Part of my charge as Director of Ecological Relationships is to collaborate with civic groups in our region, by means of combined programming, tasks forces, committees, and generally connecting people and resources to advance ecological and environmental health. I’ve been fortunate to keep chugging along at this for 5 years now, long enough to see the normal employee turnover at partner organizations, so I will admit it feels good to get those occasional cold calls from community partners looking to collaborate, like I’m part of building a stable network of relationships and a growing body of work as the community continues to change.
Resources and institutions are important, of course, but it really is the network of relationships that is the basis of a healthy and resilient community. These are the catalysts for activating change and maintaining responsiveness to the needs of the time.
I thought it was time to catch y’all up with some of this work that’s been happening.
On June 12th, the Plymouth Parks Department hosted a “Walk and Learn” Nature Series on the Greenway trail that runs along the Yellow River. Presenters were located at intervals, covering the topics of native plants and animals, watersheds , foraging, recycling, and prescribed fire (myself).
Not many folks in our region are familiar with prescribed fire (yet!), so in these situations I usually just introduce the concept and show that with the right equipment and training, prescribed fire is a viable tool for natural resources stewardship. For those who stick around, I brought some examples and data from our prescribed fire program, to dive deeper into the subject.
Next was some programming with the Plymouth Public Library, who hosted an “Animal Adventure“. I don’t know if most folks consider insects as “animals”… but I got approved to present on pollinators (specifically, bumblebees)!
I did a rapid introduction to the bumblebee life cycle. And since there was only 12-15 minutes per group, that’s all I could cover. I picked kids to play the role of the queen bee, worker bees, drones, etc. The rest of the children held up sticky notes to serve as the “pollen” that the bees would emerge to gather for the hive. (What is the bumblebee life cycle? Read here from U. of Wisconsin-Madison). I passed each kid of a packet of wildflower seeds collected from Moontree Studios as a parting gift.
Lastly, I got a call a few weeks ago from an adjunct professor at Ivy Tech, who actually was involved with our Phase 2 (2019) solar energy installation. We found time this week for a tour of our systems with his Advanced Solar summer class. Usually when I give solar tours, I try to simplify the technical aspects of solar energy installation so that it’s accessible to folks who are just learning about it. This was the opposite! Knowing that I didn’t have much of anything to teach this crowd from a technical standpoint, I tried to paint a picture of other aspects of solar energy from the customer’s perspective: the trials and tribulations of institutions who want to go solar, the RFP process, maintenance, and pollinator-friendly design. We did a walk through of the installation and discussed all these aspects of solar energy. What a great crew! Can’t wait to see these folks join the industry and make an impact.
The prof wrote afterwards, “I think they really enjoyed it and found it inspiring, I did. I was telling [someone] on the way home, that when you have a hard time getting the students to leave the field trip, it is a good one… their eyes [were opened] to what renewable energy combined with proper eco landscaping can accomplish. I hope this is the first of many tours for Ivy Tech renewable energy students.”
Needless to say, I’m very proud that these panels aren’t fenced off in a distant field, out of site and out of mind, but are generating enthusiasm and knowledge as well as electrical energy.