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NWP Global Registry of Apprentice Ecologists - Cowan Lake State Park, Wilmington, Ohio, USA

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Cowan Lake State Park, Wilmington, Ohio, USA
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Registered: December 2021
City/Town/Province: Maineville
Posts: 1
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I sat there in the stiff grass, as still as possible, waiting on the Monarch butterfly to move closer to me. I watched as she floated up into the air, and landed on the bright orange butterfly weed right in front of me. I stared at her magnificent orange and black wings as she landed on the leaf and edged closer to the sweet nectar within. It was October, and she headed south on her journey to the mountains of Mexico to spend a cold winter there, huddled among her fellow butterflies covering every square inch of the fir trees. Her beauty and her amazing migration story created a desire to find out more about Monarchs and their role on this planet. It was in this research that I discovered that the Monarch’s natural habitat is fading, and so is the population of this magnificent butterfly due to the continued use of pesticides, herbicides, and construction which are killing the butterfly and its host plant, the milkweed. I knew that it was my personal responsibility to take action in protecting this species and encourage others to do the same, and this is what inspired me to complete an Apprentice Ecologist project.

I spent time researching steps I could take to help the Monarch butterfly, and my research led me to a certified naturalist at Cowan Lake State Park in Wilmington, Ohio. She was actively looking for a volunteer to help create butterfly gardens at the park, so I felt this would be a great first step. The area for planting needed non-native plants removed, and native plants planted in their place. I removed the invasive plants and prepared the gardens for planting. I created a plan for a garden that would bloom from early spring to late autumn so the butterfly would be able to gather nectar at different times of the year to help on her journey to Canada, and with the next generation, back to Mexico. I purchased native plants from a local nursery using proceeds from past Girl Scout cookie sales, then recruited volunteers to help plant the gardens. I made sure to plant plenty of milkweed, which I discovered is the host plant for the Monarch butterfly, where the females can safely lay their eggs. When the eggs hatch, the milkweed leaves provide nutrition for the caterpillars and a safe place to create a chrysalis. The adult Monarch feeds on the nectar that the plant provides.
The area that was chosen was in a state park that has started an initiative to remove invasive plants and replace them with plants native to Ohio. Invasive plants take over the natural habitat of an area and can compete with native plants for soil, water, nutrients, and sun, and can actually stop native plants from growing. It is important to help with this initiative so that our native plants, such as milkweed are not inhibited from growing, and can continue to be a healthy food source and source of protection for the Monarchs and other pollinators and species. Choosing an area for the gardens at a state park will allow many visitors to enjoy the gardens. There is also educational signage to help the community learn all about the importance of native plants and pollinators.

After planting the two gardens, I worked with local volunteers and specialists to plan and host a Save the Monarch event for the community. I planned activities and created educational posters to teach attendees all about the Monarch butterfly and other pollinators. Local Girl Scouts of all ages, along with their parents attended the workshops and were able to get their questions answered by local experts, including two certified naturalists, two local beekeepers, a local butterfly enthusiast, and a local native plant enthusiast. After completing several activities related to the Monarch, the Girl Scouts helped separate milkweed seeds from their pods as part of a state-wide effort to distribute seeds to local gardens and schools to re-establish the butterfly’s natural habitat. In addition, I created an informational website about the Monarch that lists lots of useful education on milkweed conservation, the butterfly life cycle, and all about my Gold Award project. Girl Scouts can complete activities listed on the website to earn a patch, and the community can complete activities to earn a certificate.

Throughout the Monarch project that I completed, I discovered that I was not only capable of planning activities that would make the world a better place, but I was able to connect with and lead others who had similar goals as mine. We worked to create a habitat for butterflies and to share our knowledge with the wider community through fun, hands-on educational activities so that, they too, could learn how to continue to make a difference. Each girl and parent were given native plant seeds upon departure and were encouraged to plant their seeds either in their garden or in a container on their deck to help re-establish the Monarch habitat. The result will be a positive contribution to the environment that will benefit butterflies and other pollinators in our community for years to come.

This entire experience and how I learned to make a difference has shaped me into a better person, who is capable of following my passion to identify and help an environment that is in peril. I know how to complete research on the topic at hand, how to find and recruit volunteers to help my cause, how to make and follow a budget, and how to execute my plan in a meaningful way. This project has given me the confidence to pursue my goals and know that even small steps can make a huge difference. Looking ahead, throughout college and stretching into my career as a police officer, I will be able to plan and lead activities, communicate effectively with other members of my team, and be a team player. The Girl Scout program that I have been a part of since I was in kindergarten brought me to this place in my life, and each year, I have learned more and more about what it takes to be a leader, and I am a better all-around person because of it.
Date: December 21, 2021 Views: 3763 File size: 25.1kb, 204.8kb : 640 x 480
Hours Volunteered: 130
Volunteers: 17
Authors Age & Age Range of Volunteers: 18 & 6 to 72
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Registered: December 2022
City/Town/Province: Indianapolis
Posts: 2
December 30, 2022 11:39pm

Nice Essay! Congrats on everything.