The land management crew was quieter this week, having said goodbye to our team of ever-laughing, occasionally-singing, summer interns. The team disbanded, cheerfully* returning to classrooms across the state, having gained experience they’ll not soon forget.

“I think one of my most favorite things from the internship was getting to work with Purdue Fort Wayne and the University of Saint Francis to do a portion of the creek study at Little Cedar. Being able to experience what some field work is like was amazing, and I found it was something I really enjoyed,” says Phoebe Habeck, a Purdue University Forestry student.

On the experience, Phoebe Habeck, who is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Forestry at Purdue University, says, “Along with mixing and applying herbicides, we got to experience what it’s like to work on a team in a more environmental way. I used to participate in marching band and am involved in a couple of clubs on campus but working at ACRES gave me a different team experience.

Working in the heat with herbicide and occasional obstacles made the job challenging both physically and mentally. Despite challenges, we still managed to have fun. It was crucial for us to work together, we knew that, and although we had some off days, I felt like we were quick to move on and tackle the tasks we were assigned with little trouble.”

One of the crew’s most challenging days happened to be one intern’s first day: “Prior to this I had not really understood that interns make their own trail,” says Dessiree Hurst, who is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Geo-science with a minor in Biology at Purdue University Fort Wayne. “Matt Dunno [land management specialist] taught me to side sweep and step. Stinging nettle that reached eye level covered 90% of the preserve. I went home with sore shoulders and a drive to give it another try the next day.

“My hardcore parkour skills were tested multiple times as we had to deal with fallen trees. However, the group kept up good spirits with songs and laughter, and this attitude never wavered throughout the internship. Even on the worst day, I left with a smile.”

“Going to Grass Lake with Scott Namestnik [who conducts plant inventories for ACRES] was amazing,” said Dessiree Hurst, a geosciences student at Purdue Fort Wayne,  right. “We learned to identify so many plants. I never realized the variety of grasses! I also saw a new professional possibility.”

The crew spent most days fighting non-native plants, and building plant identification skills.

“Other than Japanese stiltgrass, the non-native invasive plants that we were going after were autumn olive, multiflora rose, and honeysuckle,” says Grace St. Clair, who will transfer to Grace College and Seminary this fall. “Honestly the days we sprayed these three were my favorite. We could walk faster, and I felt like we were accomplishing more since these plants were usually a  pretty decent size. However, after learning to ID these invasives, I see them whenever everywhere when I’m out on a run, walking trails, or just driving down the road. I’m not sure if it’s just me, but when I see them I always have an itch to spray them.”

To support ACRES’ outreach efforts and public interest in protecting places, the team also tackled trail maintenance.

“My personal favorite property to work at was Bicentennial Woods,” says St. Clair. That property was so full of life. There we put up better fences to block off trails that weren’t supposed to be there, made sure there were no falling trees that needed cut down, and made sure trails were clear and defined. As an added bonus we got to spray a huge hornets nest that was on a tree which went surprisingly well with minimal stingings.”

*At the end of the summer, most ACRES land management interns have been cheerful to leave behind challenging work. Cheers to this crew for sharing their infectious playful, supportive, and determined attitudes. We had fun working with you!