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Undergradaute Environmental Internship

Guest blog submitted by IUPUI undergraduate student Michael McCormick (mccormim@imail.iu.edu), Environmental Science Major 

I have always been very interested in science, specifically animals and plants.  Due to this interest, I decided to pursue an internship with the Department of Public Works Land Stewardship Program.  In this internship, I am working to restore native plant vegetation to a pond on the north east side of Indianapolis.  The pond was built in the 1930's, and its banks are very steep with an average slope of about 75 degrees.  The pond suffers from soil erosion because of these steep slopes.  In order to correct this issue, I have measured the current slope and projected the measurements for correcting the slope to 45 degrees.  The slope correction will reduce soil erosion and allow for easier native vegetation planting on the banks of the pond.  The Department of Public Works and volunteers will correct these slopes by hand with shovels until the desired slope angle of 45 degrees is reached.   

The invasive plant species around the pond were removed this past winter in preparation for the slope correction.  The species included Amur Honeysuckle and Winter Creeper.  These two invasive species pose a problem as they outcompete native plants and reduce biodiversity.  The native plant species chosen for the project consist of various native grass species and wildflowers.  Native plants have very deep root structure which reduces soil erosion.  Native plants also provide insects with wildflower nectar and provide seeds for birds to eat.  I am also including Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) because it is one of a few species of milkweed plants that are crucial for the Monarch Butterfly life cycle and migration success.  

Milkweed with a Monarch butterfly pollinator.

Over the course of my internship, I have learned how to use the Geographic Information Systems (GIS), a mapping computer program that is frequently used in the public domain for spatial analysis.  I have also learned about the benefits of native plant species and the detrimental effects of invasive plant species.  In early May, we are going to start planting native plants after the slope corrections have been completed.  It will be a great learning opportunity to see the restoration from start to finish. 

GIS projection of the pond being restored. Located on the north east side of Indianapolis.

It has been enlightening to meet with Park Managers and contractors to discuss restoration plans and issues.   My experience with using GIS and working on the pond restoration project will give me valuable experience to aid in my career after graduation.     

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