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  • Walk the Park/Bat Observation
    Dr. Russ Benedict and three of his student researchers presented an informational and entertaining program about bats on Friday, June 10m 2022. Dr. Benedict also identified bird calls at dusk such as the Scarlet Tanager, Wood Peewee, and Barred Owls. In addition, tree frog calls, lightning bugs, and an almost full moon punctuated the lovely evening. Over fifty people including many children participated. Dr. Russ Benedict (Central College) – bats Dr. Paulina Mena (Central College) – native bees Dr. Tom Rosburg (Drake University) – plants Dr. Nicole Palenske Ladner (Central College) – reptiles & amphibians Dr. Cathy Haustein (Central College Emeritus) – water quality survey Kristin Siewert (Central College) – monarch & other butterfly surveys Marla Mertz (Marion County Conservation) – dragonflies & more! The Saturday morning and afternoon walks also attracted people to the park for forays with naturalists and scientists. Steve Woodhouse, fromThe Marion County Express interviewed participants and published an article on June 17, 2022. Click the link below to read.
  • Year Two
    During year two of the project, the Friends expect to provide environmental education opportunities for students throughout Marion county. This could include field trips and presentations during the school year, summer programs similar to science teacher Dick Vander Laan’s Big Rock Park camps from many years ago, sustainability day camps hosted recently by Central College and, organized removal of invasive species including garlic mustard and bush honeysuckle.
  • Year One
    Residents will benefit by opportunities to work and learn alongside experts. The team will organize “citizen scientists” to do walking surveys (e.g., groups of birdwatchers) and help develop digital tools (e.g., a website and smartphone apps). Future visitors will be able to record their observations throughout the year, thus building an inventory of the Park’s living species. Dr. Paulina Mena and student Lauren Wall completed a summer research project on "Native Bee Survey in Big Rock Park". As you wander the paths of Big Rock Park and see a plant or animal and if you wish to participate in the environmental study, click on this link to open up the site survey data collection page
  • Park Environmental Study
    In 2017, the City of Pella’s Community Services Board questioned the environmental impact of adding new activities to the park. They pointed out the need to consider waterways, investigate whether or not the park is home to any endangered species, and determine whether new activities necessitated the removal of trees. In collaboration with the City of Pella, the Friends of Big Rock Park will engage Central College scientific experts who will work with a diverse group of local students and citizens to complete a multi-year, comprehensive environmental study of the park. They will identify and inventory plants, butterflies, bees, birds, mammals, fungi, reptiles, and amphibians, giving particular attention to populations that are of special concern, threatened, or endangered. To survey the park effectively, researchers will conduct surveys over a two-year period beginning in the spring of 2021. This offers the best opportunity to complete a reliable survey, controlling for year-to-year variation (e.g., drought). In addition, this two-year window allows time for significant community engagement and development of educational programs for the spring, summer, and fall of 2022, building on the prior year’s research.
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