By Darwin Manning
This upcoming summer there will be four fortunate students given the opportunity to complete conservation research work at Grinnell’s Conard Environmental Research Area (CERA) and in town for the promotion of natural prairie plantings. The four students—Isaac Chadri ’15, Rachel Fritts ’14, Eddie Guen-Murray ’15 and Carissa Shoemaker ’14—will work with Elizabeth Hill, the new manager of CERA and Outreach Coordinator for the Center for Prairie Studies. This group of summer restoration assistants will focus on land management, monitoring and urban work through a diverse range of projects, providing for a very active summer for the new CERA manager.
“Since it’s my first summer here and growing season, it’s thrilling for me, too,” Hill said. “The four students are really passionate and they are all passionate to play outside and work hard.”
The group will manage the goats, which are doing savannah restoration themselves by eating the invasive species that have been negatively affecting the native prairie plants. They are hoping to eliminate as many of these unwanted plants as they can through cutting and spraying herbicide on their roots.
Meanwhile, the group will also be monitoring small mammal trappings, completing snake surveys, restoring bluebird nests, doing butterfly surveys, weeding and planting, amongst other ecological projects. Finally, the group will be working in town at three sites: campus prairies, the Grinnell Middle School’s 2.6-acre prairie and Drake Community library’s yard. This will provide for a very full schedule and Hill is passionate about getting started.
“I’m very excited about the superhuman amount of work that we are going to bang out this summer,” Hill said enthusiastically.
The students involved in this project come from all different disciplines, such as Biology, Chemistry and Anthropology, so this will be a fine opportunity for them to complete fieldwork relating to their interests, as well as work with people outside of their major. They all expressed excitement over the chance to spend time in the prairie and learn more about how prairies function as complex ecosystems.
“I would like to have a career in environmental biology and this seemed like a great opportunity to gain knowledge and skills in that particular field of study,” Guen-Murray said. “This summer position will allow me to learn new techniques for the practice of field biology, as well as provide me an in-depth look into a prairie ecosystem.”
Furthermore, while many of them believe that this will assist with their career aspirations, they are also enthusiastic about working at a location they have wanted to become more familiar with.
“It’s a great opportunity to work outside, to learn about Iowa’s natural history and to contribute to CERA’s conservation efforts and ecological research,” Shoemaker said. “Plus, there’s an ongoing goat grazing project.”
Shoemaker is originally from Iowa and has seen many prairie restoration projects that have happened throughout the area. She is also looking forward to the opportunity to actually participate in one herself. She believes that this will be a great learning experience, which she might apply to a career after Grinnell.
“This position is also an opportunity to try out conservation work and to learn more about Iowa, just in case I decide to stick around,” Shoemaker said.