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Volunteers Lend Their Talents to the ANHC

Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission - Wednesday, May 22, 2019

The ANHC relies on volunteers across the state to assist with research and the care of our natural areas. Depending on their skills and interests, volunteers can assist with a wide variety of tasks from indoor activities such as data entry and herbarium specimen preparation to outdoor activities such as trail maintenance or invasive species removal. Some volunteers attend events once a year while others put in over 100 hours per year, but all of our volunteers are appreciated. To demonstrate our appreciation, the ANHC held events in April in the two parts of the state where a majority of our volunteers originate, northwest Arkansas and the Little Rock metropolitan area.

In northwest Arkansas, volunteers from the area were invited to attend an invasive species removal event at Cave Springs Cave Natural Area. After a couple of hours attacking Chinese privet (Ligustrum sinense), bush honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii), and wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei) on the natural area, everyone walked across the street to the Learning Center operated by the Illinois River Watershed Partnership where lunch was provided by a local food truck.

During this time, ANHC staff recognized the Northwest Arkansas Master Naturalists (NWAMN) as an outstanding partner in our Adopt a Natural Area Program (ANAP). This program encourages groups or individuals to become more involved in the care of natural areas near them.ANAP partners work with the ANHC to meet management goals, keep areas clean and accessible, and help educate the public about the natural areas near them. NWAMN, one of the ANHC’s first partners, has adopted five natural areas (Chesney Prairie, Devil’s Eyebrow, Kings River Falls, Searles Prairie, and Sweden Creek Falls). The group was named Outstanding ANAP Partner for 2018 and was awarded a plaque donated by another ANAP partner, Michael Gambill. Gambill creates plaques from tree cuts and engraves them. Bill Farrell, a member of NWAMN, was recognized further for his dedication to Searles Prairie Natural Area. He was presented with a framed herbarium specimen of a plant species common to that prairie.

In the Little Rock area, volunteers were invited to attend an outreach event at Rattlesnake Ridge Natural Area. ANHC botanist Brent Baker led a hike, teaching attendees about the plants found there and discussing past and future management of the natural area. When the group returned to the parking lot, ANHC aquatic biologist Dustin Lynch showed participants several species of fish, crawfish, turtles, snakes, and insects that he had discovered in and around the water on the natural area.

The group then gathered for a buffet lunch. Attendees for this event included members of the Central Arkansas Master Naturalists, the Foothills Area Master Naturalists, the University of Central Arkansas Biology Club, and several individuals. Karen Seale was recognized for her work in the herbarium where she is invaluable to ANHC botanists Theo Witsell and Brent Baker, who refer to her as “the General” for her willingness to organize current volunteers and train new ones. Karen was presented with a framed herbarium specimen specially chosen for her by Theo and Brent. Barbara Baker and Jim Keesling were unable to attend, but were also recognized for the outstanding number of hours that they have worked in the field collecting samples and in the lab mounting them.


Top left - Volunteers working to remove invasive plant species at Cave Springs Cave Natural Area during the volunteer work day.

Middle left - Volunteers gathered at the Illinois River Watershed Partnership's Learning Center, (across the street from Cave Springs Cave Natural Area) for a post work-day lunch and a volunteer recognition.

At right - Volunteers participated in an outreach event, including a guided hike, at Rattlesnake Ridge Natural Area. 

Bottom left - Karen Seale, ANHC herbarium volunteer (aka "the General") was recognized at an outreach event at Rattlesnake Ridge Natural Area.

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