Hidden Value in Education Awards

By: Kellie Lager, Recruitment Manager

Double the amount you pay on your loans this year! Many new members worry that not securing a full-time job right out of college will put them behind on their student loans, but serving in AmeriCorps actually puts you ahead! Joining the Conservation Corps gives you the opportunity to better your community, learn valuable job skills, network with potential future employers, and earn an education award that is more than twice average student loan payments. And if you put your loans in forbearance during your service term, you won’t even have to pay the interest on them!

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To learn more, visit the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award website. To apply for full-term Conservation Corps positions, visit our application page!

Fall into hibernation

By: Tamara Beal

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Fall is officially in full swing! And that means it is migration season for many animals ranging from the smallest of insects, to birds of every size and color and especially our main attraction…bats!

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Over the last month, many changes in the bat project have occurred. Mist netting finished up with another handful of Northern Long Eared bats being radio tagged. And lucky for us, we were able to catch a species that had thus far alluded us, the tri-colored bat (right)!

Alongside daytime ground tracking, Copperhead biologists have been up in the airplane checking where the radio tagged bats’ nightly wanderings take them. Sometimes the bats would not move at all, whereas other times the plane might find them miles from where they were caught the night before. Below are some views of Iowa from the cockpit!

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In preparation for migration season, we switched over from mostly night work with Copperhead Consulting, to some daytime work days with Josh Otten, a biologist from Stantec. Last winter, the Department of Natural Resources decided to try a new technique to determine where Northern Long Eared bats were hibernating. Conservation canines is a organization that specifically trains dogs for conservation related tasks. In a similar fashion that a police dog is trained to track down criminals by scent, dogs can also be trained on the scent of specific animals. In this picture, a Conservation canine, Lily, can be seen sniffing at a particular rock outcropping, identifying it as a likely hibernation roost for Northern Long Eared bats.

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Based on the locations that Lily and other Conservation dogs identified, Josh picked hibernaculum at four parks to put up thermal and infrared cameras. Each park began with two full set-ups which included two thermal cameras, two infrared cameras, two infrared lights, two camera stands, two screens for the infrared cameras, two raspberry pis (data storage), two 35 pound batteries, two plastic tubes to protect the wires, and finally two big tubs to keep everything waterproof (left). All of that totaling over 200 pounds of equipment and over $10,000 per site. 

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But figuring out what equipment was needed for each site was only the beginning of the adventure. The real fun was getting all the gear to these sometimes remote hibernaculum sites. All of the “Bats and Bucks” crew can be seen to the right struggling to cross the Iowa River on the way to investigate one of our first hibernacula camera set-ups. With some of the walks into these sites being over a mile on uneven terrain, we are lucky to be working in such beautiful locations.

Pictured to the left is a closer look at the controlled chaos that is required for one of these camera set-ups. The picture in the center gives an example of one of our thermal and infrared camera systems once it is all set-up. And pictured to the right is an example of a rock face the cameras are trained on, believed to be a long eared bat hibernacula.

A few nights, we even got to test out what the cameras were seeing by wearing night vision goggles. For an hour we would scan a rock face hoping to catch a bat emerging from between splits in the rock (Inga- left). The goggles were not exactly comfortable to wear with straps around each side of the head, but being able to see in the dark was worth the discomfort (center). While conducting the emergence count, we also used an Echo Meter app to identify the bat calls in the area and determine if any happened to be Northern Long Eared (right).

No field work would be complete without unexpected wildlife lessons! Lucky for the four of us, Josh knows a great deal about snakes and gave us a lesson on any snakes we came across. Some of these included an adult black rat snake (left), a timber rattle snake (center), and a young of the year black rat snake (Tamara- right).

Last week we said good bye to our Copperhead friends as their part of the project had come to a close. Although we are still doing a small bit of day tracking, most of our time is taken up by changing batteries at the four hibernaculum sites. The newest development for our work, however, is beginning the data analysis of the footage recorded at these sites, manually scanning for any signs of life; bat or otherwise. Stay tuned for an update on the results of the thermal camera video recordings and the initiation of our work with white tailed deer and chronic wasting disease in mid-November.

Amy looking fierce and victorious with a yeti battery in front of a grand maple tree.

Amy looking fierce and victorious with a yeti battery in front of a grand maple tree.

 

 

A week in pictures at Lake Elmo Park Reserve

By: Aimee Junget

Here it is, the first full week of fall. Cooler temperatures and changing colors make working outside that much sweeter. This past week, the St. Paul Roving Crew was working with Washington County at Lake Elmo Park Reserve. The park is just about 4 square miles, a large percentage of which is devoted to preservation and restoration to native prairie and oak savannah. I had never been to the park before working there, but I know now I will be back-- especially to experience the park in winter for some cross-country skiing. Here are some pictures highlighting the projects our crew was a part of this week out at the park.

Who doesn’t love a good before and after picture? Throughout the week, our crew cleared buckthorn, an invasive species of tree that out-competes native plants. We used a variety of methods including foliar spraying, basal bark spraying, and cutting. In this picture, our crew cleared using chainsaws and brush saws, allowing native trees and plants such as bur oak to obtain more sunlight and nutrients that the buckthorn would have depleted. And, hey, there’s a wetland back there visitors to the park can finally see through those aspens!

The fall phenology of the prairie is highlighted as the forbs and grasses that have been coloring the prairie all summer begin to seed. Our crew ventured out through the prairies collecting seeds from plants like wild rye, partridge pea, evening primrose, rough blazing star (pictured below), bergamot, and hyssop--the last two leaving your hands with distinct smells characteristic to the mint family. The seeds collected will be used to seed other parts of the park in the restoration process.

Of course, I couldn’t leave this post without a wildflower picture. The New England asters, late bloomers of the prairie, were in full bloom showing off their vibrant purple color.

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Impact of AmeriCorps response to Hurricane Irma

By: Kristina Luotto

Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa and AmeriCorps NCCC crews have been deployed to Southwest Florida for two weeks now. We are staying in the Fort Myers area, assisting survivors of Hurricane Irma. Wind and water damage from Irma are visibly apparent throughout the community, preventing life from returning to “normal.” AmeriCorps teams have been out in the community working on hazard tree removal, blue tarp temporary roofing, and debris removal. Our work directly assists people on the road to recovery. Javier is one of the first homeowners we assisted upon starting our field operations in SW Florida. Our field crews used chainsaws to perform hazard tree and vegetative debris removal from his property. Below is a photo of the crew with Javier during a lunch break. Morale was high, as Javier provided a lunch of cold drinks and pizza for the crew. We received a message from Javier after completing work on this property. His response shows the positive impact of AmeriCorps Disaster Response Teams and the reason why we do what we do!


Message from Javier:
“Hello my friends! This is Javier… I haven’t stop talking with my friends and family about you guys! What you guys did left a beautiful mark in my heart. Yesterday I woke up feeling that it was a dream…but my yard says it was a reality, and it fills my heart with hope looking at young guys spreading happiness everywhere, serving others in need. You guys are the clear representation of the real human nature…LOVE! I feel more than blessed for the whole experience… Thanks so much! Many blessings and remember…you guys have a friend here! Hugs!”

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Here are some quick stats from our first 3 days of field operations:

- 66 AmeriCorps members, 19 Minnesota & Iowa Conservation Corps

- 1715 cubic yards of vegetative debris cleared

- 54 hazard trees removed

- 9 roofs temporarily repaired

- 18 home work orders completed