Conservation

Volunteer Land Steward Opportunities at the Center

If you’d like to spend time outdoors helping to conserve and restore our diverse landscape, consider becoming a Volunteer Land Steward this season. Volunteering for land conservation will greatly improve the health and integrity of our habitats for generations to come.

Volunteer Land Stewards and staff members are working to restore habitat in our Hardwood Swamp Restoration Project, as well as other parts of the Center Grounds. Hardwood swamps are seasonal wetlands dominated by deciduous trees, like red maples and swamp white oaks. Our Resource Ecologist, Drew Shuster, leads the Land Steward team. Volunteers meet in the West Tower Lot by 9:00am on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays for a three-hour shift. Assignments are shared, and then volunteers and staff split into groups and head out to areas where conservation work is needed. Volunteers choose what days work for them and no experience is necessary.

Working outdoors as a team provides an uplifting spirit of camaraderie. Volunteering as a Land Steward is a great way to see the Schlitz Audubon property up close and learn about our diverse habitats. It’s also the perfect place to learn about native and invasive plant species in our local area, from both our staff and other volunteers. Discover how these species work together and take the knowledge with you to enhance your own property.

Hardwood Swamp Restoration

Our Hardwood Swamp area is the only ecological community of its kind on our property and is not commonly found in the urban landscape of Milwaukee County. Uncommon in this region even prior to European settlement, today it is estimated that less than 1% of southeastern Wisconsin could be classified as this habitat type. Southern hardwood swamps are characterized by their seasonally high-water tables that usually dry out by late summer and are located in basins not associated with major rivers. The spring floods are essential breeding habitat for amphibians, such as blue-spotted salamanders and many frog species. Hardwood swamps also provide food, cover, and breeding habitat for migratory birds, including Veery, Wood ThrushWilson’s Warbler, and American Woodcock, birds of conservation priority at Schlitz Audubon.

Located between Brown Deer Road and the West Meadows loop, for many years most visitors would likely have overlooked this area, as it had been colonized by highly invasive reed canary grass. The recent loss of three ash species due to emerald ash borer makes restoration a current priority. The invasive species have already been removed and restoration planting will begin in May.

In May and June, staff and volunteers will plant 24,500 herbaceous plugs to complete the second phase of a project that started last year. The restored understory will support many pollinator species, including the federally endangered rusty patched bumblebee and monarch butterflies. Sedge meadow seed mix, a cost-effective way to supplement the herbaceous plugs and add to the overall diversity, will then be spread throughout the project area.

Invasive Species Removal

Volunteers and staff will begin removing invasive species this summer. Volunteers are vital in the battle against Garlic Mustard and Dame’s Rocket, which are the focus of removal in 2021. Removing invasive species and planting native ones are just some of the ways to improve the Center throughout the seasons.

Drew trains new volunteers in basic tree and plant identification. Then, they are put to work shearing and treating invasive species that exist alongside desirable species. This precision work is important because native species need space to grow. The team works together to identify the plants to be sure that the invasives are correctly identified and removed.

Become a Volunteer

This flexible opportunity allows volunteers to choose what days work for them without scheduling in advance. Ongoing training will be provided by the Center’s conservation staff. Volunteers are asked to dress for the weather, wear thick, long pants, sturdy shoes or boots, and clothes and shoes that can get dirty and wet. COVID-19 safety guidelines will be followed, including working in small groups, practicing physical distancing, and wearing masks or cloth face coverings when physical distancing cannot be observed.

If you are interested in this volunteer opportunity, please contact Marie Honel, Volunteer Coordinator, to learn how you can become a Volunteer Land Steward at Schlitz Audubon!