5 Sturgis Corner Drive, Suite 1250, Iowa City, IA 52246
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AmeriCorps Journal

Thursday October 10, 2019

Claire and Hannah learning chainsaw safety!

Hannah and Kate pulling invasive weeds from Muddy Creek Preserve.

Over the past several weeks, Bur Oak Land Trust’s new AmeriCorps team has been working hard to fulfill their conservation mission and improve Iowa’s natural landscapes for the community. This month, stewardship technicians have worked on habitat restoration at Muddy Creek Preserve, primarily focusing on clearing canopy to create sunnier spots for endangered and threatened species. This also gives the technicians an opportunity to gain the necessary skills and training for tree felling and chain sawing. In addition to chainsaw training, the technicians have been working on Prescribed Fire Training and getting their training completed to be Merit Badge Counselors for Scouts BSA.

Trail maintenance is another important job of the stewardship technicians in preparation for events, working on mowing trails at Turkey Creek Nature Preserve and Belgum Grove for community and youth groups that visit. Stewardship technicians have also been supporting the growth of native vegetation by putting wire cages around native shrubs and trees at Turkey Creek and removing invasive species. This past week they encountered an orchid species that has never been recorded at this property before. Protecting this native orchid species will involve gaining a better understanding of their habitat requirements and managing invasive vegetation around it.

Kate and Hannah proud of the big pile of cleared canopy and invasive weeds at Muddy Creek Preserve.

In order to gain a better understanding of how a successful land management plan can be implemented on Bur Oak Land Trust’s properties, the AmeriCorps team visited a unique ornate box turtle habitat.

Claire and Kate helping protect young native shrubs at Turkey Creek Nature Preserve.

They had the opportunity to learn about the specific causes of the box turtle’s habitat degradation, and they were able to observe their one-of-a-kind physical characteristics.

Lidija, the conservation education specialist, has been working on scheduling and attending talks with local organizations and businesses. Alongside Executive Director Jason Taylor, she presented on the new and exciting addition of the AmeriCorps team to Bur Oak Land Trust. Most recently, Jason and Lidija presented at the Optimist Club and staffed an outreach booth at the Linn County Landowners Forum, reaching out to local landowners interested in learning and preserving native landscapes. In addition, there are several new organizations that work with University of Iowa students that Lidija has reached out to for possible collaboration on special projects and events.

Developing activities for booth events and outdoor activities to engage youth in conservation is a big focus for Lidija and she sees new opportunities to coordinate with the Cedar Rapids School District Green Team and the Iowa City schools.

Recently Lidija was at Belgum Grove working with youth from Scouts BSA who want to work toward their Nature badge and in the near future Lidija will have an opportunity to work with youth and their matches at Big Brothers Big Sisters for a fun hands on pollinator activity.

Hannah was excited to hold an ornate box turtle!

In addition to community outreach, Lidija has been able to get out of the office for a bit and visit box turtle habitat, Belgum Grove, Muddy Creek Preserve, and Turkey Creek as well as being the lead photographer of the stewardship technicians in action.

Hannah working on mowing Belgum Grove for Scouts BSA fall camporee.

She has also been participating in prescribed fire training and completed training to be a merit badge counselor.

Lidija is also working on creating themed Facebook content that will bring awareness to environmental issues and inspire the community to take action at the local level. In addition to this aspect of social media, she has been working on improving Bur Oak Land Trust’s social media presence and researching the data from our social media sites. She hopes to assist in developing a plan that will help Bur Oak Land Trust reach many more people in the next couple of months.

With many upcoming fall events, volunteers are needed to make it all happen. Lidija has been sending sign-up links to all the individuals interested in volunteering for seed harvests and Bur Oak Land Trust’s “Under a Cider Moon…a Celebration of Autumn” annual gala.

Lidija spotted a baby ornate box turtle on a site visit.

Lidija presenting to a marketing class.