In Class

August 5, 2017 at 12:00 pm

Invading New Territory

Taken at Strouds Run State Park

Hello! My name is Ashley Harrington ’18 and this is hopefully the first of many blog posts! In the beginning of May of this year I embarked on a journey of an internship with the Athens Conservancy.

The Athens Conservancy is a non-profit land trust organization that focuses on bettering the lives of the fauna and flora around our city of Athens. The organization takes pride in making sure the nature stays natural, they own and manage many acres of land and is always working with the community of Athens landowners to make conservation easements. Conservation easements are documentation stating an understanding between the landowners and land trust, in this case the Athens Conservancy. These easements limit the use of the land for conservation and for the  ultimate benefit for further use in the future or just for the sake of saving a piece of the natural world.  When visiting the their website you can look at maps to see which areas are open for recreational use and the Athens Conservancy does a huge good by using these beautiful areas to teach the community what our native plants can look like when well taken care of. Their mission: to protect natural areas in Athens County, Ohio, and neighboring counties. The Athens Conservancy is made up of a Board of Directors that meet once a month to discuss all the projects that they manage while also discussing new conservations easements and new map routes for bikers, hikers and even horse-riders.

For my internship I get to work hands-on at one of the preserves they are currently trying to clean up. Another activity that the Conservancy organizes besides helping with conservation easements is controlling the non-native plants in the areas in which they preserve. I am one of the interns or volunteers helping restore the Blair Preserve in Strouds Run State Park which is the only backpacking campsite in Athens County.  I work in this very specific area to help clean up the trail so the public can see the beautiful native plants where we live. Before this internship I only had experience being outdoors like hiking or playing outside. But on the first day of my internship I was guided into another world of beauty within nature that I could’ve never imagined.

Also before this internship I only had experience y being outdoors like hiking or playing outside. I had not worked in the woods nor had I worked with non-humans and typically marine species in the past so I was indeed worried.  After meeting Phillip D. Cantino who is a current board member of the organization’s Board of Directors. He was the one who initially interviewed me and got me excited to start working in the field for the first time. Dr. Cantino is oversees and manages what goes on at the Blair Preserve.

In the field I work with a graduate student, Morgan Varner ’17 and each day we walk to a small area they already picked out for us to work on that day.  I always enjoy the recap and what I should be looking out for, but the most troublesome and prominent invasive species I have encountered so far are Rosa Multiflora and Lonicera Japonica. Through working with Morgan I learned how to properly remove all the invasive plants while also making sure not to harm the native ones. In the beginning of my internship I worked with Bill Rucker who also works for the Conservancy as the one who sprays the larger and more overpowering invasive species. We worked together getting many of the smaller easier to grab plants but throughout my internship Dr. Cantino, Morgan and Bill have all taught me how to use many tools in the field in order to remove larger more dominating plants while also learning how to be safe with the tools for myself and others working around me.


I have been getting an inside look on all the work the Athens Conservancy does for the community and when speaking to board members I can see how much work, respect and passion goes into managing these land trusts. It is a huge responsibility and honor to be able to do what all this organization does.  I was welcomed with open arms to volunteer and they are ALWAYS open to more volunteers willing to learn and help out with removing invasive plants or volunteer in other areas. They also offer occasional paid internships so feel free to visit the website to see resources on trails and to contact them for more information!



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