On the clear, cool afternoon of Friday, Feb. 10, a group of Indiana University Bloomington students came together to clean up the pieces of an abandoned boat in the woods of Kent Farm, a property managed by the IU Research and Teaching Preserve.
Leading the crew was Eric Menigat, the preserve manager; Michael Chitwood from the trail crew; and second-year master's student Liz Bockstiegel, outreach coordinator for the preserve, who plans and organizes weekly outdoor cleanup projects.
"The preserve workdays provide an opportunity for IU students and members of the Bloomington community to volunteer for the university in an outdoor setting -- and help with projects on the preserve properties," said Bockstiegel, who enjoyed doing service projects in high school and is a trip leader for IU Outdoor Adventures.
Since IU's Research and Teaching Preserve was founded in 2001, it has provided natural field settings for environmental education and IU faculty and student research. The preserve consists of seven sites totaling nearly 1,600 acres of natural areas near the heart of IU's Bloomington campus: Bayles Road, Bradford Woods, Kent Farm, Griffy Woods, Lilly-Dickey Woods, MMSF AmeriFlux Tower and Moores Creek.
Before the arrival of the IU volunteers Feb. 10, Menigat and Chitwood cut up the abandoned boat into manageable pieces.
The volunteer group came to Kent Farm -- a 90-acre space filled with successional fields and mature forest -- armed with leather gloves and trash-collecting sticks so they could toss boat pieces into trash bins and pick up garbage around property boundaries on the roads near the property entrance. This group included six IU football players who had some time to help out before their late-afternoon weight-lifting session.
"I think sometimes student athletes are kind of revered, so it was nice to just talk to them," said Bockstiegel, who said she and one of the players discussed their mutual upbringing near Cincinnati. "We were thankful that the players could come out to help dispose of the heavy boat pieces -- it would have taken a lot longer without them!"
Volunteers were asked to bring their own water bottles and wear layered clothing and water-resistant shoes. Instead of work boots, the football players wore sneakers, which became soaked fairly quickly.
"The guys were concerned about getting their shoes muddy," Bockstiegel said with a laugh. "At one point, they started a game with the trash pickers where they were trying to pick up little pebbles and throw them into this bucket. By the end, we had found an old basketball, two car tires and a lot of bottles and cans, aside from the boat." All of the volunteers were a huge help and fun to work with, she said.
Bockstiegel will complete an accelerated five-year program at SPEA in June, graduating with both her bachelor's and master's degrees in a program that combines environmental studies with classes in public policy, economics, management and science. "It's an exciting program -- and it's been great to be able to get both of my degrees in one sitting," she said.
She hopes to eventually land a position in resource management in an environmental nonprofit or consulting firm. After graduation, Bockstiegel would like to find a seasonal position as a biology technician.
One dream job she applied for involves studying sea turtles for the park service -- in the Virgin Islands. "That would be really intriguing -- I love the sciences. And I love being outside."