Intern Handbook (read version)

Friends of Sylvania: Invasive Plants Project
Intern Handbook –2016

The purpose of this document is to guide our team as we prepare for and work on the Friends of Sylvania Invasive Plant Project.  This project has made significant improvements in the control of invasive species in and around Sylvania because over time we have evaluated and improved our techniques to optimize effectiveness, quality control and documentation.  The ideas below are not the only answers but are the best we have at this time.  If you see additional improvements please share your ideas and keep on thinking and analyzing.

1.  FoS will provide the following items at the first meeting in Sylvania

  1. Invasive Reference, “Invasive Plants of the Upper Midwest”, E. Czarapata
  2. Invasive Plant Field Guide (two for each intern) Note: you may keep those – you do not have to return them at the end of the season
  3. Field notebooks (one for each GPS)
  4. “Rare Plants  for the Ottawa + Sylvania” (green folder) (1 copy)
  5. Boot brushes (one for each intern)  NOTE: you may keep those – you do not have to return them at the end of the season
  6. Sylvania Topo maps (2 sets, one to take into the field and another as a spare. Please return.)
  7. 2 GPSs (loaded with topo maps and known invasive locations), instructions, cables, and batteries
  8. FoS Field computer
  9. Paper copy of Excel tables for the areas you are planning to work
  10. 2 FoS First-aid kits
  11. 1 Key to Day-use-building storage area  where additional  supplies and all equipment are stored (see FoS blog “Supplies/Equipment” for more details)
  12. Contact Information Sheet (email addresses and phone numbers) and Safety Information Sheet
  13. Sylvania Parking Permit  (Handed out at first meeting – paid for by our FS grant)
  14. Several different types of tools – listed in the “Supplies/Equipment” list
  15. A summary of the US Forest Service Stewardship Agreement that governs our project and partially provides our funding

2.  Before you drive up to Sylvania:

  • Request from Wally:
    1.  Map of the area you are planning to work in, with ‘known locations’ of invasives
  • Make and use your “bring to Sylvania” list which should include the following:
    • All FoS equipment that was borrowed
    • Tent, ground cloth, sleeping pad, sleeping bag, flashlight and/or head-lamp
    • Hat with wide brim, rain coat, leather work gloves, sturdy high-top boots (with good ankle protection, rubber for wet and leather/cordura for dry conditions), daypack, insect repellent, bug net, sunscreen, personal medications, safety glasses
    • FoS computer, field notebooks, field guides, maps, GPSs
    • Pens, compass, maps, cell phone, personal first-aid kit
    • Food  (to be coordinated among participants), cooking stove(Dan will provide), cooking utensils, waterproof matches
    • Water bottles, snack and energy food
    • Extra clothing (clothing can get wet, dirty, cold), Towel and swim suits
    • In addition, if back-country camping: Light-weight cooking stove (if you have one), dry bag or waterproof backpack, cooking fly( Dan )
    • Laptop computer would be useful but is not necessary
    • Be sure to bring sun glasses to protect your eyes but also clear glasses ( safety or normal) so you can see well if we are in a darker woods.
    • Each person should bring a lifejacket (with name on it)and a good paddle since that is how we travel – if you do not have either please call Dan to reserve on before June 15

(some of these items could be stored in the Day-use-building storage area, but do not leave              valuable personal items and mouse bedding materials (such as clothing) since other people and       mice also have  access to this storage area)

Note Well: When packing and traveling keep your valuables and those of the FoS safe by parking your vehicle in SAFE places and always locking the valuables out of sight.

  • Do not bring invasive plant seeds! There are many vectors (especially fuzzy clothing and vehicles ) that transport invasive plant seeds into Sylvania – Please do not be one of them!
    • Make sure that your camping gear, your clothes, your pockets, your boots (inside and out, in the laces) are completely free of seeds and soil (use the boot brush or, if available, compressed air or a vacuum cleaner work well for this)
    • Auto tires and car floor dirt can also be a source – good excuse to clean your car before coming to Sylvania( the only time Dan’s car get cleaned )

3.  Arriving at the drive-in campsite #14 and #15

  • FoS representative will check in with the Entrance Station and with the Campground host (his name is Bill, he is located at campsite #34, in a big camper across the grassy area behind your campsite)

4.  Preparing for the work – make a work plan: (do this the evening before the fieldwork day with your PI, team leader, and team; or discuss some of this before coming to Sylvania)

  • Know the invasive plants you will be removing (what does it look like, site preferences, best method of removal, growth state, flowers?, seeds?, tools needed)
    • Remember that plants look different at different stages of development.
    • Be sure to know what to do to treat at each stage (pull plant, cut off flower and bag, mow, etc.)
    • Planning your field work: the columns ‘work’ and ‘field notes’ of the Excel table often provides information on the size of the infestation at a site by mentioning the number of plants pulled the previous year
    • Determine what tools and equipment are needed for your task

Suggestion for tools to use:

    • USFS long handle spade: swamp thistle (but heavy and we skip)
  • Parsnip predator: spotted knapweed, burdock, curly dock (works for thistles if the ground is not too rocky – rocks damage the sharp edge of the parsnip predator), ( heavy but saves body abuse)
  • Loppers for wood 1.5 in. or less in diameter:
    • Clearing trails and access to weeds
    • Cutting the stems of larger bushes before cut-stump treatment ( cut close to the ground for best results )
  • Hand-saws: same as for loppers but for thicker woody stems
  • Hand clippers: carefully cutting off seed heads (such as last year’s mullein) or flowers about to produce seeds (such as, thistle, mullein flower heads), and small stems
  • Dandelion weeders/serrated daggers (great for soil/poor for rocky areas): digging up small plants, works for thistle if careful not to damage the tool, caution for human wrists
  • Be sure radios and cell phones are charging after each use

5.  Checks at the beginning of the fieldwork day:

  • Be sure that everyone who did not attend the workshop has completed the Job Hazard Analysis and Volunteer Time sheets
  • Proper Tools for each team:
    • Tools for everyone including volunteers (including pails, plastic bags, batteries), and make sure they are in working order
    • ‘Known locations’ map, GPS, field notebooks, New Point Data Table, & pens
    • Cell phone,  GMRS radios, FoS first-aid kit
    • Spare batteries for GPS
    • Safety:
      • Always be aware of your situation
      • Check weather for possible safety problems
      • Compass, map, personal first-aid kit, food, water, insect repellant, bugnet, raincoat
      • Use caution with all tools and around others with tools – look before you move and hit
      • Daily safety briefing to remind everyone of salient issues
      • Communication:
        • Use GMRS radios to communicate within team
        • Use cell phone if you need to call Entrance Station or for emergencies
        • Whenever you are working in Sylvania you need to let someone know where you will be:
          • At the beginning of the day tell the Entrance Station  where you will be working and where your car is parked
          • When wilderness camping:  let Wally (or Dan) know before and again at the end of your wilderness trip (no need to call every day – you need to preserve your cell phone battery)

6.  Searching for invasives – known locations:

A. Searching:

  • Use the ‘known locations’ map and the GPS to determine which point to look for and work on next
  • GPS locations are accurate to about  +/- 20 ft.  The location description in the ‘Note’ box in the GPS may help you find the plant (for example: north of the trail, by large tree).
  • Remember that plants are continually changing and some plants are ahead of others. We generally have a target species but if you find other species please teat appropriately.  This is important for identifying new invaders and new unknown infestations. When a waypoint comes up in the GPS, look at the plant name (the name is either part of the waypoint number, such as A0098-CP or, if there are more than one species, the name is found in the ‘Note’ box) If there is not time to deal with a new invasive problem take GPS info and return later.
  • If, when working on one type of invasive, you notice another type not yet in season: take a GPS location.  For example, if you spot a patch of thistle in the forest while looking for Japanese barberry: make a note (and take GPS location). Discuss removal options at that time.  Remove now if time permits.
  • We do not search campsites if they are occupied.  Make a note and we will give the Entrance Station a list of untreated campsites for their follow-up or our followup

B. Reporting:

  • Make notes in your field notebook for known invasives locations (remember:  make a note even if no plant was found which would be good – meaning that the plant  might be gone):
    • Date
    • Waypoint #
    • What found:  quantity of plants, growth stage( Example – no plants, small plant, 2 plants, 17 first-years)
    • What was done if plant was found (pulled, cut stems, etc)

7.  Searching for invasives – New locations:

  • It is of utmost importance to be as thorough and efficient as possible in searching for invasives. Any plant that is missed will continue to grow and produce many seeds which will spread to new locations. These seeds will cause new infestations for many years to come and undo all our work.


  1. A. Searching:
  • When searching for invasives in Sylvania, think about where they are coming from, what are the preferred habitats, and what transports the seeds ( the Zen of invasives): For example:
    • Japanese barberry is widespread on private property to the northwest and west of Sylvania. Therefore, this plant would most likely be found in the western and northwestern portion of Sylvania.  However, the berries are eaten by birds, so the dispersal area can be quite large.
    • European swamp thistle likes wet and open/sunny areas.  Lake shores are prime sites, but also look into inlets and forest openings,  walk up small creeks emptying into a lake, and check out wet areas in the forest. Seeds are spread by the wind from undetected and untreated plants.
    • Garlic mustard seeds are carried by boots and animals; so campsites, latrine trails, animal trails, animal burrows in the ground, and tree bases need to be searched (about 100 feet on either side of trails and a 300 feet radius for campsites).

  • Invasives can easily hide:
    • Look underneath and behind bushes, near and behind trees
    • Plants may be visible from one direction and not another (depending on the direction of the sunlight, for example).  So, look in all directions, including side to side and backwards.
    • When searching as a group be sure that you stay organized and that the area is searched with no gaps.  Search zones should have some overlap.
    • Be supportive of your team members – we all need to be attentive, on task, and do our best and try not to miss any plants.
    • We all have certain skills to contribute to the team and can all learn and practice new skills.

  1. B. Reporting:
  • Mark a GPS waypoint location for each new plant group location
    • waypoint # will be given automatically – do not change the system
    • In the “note” box add: species abbreviation (JB for Japanese barberry)
    • In your New Point Data Table:
      • Waypoint #, and detailed information regarding the location, such as “20’ north of trail”, which will help finding it again next year
      • Species
      • Gross area, % cover, count, distribution – see ‘weed reporting form’ on the blog and a summary inside your field notebook for explanation
      • Phenology (pre-flowering, flowering, fruiting, senescent)
      • NOTE: when recording information in the field notebook or the New Points Data Table be sure to document the GPS number!  This is important because the GPS units will both be using the same Waypoint numbers, starting with 1, when recording a new invasive location.
      • Take GPS locations for only one location, at the center of the group, when plants are close to each other (within 20-30’ or so). You can add in the comment column of the table that there is another plant within xx feet (and in which direction).
      • If a whole area is infested or if it is a new location near an old (known) location do not make unnecessary waypoints.
      • Please make your notebook and GPS entries clear so YOU can enter them into the tables.

8.  Invasive plant treatment – General:

  • Please remember that plants are continuously growing and changing; and what works one day (for example, just stripping the flowers after pulling out roots) may not be best practice on a later day (when seed production may have started).  Remember also that plants in a different location, with more or less sun) may be at different stages in their development; therefore, what works at one location may not be the correct procedure at another.  Always look at the plant to decide what needs to be done.
  • All flower heads need to be cut off or stripped off the stem.  The flower heads need to be collected in a pail and later dumped (into a plastic contractor bag).  Flowers might be capable of producing seeds while lying on the ground.
  • No need to worry about old, dried-up plants unless there are seeds in the seed head (such as mullein) in which case they need to be cut off carefully so as not to sprinkle seeds on the ground. When pulling or digging up plants, make sure that they do not continue to grow (and produce flowers and seeds). The best way to do this is to cut the root ball off the stalk.  Do not leave the root lying on wet ground – the plant will survive and try to make seeds!!  Place roots on log or rock or upside down on dry ground away from dampness.
  • Do not compress flowers/seeds in the pail with your foot: you will have seeds on your boots.
  • When travelling, do not carry seeds in pails; they can tip and spill the seeds.  Instead, empty the pails into plastic contractor bags.  Make sure that the bags do not tear or puncture during filling and travel – do not take bags into the woods – best kept in a canoe.
  • Please leave as much plant material as possible to maximize homes for helping bugs and minimize hauling weight.
  • Develop your program to disrupt the native soil as little as possible – we want the root but not the soil.

9.  Field work – General Comments:

  • It is critical to at all times protect your eyes when working in the field. Wearing safety glasses is advised especially in brushy areas. Sunglasses are fine in the open and when the sun is shining.  However, do not wear sunglasses in the forest or when the sun is not shining since sunglasses will make it difficult to clearly see the plants you are looking for and will be a safety hazard. Head nets are useful in protecting you from insects but also reduce your vision – keep yourself safe, sane, and functional.
  • When you see something in the wilderness that should not be there (anything that is an indication of human presence/habitation, such as a hunter’s stand or a hidden canoe), please discuss with your leader, get the GPS location and report it to the Entrance station or a FS contact. Litter or trash should be removed.
  • If there is any problem with other people or with other groups, keep yourself safeIt is not our job to enforce anything – that is for the ranger to do.  We remove invasives and educate others only if they ask.  Try to minimize bothering fisher persons – they get territorial
  • When you are anywhere in the area of Sylvania and Watersmeet you represent the Friends of Sylvania and the US Forest Service – please leave a good impression.
  • There is a page that details The FoS  Stewardship Agreement with the FS and our responsibilities – review it and ask questions of the leaders if there are any issues.

10.  At the end of the day:

  • Remember to call your ‘safety contact” (Wally or Dan)
  • Take full bags with plants or flowers to the dumpster. There is a dumpster at the Clark Lake boat landing parking lot.  Do not use campground dumpsters, they get angry with us.
  • If you have collected seed heads in a pail, wash the pail in the shower room to prevent seeds from escaping.
  • Draft a narrative of the day’s activities (to be filed in the blog under “Work Discussion”) and a more concise summary (in table format) to be filed in the blog under “Work Log”.  This could either be entered directly into the blog (if we have internet access in Sylvania) or entered on computer doc and transferred to the blog at a later time.
  • Regarding known invasive locations visited that day and new ones found: The person in charge of the invasives tables needs to check that she/he has all the information for those GPS points needed to be entered into the tables. It is best to enter data soon after taken – possibly while others cook dinner.
  • Document when you started and finished your work, and total hours.

What counts as work?

  • Driving or walking from the “Day Use Building” to the work site and back
  • Paddling to the work site and back
  • Getting/organizing invasive removal equipment
  • Going through safety procedures and training
  • Working in the field
  • Writing logs, blogs and GPS tables
  • Helping team mates with new tasks
  • Communications with the PI and team leader to plan work
  • Short Snack breaks

What does not count as work ( we need to use our limited FS and MI DNR funding carefully ):

  • Driving to Sylvania
  • Lunch, Dinner, rec movies / swim breaks / fishing breaks
  • Shopping for personal  equipment and food
  • General camping time, setting up camp, camp chores, sleeping
  • When data is being entered only the person entering data is working
  • Hanging out with someone who is working or watching group movies

11. Work documentation:

  • It is of utmost importance to be complete and accurate in the reporting of the work done. Incompleteness and inaccuracies will cast doubts on the quality of the work done – and others will need to re-do your work.  This information is transferred to the FS for their analysis.
  • The work documentation will be in two different formats:  On the FoS blog and in Excel tables.  Below is a summary of what needs to be reported.  A separate “Internet/Computer Use Handbook” will be provided; it will give the technical details.

  1. FoS blog on internet Webs-site:
  • A narrative of the daily activities filed under “Work Discussion” is useful – You can make it interesting and/or humorous – people enjoy reading those and it helps us plan the next tasks.
  • A brief, concise summary (in table format) filed under “Work Log” is needed.  Information on what has been done (locations, species) is needed in order to determine what needs to be done next and to prevent duplication.  This information will also be helpful for you when writing the final report.
    • The ‘work crew names and number of hours worked’ column to be used by Wally who will be sending you a check at the end of each month (see the list above of what counts as work). Volunteer hours are important since we need to report those to the USFS as well – please include their names and hours too.
    • The ‘type of work’ column should include the following:
      • Species worked on
      • The number of known locations searched
      • The number of new locations
      • If searched around campsite: provide site names
      • Campsites that we did not have access to due to occupancy
      • Any other items that you think might be useful information
  • In the ‘miles/area’ column:
    • An estimate of the size of the area searched
    • Upload the narrative and the work log to the blog as soon as possible.  There is some internet access at businesses in Watersmeet as well as at the Watersmeet Casino, and the Gateway Lodge and library at Land o’Lakes, or else do it as soon as possible after getting home.
  1. Excel Tables in FoS computer
  • Enter the appropriate data into the two ‘known invasive locations’ and the ‘new invasive locations’ tables and e-mail copies to Wally as soon as you have entered the information. These tables represent our work and assists in writing documents that will be submitted to the Forest Service at the end of the field season.  It is therefore best to have 2 copies of the most recent version at all times – one as a backup (with Wally) and the other as the active file for new data – keep them clear so we do not lose data.
  • Always look and check you work in the excel tables.  Be sure your data entry does not mess the table.



Best wishes for a high quality and productive FoS Invasive Weed Project



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