Here you will find relevant information, inspiring stories, and useful advice regarding the 2019 Spring Invasive Species Challenge!
Champion Profile: Lael Neal, Polk County Conservation
To help you stay motivated this work season, we are very excited to have spoken recently with Lael Neal, natural resource technician with Polk County Conservation, who were our Middleweight Division Champions for the 2018 Spring Invasive Species Challenge! Read on below for a short profile on Lael and the work that her group is doing in Polk County, Iowa:
What made you want to participate in the Spring Invasive Species Challenge?
“I think the challenge is a phenomenal idea, because trust me it really, really motivated the Conservation Corps (of Minnesota and Iowa) crew…I would coordinate the tasks and line up the projects, but they were the work horses doing the vast majority of the pulling. I will tell you that having the challenge is a huge motivator for them.”
Tell us about your experience in the challenge:
“As you know the team pulled a lot last year, and as we’re starting to go back in this year the kids are saying, “well, we’re not finding very much.” And I’m like, “I know, that’s exciting!” But they’ve got the feeling that they want to win again, so they’re almost kind of disappointed when they can’t find enough garlic mustard left to pull out there. It’s kind of funny; my approach is to just explain that we’re still winning, just in a different way.”
What do “collaborative conservation” and “collective impact” mean to you?
“I personally think a lot about our ecosystems as a whole. Here in the Midwest, everything is incredibly fragmented, especially in Iowa which is the #1 most altered state in the nation. I get a lot of hope out of the concept of the collective efforts, that everyone is doing this work together on a larger scale. So it’s not just about the “postage stamp prairie” that someone has in their back yard, which is great don’t get me wrong, but in an ideal world those would all be connected, but of course…it’s just a lot to want or expect that. But I truly do appreciate that you all are looking at this on a much larger scale than just these small little units.”
Do you have any advice for participants in the challenge this year?
“Yeah, I would just say…really try to find an organization that needs help, and then do what you can to help them. It’s a great way to get involved, and a great way to get started with the challenge. It’s a chance to meet people. And even if someone is participating this year and doesn’t have a lot of places to work or people to work with, if you volunteer in the off-season of the challenge you will still meet a lot of people and you might have more opportunities to get involved next year when the time comes.”