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The Toledo Zoo’s ZOOTeens volunteer program has been a huge contributor to The Olander Park System’s conservation mission for years.

ZOOTeens have volunteered 3 to 6 hours a month, almost every month for about 10 years. With 6 to 12 ZOOTeens at each of those events, that’s a lot of volunteer hours at our parks! And the teens are always hard workers!

Just a few things the ZOOTeens have worked on at our parks in recent years:

  • Southview Oak Savanna – removing overgrown understory shrubs and vines, removing piles of dead leaves that hinder the growth of native plants, pulling non-native weeds, collecting native seeds
  • Sylvan Prairie Park – transplanting native
    Watering Trees at Sylvan Prairie Park

    Watering Trees at Sylvan Prairie Park

    seedlings in our new greenhouse, planting native plants in wetlands, planting native trees and plants along a restored stream, watering and mulching newly planted native trees, pulling non-native weeds, collecting native seeds

  • Herr Road Property – picking up trash from a seasonal wetland
  • Olander Park – “cleaning” native seeds to make them easier to plant, making protective tree tubes


For more information on the ZOOTeen program see 

ZooTeenTreeTube 12-13

Making protective tree tubes

Youth Conservation Corps – Week 3 Done, 1 More to Go!

It’s hard to believe that there is only one week left in this year’s program. One of our main goals has been to get the youth engaged and dedicated to conservation activities. This goal has required us to try to strike a balance between education, hard work, and fun. Through the help of several special visitors and local organizations, we have successfully kept our participants excited and enthusiastic about nature conservation. Take a look at what we did during week 3!

20140701_115427On Tuesday we visited the Southview Oak Savanna to pull invasive plants and collect seeds from native plants. 

20140702_115838On Wednesday, Dr. Mike Weintraub of the University of Toledo taught us about the importance of soil in the Oak Openings!20140702_111854Part of Dr. Weintraub’s presentation included group projects in which the participants took soil samples to measure the length of the A horizon, tested the water infiltration rate into the ground, performed a soil ribboning analysis, and sampled earthworms!

20140703_125543On Thursday we picked up trash at both the Waterberry Wetwoods and Herr Road Property. Look at all the amazing stuff we cleared away!

Stay tuned for the final update!

Fossil Park and part of Quarry Ridge Bike Trail CLOSED July 2-5

Fossil Park will be closed this week for the Sylvania Fireworks. All Fossil Park facilities, including the section of the Quarry Ridge Bike Trail north of Brint Road, will be closed July 2 through July 5 for the set up, launch and clean up of the July 3rd fireworks. It is imperative for your safety that you stay off of Fossil Park property and that section of the Quarry Ridge Bike Trail on those dates. Thank you for your cooperation.

Youth Conservation Corps – Week 2 Roundup

Week 2 of the Youth Conservation Corps is complete! We had a fun-filled learning experience, packed with adventures in Wildwood Metropark, Irwin Prairie State Nature Preserve, and Kitty Todd Nature Preserve.

20140624_113311On Tuesday we took a geology field trip at Wildwood Metropark with Dr. Timothy Fisher of the University of Toledo.

20140625_104837Ryan Schroeder, the local district preserve manager of the Ohio Natural Resources Department, gave us an exciting tour of Irwin Prairie State Nature Preserve on Wednesday.

20140625_105126We found all sorts of interesting critters in the water at Irwin Prairie, including crayfish, tadpoles, and snails!

20140626_100622We visited Kitty Todd Nature Preserve on Thursday. Ryan Gauger of the Nature Conservancy gave us a great trek through the savanna and prairie at the preserve and showed us several rare plants!
20140626_095739 We learned a lot about the role of fire in the Oak Openings. The kids also got to see what kind of safety gear practitioners of prescribed fire wear on the job.20140626_110950After the nature walk with Ryan, we worked hard to clear away encroaching woody plants on the preserve.

This year’s program is already halfway complete! We are striving to get kids interested in nature by immersing them in our local natural areas and creating positive, memorable experiences for them. Through hands-on activities and instructive lessons, we hope to make the Oak Openings region a more meaningful place to our youth.

Youth Conservation Corps – Week 1 Complete!

The Olander Park System’s Youth Conservation Corps is underway! This program runs for 4 weeks from June 17th to July 10th. It aims to teach middle school children about environmental conservation and increase their awareness of the Oak Openings Region. Here are some photos from the first week of activities. More to come!

Learning how to prepare and plant a native bed at Olander Park

On Tuesday we learned how to prepare and plant a native bed at Olander Park.

On Tuesday we thinned encroaching plants around newly planted saplings!

On Wednesday we thinned encroaching plants around newly planted saplings at Sylvan Prairie!

On Thursday we planted native plants at Pacesetter Park

On Thursday we planted native plants at Pacesetter Park…

On Thursday we also rescued native plants from a property that is likely to undergo development.

And also rescued native plants from a property that is likely to undergo development.

Next to come: Adventures during Week 2!

Word of the Day: Bioturbation

From Wikipedia:  Bioturbation is the reworking of soils and sediments by animals or plants.[1] Its effects include changing texture of sediments (diagenetic), bioirrigation and displacement of microorganisms and non-living particles. Activities, such as burrowing, ingestion and defecation of sediment grains, construction and maintenance of galleries, and infilling of abandoned dwellings, displace sediment grains and mix the sediment matrix. In modern ecological theory, bioturbation is recognised as an archetypal example of ‘ecosystem engineering’, modifying geochemical gradients, redistributing food resources, viruses,bacteria, resting stages and eggs. 

These native bees were very busy engineering the ecosystem at the Southview Oak Savanna this week!


Ground Nesting Birds

We’ve been seeing lots of bird nests at Sylvan Prairie this week.

Eastern Meadowlark - under grasses

Eastern Meadowlark – a woven nest on the ground, under a grass roof

2014-05-22 21.17.04

Red-winged Blackbird – woven onto cattails, about 3 feet off the ground

KilldeerNest SPP 2012-04-25

Killdeer Nest – on the ground, in the open

Birding the Warbler Capital – Saturday, May 10th

Ohio Young Birders – Birding at the Warbler Capital During The Biggest Week In American Birding

Magnolia Warbler - By William H. Majoros via Wikimedia Commons

Magnolia Warbler – By William H. Majoros via Wikimedia Commons

Date: Saturday, May 10th
Location: Magee Marsh Wildlife Area 
Time: 9 AM to Noon-ish

*Meet at the EAST end of the Magee Marsh boardwalk

Ohio Young Birders will celebrate International Migratory Bird Day by birding along the southwest Lake Erie shore at Magee Marsh Wildlife Area, Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, and Metzger Marsh Wildlife Area. 

Join young birders from all over the state to look for the beautiful neo-tropical migrants
on Saturday, May 10th. Warblers and other migratory birds stop in NW Ohio during their northbound migration in huge numbers. We will bird the Magee Marsh boardwalk looking
for these amazing little gems. We will have several guides to helps us along the way. Target species will be warblers, other neotropical songbirds, and shorebirds. This trip is
free and open to birders ages 12-20.

Bring a packed lunch and beverage and enjoy a group picnic lunch at noon. We can exchange bird sightings and share exciting stories of our past birding adventures! The weather by the lake is usually 5 to 10 degrees cooler, so dressing in layers is a good idea. Also, please wear sturdy walking shoes.

For more information, please check out the OYBC Event Calendar description for May 10th.

Directions to Magee Marsh Boardwalk:  Along State Route 2 follow signs for Black Swamp Bird Observatory (13551 W. State Route 2, Oak Harbor, OH 43449). Turn onto entrance road from State Route 2 (about 18 miles east of Toledo and 16 miles west of Port Clinton) and follow this road to boardwalk.


Salamanders at Sylvan Prairie Park!

The Olander Park System’s Conservation Crew found several salamander larvae (aka salamander tadpoles) in a small wetland at Sylvan Prairie Park!

Salamander Larvae

Salamander Larvae at Sylvan Prairie

This is exciting because we have never seen salamanders at Sylvan Prairie before! They are an encouraging sign that our restoration efforts are creating good wildlife habitat. Salamanders lay eggs in wetlands, and their larvae (babies) live underwater. After several weeks, they become adults and begin living on land. Because of their need for both wetland and upland (dry land) habitats, they are considered an indicator of environmental health.

Look at this picture of a salamander larvae. It is tiny, but you can see the gills sticking off the sides of its head. That is how we know it is a salamander and not a frog or a toad. Frog and toad tadpoles do not have visible gills.

We’re going to keep track of the salamander larvae at Sylvan. Hopefully they will survive to become adults, and we’ll be able to identify what kind they are.

See Ohio Amphibians web site to learn more about Ohio’s salamanders

Ambystoma salamander. Photo by Greg Lipps

Ambystoma salamander. Photo by Greg Lipps

Loon & Horned Grebe

There is again a Common Loon swimming around on Lake Olander!

We also saw a Horned Grebe on the Lake today!  That’s the first time we’ve seen one of those here!

Horned Grebe

Horned Grebe photo by black_throated_green_warbler [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons