Marian Farrior Receives Invader Crusader Award

Marian instructs volunteers on identifying invasive species.

Marian instructs volunteers on identifying invasive species.

The Wisconsin Invasive Species Council has recognized Marian Farrior as a 2020 Invader Crusader. The awards are presented to individuals and groups for outstanding efforts in addressing issues of invasive species in Wisconsin.

Marian has been the Arboretum’s restoration work party manager since 2002. Work parties are held weekly and are entirely volunteer staffed. Community participants can sign up ahead or drop in to get involved in activities focused on invasive species management, led by dedicated trained team leaders. Through the work party and team leader program, Marian has made an enormous impact not only on Arboretum land care but also on thousands of volunteers she has mentored, trained, and befriended.

Invasive species are a significant challenge in southern Wisconsin. The Arboretum’s land care staff devotes time to managing invasive species but they could not address all the areas that need attention without the help of volunteers. Michael Hansen, land care manager, says “Marian coordinates dozens of land management projects with Arboretum staff and volunteers every year. The work of her volunteers, especially the team leaders, and her talent, knowledge, and devotion have been critical to the success of our land management program for more than 10 years.” On average, restoration work parties annually remove 3,480 pounds of herbaceous invasive species (primarily garlic mustard and dame’s rocket) and 21 truckloads of invasive shrubs and vines (including buckthorn, honeysuckle, and bittersweet).

In 2019, Marian planned and organized 63 restoration work parties engaging 653 community participants for a total of 2,177 hours of invasive species removal. Some of the volunteers came as groups: 8 youth groups, 2 religious groups, 9 community groups, 10 UW student groups, and 4 groups from other universities. Team leaders volunteered 572 hours leading community participants. These numbers represent a sustained average annual impact over the past 18 years. These activities have helped restore a more balanced ecosystem in several areas, making space for diverse native plants, including several threatened and endangered species, to reestablish.

Director Karen Oberhauser says the restoration work party and team leader programs are vitally important to the Arboretum. “Marian has been a tireless champion of engaging volunteers in the important tasks of caring for Arboretum land. Not only do these volunteers do incredibly important work, but Marian ensures that they learn and have fun as they carry out this work. Everyone benefits!”

The volunteer team leaders that manage work parties are trained in invasive species identification and removal techniques, which they teach to community volunteers who attend. Team leaders also share teachable moments covering a range of ecological topics, engaging the participants in deeper learning about the Arboretum, natural sciences, and their own scientific interests.

Marian has trained 84 team leaders since 2002. Training covers topics such as the practice of restoring native ecosystems, improving habitat for wildlife and endangered species, plant and animal identification, phenology, ecosystem function, and the value of community and environment.

“I am honored my colleagues nominated me for the Invader Crusader award and I am honored to work with the team leaders and work party volunteers—they are my heroes and teachers. Invasive plants provide lessons about how to engage with nature, how humans can help restore (or destroy) ecosystems, and how to identify plants during a time of increasing plant blindness. They help us learn to pay attention and take action, and for that I am grateful. Plus, it is deeply satisfying to remove carpets of garlic mustard (or honeysuckle, or any other invasive) and witness the delightful return of native biodiversity.”

Team Leader training participants and presenters, 2017
Team Leader training participants and presenters, 2017

The team leader program is about more than managing invasive species. In addition to valuable hands-on restoration experience, team leaders gain professional leadership and management skills. Marian has committed to providing these opportunities, skills, and knowledge through a coordinated leadership training framework, which incorporates self-assessment and focuses on outcomes and competencies (for example, interpersonal communication and decision making) and values (such as integrity and inclusive engagement). She fosters inclusion, ecological awareness, and passionate engagement with environmental issues. The approach is effective, meaningful for team leaders, and results in a greater commitment to and benefit for invasive species management.

Once trained, team leaders commit to at least three years of service, which helps ensure program continuity and quality control in restoration activities. Many have volunteered for longer than three years—some as long as fifteen! Marian’s training template has been adapted by partner organizations that work with volunteers for restoration goals.

Marian believes volunteers not only restore the land but also themselves as they connect with the land. “I sometimes say my program is the Wisconsin Idea plus Aldo Leopold’s land ethic in action. The work is not high profile or glamorous or even newsworthy. It is long-term land maintenance, relationship building, and raising public awareness and ecological literacy. It is being sensitive to the needs of damaged lands and marginalized communities. The “I” is usually a “we,” in partnership with colleagues, students, volunteer community members, and nature itself.”

Marian’s work truly honors and fosters healthy, engaged, diverse communities. We are grateful to have her as part of our staff community and we delightedly offer her congratulations.

—Susan Day, communications coordinator