sessions were rained out.

In addition to those familiar activities, I got to try several new-to-me opportunities this year: my first BioBlitz, a super-fun bumblebee survey, a creekside live-staking planting, collecting acorns, and not just seed planting but also tending (inside my own home). One thing I missed doing this year: tagging monarchs.

My volunteer events

2/4 Allemansrätt Wilderness Park (Lindstrom) for Great River Greening, 3 hours: Back at Allemansratt Park to volunteer for the third time in five months, this time for a buckthorn burn. Not surprisingly, I wiped out with an armful of brush because we were walking on snow-covered ice – or maybe the surprise is that it only happened once. 82 volunteers cleared 5 tons of buckthorn from 1.5 acres.

pile of sticks on snow, the top left on fire

2/16 Mississippi National River and Recreation Area and Park Connection, 1 hour: Planted seeds into 144 native wildflower plugs (sky-blue aster, prairie onion, and rosinweed). Then I took them to my house to tend them until they were ready to be planted at Coldwater Spring in June.

plastic flat with dirt-filled cups and 2 or 3 large, light-brown seeds in each spot, a wooden marker reading rosin weed

3/18 City of Roseville, 1 hour: Hauled pre-cut buckthorn and other brush into piles for Stantec to remove and chip later.

a series of piles of sticks and logs in a wooded area

3/25 Lost Valley Prairie SNA, 2 hours: Raked pre-cut buckthorn, sumac, honeysuckle, grapevines, and dogwood, none of which belongs in a prairie. Made three giant brush piles that will be burned next winter.

closeup of a pile of very straight sticks, with a garden rake resting in front

5/2 Coldwater Spring at Minnesota National River & Recreation Area, 1 hour: My first time pulling garlic mustard. It rained a lot over the last couple days, so the picking was pretty easy.

gloved hand holding a bouquet of garlic mustard leaves

5/4 Lebanon Hills Regional Park, .5 hour: Showed up just 10 minutes late, but I couldn’t find the crew and “had” to take a hike through the woods instead. By the time I found them, there was only half an hour left in the session. But every little bit counts! (I need to be more creative with the photos since this is almost the same as the previous one.)

almost the same image, a gloved hand holding a bouquet of garlic mustard leaves, with a walking path in the background

5/13 Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden, .75 hour: Brought my husband and we picked a big bag full of garlic mustard in a “maple bowl” outside the wildflower garden. The group had been there a week before, and now this area is essentially all clear of second-year garlic mustard. (There are a lot of first-year plants sprouting up, though.)

tall red cylinder lined with a clear plastic bag, nearly full of wilting  greens

5/27 Sakatah Singing Hills State Trail, 1 hour: Garlic mustard pull. Plants were past flowering, so it was not easy to find them. This area was pulled last year, and that must have been effective, because we found very few plants.

one green plant with no flowers but long seed spikes instead, lying on a paved path

5/30 Ole Olson Park for Friends of the Mississippi River, 1.5 hours: Dug and pulled weeds (Canadian horseweed and absinthe wormwood, but mostly dandelions) from the demonstration prairie on the west bank of the Mississippi River, just north of downtown Minneapolis.

white tub sitting on the ground, full of small plants of various shades of green

5/31 Tamarack Nature Center, .5 hours: Joined a garlic mustard removal crew already in progress.

the ground covered in small, round, scalloped green leaves

6/6 Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary, 1.5 hours: My first time pulling leafy spurge. Most of this was in a thistle patch, unfortunately. Then we got to plant some flowers and grasses — which were grown from seed that I helped collect last fall. Very exciting to see that work pay off already!

a pile of yellow-flowered plants between full plastic bags on the edge of a gravel path

a hand holding three plastic tubes with small green plants

6/13 Coldwater Spring at Minnesota National River & Recreation Area, 1 hour: Planted the surviving plugs from the MNRRA seed-planting event in February. A handful of scrawny prairie onions were the only visible plants; none of the rosinweed sprouted; and several sky-blue asters sprouted but faded. Scattered the remaining dirt, too, in hopes that there are still viable seeds that will germinate in the future.

a black plastic flat with lots of small dirt cups, just a few thin green plants visible

6/22 Hastings Sand Coulee SNA for Friends of the Mississippi River, 1.5 hours: Dug cow vetch from the dry prairie, while fighting the rain — until lightning drove us away. Lots of interesting plants, and lots of poison ivy.

yellow plastic bag with greens and purple flowers on the ground next to yellow gloves and a small shovel

6/27 Grey Cloud Dunes SNA for Friends of the Mississippi River, 1 hour: Lopped sumac, which is native but forms dense colonies and crowds out other plants in this fragile prairie, in two areas. Toured the area that was cleared last year and saw so many plants thriving, which was a rewarding sight.

a pile of sumac branches on the ground with a loppers resting on top

7/8 Blanket Flower Prairie SNA, 2 hours: PlantBlitz in which my husband and I were the only members of the public to show up despite beautiful weather. The naturalist and site steward decided to carry on, anyway. We found blanket flowers that had already lost their petals, special-concern hill’s thistle, bright orange wood lilies, purple and white prairie clovers, and several grasses (I am no help with identification of those). I’ve unfortunately already forgotten dozens of other flowers we identified — some familiar names, most unfamiliar; total number of species TBA. We got back to the parking lot covered in porcupine grass seeds.

one stem with a yellow globe with red highlights - a blanket flower without its petals

7/11 Indian Mounds Regional Park for Friends of the Mississippi River, 1.5 hours: Invasive species removal on a muggy evening. My group pulled crown vetch. Others dug burdock, wormwood, and knapweed.

a lot of light purple flowers in a mass of green, with one flower in focus at the bottom left and a green seedhead that looks like a hand with many slender fingers

8/25 Xerces Society, 1.5 hours: Back to volunteering after an unintentional hiatus that was simply due to the busy-ness of summer. Helped Great River Greening and the Xerces Society with a bumble bee survey, collecting bees in the final summer of a three-year monitoring project. The team caught (and released) 50 bees despite a slow start when rain struck briefly at the kickoff. All were just three species — brown-belted (Bombus griseocollis), common eastern (B. impatiens), and black and gold (B. auricomus) – and most were found on Canada goldenrod or a native thistle.

a hand holding two upside-down plastic containers, each with a bee visible, against a background of goldenrod

8/29 Indian Mounds Regional Park for City of St. Paul, 1.5 hours: Kicked off my favorite volunteering season, seed collecting, with Saint Paul Parks & Recreation. Collected Golden Alexanders (super easy, but came with lots of little round beetles), yellow coneflower (relatively easy), and bee balm (required a fair amount of patience).

sunny image with many plants in the background, and slender maroon umbels in the foreground

9/15 Lebanon Hills Regional Park, 1 hour: Collected acorns for a planting project to take place on National Public Lands Day. This was a particular challenge for me because trees are not my strong suit, but I tried my best. We were to collect acorns from bur oaks or white oaks but NOT from red oaks or pin oaks. More than once I found myself accidentally under one of the wrong trees, but I’m fairly confident I ended up with all white oak acorns.

a hand holding about a dozen acorns, only one with a cap

9/16 Crow-Hassan Park Reserve for Three Rivers Park District, 2.5 hours: Collected seeds from a number of wildflowers: purple prairie clover, white prairie clover, cinquefoil, anise hyssop, tick-trefoil, black-eyed susan, common milkweed, and butterfly weed. We cleaned the milkweed seeds, too. Rain threatened all morning but held off.

purple prairie clover seedhead tilting to the left, on the right sidea mostly red caterpillar with a yellow stripe near its feet

9/19 Coldwater Spring at Minnesota National River & Recreation Area, 1.5 hours: Invasive species control: burdock, curly dock, mullein, buckthorn, crown vetch, all over the park. We didn’t find much — only one garbage bag among nine of us.

blurry image of six spiky burdock seedheads

9/20 Spring Lake Park Reserve / Schaar’s Bluff for Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, 1.5 hours: Collected hoary vervain seeds from a remnant prairie, and yellow coneflower seeds from a restored prairie.

a hand holding three long, brown seed spikes

9/21 Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary, 1.5 hours: Pulled weedy absinthe from a triangle-shaped patch, then planted several types of native flowers and grasses. Quite muggy on the last day of summer.

a tall pile of light-green plants that have been ripped out, their long roots visible

10/3 Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary, 1.5 hours: Seed collection: one hour of purple prairie clover, a half-hour of big bluestem. Gorgeous early-autumn evening after rain all day, though the sun set before the end — at just 7 pm.

about 10 short, dark prairie clover seedheads, with two big grasshoppers

10/14 Phalen Regional Park for City of St. Paul, 1.25 hours: Collected seeds from partridge pea (a new one for me) as well as little bluestem.

a plant with dark brown seedpods that have curled open, with another plant with straight, unopened seedpods in the background

10/22 Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden, .75 hours: Removed buckthorn. In my area the soil was so loose, and most of the plants so small, that most could be pulled by hand; the rest were dealt with via weed wrenches.

an orange weed wrench clenched around a small woody plant, with roots coming out of the dirt on the right

11/4 Grey Cloud Dunes SNA for Friends of the Mississippi River, 2 hours: Cleared an entire field of staghorn sumac, and started on the invasive honeysuckle. We got to leave the debris in place because the area will be burned next spring.

long view of a grassy field littered with small cut branches

11/18 Middle Creek at Meadowview School for Friends of the Mississippi River, 1.75 hours: Planted dogwood live-stakes on the banks of Middle Creek, part of the Vermillion River Watershed, on a chilly morning. Friends of the Mississippi River is hoping that 50% of these stakes will “take” next year and eventually provide stabilization and habitat. This creek has been recently re-meandered (my favorite new term) to a more natural and healthy curved shape that supports plant and animal diversity, and today’s project will continue the restoration. This project was a last-minute addition for me (I had already planned to do another event later that morning) but I was so curious about the live-staking process that I had to add this one too.

light-brown grasses to the right of a brownish creek, with two bright red sticks poking out of the grass and one poking out of the water

11/18 Lost Valley Prairie SNA, 2 hours: Hauled precut brush such as sumac and honeysuckle and maybe some sumac into giant piles that will be burned when there’s snow, followed by treating the stumps to try to prevent them from growing back.

a hand touching a dauber to freshly cut small stumps

12/16 Central Park Arboretum for City of Roseville, 1 hour: Cut, hauled, and treated buckthorn and honeysuckle.

snow scene with two medium-sized stumps, two small stumps, and lots of small broken branches and leaves

Other volunteer hours I’m not reporting:

  • White Bear Lake Seed Library: packaged seeds twice, but I worked on mostly tomatoes and not native plants
  • Pulling garlic mustard at a middle school softball game
  • Friends School Plant Sale: inventory three nights/afternoons, about five hours
  • Collecting and processing milkweed seeds from my own yard (even though I donated them)

Final tally

  • Friends of the Mississippi River: 6 events
  • Coldwater Spring / MNRRA: 4
  • Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary: 3
  • Dakota County Parks: 3
  • Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden: 2
  • Great River Greening: 2
  • Lost Valley Prairie SNA: 2
  • City of Roseville: 2
  • City of St. Paul: 2
  • Other: 4
  • Total: 30 events

New Scientific and Natural Areas (SNAs) visited

  • Grey Cloud Dunes SNA, Cottage Grove
  • Hastings Sand Coulee SNA, Hastings
  • Blanket Flower Prairie SNA
  • Lost 40 SNA (though that was just for fun, not volunteering)

Invasive species removed

  • Absinthe wormwood
  • Buckthorn
  • Burdock
  • Canadian horseweed
  • Cow vetch
  • Crown vetch
  • Curly dock
  • Dandelion
  • Garlic mustard
  • Leafy spurge
  • Mullein
  • Sumac

Seeds collected

  • Anise hyssop
  • Bee balm
  • Big bluestem
  • Black-eyed susan
  • Butterfly weed
  • Cinquefoil
  • Common milkweed
  • Golden Alexanders
  • Hoary vervain
  • Oak
  • Partridge pea
  • Purple prairie clover
  • Tick-trefoil
  • White prairie clover
  • Yellow coneflower

2017 service hours: 42.50. Travel: 14.25. Preparation: 0.00. Miles: 730.

2016 volunteer service

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One comment on “2017 volunteer service hours

  1. Amy Rager says:

    thanks for sharing your experiences! What a beautiful depiction of your work and nature!

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