Olander Youth Conservation Corps 2015: Week Four

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The fourth and final week of the Olander Youth Conservation Corps has come to a close. Although we had some rain this week, it didn’t stop us from having a great time and getting a lot of work done. We started the week with a stream survey at Harroun Community Park, then spent a day at Olander’s greenhouse at Sylvan, and ended the week learning about soil science at Olander Park and Southview Oak Savanna.

On Tuesday, we visited Harroun Community Park in Sylvania. We started the day by cutting down woody invasive plants along one of the park’s walking paths–focusing primarily on common buckthorn, honeysuckle, and autumn olive. After a few hours, the rain clouds that had been threatening us all morning finally broke and a light rain started falling. We were lucky, however, and the worst of the rain passed after about twenty minutes. Once the rainfall lessened, we began our stream survey of Tenmile Creek. Dr. Todd Crail of the University of Toledo led our survey, and taught the kids how to use seines to sample for fish and invertebrates in the water as well as outline the connection between a river and the land around it. Catherine Zimmerman, of The Meadow Project, also joined us to film the kids as they surveyed the stream. Ms. Zimmerman is currently creating Hometown Habitat, a documentary exploring the importance of the native flora relationship to a healthy local ecosystem. Everyone had a great time wading in the stream and looking for fish. It was a great way to start the final week of the Youth Corps.

 

Conner and Emily attack  common buckthorn with loppers.

Conner and Emily attack common buckthorn with loppers.

Sarah neatly stacks the cut plants.

Sarah neatly stacks the cut plants.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dr. Todd Crail shows the kids how to use a seine.

Dr. Todd Crail shows the kids how to use a seine.

The kids used seines to catch fish and invertebrates in the stream.

The kids used seines to catch fish and invertebrates in the stream.

Dr. Todd Crail explains the relationship between stream and land habitats.

Dr. Todd Crail explains the relationship between stream and land habitats.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Wednesday, we spent time at Olander Park and Sylvan Prairie Park. We started the day along the shore of Lake Olander, rolling erosion matting on some of the sand blowouts and planting native plants in the matting. The plants and erosion matting will help to slow the erosion of the banks and protect the shoreline of the lake. Next we headed to the park system’s greenhouse at Sylvan Prairie. The kids had a blast getting their hands really dirty while transplanting grey-headed coneflower. It was a perfect day to work outside!

Livie and Alayna roll out the erosion matting as Maya and Taylor plant behind them.

Livie and Alayna roll out the erosion matting as Maya and Taylor plant behind them.

Anna and Patrick work together to make holes in the erosion mat and plant native plants in the sand.

Anna and Patrick work together to make holes in the erosion mat and plant native plants in the sand.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cindy of the Olander Park System shows the kids how to wash pots as she goes through each step of the station.

Cindy of the Olander Park System shows the kids how to wash pots as she goes through each step of the station.

The kids made a transplanting station: pots are washed, filled with soil, the soil is watered and kneaded until it is wet throughout, then the coneflower is placed in the soil.

The kids made a transplanting station: pots are washed, filled with soil, the soil is watered and kneaded until it is wet throughout, then the coneflower is placed in the soil.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the last day, more rain caused original plans to be modified slightly until the rain stopped late in the morning. Dr. Mike Weintraub from The University of Toledo came to teach the kids about how compost breaks down to become soil, then showed part of a documentary, The Symphony of the Soil. Once the rain stopped, we headed to the north end of the park to conduct an earthworm survey. Dr. Weintraub taught the Corps that earthworms are not actually native to our region. They are preferred by farmers because they improve the soil to be more organic and rich in nutrients.

To conduct an earthworm survey, a mixture of hot mustard powder and water was poured onto the soil. The kids monitored their selected location for worms wriggling out of the soil. Once out of the soil, the worms were rinsed with water to remove the residue from their skin. The Corps used an earthworm identification sheet to determine each species they found.

They also determined the type of soil with a texture by feel method. They followed a dichotomous key and manipulated the soil step by step until they came to the conclusion that it was a loamy sand soil type.

Finally, we went to the Southview Oak Savanna to remove nonnative weeds including yellow goatsbeard, deptford pink, and cow vetch. The rain caught back up to us, and we were soaked by the time we headed back to Olander to conclude our second year of The Olander Youth Conservation Corps.

Dr. Weintraub, Patrick, and Anna wait for worms to come to the surface.

Dr. Weintraub, Patrick, and Anna wait for worms to come to the surface.

Alayna and Maya use their earthworm guide to identify the species they found.

Alayna and Maya use their earthworm guide to identify the species they found.

Lauren and Emily determined they had loamy sand through a texture by feel method.

Lauren and Emily determined they had loamy sand through a texture by feel method.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you to all of the Corps members this year who helped make the second annual Olander Youth Conservation Corps a success! We were happy to have worked with and taught all of the Corps members this year.

blue flag iris

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GOOSE ATTACKS

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GOOSE-ATTACK1Nesting season has begun at Olander Park and with that encounters between geese and humans is increased. Nesting time is a very important time for all kinds of birds, instinct drives them to reproduce and raise their young, just like all animals do. The issue with geese, as with all animals including humans, is that they are driven to protect the area around their young.

Interactions between geese and people increase in the spring especially in parks and public areas. Most of the time these interactions are peaceful, but when fed by people geese lose their natural fear of people. This often leads to more goose attacks in the spring.

skunk cabbage

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Description: Skunk cabbage is a flowering perennial plant that is one of the first plants to emerge in the spring. The flowers appear before the leaves and are characterized by a mottled maroon hood-like bract called a spathe, which surrounds a knob-like structure called a spadix. The spadix is actually a fleshy spike of many, petal-less flowers. As the flowers mature, the spathe opens more to allow pollinators such as flies and carrion beetles to enter and pollinate the flowers.

Predation: Most animals avoid skunk cabbage because it causes a burning sensation when eaten, but bears will eat young plants in the spring. American Indians have used it as a medicinal treatment for coughs and headaches. For a time in the 1800s it was sold as the drug dracontium to treat a variety of ailments.

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ZOOTeens

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

THANK YOU, ZOOTeens!

For more information on the ZOOTeen program see http://www.toledozoo.org/site/page/zooteen_volunteers 

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Making protective tree tubes

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.

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!

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Frog Surveys at Sylvan Prairie

The sounds of frogs calling is a part of spring.

We document the frogs and toads at Sylvan Prairie Park four times each spring, in late March, late April, late May and late June. We go out just after sunset and listen at six different locations around the park.

In late March we heard a few Wood Frogs, Chorus Frogs, Leopard Frogs and Green Frogs. But not very many frogs overall. It was barely warm enough for most of them!

Late April’s count was last night, and we heard lots of American Toads and Spring Peepers and a few Leopard Frogs and Chorus Frogs. We saw a lot of Leopard Frogs hopping around, too.

Then this morning, we found some Leopard Frog egg masses, just hatching! The little black specks here and there around the whitish egg mass are teeny tadpoles.

Leopard frog eggs just hatching

Leopard frog eggs just hatching

Why are they removing leaves from the Savanna?

If any of you strolled by the Southview Oak Savanna along the University Parks Trail these last couple of weeks, you might have been asking yourself that question.

ZOOTeens

ZOOTeens moving leaf piles

TOPS Conservation Crew, along with awesome volunteers from the Toledo ZOOTeens, the University of Toledo’s Department of Environmental Sciences, and the local chapter of Wild Ones, have been hard at wok removing the fallen oak leaves from a couple of areas in the Savanna.

Why??

The Southview Oak Savanna is part of the Oak Openings Region. The soil is sandy, and on this site there is a remnant high dune built by the wind after glacial Lake Warren receded roughly 12,000 years ago. A lot of these ancient dunes are now gone, flattened for farming or bulldozed for developments. There are only a handful of places left where you can see the sweeping dunes, topped by oaks, tall grasses and wildflowers that once characterized this entire area. This is why it is such a privilege for us to have the Southview Oak Savanna, a remnant, as small as it is, of the globally unique ecosystem that once existed here.

Bare Soil - Leaves Removed!

Bare sandy soil after leaf removal. And the big piles of leaves ready to haul off.

So why do we want to remove downed leaves from this sandy ecosystem? The answer lies in that sand…and in fire and flood suppression. The tall grasses and wildflowers that grow on these ancient sand dunes rely on the sandy soil which has very low nutrient content. When dead leaves break down, they put a lot of nutrients into the soil. Historically, the nutrient content in the sandy Oak Openings soil stayed low because there weren’t that many trees growing in the sandy dunes. Nowadays there are WAY more trees in the Oak Openings Region because people have been stopping wild fires and lessening floods. Fires and floods stop trees from establishing. So now we have too many trees, dropping too many leaves, and creating soil with too high of a nutrient content for the native grasses and wildflowers.

So for the past 7 years, we have been removing the leaves from parts of the Southview Oak Savanna to make the sandy soil better able to support the rare plants that like sunny, sandy spots in the Oak Openings Region. And it’s working! Non-native invasive plants like garlic mustard love high nutrient content, and now they are gone from the Savanna! And rare native plants are really making a comeback!

Take a look at some of the wildflowers blooming at the Savanna this spring and summer.

Butterfly Milkweed

Butterfly Milkweed with Bee

There wouldn’t be nearly as many of them if we didn’t clear out those leaves for them every year!