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 aims 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 breeding neotropical migrants and several common birds in decline).
Approximately 25 college students will be involved from a local urban campus of Miami University, where a majority of students work part-time and receive financial assistance. Local high school students will accompany the college students, the latter demonstrating conservation mapping skills they have learned.
“The innovation of this project lies in the college students, who will design, complete, and monitor the work,” Gail explained. “During a 12-month period, students will identify, photograph, and GPS-map invasive plants within ten feet of the trails that run through the target area, and note additional invasive ‘hotspots.’” The work will be under the direction of Richard Munson, Department of Botany, who is Audubon Miami Valley Chapter's Conservation Chair.
Ultimately, invasive species will be removed by project participants and community volunteers, followed by an event showcasing the conservation project to the community.
TogetherGreen support will enable the Chapter to purchase project equipment, conduct training, and develop signage and brochures of lasting value.
Gail was quick to add that the project goal is not simply its critical conservation component, but also to “…mentor ‘non-traditional’ students in a habitat restoration project and to increase community awareness of the value of our nearby IBA. As students work outdoors learning marketable skills, we hope they will gain confidence and an appreciation for nature.”