2018 volunteer service hours

A woman smiles while holding a net and wearing waders in water past her knees.Nothing like getting a 2018 recap in under the wire! I’m a Minnesota master naturalist volunteer and spend a lot of time throughout the year volunteering for environmental events. It’s a requirement to complete at least 40 volunteer hours (plus 8 continuing education hours) to remain an active member, but it’s also one of the most fun and rewarding things I do every year.

Many of my 2018 volunteer hours were stewardship, as in the previous two years. But this year, I also did a lot of citizen science activities, too. I recorded one education/interpretation event, co-leading a buckthorn removal event and info session for the capstone project of my second Minnesota master naturalist class. (Much more on the class later.) And I had one program support event.

Stewardship events are noted with (S), citizen science with (CS), education/interpretation with (E/I), and program support with (PS).

January 20, Lost Valley Prairie SNA (S): Buckthorn burn! And other non-prairie trees and grapevine, too, that had been collected previously and added to during the burning.

Large pile of sticks and branches, with some orange fire visible in the middle, and a plume of smoke at top right.

March 3, Roseville’s Central Park (S): Hauled buckthorn that other volunteers lopped and sawed.

Four small stumps cut down to the snow level.

March 12, White Bear Lake Seed Library (PS): Packaged donated prairie coreopsis (coreopsis palmata) seed for the White Bear Lake Seed Library, which is in its third season. It’s fun to see how the native plant section has grown even since last year. I “checked out” two native grasses and one sedge; I’ve “checked in” joe-pye weed and yellow coneflower in the past.

A paper plate with two dozen small piles of seeds, on top of a sheet of labels and two small brown envelopes.

March 24, Lost Valley Prairie SNA (S): Brush cutting, treating, and burning.

A gloved hand holding a bundle of sticks with long, sharp thorns.

May 3, Lebanon Hills Regional Park (S): First garlic mustard pull of the season. The spring is so late, the plants were small and easily confused with a buttercup.

A gloved hand holding a garlic mustard seedling with a long root.

May 5, Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden (S): Very warm early-spring afternoon for pulling garlic mustard in a bowl just outside the garden. The commute was extra-long because 94 was closed in downtown Minneapolis.

Two clear, large plastic bags half-full with green plants.

May 11, Hyland Lake Park Reserve (S): Pulled narrowleaf bittercress, a new one for me that is so far only found in the metro area in Minnesota. Small plants so far this year, but parts of the woods just in from the trail were pretty thick. Also pulled some garlic mustard along the trail.

A short green plant with many stems that look like a small fountain.

May 12, Roseville’s Villa Park (S): Garlic mustard pull.

An area about 5 feet wide and 3 feet deep, filled with medium-height garlic mustard plants.

May 16, Hampton Woods WMA (S): Garlic mustard pull with Friends of the Mississippi River, with a little bit of buckthorn seedling pulling for good measure. There were way too many volunteers for the amount of work, so this was mostly a hike (entire event was 2 hours). In fact, I didn’t even pull any garlic mustard; I sought out buckthorn instead.

Buckthorn seedlings laying across a log.

May 31, Minneapolis’s Ole Olson Park (S): Dug and pulled weeds (Canadian horseweed and black medic and dandelions) from the demonstration prairie on the west bank of the Mississippi River, just north of downtown Minneapolis, with Friends of the Mississippi River.

A gloved hand holding a bouquet of weeds with the river in the background.

June 12, Coldwater Spring (S): Pulled narrowleaf bittercress, which had grown significantly since I saw it a month ago (in a different park). Trying to get as much of it as possible before the long seed pods ripen and burst.

A tall green plant with spiky seed pods. Looks nothing like the short fountain plant from a month earlier.

June 17, Como Regional Park (CS): Kickoff of the 2018 bumble bee surveying season. I found 5 or 6 (lost count) of the 19 the group collected. Today was hot and muggy and we found all except one on white clover (the exception was motherwort), maybe because not much else is blooming right now.

A hand holding a bumble bee in an upside-down plastic container on the grass.

June 22, Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, Rapids Lake Unit (CS): Bioblitz in the new Anderson-Lenzen Tracts adjacent to the Rapids Lake Unit. I had a morning appointment so joined a group after their lunch break, when they headed to a new area. We recorded 84 species of wildflowers, grasses, trees, birds, and insects.

Slender beardtongue, Penstemon gracilis.

July 7, Como Regional Park (CS): Sunny morning collecting bumble bees with my niece and about 10 other volunteers. Many more flowers were in bloom than the last time I participated, so we gathered 99 bees compared with 19 just three weeks earlier. All were of the three most common species, and most were found on monarda.

View over the left shoulder of a woman with a small, upside-down plastic container surrounding a purple flower.

July 8, Como Regional Park (CS): Wasn’t planning to collect bumble bees two days in a row, but when Elaine Evans said she was going to try something a little different, I had to see the results. This time, we 10 volunteers collected all the bumble bees we could find, including ones with a red dot that showed they had been counted on a previous day. (Today’s bees were marked with purple, and we did not re-collect those ones.) It was a lot hotter, and there were a few more bees this time. Of the more than 100 collected, only about 1/3 had been caught previously. We found the three most common species again, plus two that weren’t found yesterday. Again, most were on the monarda.

A hand holding three small upside-down plastic containers.

July 10, Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary (S): Muggy evening of snipping Canadian thistle (already in seed) and burdock (in bud).

An orange plastic bag full of thistles.

July 19, Shoreview’s Island Lake Elementary: Maintenance of a full-sun native pollinator garden, with the Big River Big Woods chapter of Wild Ones.

Rattlesnake master.

July 27, Lilydale Regional Park (CS): Beautiful afternoon for collecting dragonfly nymphs for the Dragonfly Mercury Project study of mercury in national parks. The amount of mercury found in these insects can be an indicator of the health of the ecosystem.

A large black nymph and a small green nymph in a shallow dish of water.

July 29, Como Regional Park (CS): Sunny day, not too hot, lots of flowers, lots of bees. The group collected, marked, and released about 150 bumble bees, with six species represented, but no rusty-patched.

A bumble bee in a small upside-container next to a cup plant flower.

August 5, Lebanon Hills Regional Park (CS): My first MycoBlitz! And only the second ever in Minnesota. My husband and I helped collect fungi for the MN Mycoflora Project and eventually for Bell Museum’s mycological collection. Started with a long presentation on mushrooms and then a demonstration on how to collect.

A table covered with small sheets of paper, each with a mushroom.

August 6, Crow-Hassan Park Reserve (CS): Bumblebee survey with a lot of Three Rivers Park District staff, in two locations of the park. We were there 2.5 hours, but there were too many bees for the identifiers to keep up. Absolutely gorgeous day — sunny and 80 — with flowers blooming that I’ve collected seeds from in previous years.

A bumble bee flying to an anise hyssop spike.

August 9, Shoreview’s Island Lake Elementary (S): Maintenance of a full-sun native pollinator garden with the Big River Big Woods chapter of Wild Ones. This beautiful yellow garden spider was so patient with the five of us who were taking her photo.

A yellow garden spider in a large web between plants.

August 25, Crow-Hassan Park Reserve (S): Seed collection — purple and white prairie clover, round-headed bush clover, leadplant, and cinquefoil — for Three Rivers Park District. A PBS crew was filming the event.

A cluster of leadplants with green leaves and seeds ready for collection.

September 5, Phalen Regional Park (S): Seed collection — bottlebrush grass, Golden Alexanders, and boneset — with Saint Paul Natural Resources.

A thumb and finger pinching the bottom of a bottlebrush grass.

September 6, three parks (CS): Coyote howling survey with Mississippi National River & Recreation Area! Emailed description: “Each night we will visit three separate stations, each at least 2.5 km (1.5 mi) apart. Volunteer positions: data recorder, audio recorder, game caller operator, and bearing recorder. Upon arriving at the station, we will have a minute of silence to allow the night to settle around our disturbance. Using the game caller we will play a pre-recorded coyote sound three times each followed by 90 seconds of listening. If at any point a coyote responds we will move on to the next station. Note: there is a chance no coyotes will respond during a survey — remember that no responses is still good data!” Results: A confirmed coyote response at the first station — a group yip-howl that goes on for at least 40 seconds. This was the only observed coyote response of the 9 attempts.

Photo of the skyline at dusk, with native plants such as gray-headed coneflower in silhouette.

September 18, Inver Grove Heights’s River Heights Park (S): Buckthorn and honeysuckle lopping/hauling with Friends of the Mississippi River.

A long pile of brush, neatly stacked.

September 22, Inver Grove Heights’s Heritage Village Park (S): National Public Lands Day stop 1: Collecting switchgrass and little bluestem seeds with Friends of the Mississippi River.

Switchgrass seedheads against a bright blue sky.

September 22, Lost Valley Prairie SNA (S): National Public Lands Day stop 2: collecting grass and flower seeds for Lost Valley Prairie Scientific and Natural Area. First time I had seen Virginia mountain mint and false gromwell.

10 people in a grass field.

September 23, Wild River State Park (S): Seed collection with a friend (and several people we didn’t know) in a restored prairie on a sunny autumn afternoon. Thimblewood, round-headed bush clover, purple and white prairie clover, blazingstar, and more.

Closeup of round-headed bush clover seedheads.

September 25, South Creek near Farmington (S): Volunteers planted plugs in the floodplain forest along South Creek, a tributary of the Vermillion River, with Friends of the Mississippi River.

A flat of mixed native plant plugs.

Summer 2018 (CS): Raised and tagged 5 monarchs from the migration generation.

A monarch with a tag on its right wing on an orange flower.

October 20, Carleton College Cowling Arboretum (E/I): Planning, marketing, and leading a volunteer buckthorn pull, the capstone project for my Big Woods, Big Rivers biome course, with three classmates. We marketed the event with fliers in local businesses, posted on Nextdoor and the Minnesota Master Naturalist calendar, and personally invited friends and family. We created a brochure that described buckthorn and honeysuckle, two invasive species found in the arboretum, with procedure for removal. Attendees were able to take the brochure with them, and the arboretum may post it on their website as a printable resource. The day of the event was sunny but cold, and 12 people volunteered for up to 3 hours. We described how to identify buckthorn to the volunteers and demonstrated how to remove it. Since the attendees showed up at different times, we waited until a “coffee break” to talk further about buckthorn and why it’s a problem, as well as about other opportunities to participate at the arboretum. Unfortunately, one of our group members was out of town on the scheduled day, so here’s the other three of us posing in front of the long pile of removed buckthorn:

Three women posing in front of a pile of buckthorn branches.

And that all adds up to… well, I’m not sure. (I haven’t finished entering my hours after September 18 yet; sorry, MNat office!) It’s more than the required 40 hours, even without travel time. I’ll update this once I’ve calculated the total.

Previous volunteer recaps

3 Comments

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  1. Thank you for sharing your experiences! I love to see all the cool new things you have tried out each year. It is great having you in the MNat program.

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