Indiana Wesleyan University (IWU) students embarked on a project to improve the gardens of Matter Park on Nov. 9.

IWU professor Jennifer Noseworthy and her environmental studies class teamed up with the Marion Parks & Recreation Department for a service learning project.

“Each semester we volunteer at Matter Park with Taylere McCoy and her team on a project related to course material in environmental science,” said Noseworthy. “This fall, we worked with her on an invasive plant removal project to help promote more native plantings in Matter Park.”

Noseworthy believes that service learning projects such as the removal of honeysuckle benefit the community and volunteers just as much as the ecosystem.

“Projects like these have several benefits. First, our students get the opportunity to get out of the classroom and into the community to help solve a real-world problem which in this case is these invasive species in the environment specifically, Matter Park,” said Noseworthy. “Secondly, the community benefits from the students’ involvement as the students are providing a community service. Often these projects are bigger tasks that benefit from a team to help work on these projects.”

Marion Parks & Recreation maintenance and operations assistant Taylere McCoy leads projects such as the honeysuckle clean-up to maintain the beauty of Marion.

“Honeysuckle is relatively easy to identify and it is prolific. Removing it is a great go-to project for volunteer groups, and especially students. It is an invasive species that has been around for a long time and that most people have at least heard of,” said McCoy. “There are some other invasive species in Matter Park that I would like to deal with if we ever get the opportunity. These include vinca minor, tree of heaven and burning bush.”

McCoy’s projects to deal with other invasive species may become reality in the near future through Noseworthy’s service learning volunteer projects in her class.

“We will continue to help with the invasives removal at Matter Park but are also looking at other opportunities to help remove invasives within Grant County,” said Noseworthy. “I am trained as a plant biologist and one of my areas of research is focused on native plants and pollinators. I know that invasive plants can play a detrimental role in the environment, especially to native plants and pollinators.”

McCoy typically tries to avoid chemicals and herbicides when dealing with the removal of plant life, but invasive species like honeysuckle typically have a unique growing method that allows for quick reproduction if disposed of improperly.

Therefore, McCoy recommends cutting the honeysuckle plant as close to the ground as possible, then spraying the stump as soon as possible with herbicide. McCoy stresses that those disposing of honeysuckle not to overspray the stump and to read and follow the instructions on the herbicide carefully to avoid any accidents, pollution or other ecological harm. McCoy stated that herbicides should not be used on a windy day and handlers should keep their eyes and skin covered at all times.

McCoy also stressed that handlers should be mindful of the berries as they will help spread the plant even further if the plant is mishandled.

Friends of the Gardens of Matter Park organize events and projects that benefit the gardens of Marion, specifically in Matter Park, to improve the aesthetic of the gardens as well as promote native plant life.

“Thank you so much to Professor Noseworthy and her Environmental Science students at IWU for volunteering,” said representatives from Gardens of Matter Park. “These wonderful people helped us clear out quite a bit of invasive bush honeysuckle, which will provide room for more beneficial native shrubs and trees to grow.”

McCoy noted how this project holds significance to her as she looks at how the entire natural system works. Asian bush honeysuckle was introduced to the Midwest as an ornamental plant that was intended to control erosion, but the plant began to spread rapidly, causing harm to the ecosystem.

“Though we may not always realize it, our planting choices have huge impacts beyond our own yards,” said McCoy. “When making decisions about what to plant in our yards, I encourage people to seek out scientific resources to learn as much as they can. I also implore them to think about how these issues affect those around them, including other living species.”

IWU students or community members that wish to participate in future projects can contact Taylere McCoy or Professor Noseworthy or visit websites for information such as www.sicim.info/weed-wrangle-indiana.

“We can all make life a little easier for our neighbors and our fellow creatures,” said McCoy. “We just have to be mindful, and sometimes be willing to take a step outside of our comfort zones.”

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