SER Works With Fire Crew to Preserve Biodiversity
Photo courtesy of Jordan Winkenbach.

SER Works With Fire Crew to Preserve Biodiversity

The Society of Ecological Restoration is working at the Little Plover River Fishery Area, owned by the Department of Natural Resources, to restore populations of the endangered Karner blue butterfly.

Jordan Winkenbach and Sarah Rademacher, president and vice president of the society, explained the details of the project and the importance of restoring the native butterfly’s habitat.

Photo courtesy of Jordan Winkenbach.

Photo courtesy of Jordan Winkenbach.

Karner blue butterfly larvae are obligate feeders of wild lupine, similar to monarchs having to feed on particular milkweed species.

Central Wisconsin houses the largest population of Karner blue butterflies in the world. Restoring wild lupine is a vital concern to maintain a healthy butterfly population, Rademacher said.

A grant from the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation will help fund aid from Fire Crew and purchase other prairie plants, Winkenbach said. The student chapter of the Society of American Foresters is also anticipated to be part of the project.

Mark Mcdonald, wild land fire science and forest management major, is coordinating the site’s thinning. Members of Fire Crew will be cutting down much of the invasive scotch pine and other species in the area.

The goal is to attain 20 percent shade cover, said Dalton Bygd, Fire Cew member.

Rademacher also said lupine requires a lot of sun and opening up the canopy is an important aspect of the project. As it is a fire-adapted species, future site management will also include annual or biannual prescribed burns.

“Essentially, the outlook on the site is that burning will be a vital and inexpensive management aspect for habitat maintenance when properly applied,” McDonald said.

In addition to making a better home for butterflies and increasing biodiversity, students will gain hands-on experience in their fields.

Wood from thinning the site will be used to build piles for burning in an outdoor training session for basic fire use, McDonald said.

Fire lines created in the aftermath will then be seeded for more lupine by society members, Winkenbach said.

Steven Bachleda, hydrology major, also noted that students will have the opportunity to meet other people in the field.

Students clear buckthorn at Schmeeckle. Photo courtesy of Jordan Winkenbach.

Students clear buckthorn at Schmeeckle. Photo courtesy of Jordan Winkenbach.

“I have been to conferences and met people in both the private and public sector that work in restoration. SER has helped me narrow down what job perspective I am looking for after graduation,” Bachleda said.

For those who want to obtain leadership skills, organizations like the society and Fire Crew can help build those as well.

James Cook, forestry professor and adviser of the society, said students taking the lead will be getting administrative and leadership experience via planning and coordinating with landowners. He said this will have positive outcomes for students.

Meetings are in room 240 in the Trainer Natural Resource building at 5 p.m. on Wednesdays.

To attend Fire Crew meetings, students can go to room 120 in the TNR at 6 p.m. on Thursdays. However, the meeting for Feb. 19, will not be held due to the Forestry Banquet.

It is not necessary to be a natural resource major to attend the meetings. People from all educational backgrounds can aid in the preservation and restoration of biodiversity.

When asked about the importance of preserving biodiversity, Winkenbach referred to a quote by Aldo Leopold.

“If the biota, in the course of aeons, has built something we like but do not understand, then who but a fool would discard seemingly useless parts? To keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering,” Leopold said.


Nicolette Ratz


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