Several weeks ago I had the great pleasure of volunteering with the Nature Conservancy, planting native plants that would eventually become part of a seed bank for restoration on their preserve in Kankakee Sands, Indiana. Although we were a bit late (alarm clock issues), we were put to work right away with about 10 other volunteers. The greenhouse was really quite beautiful and the people were all wonderfully nice and happy to be there. I must say, it was a great experience.
This is not an unusual project to be part of when volunteering, especially though the Nature Conservancy. They have volunteer days about once a month, and although the tasks are small, they are very important in restoring native habitats. Kankakee Sands is a nice little preserve, on the border of Indiana and Illinois in Newton County. The preserve is 7,000 acres and features some fun, and rather wet, hiking trails through the tall grass prairie. Before TNC’s involvement, this habitat was rather disjunked and almost completely covered in farmlands. However, within the last 15 years, TNC has created a corridor that connects 20,000 acres (about 5 preserves) of grassland and wetland for over 100 rare, threatened or endangered species in this region. They have also worked hard to create ponds for amphibians, birds and wetland plants that were once prevalent in this region.
Although our trip started to a rather rocky and late start, we managed to explore the area and have a pretty fun time! The hiking trails associated with these parks were well kept and full of plant life. There were some issues with a bit too much water, (see picture below!), but that was pretty fun too. We also visited a smaller park, once owned by TNC, called Holley Savannah Nature Preserve. Although quite small, and without groomed trails, I managed to find some pretty sweet temporary ponds that featured my study organism, Daphnia! I’m hoping in the next few weeks to make it back down there to collect some of these critters for my experiments on climate change.
I highly encourage trips where you can go out and see one of these beautiful preserves! The Nature Conservancy is in every state and they are always looking for eager volunteers to help out. Check out their site and see if there is anything close to you! Volunteer days are pretty chill and fun for everyone. There was a rather large range of ages where we were, and everyone was super friendly and welcoming. Hope you come back to see more of our entries!