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.


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!”

Disaster Response Group.PNG

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 

Field Specialist Experience: Abby Cyr

By: Megan Zeiher, Recruitment Coordinator

Fall is a time of transition, so it is only fitting this season has us looking ahead to the 2018 AmeriCorps term here at the Corps. We recently opened Field Specialist and Individual Placement positions and will be accepting applications until Friday, October 13. Field Crew and Youth Outdoors positions will open on Wednesday, October 18. These members serve January/February through December of 2018 and are eligible for the full $5,815 Segal AmeriCorps Education Award, among other benefits unique to the service year experience.

To learn more about the Corps experience through the eyes of a Field Specialist, we talked with Abby Cyr, who is currently serving in the Northwest District of Minnesota. Abby first heard about Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa through a career fair at her college, Hamline University. She saw an opportunity she couldn’t pass up—the opportunity to work outdoors, serve the environment, and be employed right after graduating college.

Her initial experience with the Corps was a summer term in a Superior National Forest “Faces of Tomorrow” Crew. She then extended her service term through December with the Forest Service, before applying to be a Field Specialist to gain more experience.

Abby likes that the Field Specialist position requires independence and gives her the opportunity to develop her strengths and confront her weaknesses. She also likes the mix of time in the field with other members and work on her own.

“I coordinate logistics for crews, create equipment lists, organize safety protocols, develop emergency response plans, and help train crews in chainsaw, power and hand tools. I work with crews part of the week and work in the shop maintaining equipment and doing office work the rest of the week.“

Abby credits her experience as a Field Specialist for helping her develop leadership abilities and has this advice for incoming members in her same role, “Keep papers and documents organized, have a list of tasks needing to be completed, and remember to let crew leaders be crew leaders—even when they ask for advice when you are the specialist.”

She describes her biggest challenge in this role as, “balancing time in the field with what needs to be done in the shop and still being there for the crews with functioning equipment.”

Through her experience with the Corps, Abby knows she wants her career to always involve working outdoors in roles that allow her to make a positive impact on the environment.

To start your own Conservation Corps journey, check out our apply page and explore open positions. To learn more about Field Specialist roles, visit this page or email questions to recruit@conservationcorps.org.

New blogger: Clare Riley


Name: Clare K. Riley

Crew: Crew Leader for Youth Outdoors Ramsey County Crew (YO4)

Hometown: St. Paul, MN

College: University of MN, Twin Cities - College of Biological Sciences

Favorite food: Pot pie or classic Riley mashed potatoes

Hobbies: Playing ultimate frisbee, hiking, biking, reading or finding dogs to hang out with

Favorite outdoor activity: (Do I have to pick just one?) Probably hiking, but I really love pretty much anything outdoors

Person or experience that has most influenced your life: My 3-week study abroad in Thailand my senior year of college, where I was helping with ongoing research on Tiger populations in the Huai Kha Kheng wildlife sanctuary. I had gone into the trip ready to work hard and then continue on with school to become a doctor or potentially a medical researcher; I had a ten year plan and everything.

My world changed when I saw the sanctuary from a lookout point: seeing an area as far as the naked eye could see that was completely untouched and protected by humans made me realize that I want to use what I've got to protect what cannot protect itself. The tigers we were researching, the elephant that could have hurt me and my group but didn't, every plant we marveled at in that jungle.... All of it cannot speak up for itself in a way everyone will listen to, and all of it is protected by humans to the extent that none are allowed in (unless they are researching, as we were).

I realized that, while doctors are very important, there will always be more individuals willing to be doctors. There aren't that many people willing to dedicate as much as they can to protecting this planet as best we can. Ever since I realized I could do something necessary for all species rather than just our own, I've been driven by an indescribable passion. I have an opportunity to do something truly great for things that will never be able to thank me. I still don't know exactly what career will allow me to best help, but I've got time to figure that out. That trip altered my career path, my worldview and my life. I could not be more grateful or proud of the choices I have made since.