The Quest Against the Weeds
Back in March of this year, the Department of Biology at Huntington University sent out an email regarding a call-out post for applicants for an internship up at Little River Wetlands Project (LRWP) in Fort Wayne for the summer. This internship piqued my interest since it related to conservation and was in the realm of ecology and botany, so I wanted to shoot my shot as an applicant. I wasn’t fully confident in my resume’s ability, but I managed to fall into one of the slots for the title “wetland intern.” Playing the role of a temporary conservationist, I couldn’t have estimated what would happen for the next three months of work.
My primary job was to work out at one of their many areas that they managed named Eagle Marsh, home to some of their more popular trails and events. My daily work for a large portion of the internship was dedicated to targeting invasive plants and trees that are common in the Midwest to reduce their survival and encourage the growth of the many native species around them. Doing this work out in the hot weather with a severe grass and pollen allergy was rough, but it was worth it in the long run when the summer started to progress and fewer and fewer nasty weeds started to pop up.
Week after week of spraying herbicide on invasives like reed canary grass, Canadian thistle, and sweet clover, the wildflowers started to come out brighter and bigger than ever. Taking out these problem plants let the native ones come out to play! As summer went on, waves of different spring and summer species finally started to show their colors, starting out as a quiet green that progressed into blues, pinks, and yellows, then to finally reach their peak of entire fields covered in bodies of screaming yellow. Seeing the magic of it all come across the prairie in such a short time was nothing short of amazing.
Fighting the war against invasive species is not a single-year battle and is a long-term commitment I would not be able to see the later versions of while I had my temporary work there. The internship was still worth it, though. My co-workers were some of the kindest people I’ve met in any sort of workspace, and they are amazing at their jobs to restore what wetlands and prairie we harbor in Fort Wayne. I remember having so many days where I would be able to laugh and talk while transplanting seeds or working with people whom I could be open about my life with. These three months were short, but I was able to learn so much about conservation practices and the identification of native species of plants and insects in our area.
Taking this opportunity has given me so much positive learning with hands-on experience, and I am forever grateful to be able to have this opportunity to learn while helping the long-term future of the conservation of our land. It meant a lot to me, personally, and I hope I can be able to contribute more in the future towards practices like my internship.
LRWP has many events going on monthly regarding the environmental education of citizens and recently had their yearly Monarch Festival dedicated to monarch butterflies (which I helped prep for) that I attended. You can find their official site here. And, if you’re interested in Huntington University’s Department of Biology, you can find that information here.