Moms, dads, sons, daughters, and friends gathered at Five Rivers MetroParks Germantown to clear invasive trees and cattails and collect prairie grass seeds for the park seed bank. The Germantown metropark is one of the largest and most diverse in the chain, containing large open grasslands, cedar glades, dry hillside prairies, all stages of natural succession, several ponds, and an exceptionally high quality stream, Twin Creek.
“It’s great to get outside and work in nature for an excellent cause,” said parent Michael Dunn P’24. Michael and his wife Susan and their son Gabe were among several families who committed to working the three hours in one of the metropark prairies.
“You get outside to get inside,” said community outreach and service coordinator Paige Zorniger ’08. Giving back to the community in a natural setting exposes students and families to a dramatic ecosystem, including educational instructions that connect tasks to new knowledge about nature, the environment, science, and sustainability. Volunteers learn more about their capabilities and “place in the world” as they give of their time, talent, and energy.
“We were removing invasive species,” said director of enrollment Trey Adams, “because without natural competitors, they overpopulate and push away the native flora and fauna.” Hardwood walnut and softer willow saplings and mid-sized trees were removed from the bank area of the prairie pond. Trees grow taller than the natural prairie grasses and their mature canopies can prevent sunlight and nutrients from reaching ground level to the native grasses and wildflowers.
“We found some amphibians,” said Dunn referring to student volunteers who went in pursuit of several frogs inhabiting the pond. Dunn continued by discussing with student volunteers how the types of organisms living in a water source are direct indicators of water quality. The three boys took off in pursuit of intimate interaction with nature and delicately captured, shared, and released a few pond specimens.
“The seeds are stored and replanted in other areas to reclaim the prairie ecology,” said Anne Dettmer P’18,’19,’22 as she and her daughter Lily along with Priya Jain P’22 and her daughter Lakshmi used gloved hands to carefully comb the seeds from the tops of autumn prairie grasses. The park seed bank stores the seeds until planting time at other locations. The prairie ecosystem and its inhabitants are native to the Midwest temperate biome.