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Adventures in Conservation – CLIP 2024 Week 2

Published on
17 June 2024

We have officially completed our first full week of TLC’s 2024 CLIP and it has already been such a rewarding experience! I am Emily Ptaszek, a student at Lake Forest College who has been interested in joining The Land Conservancy of McHenry County for years; I could not be more proud to finally be acquainted with the organization! Our second week has brought some physical challenges, but it has also brought a lively sense of community as we network with new people and accomplish tasks together!

Getting started bright and early on Monday morning, we attended a bird-monitoring workshop with Randy at Goose Lake. During our trip, we all had to be intently mindful as we watched and listened for telltale signs of specific species. With this workshop, we had the opportunity to sharpen our focus as we tried to identify new species through their calls. We learned techniques that could attract them, and approaches that would deter them. Randy was astoundingly talented in detecting the smallest of movements and visual variations; he was able to find much more than I could! My favorite was a tiny indigo bunting shining in the sun. It was a mesmerizing view of such a diverse landscape, and I was lucky to be part of it. Even our walk back was eventful; we came across quilted hearts hung along the path which we took as souvenirs, and as the grand finale of our trip, we saw a blanding’s turtle!

Tuesday was a new challenge for many of us, as we took a field trip to Foxbook Park in Brookfield, Wisconsin to participate in the Treetop Explorer experience. We were trained on how to properly climb trees in the field, as well as reasons why trees may need to be pruned for conservation purposes. We climbed a beautiful bur oak named Captain Tony. Each of us had to learn to trust ourselves (and the harnesses) as we went higher and higher into the tree. We had a lakeside and birds-eye view as we stopped to gaze along the way. By the end of it, I was a bit bummed to leave. By the next morning, though, I realized through my muscle soreness just how hard I had been working! Kim even treated us to burgers on the way home, which was an unexpected blessing.

On Wednesday, we had our first change of plans! We were supposed to be targeting invasives that day, but we had found out the pollinator garden planting on Thompson Road didn’t go as well as expected for the volunteers the day before, so instead we picked up where they left off. The cicadas were singing on our shoulders that day, and they even joined us for lunch. The soil was very rocky and dry in some places, and very clay-like and muddy in others. We spent the entire day planting a diverse group of plants in the near-empty field. I was able to use a dibble bar and an auger for the first time to help get through the dense ground. In the rockiest parts, we were able to plant strawberries. Looking out at the field after we packed up gave us a sense of fulfillment.

Thursday was dedicated to beginning two research projects that we will be working on throughout the summer. For the first one we were assigned to test the germination rate for teasel depending on the age of the flower heads in order to better understand how to stop its spread. For the next, we brainstormed some topic ideas and decided to research herbicide application on various native plants. We will be testing different concentrations of glyphosate on each group to determine what a “safe” amount of potential contamination would be. We cleaned out the greenhouse and set up our experiments. Through the process of creating our procedures, we also learned how to maintain a proper research journal in order to keep track of our data and illustrate our findings.

Friday we were supposed to be using herbicide on garden valerian at Irish Oaks, but the earth had a different plan for us that day as it was much too windy. Instead, we pulled garden valerian, parsnip, and a couple of mullen at Irish Oaks. The entire day flew by, and it seemed like the invasive plants were never-ending, but I would say it was an overall success besides me losing my sunglasses and clippers somewhere in the vastness. As a midday cool-down reward, Megan treated us to Dairy Queen!

Looking back and flipping through all the pictures we’ve taken, it’s hard to believe all of this happened in a mere week. I cannot wait to see what we can accomplish as a team by the end of the summer!