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Volunteers help with habitat restoration at Fermilab

BATAVIA – When the Fermilab Natural Areas organization does habitat restoration, it means more than just pulling weeds.

Rita Dolan, a volunteer from Warrenville, said sometimes the work is collecting and distributing seeds.

“There are a lot of native species going extinct,” Dolan said. “We have to make an effort to keep them if we want them. People seem to think they are going to be there in the forest preserves, but that is not just going to happen.”

The participants typically use loppers as a cutting tools to remove invasive plants. There are also various herbicides that volunteers use when the plant roots are deep in the ground.

Ryan Campbell, a Fermilab ecologist, explained that the floristic quality in the area has been increasing the past few years, meaning there are more native plants, which is a positive indicator of restoration efforts.

Involved with habitat restoration since 2006, Glen Ellyn resident Marlene Rosecrans said that she was looking for something different to do in retirement. She has a background teaching math, chemistry and computer science.

Rosecrans said habitat restoration is “not as black and white,” compared with the subjects she taught.

Ryan Frantzen, a Fermilab groundskeeper, helps direct the group.

Frantzen said habitat restoration often attracts young volunteers from middle school to college students. It provides a different ecological experience than the classroom, he said, adding that those who just go to volunteer may also end up learning about ecology.

Ecology summer intern Tristan Schramer – known as the “snake wrangler” – is putting together a report that includes updated information on the reptile and amphibian populations at Fermilab.

Campbell said volunteers help with about 2,500 acres, or 40 percent of the site.

“It’s a lot to manage,” Campbell said.

The volunteers wear long pants, bug spray and sun lotion. Frantzen even glues on an extra layer of denim for added protection while he works.

Volunteers regularly meet for habitat restoration at Fermilab. Visit for information.

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