Restoration team leaders are some of the unsung heroes of the Arboretum. For the last 25 years, year-round, in all kinds of weather conditions, at different locations, and working with all kinds of people, team leaders encourage volunteers to do the hard and rewarding work of restoration. As practitioners of the land ethic, they assume a great deal of responsibility for caring for Arboretum lands and community.
Team leaders supervise 600–800 volunteers a year at Saturday morning work parties. These work parties make a significant land care contribution by clearing invasive species, preparing burn units for prescribed fire, and sometimes sowing native plant seeds in restoration areas. In recent years, work parties have helped transform the Wingra Oak Savanna restoration, where wildflowers—from spring ephemerals to Wisconsin special concern and endangered species—now flourish. They also supported restorations in the Grady Tract, Curtis Prairie, and Juniper Knoll by pulling oriental bittersweet—a job that must be done by hand as the vines bind up machine equipment. They have also hand-pulled a lot of dame’s rocket and garlic mustard—298 garbage bags worth in 2016!
Team leaders are volunteers who make an ongoing commitment to lead work parties and teach other volunteers about plants, animals, ecology, and restoration. Read the team leaders’ own statements below about why they wake up early on a Saturday morning and head to the Arboretum. Anyone can come to a Saturday work party to work side by side with these dedicated team leaders and other volunteers to help restore Arboretum lands. And if you’re inspired and interested in becoming a restoration team leader, contact Marian Farrior for more information.
A Sense of Accomplishment & Community
What I like best is seeing the work accomplished and the dedication volunteers have for the environment. – Carolyn Butterbaugh
During one work party in Noe Woods at the edge of the west side of Curtis Prairie, our group removed a curtain of oriental bittersweet from the pines along a hundred-yard front. One of the participants expressed her feelings by saying that it was the most satisfying work she had done all week! – Mark Horan
My favorite experience happened recently when the groups that came to the work party had some prior experience and shared in admiring the results of years of previous work parties. Many of that group also joined us at a Ho-Chunk water blessing at Lake Wingra. Their enthusiasm was contagious. – Susan Wulfsberg
Even after a single work party you can look up and say, “Wow, look at that. We did that.” It’s a heartening reminder that volunteers acting together can actually make a difference. – Jessica Myrbo
I love learning about the ecosystems and understanding the process for creating/maintaining them. But I also love the volunteers, the enthusiasm and commitment to the treasure that is the Arboretum. We had a specific goal to accomplish and achieving that goal felt good. – Honora Kraemer
My favorite part about being a team leader is having the chance to get out and do worthwhile work on a Saturday morning. What a great way to start a weekend! I also love helping volunteers engage with the land and seeing them expand their understanding of the Arboretum. – Anne Pearce
Teaching and Promoting the Land Ethic
I like explaining the impacts of invasive species to various age groups and watching them develop an understanding of the biodiversity in our area. That understanding often brings volunteers back to continue restoration work or begin ecological restoration on their own property. – Andrew Sleger
What I like best is the opportunity to share a small tidbit of information about nature that work party participants will reflect on and be inspired by at some other point in their life. – Frankie Fuller
The biggest satisfaction to me is the opportunity to discuss the ecological restoration process, in practice and principle. There are so many benefits to land stewardship as well as adaptations to consider as the process evolves. These details (and complexities!) are easier to define within the context of a work party when people can engage directly with individual flora, fauna, and ecosystems. I believe this also helps people take home the bigger picture of how these decisions are made and a better appreciation of ecology as a scientific discipline and art form. This is how citizen scientists are born! – Amy Jo Dusick
Connection to Nature
What I like best about being a team leader is all the new people I meet and all the new wildlife I see! About five years ago, a hawk watched us work for about a half hour—probably hoping we would stir up something for him/her to eat. It was so close we literally could have reached up to grab it if we desired. – David Smith
It’s great to lead a work party on a cold March morning when the last snows of winter are melting and green shoots are poking out of the wet soil. Everyone starts cold but as the sun heats up, layers come off, people get to talking, and I can feel the season changing as we cut and stack brush. – Tom Pearce
I love helping people start to see plants again. Even just learning to recognize one new plant helps people see richness and detail in the world that they might otherwise have missed, which in turn makes it them less likely to take it for granted. – Jessica Myrbo
—Marian Farrior, restoration work party manager,
and Judy Kingsbury, volunteer program coordinator