By F. AMANDA TUGADE - firstname.lastname@example.org
Equipped with large, sharp clippers and saws in hand, Shedd Aquarium conservation ecologist Karen Glennemeir and her colleagues Reid Bogert and Michelle Parker led the pack of volunteers Jan. 15 to a small area off the trail overrun by buckthorns, a popular invasive plant.
The three are a part of the Shedd’s Great Lakes and Sustainability program, which has partnered with the Forest Preserves of Cook County to create Amphibians Great Lakes Action Days to help restore the county’s habitats.
Bogert, the coordinator of Great Lakes and Sustainability, explained buckthorns that have grown around Bob Mann Woods’ pond have diminished the amphibians’ natural habitats by planting their thick roots “nice and deep” in the soil and sucking up the pond’s water.
He added buckthorns are known to release toxins, which could affect the pond’s water quality and make it unsafe for other native plants to grow and local amphibians to live and lay their eggs.
Having Shedd and forest preserve staff, as well as volunteers, come together for a few hours to lend a hand and eliminate the “bullies” of the forest makes a difference, said Glennemier and Parker, who is the vice president of Great Lakes and Sustainability.
For Students Today Leaders Forever service leaders Zach White and Michael Varrige, this particular challenge was a step outside their Wisconsin-based chapter's comfort zone, but it was a task they were eager to accept.
The two said people saw service as doing something good for someone else whether that is donating canned goods to food banks or hosting clothing drives, but a project like this reminded them all that help can come in different forms.