The first time Nichole Clark came to Indian Creek Nature Center, she signed up to volunteer. Since then, she has come out every morning in August and September to help with the monarch butterflies in the hoophouse at Amazing Space.
“I feel the need to take care of these creatures… that can be helpless. It’s so needed right now. People just live their lives and live in the world and go about their business and don’t think about the impact,” Nichole said. Each morning, she feeds caterpillars, cleans their containers, and tags butterflies before they’re released.
Monarch butterflies have drawn attention over the last few years because of their plummeting population numbers, caused primarily by habitat loss and pesticide use. The fight to save them has raised awareness about the plight pollinators face and actions people can take to make a difference.
One of those actions is planting milkweed. Nichole has worked for ten years as the office manager for IBEW Local 405 electrical workers’ union. She and a coworker have raised caterpillars in the office, and she said they’re soon installing a monarch waystation in some empty lots. Milkweed is the only plant on which monarchs lay their eggs and the only plant the caterpillars eat.
“The first caterpillar I brought in [to the Nature Center], I named it and got really attached to it, and he actually lived, but not all of them have lived,” Nichole said. “They get into pesticides, or parasitic flies.”
Nichole shared the story of one caterpillar that was vomiting and had green diarrhea, and wasn’t eating. She researched it and discovered this is a common reaction to pesticide exposure. Following instructions she found online, Nichole carefully rinsed the caterpillar to remove the pesticide residue. The caterpillar recovered and went through metamorphosis normally.
Nichole’s deep involvement in the Nature Center has encouraged her employer to get more involved, as well. IBEW Local 405 is sponsoring Nature’s Noel, Indian Creek Nature Center’s annual holiday fundraiser, taking place on Saturday, December 1. Additionally, an IBEW volunteer group rewired the chicken coop at Etzel Sugar Grove Farm, and they’re planning additional volunteer projects.
“It’s a great learning experience,” Nichole said of volunteering at the Nature Center. She also explains how her passion for making a difference through her actions has affected all facets of her life. “Now I shop at NewPi Co-op, I volunteer out here…. Nature has become a way of life.”
Interested in volunteering at Indian Creek Nature Center? Fill out our volunteer form, or call us at 319-362-0664.