Appreciating the 2023 Volunteers

Groups of people holding ropes tied to a honeysuckle bush and pulling back and forth to remove it.

Work party volunteers removing invasive honeysuckle using the "tug-a-suckle" method, pulling from opposite sides on ropes tied to the shrub base.

The Arboretum is a gift from past generations to the present, and in the present we pass on this gift by stewarding the land for future generations of humans and all that live and rely on it. The folks who volunteer at the Arboretum generously give their time and talents in myriad ways, building relationships with the land and people. Each year we celebrate all that volunteers do and share deep gratitude for their efforts and the relationships that grow from them. There is much to celebrate from 2023!

Last year, 678 people volunteered at the Arboretum, contributing more than 8,000 hours over those twelve months. They worked in 20 different volunteer roles, tending the bluebird trail and the libraries, restoring prairies and caring for gardens, supporting the Friends of the Arboretum Native Plant Sale and organizing FOA field trips, entering information into databases and engaging kids at Earth Focus Day Camp.

Woman in blue shirt sitting at welcome desk.
Betsy Hauser, welcome desk volunteer

Volunteers at the Visitor Center’s welcome and information desk greeted and supported over 37,500 visitors from across Dane County and around the globe – the highest number of indoor visitors since 2017 and an average of 103 people per day! They handled a marvelous array of questions and comments, from routine queries about when programs or phenological events would occur to notifications about turkeys running amok at a neighbor’s bird feeder!

Restoration work party volunteers came from campus and the wider community, including 31 area organizations. Led by dedicated team leaders (who are also volunteers!), restoration work party participants removed 176 bags of herbaceous invasive weeds and over 35 truckloads of invasive brush.

At each work party, participants sign in on a paper roster so we know who is giving their time and energy. A dedicated duo of volunteer data entry specialists carefully decipher the handwritten information and add those names and hours to the volunteer database.

Stewards spent 276 hours on the trails, connecting with visitors, tracking phenology, and monitoring trail conditions. They help create a welcoming and educational experience for visitors while caring for the Arboretum.

Close view of a person's hands collecting seeds from a plant and putting them in a paper bag.
Volunteer collecting seed in the Native Plant Garden.

Longenecker Horticultural Gardens and the Wisconsin Native Plant Garden both thrive thanks to significant volunteer contributions. Over 100 people weeded, mulched, pruned, and planted – fostering beauty and diversity in two of the most visited areas of the Arboretum.

This is just a snapshot of what volunteers do and where they work. It would take thousands more words to describe all the volunteer activities of 2023. Instead, this map created by Danielle Tanzer shows the breadth of volunteer activity indoors and outdoors, all across the Arboretum.

Map showing scale of volunteer hours and locations of work.
Map of volunteer hours and locations (Credit: Danielle Tanzer)

“Gratitude is so much more than a polite ‘thank you.’ It is the thread that connects us in a deep relationship, simultaneously physical and spiritual, as our bodies are fed and spirits nourished by the sense of belonging, which is the most vital of foods. . . .

“Gratitude and reciprocity are the currency of a gift economy, and they have the remarkable property of multiplying with every exchange, their energy concentrating as they pass from hand to hand, a truly renewable resource.” — Robin Wall Kimmerer, from “The Serviceberry

The care, dedication, and contributions of volunteers is a special gift to fellow volunteers, to staff, to visitors, and to the land itself. We look forward to renewing and creating relationships with volunteers in the seasons to come.

We are honored to share the list of all who volunteered here in 2023. Thank you to each person and group! If you volunteered in 2023 and don’t see your name on the list, please accept our apologies for the oversight and email Judy Kingsbury to add your name.

—Judy Kingsbury, volunteer program manager