Master Naturalist volunteer holding a bag of cleaned seeds for Project Wingspan
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The University of Illinois Extension Master Naturalists of Fulton, Mason, Peoria, and Tazewell counties were honored in January 2021 by Pollinator Partnership for Project Wingspan as the Most Engaged Volunteers in 2020. The Extension Master Naturalists (EMN) logged 550 volunteer hours from July through October helping with seed cleaning and collection at Mason State Tree Nursery, which serves as the project hub.

“No other group in Illinois for Project Wingspan with Pollinator Partnership, participated even half of that,” exclaimed Holly Frainer, Pollinator Partnership State Coordinator. “I am VERY fortunate to know this group! Everyone is considered a friend here and we look forward to working together!”

Once volunteer efforts resumed in July, the facility space allowed for plenty of room for volunteers to work safely, and the outdoor work was a perfect way for them to boost their immune systems with plenty of sunshine (Vitamin D) and fresh air. The work that happens in Mason County is contributing to conservation efforts across the 9-state Project Wingspan area.

“What has impressed me the most while volunteering at the Mason State Tree Nursery is the seed cleaning process,” commented Extension Master Naturalist Cindy Intravatolo. “Once the seed is harvested and arrives at the nursery, it goes through many steps and many machines in the cleaning process. But in the end nearly all of it requires some hand screening to arrive at the finished product.

“One day I spent over 5 hours cleaning Black-eyed Susan seeds to end up with a bag of pure seed that weighed about 7 oz. Of course, I am just a rookie, but it gave me a new appreciation for the cost of seed packets.”

In addition to Cindy, Jane Frazier, Roberta Clifton, Bill Bradley, Marianne Pilkington, Sandy Pomazal, and Kathy Spath are EMNs who were part of the team of volunteers honored for their outstanding volunteer efforts at this project.

To learn more about Pollinator Partnership Project Wingspan and how you can get involved locally visit www.pollinator.org/wingspan.

 

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MEET THE AUTHOR

Christine Belless earned her B.A. Ed/History & Psychology from Western Illinois University. Christine began her Extension career as a Fulton County SNAP-Ed instructor in 1994. From 2005-2012, she was the Mason County 4-H Program Coordinator. In 2012, she transitioned to her current position as Ag & Natural Resource Program Coordinator for Fulton, Mason, Peoria, and Tazewell Counties.

Christine coordinates logistics and volunteers for commercial agriculture and natural resource programs. She works closely with 90 Extension Master Naturalists as they deliver educational programs, complete continuing education, and work with our partners on projects such as restoration of natural areas and environmental stewardship events. As a trained facilitator in Annie’s Project, Christine coordinates the training offered to women in ag and works with state commercial ag educators for programs held locally.

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