Protecting an Old-growth Forest from Invasive Plants
Gail Reynolds’ role as President of the Oxford, Ohio-based Audubon Miami Valley Chapter caps a career as an educator that spanned 31 years. She knew she wanted to work in the environmental field after retirement, so during her last four school summers pursued an MAT in Biology degree at Miami University of Ohio. She now works as a naturalist in the Highfield Discovery Garden in Cincinnati, Ohio.
“For years, our AMV Chapter has done a great job in programs, field trips, and environmental education,” Gail said, but she has long envisioned a bold project to protect a nearby critical habitat—one thus far hampered by lack of funds.
Dubbed "Save The Big Woods,” Gail’s TogetherGreen fellowship project aimed to reduce the threat of invasive plants to a unique, 200-acre old-growth mature beech-maple forest within Hueston Woods State Park in Southwest Ohio—a small remnant of virgin hardwood forest that has been recognized as a National Natural Landmark, an Ohio State Nature Preserve, and an Important Bird Area (supporting several birds in decline). Her “Save the Big Woods from Alien Invaders” Volunteer Day recruited 75 volunteers, who removed invasive plants. She also displayed two trailhead signs informing hikers about invasive plants and installed bootbrushes attached to the signs to help prevent spread of seeds.
Gail also implemented educational components by having elementary students plant a garden with native plants while college students helped with the conservation project. Her involvement in the Audubon Miami Valley Bird Festival brought over 500 children and their families to Hueston Woods to learn about birds and connect with nature and nearly 100 community members volunteered.