If you’d like to prowl the Will County forest preserves searching for rare and endangered flora this year, consider becoming a citizen scientist by attending a Plants of Concern workshop.
Three free training sessions will be offered in March for volunteers who join the group, which is coordinated through the Chicago Botanic Garden. Workshops will be held from 9:30 a.m.-3 p.m. on three dates at three different locations:
- Saturday, March 3: Meadowhawk Lodge, Hoover Forest Preserve, Forest Preserve District of Kendall County, Yorkville.
- Sunday, March 18: Meadowbrook Conservation Center and Preserve, Shirley Heinze Land Trust, Valparaiso, Ind.
- Saturday, March 24: Rolling Knolls, Forest Preserve District of Kane County, Elgin.
Registration will begin online after February 1 at www.plantsofconcern.org. A confirmation will be sent after registration and directions will follow shortly before workshop dates. For questions, contact Plants of Concern Manager Rachel Goad at email@example.com or 847.835.6927.
The workshops include classroom instruction and field exercises to familiarize volunteers with the organization’s protocol, which is designed to assess long-term trends in rare-plant populations to help determine future plant management practices. Plants of Concern volunteers have conducted rare plant monitoring for 18 years, and Will County forest preserves are included in the sites that are visited.
"We monitor endangered and threatened plants at many preserves throughout the county and at different times of the year, but all within the growing season from April through October,” said Juanita Armstrong-Ullberg, the Forest Preserve District’s land manager who serves as the Will County coordinator for Plants of Concern.
Some of the plants that require monitoring in Will County include slender sandwort, glade quillwort, Jeffersonia diphylla-twinleaf, spring coral root, small sundrops and Crawe’s sedge.
Plant monitors work individually or in group forays.
"Once volunteers take the Plants of Concern training, they can either attend one of the forays to improve their monitoring skills, or they can become a Forest Preserve District of Will County volunteer,” said Armstrong-Ullberg.
“By becoming a volunteer, plant monitors will work with the District’s planning department to expand their training and monitoring skills. Or they can go solo with guidance from natural resource managers, and we can locate a monitor site that may be close to them and needs a lead volunteer."
The Plants of Concern organization has trained over 900 volunteer citizen scientists since 2001.
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