By Alexis Wynn – Student Conservation Intern, Summer 2023

Alexis watering Hill’s thistle  ©Gus Nyberg

In front of me, thousands of invasive sweet clovers cover the land like shadows, hiding the ground beneath their leaves. Being out in the prairie sun for hours pulling invasive plants is tiring work and seemingly never-ending.

Long before I started working here, before I was even born, the prairie surrounding me had been abundant and full of prairie chickens. The land had originally been used to protect them, a species now gone from Indiana since 1972. Looking out on the vast prairie, I remind myself that protecting a species is never easy work. While the prairie chicken is no more here, other species still thrive. Thousands of feet away on the other side of the prairie, the state-endangered Hill’s thistle lays its roots as the threatened regal fritillary butterfly flits above it. Further down, the rare prairie fame flower lives, its pink flowers preparing to bloom in the late afternoon sun.

Dozens of endangered species still rely on us people to protect them from threats – from the drought-inducing heat to the creeping roots of invasive plants. With that in mind, I go back to uprooting the sweet clover. We will strive to protect these species, and maybe in the future, a prairie chickens boom might be heard in the prairie again.

Hill’s Thistle in Bloom – ©Alyssa Nyberg/TNC

Regal fritillary butterfly on butterfly weed flower – ©Trevor Edmonson/TNC 

Beaver Lake Prairie – Photo credit – Alexis

Fame Flower – ©Alyssa Nyberg/TNC

Prairie Chicken – © Greg Kramos

Alexis Wynn is a 2023 graduate of North Newton High School and a future student at Ball State University. She plans to major in Biology with a concentration in Wildlife Biology and Conservation, and go on to become a wildlife technician.

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