Category: Conservation Intern

Ilys – May 2024

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In my first couple of weeks I’ve done more of the less outdoorsy part of conservation. I went to a mitigation meeting for the county, the OKI annual meeting, and a fiscal court meeting that taught me a lot about policy and how interagency collaborations are such an important part of making sure things can happen  and projects can be done properly. In addition, I also learned the importance of a good relationship with the local government from these meetings. 

In the field, I’ve learned a lot about using our bat detectors and how to interpret the data that we get using the data analysis software, Kaleidoscope. We’ve also done a lot of invasive species management such as cutting down honeysuckle bushes and multi-flora rose. Plus making trails so that we can easily get around the property. 

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Additionally, I was able to put out trail cameras along gunpowder creek to begin my research on otters and how they interact with other semi-aquatic mammals.

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Jaron May 2024

Hello everyone!

For my second year as Boone County Conservation districts summer intern my first week at BCCD has gone by fast! We have gotten started with a couple different projects. The biggest thing on the radar is Conservation Kids Camp. We’re having camp happen this year at our new property the Earl and Hazel Jones Center for Conservation. Camp is a great time to impart some knowledge on some youngins. In the current era of digital youth I like to think these camps can provide some core outdoor memories and help these kids develop a relationship with nature where as they might not otherwise.

I often quote my experience turkey hunting with my father when I was a kid as the reason I am a conservationist today. For others maybe there was backyard woods where they had a fort, maybe it was hiking with older siblings. While it certainly isn't close to being gone, it is harder for youth to connect to nature than ever, particularly for children in urban areas. I believe that our county's youth environmental education programs can provide the inciting moments in children's lives that get them to care for the outdoors in the same way turkey hunting did for me. That for me is such an exciting and fulfilling project to be a part of.

Not all of what I am doing this summer is environmental education though. We are also working on restoring and managing our new property, The Earl and Hazel Jones Center for Conservation. We’re mostly removing invasive species such as bush honeysuckle. We also have been in discussion with other conservation centers and nature preserves to get ideas as to how to best serve the community using Earl and Hazel Jones Center for Conservation.

I am so excited for the rest of the summer. In my next blog post I will get a little more into detail about the bat research project I am doing. It should be good! For now I will leave you with a portion of a poem by Wendell Berry, a KY born poet.

The Want of Peace

by Wendell Berry

All goes back to the earth,

and so I do not desire

pride of excess or power,

but the contentments made

by men who have had little:

the fisherman’s silence

receiving the river’s grace,

the gardener’s musing on rows.

Ava – Fall 2023

The last few weeks have been eventful and full of research! 

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Liz from SD1 invited us to go and help with her hydromod surveys. I had never done one before, but now I feel like a pro. 

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Susan and I have been monitoring wildlife on the conservation district's new property by using trail cameras, and boy have we found an assortment of wildlife. We saw lots of deer, 4 turkeys, one mink, plenty of squirrels/birds, a coyote, and a few house cats. 

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I have been experimenting with my insect collection methods. I had never used a pitfall trap before so I was trying to find the best way to set them up. Which I did with the help of Susan and Chris. I caught a few spiders and nats in the test run of that trap. Keep an eye out for my next post I should hopefully have some insect research to share with you!

Lillie – Fall 2023 Semester

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Autumn is my favorite time of the year! I love the colors, the weather, and of course a nice bonfire and hot chocolate. This year the season was extra special as I was lucky enough to continue my internship with BCCDKY. I can’t describe how much I’ve learned from our wonderful team. Below are a few highlights from the last few months.

August

  • Got to work on my Fall research plan – I decided to heavily incorporate geology into continuing bat research at Boone Cliffs
  • Enjoyed going to the Cliffs with Sarah and Jasper to survey for sinkholes and determine a long-term location for the detector

September

  • Insect methodology experimenting with Mark and Jasper to have an idea for when Ava joined.
  • Bat  data and Trail cam data at Conservancy Park
  • Attempted to use the bat telescopic pole with a light and trail cam attached to see if we could get more bats and have them on video (no videoed bats). Credit to Mark for the idea and to Pavla ordering us a light asap!
  • Shadowed Dr. Booth’s (UC) aquatic biology class at Pioneer Park
  • OKI Dearborn Tour
  • Vernal Pond Workshop at the Nature Center with Lacey
  • Monarch tagging
  • Stationed the detector long term at Boone Cliffs
  • Met with a previous intern, Stephanie Spence, to catch up
  • Helped Sarah and Natalie at Conservancy cutting down honeysuckle

October

  • Presented summer research at ORBA-ORCRE Summit and won the first-place poster award
  • Went to Dayton with Liz to be a part of the ORSANCO education outreach traveling fish tank
  • Mussel Survey with Mitchell at the new property
  • Attended the Ohio River Way Summit
  • Volunteered at the ORSANCO river sweep

November

  • Presented my summer research at the Kentucky Academy of Science Conference (we got to see Kamryn!). I earned the Thoroughbred Award (highest rating)
  • Hydromod at Gunpowder with Liz
  • Autumn Hike at the Cliffs

Autumn is also a season for gratitude, and I am thankful for this entire experience. I hope you enjoy the falling leaves, brisk weather, and a time to reflect. Thank you.

“Between every two pines, there is a doorway to a new world.”

John Muir

Lillie – Fall 2023

I chose to continue interning with BCCDKY, because it’s an amazing way to gain experience, meet fantastic people, and learn new things.

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Here’s what I’ve been up to:

Field Work: 

  • I went to Boone Cliffs with Sarah and Jasper for a scouting adventure. Jasper and I studied geological maps, and we were following our hypothesis to see if we could find sinkholes for my upcoming research project. Although we did not find any, we found something much cooler. We hiked our way up to the Cliffs of Boone Cliffs, and I crawled inside to see if maybe bats would roost there. I’m so glad Susan gave me a handy dandy headlamp! I’m sure everyone’s favorite part was when I screamed, “AHH! THERE’S AN ANIMAL IN HERE” I probably should mention, it was just a mouse and not a fox…
  • Mark and Jasper took me on an insect expedition to Conservancy. We spent the morning catching, taking pictures, and using SEEK to ID. My favorite was the grasshopper that wouldn’t leave Jasper’s net and proceeded to munch on it. 
  • Jasper took me on a field trip to Big Bone Lick and gave me a mini lesson on anthropology with a geological twist.
  • I helped Sarah and Natalie at Conservancy by removing invasive honeysuckle. Sarah taught me how to be a second at chain sawing, and Natalie taught me what a face cut looks like.
  • We attempted a new technique with the setup of acoustic monitoring for bats. We set up a telescopic pole and attached a light for insects to gather around. The monitor was placed on top along with a trail cam. 
  • I attended a Vernal Pool Restoration Workshop at the Boone Environmental and Nature Center. Special guest Tom Biebighauser helped us build 4 vernal pools. Such a neat and fun experience!

Misc.

  • We met with Sarah and Natalie from Parks to discuss our fall plans! I always love seeing them (I’m especially excited to learn the ways of chain sawing from them)
  • I was able to shadow Dr. Booth’s aquatic bio class from UC and their class about fish sampling. We completed a quantitative habitat assessment, longline electro fished, backpack electro fished, and fish ID. 
  • I attended the OKI Dearborn County tour. The tour consisted of visiting Kaiser Pickle Plant, Scenic View Farm, Eight Top Grill Restaurant, Hall Farms, Lobenstein’s Farm.

Education

  • I experienced my first monarch tagging program! We weren't able to catch any monarchs, but we did find a lot of other critters like a rat snake! After the program at Idlewild Park, we tagged a monarch at Conservancy while collecting equipment.

This Summer has Flown By

What an amazing summer… knowledge, experiences, and friendships to last a lifetime.

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Much of my summer involved bat research through acoustic surveys in Boone and Campbell County. One evening, our team followed a driving route starting at Boone Cliffs using an acoustic device to detect many of the species our stationary devices indicated. The entire research project has been a collaboration between so many wonderful people. Alex, from West Virginia Conservation, spent time educating me on acoustic bat research techniques and shared so many resources! I’m grateful to everyone who contributed to this project. Eleven different species of bats were detected in our area! We will continue to research this important species.

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It was a great experience shadowing the Boone County Parks Team. We worked on trail restoration at Middle Creek and hiked Boone Cliffs!

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The Thomas More University Biology Field Station Interns provided a variety of experiences! The River Crew showed us how to work with gill and hoop nets, measure fish, and check water chemistry. The Lab Crew involved us in feeding the animals, seining for minnows, and additional water chemistry. Hellbenders are so cool!

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Field Trips are always a favorite hands-on experience!

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We visited the Geier Collections and Research Center and the Cincinnati Museum Center to see the zoology collection. I met Bangs the bat! Did you know that bats purr?

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We also spent an amazing day kayaking to the Ghost ship & hiking the YMCA wetlands. The ghost ship was built in 1902, is 175 ft. and was once a Navy Ship. You can learn more about the journey of this interesting ship at https://uss-sachem.org/faq.

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I conducted my first Mussel Survey. I enjoyed organizing the grids and getting to work in the creek! The entire team worked so hard! Mussels are an important indicator of water quality, and they work hard to keep our rivers and streams clean. It is important to know what species and how many are in our waters.

I have lots of heroes; anyone and everyone who does whatever they can to leave the natural world better than they found it.

Sylvia Earle

A Hive of Activity

A Hive of Activity

by Lillie and Kamryn

Nature will bear the closest inspection. She invites us to lay our eye level with her smallest leaf and take an insect view of its plan.
- Henry David Thoreau

Purpose

An exploratory study was conducted to better understand the diversity of insects at Conservancy Park Belleview. Research compared the native grass field with the non-native plants on the trail. 

Figure 1: Two sites for insect collection – Yellow: non-native, Blue: native
Figure 1: Two sites for insect collection – Yellow: non-native, Blue: native

Methods

Two plots were mapped out at Conservancy Park: one was a 15x15 meter square plot randomly placed in a native grass field, and the other plot followed the main trail around the Conservancy Park pond (~0.25 mile).  

Insects in the native grass plot were collected by sweeping butterfly nets at random throughout the plot at varying heights for 2 minutes; the native grass averaged 1 meter tall. This plot was surveyed by two people. Insects in the trail plot were also collected by sweeping butterfly nets at random along the ground and across edge vegetation that bordered the trail; there was no specific time limit set for the trail collection, but it took about 10 minutes to survey the whole trail (the trail was split into two sections so the researchers could cover more ground).  

At the end of a collection, bugs were dumped into gallon size Ziploc bags from the butterfly nets (This was the hardest part of the whole collection! Eight or more bees were set free before being stored in the Ziploc bags, because they were very angry and eager to sting.). The Ziploc bags were sealed and later stored in a freezer.  

Back at the office, the insects were dumped out of the frozen Ziploc bags and organized into 10 major insect orders. The number of individuals representing each order from each plot collection were counted and recorded. A Shannon Diversity Index calculation was then used to compare the diversity of the native grasses versus the trail vegetation.  

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Results

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Conclusion

The native grasses showed more diversity (82.65%) across insect orders compared to the trail diversity (73.11%). Despite the trail collection having at least one individual representing all 10 insect orders compared to the native grasses having all but one order represented (Lepidoptera), the proportion of individuals in each order was more even across the native grass collection.

Project Inspired by the Bug Chicks (https://thebugchicks.com)

Dr. Parker from NKU assisted in project idea and design

A Summer of Learning

JUNE

Conservation Kids Camp was the June highlight. With a theme focused on Endangered Species, I led the Hellbender group for the week. Planning for this camp was hectic to say the least, but I got great experience in planning nature activities and programs; we made a Bat Trivia game, life cycle cards specific to the three endangered representatives, fact sheets for each group, and more! My favorite part of camp was definitely the costumes the kids made of their endangered animal!

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With all these camps and programming days, I decided to create a survey testing the effectiveness of Boone County Conservation District’s camps. The results of this survey indicate that the 9-12 year olds of Boone County are smart and eager to get outside!

More than programming we have been exploring! Lillie’s bat research has taken us to a lot of cool places that aren’t easily accessible to the public, so it’s great seeing the diversity of our ecosystems across Northern Kentucky. All this exploration has been testing my naturalist skills, and I love it!

JULY

New month, next camp! Twelve 13-15 year olds came to LEAF Academy, and it was the best week! This was such a great group, and we took nature exploration to the next level. These students were quick to get their hands dirty, and their creativity flourished (especially in the Leave No Trace skits!). The theme of this camp was based on Aldo Leopold’s famous piece: A Sand County Almanac. This is a great read and, despite the old-timey language, the LEAF kids contributed to intricate discussions. It’s difficult for me to pick my favorite part of LEAF… every day was a new adventure.

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Lillie and I also attended two Walk-&-Talk seminars at the NKU Research and Education Field Station where we painted some nature art and built bird feeders! These are both skills that I would be interested in practicing more.

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Recently, we rolled up our sleeves and helped the Boone County Parks crew in their process of making a new trail at Middle Creek Park. It was hard work and Parks deserves a HUGE round of applause for the restoration work they are implementing in all of our Boone County Parks.

Wow! This summer has flown by! There’s only a few weeks left, and still so much to finish!

Bats… Bats… and More Bats!

Bat acoustic monitoring is under way!

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Dinsmore has amazing diversity with ten species identified. I enjoyed a lovely nature hike at St. Anne’s Woods and Wetlands with the Thomas More University Interns and set one of our acoustic detectors. During a fun evening, Susan and Kamryn joined me with the walkabout acoustic detector while bats few above! At the Thomas More Biology Field Station, I used all three types of detectors: stationary, walkabout, and Echo Meters. Perin and Giles Conrad were just some of the other sites visits. Next up – a driving route!

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Visit to the NKU Lab to learn about and see diatoms. Thank you, Dr. Cooper!

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Guest appearance at LEAF for fly fishing, swimming, and snorkeling

Guest appearance at LEAF for fly fishing, swimming, and snorkeling

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Shadowing Boone County Parks to learn about all their exciting jobs

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Into The Woods

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We’re about a month into this internship and really hit the ground running. My favorite part about this internship is meeting all the friends along the way - my co-intern - Kamryn, the BCCDKY staff, Boone County Parks, Boone County Extension, students from NKU, SD1, and the TMU biology field station summer interns. I love to learn, and I learn something new every single day. Although I am the Forest Health intern, I love the education aspect I’ve been able to help out with. I believe that you have to teach people about nature before asking for help protecting it. People need to feel connected to care. I love being the one to help make that connection.

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What's Happening

  • This camp was very impactful for me. I loved all 13 of the kids I was placed with, and I felt as if we all made a great team. Being the camp counselor for the Virginia Big Eared bats will forever be in my memories.
  • Some Camp highlights:
    • Took a hike and looked for salamanders
    • Kayaked at Camp Ernst
    • Made walking sticks
    • Sculpted and painted clay monarchs
    • Looked for macroinvertebrates in a pond
    • The Bug Chicks
    • KY Reptile Zoo
    • Our end of camp skit!
      • We had 4 bats, a 2 in 1 moth, a mosquito, and hula hoops acting as echolocation. Some kids read facts and adaptations of the VA big eared bat, and others sang the echolocation song!
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Bat Acoustic Monitoring for endangered species

  • Conservancy Park: Indiana bat and Gray bat
  • Boone Cliffs: Indiana bat, Gray bat, and a Virginia Big Eared bat!
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Learning and Researching

  • We spoke about entomology with Dr. Parker from NKU and learned about pollinator diversity and how to study that.
  • I learned about GIS and how to incorporate that into my independent study.
  • I am constantly learning how to ID trees and other plants.
  • Kamryn and I stop at every mushroom we see to look it up in a field guide.
  • Herpetology is my favorite subject I’ve learned about this summer. We have caught green frogs, duskies, northern 2-line salamanders, and an eastern milk snake. We heard and saw American bullfrogs as well.

Field Work with SD1

  • Collecting water samples from various sites in Boone County
  • Hydromod survey at Dry Creek
  • A tour of the Dry Creek Treatment Plant Tour
    • It was exciting to meet up with some friends from NKU and the TMU Biology Field Station summer interns!
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Exciting things are on the way regarding my upcoming research projects…
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"In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks"

-John Muir