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NWP Global Registry of Apprentice Ecologists - Shaker Lakes Nature Center, Cleveland, Ohio, USA

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Shaker Lakes Nature Center, Cleveland, Ohio, USA
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Registered: August 2016
City/Town/Province: Beachwood
Posts: 1
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One foot in front of the other, I stealthily scuttle across a fallen tree overlooking a stream. My eyes are focused on the variegated leaves and shiny berries of the invasive plant, porcelain berry, that killed this ash tree. The sight of the plant's vines relentlessly entwining itself in the tree stirs within me a desire to avenge the tree. I take out my clippers and start clipping off the porcelain berry, the blazing sun on my back and the taste of sweat on my lips.
My name is Jennifer Yen, and I am a leader of my stewardship crew at my local nature center, a relaxing, get-away-from-the-world sort of place. Here, it is perfectly natural to develop an intense connection with the environment. A resident of an affluent suburb of Cleveland, I often witness a hasty neglect for the environment among my neighbors and peers, ranging from littering in the park to refusing to recycle. Consequently, I began my wilderness project at the nature center the summer after my freshman year of high school to thank the environment for what it has given me—comfort, peace, and care—and raise awareness for others to do the same.
At the Shaker Lakes Nature Center, I quickly devoted myself to the project of caring for the twenty five acres of land surrounding a large lake that in turn cares for hundreds of species of flora and fauna. Around Shaker Lakes, there is a marsh area as well as a forest area: these distinct habitats constitute a community unique to my area. Every week, Tuesdays were dedicated to working in the forest, Wednesdays were dedicated to working in the marsh, and Thursdays were general trash pick-up days. On a typical Tuesday, I roamed the trails for weeds, shoveled gravel onto the trails, planted trees and native fauna, and eradicated invasive plants such as burdock, periwinkle vines, Canada thistle, and porcelain berry. Wednesdays, marsh days, were even harder because my stewardship crew had to work under the scorching sun while wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants to avoid being cut by Japanese stiltgrass. In the marsh, there was plenty of burdock, yellow flag iris, purple loosestrife, and cattails to combat. However, no matter how hard we attacked, every week it seemed as if the invasive plants renewed their defenses in no time. On a typical Thursday, my crew members and I carried buckets through both the forest and the marsh, scouring the areas for trash. Every Thursday without fail each one of us returned with at least a bucket full of trash, ranging from beer bottles to car parts. Over the course of this past summer, we treated at least fifteen acres of invasive plants and collected at least forty pounds of trash around Shaker Lakes!
Working at the nature center taught me that taking care of the environment is not a one-day commitment; it is a long-term commitment that requires perseverance and compassion. It is easy to damage the environment but difficult to heal it. Ultimately, my wilderness project experience has been very rewarding. I have created many fond memories such as catching a large crayfish while clearing an area for a waterfall and finding a bird's nest with my friends in the midst of a purple loosestrife hunt. I've learned how to identify the flora and fauna unique to my community and can point them out on a passing run by the lakes. Above all, my wilderness project helps the nature center sustain its goal of connecting people to the environment by ensuring that it stays a healthy, natural place. In 1996, the Shaker Lakes area was threatened by a proposal for a freeway connecting East Cleveland to downtown because it would cut right through the area. Through community efforts and time, Shaker Lakes was saved and protected and continues to be a place where people can connect to the natural world. Now, it is especially important because it preserves the area’s important natural habitats—lake, stream, marsh, ravine, forest—while promoting environmental education for future generations.
My experience at the nature center inspired me to reach out to other local environmental organizations and share my knowledge with my community. This same summer, I also volunteered for the Euclid Creek watershed and spoke with the director of my local Soil and Water District to start an Envirothon team at my school. (Envirothon is an environmental science tournament with hands-on tests in the areas of aquatics, soils, forestry, wildlife, and a current issue.) Furthermore, as captain of my Science Olympiad team at school, I use the skills I learned from my wilderness project to lead the life sciences events. Outside of working on my wilderness project over the summer, I volunteer at special events at the nature center throughout the year. One memorable event was Pestival, in which we gathered garlic mustard, an invasive plant, to chefs so that they could make meals out of them!
Ultimately, I intend on carrying my environmental passions throughout my life. Next year, I will be attending the University of Pennsylvania, where I hope to join the Outdoors Club or even start a club of my own related to environmental awareness; perhaps I will incorporate environmental sciences in a future career with medicine or business. I plan to pass on my wilderness project to my younger friends so that they can continue it at the Shaker Lakes Nature Center, but I will be sure to visit Shaker Lakes whenever I can. As society continues to advance and revolutionize, I will always appreciate my time at the nature center and what it has taught me. The legacy I leave at the nature center is embedded in the soil where trees are recently planted, is dispersed by wind and rain, and lives on in the vegetation around me.
· Date: December 30, 2016 · Views: 513 · File size: 25.7kb, 134.5kb · : 640 x 480 ·
Hours Volunteered: 600
Volunteers: 12
Authors Age & Age Range of Volunteers: 16 & 13 to 25
Area Restored for Native Wildlife (hectares): 10
Trash Removed/Recycled from Environment (kg): 18
Native Trees Planted: 10
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