Our team tried to keep our blogs relatively lighthearted and fun this season but I've attached a copy of our team's final report to this blog post to represent the hard work that happened between whimsical blog postings. I would encourage anyone interested in the details of our project to check out the report. It was a bear to put together but it turned out great thanks, in no small part, to the contributions of the rest of my team.
I would like to thank my team to putting in so much hard work throughout the season and buckling down at the end the help piece together this report. It was a privledge to work with you all and I am extremely proud of what we accomplished here at Indiana Dunes this summer. Best wishes in whatever adventures life throws your way.
These the the final maps of restoration sites completed by the summer 2011 Native Plant Corps here at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore for the sites located in the Great Marsh. For detailed information related to the team's restoration projects please see the final team blog which contains a copy of our final report.
Hitch 11 
Project Leader Note: Rose had originally tried to type out the lyrics and melody to The Final Countdown by Europe as part of this post and while I've still left those sections intact for comedic value I think it would be more effective, as she would probably agree, to just open this link for the song in a seperate browser window and then read the post to get the desired effect she was going for. Enjoy.(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r2-aWRIrmkM )
THE FINAL COUNTDOWNNNN. DA-NA-NA-NAAA, NA-NA-NA-NA-NA, DA-NA-NA-NAAA, NA-NA-NA-NA-NA, DA-NA-NA, NA-NA-NA, etc.
We spent Monday going back to all of the places we had already planted this season to do our site assessments. It was very rewarding to see that the plants we installed earlier in the season were doing so well. Revisiting all of our planting spots was also a really nice way to wrap up the season. We finished that day up with the dreaded “these-are-all-of-the-things-you-need-to-do-before-you-leave” talk. Afterwards, we comforted ourselves by gorging on delicious enchiladas.
On Tuesday, we spent the morning doing our final polygon of planting. We all placed the last plant in the ground together, and then did a “Saved by the Bell” high-five. Afterwards, the Park and the city of Chesterton threw a good-bye parade in our honor, and then handed us the key to the city (SCA Project Leader’s note: that definitely did not happen).
We spent the rest of Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday doing all of the things we talked about having to do on Monday. On Wednesday evening, we went out to dinner with some of our favorite Bio-Techs from the park to Gelsosomo’s. It was fun.
And now for some more of Rose's song transcription...
I. HAD. THE TIME OF MY LIIIIIFE. YOU KNOW I’VE NEVER FELT THIS WAY BEFORE. YES I SWEAR. THIS IS TRUUUUUE. AND I OWE IT ALL TO YOUUUUUUUU, Liz.
Hitch 10 
This week, we did the same thing we do every week: try and take over the west side of Cowles Bog. David was hitch leader on Monday and Tuesday, and Christine was hitch leader Wednesday and Thursday. We tried a new variation of an old planting technique, which proved to be pretty successful. On Wednesday we were treated to a wonderful picnic by the Natural Resources Department at the park, where we got the opportunity to fraternize with NPS staff. The best part of the day (or maybe even week?) was witnessing the waders vs. non-waders basketball game. We learned second-hand that the bulkiness of hip waders really takes the game to the next level. The next day, we begrudgingly left the field around lunchtime to finish working on our paper at the library.
Hitch 9 
On Monday we had a break from our usual adventures in Cowles bog. We traveled to a park near Chicago to assist with a volunteer event with the SCA Tour 40 team. We were very excited to see the team and learn more about their projects. We spent the day doing trail work and removing invasive plant species alongside volunteers from Southwest Airlines.
On Tuesday, we were back in Cowles bog planting native plant species. We were pleased to find the heat wave had broken. We had pleasant planting weather all week with temperatures in the mid-eighties. We spent the remainder of the week touching up areas of Cowles bog that needed attention. With the end of the work season approaching we decided to shorten hitch leader duration to two days, giving everyone on the team an opportunity to be a hitch leader one more time.
Over the weekend we had an opportunity to see more of the area as we hiked trails in the state park with the biotech Krystal. We also visited the nature center and saw the Massassuaga rattle snake in captivity. It was great to see more of the area’s beautiful natural resources.
Hitch 7 
Monday, we planted in Cowles Bog (west), filling in an empty lane the team had accidentally missed. Our project coordinator, Mike, arrived just in time for lunch and brought the team delicious lime popsicles and a new game called Contact. The afternoon was filled with more planting of Carex stricta populations with words being thrown back and forth between players, the new game took over like wildfire. Also, the “heat dome” which had overtaken the Midwest on Saturday tried its best to fry and bake the team all week, but we still managed to get 2755 plants planted. While Mike visited, he also took us out to dinner (thanks, Liz!) at the Shoreline Brewery and restaurant on Monday night.
On Tuesday, it was our turn to treat him—he came over for Taco Tuesday at our apartment, bringing with him another game: Settlers of Catan, which lasted for over 2 hours, ending in Adam stealing a victory out from under Mike’s nose. Sadly, we had to bid Mike farewell on Wed and we were left to work in the heat without his uplifting presence.
Thursday, the park botanist, Dan, pitied us and decided to take us out of the direct sunlight by sending the team to collect seeds in the Great Marsh with the biotech, Molly. Walking in partial shade of the marsh was a welcome change to planting in the direct sunlight of the bog. While walking, Rose found a baby clam and the team saw evidence of turtles and beaver as well.
On Friday, David and Adam attempted to sit through the entire 3 hours of the pizza buffet at Gelsosomo’s Pizzeria. David ran into a wall around 12:30, due to having scarfed jalapenos before heading out to the buffet. Then Adam petered out by 2. The event was declared “a disappointing last-minute upset for pizza fans everywhere," by Adam Brown. Defeat was admitted and Gelsosomo’s Pizzeria was the victor in the end.
Hitch 6 
This week started out a bit rough. Monday found itself with isolated thunderstorms and light rain moving through the middle of the work day. Also, the access road for the intended work site of Cowles Bog (west) was blocked by some utility trucks trimming trees, bushes, and overgrowth. The team quickly recovered from the impediment and rerouted to “plan B” and wound up in the Great Marsh working alongside NPS staff planting populations of Carex stricta, Carex aquatilis, and other mixed sedges and forbs. We left early to do some much needed grocery shopping before returning to the apartment for dinner, movies, and an evening of working on our midseason project.
Tuesday, we returned to the Great Marsh in the morning to finish planting the unfortunate plants that had not made it into the ground the day before, and, as a result sat out in buckets and trays in the shade of bushes, forsaken all night. The planting was finished by lunch, so we went to the greenhouse for lunch. After lunch the team began a new section of Cowles Bog (east) where 20 flats of Carex stricta were already eagerly awaiting us. We had to search for an open site to plant in and were lucky to find a spot where the cattail was already flattened thus saving Adam and David from crushing out the area for the team. We planted 26 of the flats before heading back to heaadquarters to clean things up and tidy up before returning to the apartment to work on the midseason project once more.
Wednesday was the last field day at the park since Adam gave the team off on Thursday to work hard on the midseason project, since the presentation day was fast approaching. We went back out to Cowles Bog east to finish planting the Carex stricta and also planted some Carex aquatilis and Iris virginica before returning to the greenhouse for lunch. The afternoon found us back at Cowles Bog (east), hunting for yet another new site. Luckily, another mostly-flattened area was ripe for picking, so we settled in to planting quickly, placing more populations of Carex stricta in the ground. After successfully finishing off 25 flats, it was time to go home. Dinner was the delayed tacos that everyone missed on Tuesday. That cheered everyone up…along with the fact that, aside from research and working on the midseason project, the weekend had begun.
Thursday, we all slept in before getting to work on the midseason project that loomed ever nearer. Hours were spent in the library and at computers, typing notes, making diagrams, and organizing information to plaster all over the posterboard; as well as to cram into our and others’ brains. Thursday ended too soon, for the work was far from finished. Luckily, we still had one more day to prepare.
Friday began slowly, but we all got organized and began working steadily once more. We worked into the night, pasting our facts, figures, and plenty of pictures on to the posterboard. The posterboard was finished near midnight, except for the corner reserved for Adam to add SCA information the next morning before the event begun. Accomplished, the team went to bed.
Saturday began earlier than the previous two days and the team found themselves back at the greenhouse to get a few things. Adam and Christine stayed at the greenhouse to gather a flat full of sedges, forbs, and rushes to display for all the people in the park while David and Rose went out to the bog to pull a cattail. The specimen they returned with was a very impressive—tall, fluffy cattail with a full chunk of roots and rhizome, connecting it to the adjacent cattail, which had been pulled at the same time. It made for a good eye-catching piece, as everyone would soon learn. The team left the greenhouse then, having plants, waders, and trowels in tow…only to remember that the tent we were supposed to use had been forgotten, so we had to turn around and get it. We made it to the park 5 minutes before 9, which was when Bark in the Park began. Adam was waiting for us and showed us where to pull up to we could unload and get things set up. We hauled things over to our place by the bandstand and quickly got our table and tent in place, our board going up with plants alongside. The board refused to be free-standing, so Adam drove off to get tape for stability and candy as an attractant for the fair-goers. We met lots of friendly people and spread the word about invasive cattail to any who were willing to listen. Christine got to leave the table early (before noon) because her parents and aunt and uncle arrived and took her away for a tour of the park. However, everyone won with that situation, since her mother had brought fresh rice crispies bars along, and Christine shared them with the team when she returned to the table with a whole 30 minutes left before the event ended. Luckily, the event didn’t go long into the afternoon, because the day was getting hot and muggy. Clean-up went swiftly and we returned the plants and tent (we remembered it this time) to the greenhouse and were on our way to enjoy the rest of our Saturday.
Hitch 5 
We celebrated our country’s independence with a four day weekend! Adam’s lady, Abbi, joined us to thank our founding fathers with a series of American activities including bowling, grilling, listening to the Boss sing “Born in the USA” on repeat, and blowing things up. We were also able to watch and hear fireworks coming from every direction because they are legal in Indiana.
We went back to work on Tuesday reinvigorated by patriotism; however, our democracy was soon overthrown by an evil dictatorship led by our first hitch-leader, Rose. Just kidding, she was awesome. We went out to Cowles Bog, where we scattered Carex lupulina, Scirpus pendulus, Aster puniceus, and Mimulus ringens. Project leader Adam wasted no time in giving Rose her first taste of the trials of leadership. We got out of the truck at the bog to discover that all of the tools had been left at the park. Once Adam’s maniacal laughter subsided, Rose quickly came up with a back-up plan and we were able to get back to work.
On Wednesday we received and unloaded a shipment of 10,070 Carex stricta plants. Then we took Carex aquatilis, Scirpus acutus, and Iris virginica out to a new area on the north side of Cowles Bog, just off the Cowles Bog trail. We had more positive interactions with community members than usual – most people using the trails appreciate our efforts to restore the ecosystem. We also saw a larger variety of wildlife than we usually see in the west side of the bog. Despite losing the alliteration, we cured our taco shock (induced by missing Taco Tuesday) with Taco Wednesday.
The end of our three day week came quickly. On Thursday, we built several more pallets for our boardwalk in the west side of Cowles Bog. We also brought out Carex stricta, Carex cristatella, Carex projecta, Carex tribuloides, Mimulus ringens, Aster puniceus, Chelone glabra, Solidago patula,and Zizia aurea to plant throughout the area.
This may have been a tough week, with high heat and humidity, freedom exhaustion, and bouts of taco shock, but we all noticed a spike in our productivity – we planted 4,190 plants in just three days! We agreed this can only be explained by our entrance into the “performing” stage of group dynamics (or maybe it was because of Rose’s super awesome leadership skills???).
Hitch 4 
Week four began just as any other in Indiana… stormy. Due to weather, we spent the day at the library researching topics for our midseason project. The team was also able to obtain a booth in an upcoming festival in a town near the park. We are looking forward to using this opportunity for educational community outreach.
Tuesday was spent planting again in the SCA sedge meadow. The team planted the remaining Iris virginica and also some Pontederia cordata that had been transplanted from the greenhouse. The team then returned to the greenhouse to perform miscellaneous chores such as weeding. In other important news, the team finally finished season two of True Blood. With the beginning of season four on HBO the team has been frantically trying to catch up. This has occupied much of the team’s free time over the last two weeks.
Wednesday morning we returned to the Great Marsh to plant Carex squarrosa. Following lunch, we planted Carex stricta in Cowles Bog.
We continued to plant Carex stricta populations in Cowles Bog on Thursday. We also scattered populations of Carex lupulina, Carex scoparia, Carex projecta, Carex tribuloides, and Carex cristatella. As we plant more and more in the bog, we have been shifting the locations in which we plant. On Thursday we created a new entry point and laid down a board walk to prevent damaging our young and newly planted biota or the rest of the mat.
Hitch 3 
Week three began with typical Indiana weather, humid and a chance of storms. Due to weather we stayed in the greenhouse Monday morning transplanting Carex stricta and Scirpus acutus. Miscellaneous handy work was also done around the greenhouse such as repairing leaks in plant beds. The rain cleared up by the afternoon, so after lunch we prepped the plants—Carex stricta, Carex aquatilis, Carex alata, Carex lupulina, Scirpus lineatus, Mimulus ringens, and Aster puniceus for transport to Cowles Bog. We spent the rest of the afternoon planting native plants and honing our inner martial art skills on dead cattails (roundhouse kicks are not only effective but extremely satisfying) with NPS staff John Dollard.
Tuesday morning was spent collecting Carex aquatilis seed in the Great Marsh. Due to high winds and the presence of a lot of dead standing trees (snags) we were limited to specific areas of the marsh. Before lunch we took a break from collecting seed and spent some time keying out native plant species in the marsh. In the afternoon, we returned to Cowles Bog and planted Carex aquatilis, Carex alata, Carex lupulina, Scirpus lineatus, Mimulus ringens, and Aster puniceus. At the end of the day we had a lesson in orienteering from our project leader Adam. We used a compass to navigate our way to a section of fen that has already been restored. The team found this highly inspirational, seeing the beauty of the restored system.
Wednesday morning began once again with transplanting as we awaited a large shipment of native plants at the NPS headquarters. This shipment had several new species for us, including Chelone glabra, Carex tribuloides, Solidago patula, Carex scoparia, Helenium autumala, and Carex squarrosa. Following the shipment the team planted in Cowles Bog with NPS staff Michael.
Thursday was a full day of planting for the team, with the help of NPS staff John Dollard. We planted Carex stricta, Carex aquatilis, and Carex lacustris in small populations across the site; the rest of the species (Carex alata, Iris virginica, Carex crinite, Carex lupulina, Carex lurida, and Scirpus lineatus) were scattered between the populations. The team thoroughly enjoyed the company of NPS staff John. We learned a lot about the problems associated with aggressive advertising as John pumped his fist at planes flying along the beach with obnoxious banner ads.
Week three was another successful week for the Indiana Dunes SCA team. We found out over the weekend that the bio-techs with the NPS had unofficially renamed the section of Cowles Bog we work in, to the SCA Sedge Meadow. Winning.
Hitch 2 
Week two gave us a great opportunity to work alongside two NPS bio-techs, Vaso and Steve, and collect seed for the native plant Carex stricta. This allowed us to see additional phases of the plants’ life cycle as well as the National Park’s restoration efforts. Unfortunately some of the seeds were diseased and this set back our collecting efforts. As of now the park is unsure of how the disease is transmitted, hopefully with more research the problem can be resolved.
We also planted Carex utriculata and Carex atherodes in the Great Marsh. These plants were propagated at the NPS greenhouse and prepared for planting by our SCA team the week before.
The following day we spent the morning transplanting Carex stricta and the afternoon planting in Cowles bog. This gave us another opportunity to work with the NPS bio-techs and also with Jayben. Jayben is a high school biology teacher working with the park this summer to create a new high school biology curriculum in the area and give high school children more opportunities within the park. Working with additional bio-techs and park staff allowed the team to be more productive but also complicated the data collection process.
The next day we transplanted even more Carex stricta and rebuilt plant beds outside of the greenhouse to eventually hold the Carex stricta growing trays. After lunch we returned to the Great Marsh to plant alongside the park bio-techs. Following the instruction of the park botanist, Dan Mason, we planted a variety of species in small populations. The area of the Great Marsh we worked in Thursday was particularly beautiful and we spent time watching the monarch butterflies fly around the milkweed plants throughout the marsh. Week two was very productive as we were able to plant every day. The team was able to plant 6,168 plants over three days in week two.
Hitch 1 
We were welcomed back to Indiana with a heat index in the triple digits. On Friday we completed our first work day in Cowles Bog and quickly learned the importance of adaptability in ecological restoration. We arrived to the bog with the pre-made data sheet designed for other native plant teams and throughout the day we realized another method of data collection was in need. By Monday we developed a new strategy for data collection and felt much more prepared for the week. The remainder of the week was spent in and around the greenhouse preparing plants to be installed in Cowles Bog, including the transplanting of Carex stricta and Carex alata. On Thursday we were rained out and given an opportunity to design new data sheets. We are looking forward to using our newly designed data sheets in the coming weeks.
FAIL (missed flight).
Success! We arrived in Washington around 8:00pm and were treated to a wonderful Mexican Dinner at Los Pepes by project manager Brian (Thanks Liz!). The team then traveled to Camp Evergreen located in Longview, Washington to join the rest of the Conservation Corps. By this time it was past 10:00pm breaching quiet hours. The team split up and gingerly entered the dark cabins to retreat for the night.
On day three Adam, Adam, and Dave awoke exhausted after a sleepless night filled with terror. Rumors of a Longview gargoyle had spread fast. Demonic noises plagued the cabin in which they slept. Luckily the day was lecture-orientated, consisting of risk management, drive safe-drive smart, field operations standards and other opportunities with the SCA.
On Day four the team participated in behind the wheel training and vehicle maintenance training. This was followed by another wonderful lunch provided by the amazing Raven, the wizard of the backcountry kitchen. After lunch the team partook in CPR training. By the end of the afternoon we were all certified in CPR.
The camp had grown restless as the notorious Longview gargoyle harassed the helpless under the guise of darkness. Earplugs were mass-distributed to help calm the frightened corps members. As trying as the times were the training continued. Day five began wilderness first aid training. This training was done by Aerie Backcountry Medicine. The day began with a lecture on scene and patient assessment. We then covered chest wounds, bleeding and shock. Following lunch we covered spinal trauma, injuries to the extremities and splinting.
Wilderness first aid training continued. Additional patient assessment techniques were discussed. This was followed by wound management, controlling bleeding and managing infection. Corps members were split into pods to practice scenarios in smaller groups. The pods then reformed to cover additional topics such as heat exhaustion, allergies, and asthma. After a lunch break we split up into pods for more scenario practice. By the end of the day each team member was certified in Wilderness First Aid.
Work Skills! Corps members were split up into groups covering tools and base camp skills. The tools group began by naming and identifying common field tools as well as learning how to use them properly. The base camp skills group learned various techniques to purify water, common knots used, proper stove use, and base camp set up.
The team participated in a plant scavenger hunt along with the other native plant teams. This was followed by a discussion on plant identification and dichotomous keys. The team then departed for a mock work day in which we removed invasive Himalayan black berry from a roadside ditch. Following dinner, the conservation corps members were treated to a presentation by work skills instructors on opportunities outside the SCA.
End of training. The team said their goodbyes and departed. The whereabouts of the Longview gargoyle are still unknown. Proceed with great caution if ever in the area.
The team arrived to Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore on May 18th 2011. With one exception, Rose’s original flight was canceled and she did not arrive until the following day (this would become on ongoing theme for the team). Once the team was united training began. Our first training exercise was centered on the Student Conservation Associations core values (Community, Diversity, Learning, Service, and Environmental Stewardship). Several games were played to get the team familiar with each other. Arts and crafts took up the remainder of the morning. By the end of the day the apartment looked more like an unfurnished fifth grade classroom than an apartment housing adult interns. Following nap time and snacks, the team departed to meet the park Botanist, Dan. Dan introduced himself and provided us with a nice tour of the greenhouse where we became familiarized with some of the plant species we will be working with this summer. After the greenhouse tour our project leader Adam took us to see our work site “Cowles Bog” for the first time. This was followed by a trip to West Beach were we hiked a successional trail and took headshots for the blog.
On the second day of training the team met at the National Park Station for a botany review and history lesson. We began the day drawing plants to identify later. We then reviewed plant characteristics that we will be using this summer to identify plants within the park. Afterwards the park Botanist Dan gave a wonderful presentation on the history of Cowles Bog. This provided the team insight into the importance and uniqueness of the area we will be working to restore all summer.
The team woke up early to participate in a volunteer event geared towards restoring the Mnoke Prairie. Following a stretch circle at the National Park station, the team met another park employee “Laura”. Laura provided a short history of Mnoke Prairie. Mnoke Prairie is the only restored prairie in the park. This prairie was named by the Pottawatomie and translates into beautiful land. Next the team loaded up the truck with native prairie plants and followed Laura to the prairie. Unfortunately we were not joined by additional volunteers. Over the course of three hours the team and Laura planted 692 native prairie plants in the Mnoke prairie. It was pretty baller.
Site Description 
Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore is a national park that stretches from Gary to Michigan City, Indiana on the southern coast of Lake Michigan. The fifteen miles of Lakeshore within the park is comprised of a variety of ecosystems. These ecosystems include beaches, dunes, wetlands, marshes, lakes, interdunal ponds, prairies, rivers, bogs, fens and forest. The variety of ecosystems within the park creates a wealth of species diversity. The diversity along the Lakeshore has attracted scholars such as Henry Cowles since the late 1800’s. Landmark research such as Cowles has famously defined the lakeshore as the birthplace of ecology and inspired preservation efforts against the industrial growth surrounding the area. The preservation efforts resulted in the designation of a state park on the Lakeshore in 1926. Following the designation of the state park, efforts to expand began almost immediately. A group of 20 women formed the Save the Dunes Council with the goal of expanding the protected Lakeshore. While at first dismissed as “harmless birdwatchers” the group had 2,000 members nationwide within a year. By the 1960’s the council was seen by the steel industry as a threat to development. The efforts of the council and politicians such as President John F. Kennedy were successful in designating 8,330 acres as National Park in 1966. Today the park has expanding to over 15,000 acres.
David Johnson 
My name is David Johnson and I am currently a senior at Central Michigan University double majoring in Environmental Science and Biology. I am 24 years old and originally from Howell, Michigan. Growing up in the Great Lakes state, I developed a strong appreciation for natural resources at a young age. The Student Conservation Association has provided me with a wonderful opportunity to practice this appreciation through service. This summer I am serving with a Native Plant Corps team to assist in the restoration of wetland ecosystems within the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Throughout this experience my hope for the team is to make a positive impact within the park and surrounding community.
Rose Schwartz 
I am lucky enough to call the beautiful and green mountains of Southern Vermont home. In my free time I enjoy hiking, kayaking, star-gazing, and plant identifying. This is my first season with the SCA! Having graduated from Colgate University last spring with a BA in Environmental Biology, I decided to get involved in the SCA to get my hands dirty before applying to graduate programs. I am particularly interested in wetland ecosystems, so I expect this summer in Cowles’ Bog to be a lot of fun.
Christine Bronk 
Christine Bronk is a recent graduate of the University of Wisconsin – River Falls. Her love of the environment started early in life and only strengthened with the more she observed and learned, which led her to choose conservation as her major field of study. Last summer, she was a member of an SCA conservation corps team working at the George Washington Memorial Highway removing invasive plants. This summer, she is looking forward to helping restore native wetlands as part of the SCA Native Plant Corps in Indiana.