Conservation & Citizen Science

Over the past 50 years, Five Rivers MetroParks has grown into an agency of diverse beauty and experiences and at our hearts remain the fundamental values of preserving clean water and air while protecting the diversity of plants and animals on our more than 15,000 acres. By visiting some of the special places that have benefited from our responsible planning and management, you can build a deeper appreciation for the balance we must strike to be good stewards of the land while allowing nature to run its course. There are many ways to get involved in conservation efforts. Come be a part of our regional conservation story through volunteering or help us collect data through citizen science projects like bird counts, counting lightning bugs, even mapping light pollution at night through cellphone technology.

Featured Locations

Reforestation Areas at Sugarcreek MetroPark

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Healthy forests are critical to a healthy environment. However, Ohio’s tree population has declined because of climate change, invasive species such as the emerald ash borer, deer overpopulation, and aggressive honeysuckle growth. MetroParks’ reforestation program has been fighting the battle on all fronts since 2011. Sugarcreek MetroPark is a great place to see this program in action. As you pull into the parking lot and approach the trailhead at the main entrance, look for the white tubes protecting the baby trees planted to replace some of the thousands of ash trees the park is losing to the ash borer. Our MetroParks Tree Corp. offers Miami Valley volunteers the opportunity to protect native trees and forest ecosystems by collecting seeds and planting and monitoring trees. For more information, contact volunteer coordinator Yvonne Dunphe at (937) 275-7275 or email yvonne.dunphe@metroparks.org.

View our reforestation priorities

Butterfly Habitat at Germantown MetroPark

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Butterflies are like canaries in a coal mine: They can help monitor the health of nature. The prairies throughout the MetroParks are great places to spot and identify native butterflies. At Germantown MetroPark, we are transforming 112 acres of farmland along Boomershine Road into a pollinator prairie for birds, bees, and butterflies—particularly monarchs. In a few years, the land will be a prairie that provides the food and nesting sites necessary for pollinators’ survival. Support this initiative by joining our annual volunteer monitoring program. Each week during the warmer months, volunteers count butterflies along the trail to help monitor trends and changes in nature. For more information, contact volunteer coordinator Yvonne Dunphe at (937) 275-7275 or email yvonne.dunphe@metroparks.org.

Great Miami Wetland Mitigation Bank

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The Great Miami Wetland Mitigation Bank consists of a wetland area, a forested wetland area, and a prairie. A wetland is an important ecosystem that serves many key functions, such as biodiversity support, water quality improvement, flood abatement, and carbon dioxide management. Wetlands also are among the best spots for birding. With the expansion of human populations, the world has lost more than half of its wetlands. The Clean Water Act of 1977 requires developers to restore a wetland in order to receive a permit allowing the developer to damage an existing wetland. Local developers have the option of purchasing such credits at the Great Miami Wetland Mitigation Bank through our conservation team. Although this conservation area is not open for public visitation, volunteers participating in wetland workdays or bird monitoring will get the opportunity to explore this amazing habitat and watch it be restored. For more information, contact volunteer coordinator Yvonne Dunphe at (937) 275-7275 or email yvonne.dunphe@metroparks.org.

Bluebird Boxes at Possum Creek

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In the early 1900’s the Eastern bluebird (Sialia sialis) was one of rural Ohio’s most common songbirds. Then, because of a loss of habitat, several severe winters, and  competition for nesting sites from introduced species (starlings and English house sparrows), the bluebird population declined by as much as 90 percent. However, bluebirds are coming back. At Possum Creek MetroPark, blue bird boxes are scattered throughout the Jean Woodhull Prairie. These boxes provide nesting places for the cavity nesters. Walk through the prairie to spot these brightly colored songbirds. To get involved with their comeback, you can participate in our annual bluebird box monitoring program throughout the MetroParks prairies. Volunteers monitor and clear the boxes for up to three broods each year. This is an independent activity, ideal for the volunteer who wants to set his or her own schedule. Mentoring options are also available. For more information, contact volunteer coordinator Yvonne Dunphe at (937) 275-7275 or email yvonne.dunphe@metroparks.org.

Aullwood Garden Deer Populations

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When you walk through the garden gate at Aullwood, you will notice a tall fence surrounding the property. This fence is part of the protection against deer. The population of white-tailed deer has soared in several Five Rivers MetroParks because of food availability, development of adjoining land and lack of predators. If deer live in highly populated areas for a long time, they damage the forests. In some cases, damaged forests never recover. In extreme overpopulation cases, deer can become more susceptible to disease and starvation. Of all the MetroParks, Aullwood Garden MetroPark has experienced the most deer damage over the years. Baby red oaks are their favorite snacks, but even flowers that are supposed to be deer-resistant are eaten by hungry does. At Aullwood and throughout the district, MetroParks conducts annual surveys to help manage the deer populations and the fragile habitats that their overpopulation threatens. Adventurous volunteers who like to go off-trail into the wilderness with conservation staff can participate in these surveys starting in March each year. For more information, contact volunteer coordinator Yvonne Dunphe at (937) 275-7275 or email yvonne.dunphe@metroparks.org.

Fish Surveys at RiverScape River Run

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The conservation team at MetroParks monitors the water quality of our ponds, rivers and streams through a variety of methods. One of these methods is called “fish shocking” — or electrofishing. It involves passing an electric current through the water to stun fish and bring them to the surface so that we can count them and study things such as the diversity of the fish species, which is a good indicator of water quality. Electrofishing does not harm the fish, which return to their original state within minutes. Initial surveys are performed for benchmarking when habitats come under the management of MetroParks, and they are re-monitored after significant changes that affect the water habitat — changes, such as the removal of the low dam and installation of the in-river structures at the RiverScape River Run.  Volunteers can help in this process of collecting and identifying fish and then returning them to their home. For more information, contact volunteer coordinator Yvonne Dunphe at (937) 275-7275 or email yvonne.dunphe@metroparks.org.

Covermapping at New Land Purchases

Cover mapping is a way to define and map habitat types. Using technology, conservation staff gather geographic information on the status of plant species and their habitats, providing information we need to better understand new and current land holdings. This information helps us create detailed conservation plans for each area and evaluate the success of our conservation practices. Covermapping is an intensive process, and so we conduct it when new lands are first come under MetroParks management or at three-to-five-year intervals for existing lands. If you would like to get involved with our next covermapping project, contact volunteer coordinator Yvonne Dunphe at (937) 275-7275 or email yvonne.dunphe@metroparks.org.

Prairie Management at Carriage Hill

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Controlled burning is an important tool for managing prairies and early successional habitats. It releases nutrients and stimulates the growth of certain plant species. Each spring, our conservation staff schedules “controlled burns” on certain prairies. Prairie plants, which grow in June through September and produce seeds in the fall, are deep-rooted perennials that are invigorated by fire. The prairie at Carriage Hill is one of the MetroParks’ prairies that is managed by a controlled burn, among other management methods. We also harvest deeds from this prairie each fall and use them for plantings across the district. Volunteers can participate in annual prairie burns, or observe a burn from a safe distance. For more information, contact volunteer coordinator Yvonne Dunphe at (937) 275-7275 or email yvonne.dunphe@metroparks.org.

Watch a video of a controlled burn

Barbara Cox Center for Sustainable Horticulture

The Barbara Cox Center for Sustainable Horticulture at Cox Arboretum MetroPark will allow for greenhouse propagation of woodland wildflowers, prairie plants and tree seedlings needed for our reforestation efforts. Park visitors are encouraged to tour the center while staff and volunteers sort, clean and prepare seeds for germination or prepare young trees and plants for transplanting into parks where land has been disturbed or habitat is being restored. Take a walk through the center and get in on the action by joining one of our dedicated volunteer groups. One such group, the Wildflower group, has been rescuing native wildflowers from threatened sites and managing the Woodland Wildflower garden at the park for nearly 50 years. For more information, contact volunteer coordinator Yvonne Dunphe at (937) 275-7275 or email yvonne.dunphe@metroparks.org.

Dull Woods

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The Dull Woods Conservation Area is a unique eight-acre woodlot is in Clay Township in Montgomery County, adjacent to the Wolf Creek Trail. It is a tiny but high-quality remnant of the vast swamp forests that once covered northwest Montgomery County. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Dull Woods is the lack of Amur honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii). Native to eastern Asia, Amur honeysuckle is a multi-stemmed shrub that grows up to 15 feet tall with simple, opposite leaves. It produces white flowers in the spring and has bright red berries in the fall. Honeysuckle invades rapidly and prevents native species from growing. When honeysuckle persists in a forest, the forest understory becomes dominated by the shrub and can sustain fewer tree seedlings, saplings, and wildflowers. Many of the forests MetroParks manages are under attack by this invasive plant. To get a glimpse of what we are working toward by controlling honeysuckle, visit Dull Woods, where volunteer Conservation Caretakers monitor the woods for any sign of honeysuckle and remove the plants before they take hold. If you would like to get involved in our Conservation Caretakers program or other invasive species management activities, contact volunteer coordinator Yvonne Dunphe at (937) 275-7275 or email yvonne.dunphe@metroparks.org

Witness Conservation in Action in these MetroParks

Learn about the challenges and opportunities facing your MetroParks by visiting these spectacular natural places where conservation and maintenance teams work closely to establish and execute land stewardship plans. 

 

Getting Started

You have been a scientist since the day you were born, collecting data to make personal choices each day. Citizen Science is the practice of using enthusiasts to collect massive amounts of data to better understand our planet. There are many ways to get involved, right now! 

View our “Take Action at Home” resources or contact volunteer coordinator Yvonne Dunphe at (937) 275-7275 or yvonne.dunphe@metroparks.org to get started with one of our conversation-based volunteer initiatives. 

School-based citizen science initiatives are also available.

Programs & Events

Make a Difference Day

One day can make a difference

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Participating in Make a Difference Day is a great way for everyone to help preserve our environment while experiencing the outdoors and connecting with nature.

Learn more about the event.

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Resources

Local Clubs and Groups

Partners 

Five Rivers MetroParks has partnered with Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and the National Park Service to restore and manage the Huffman Prairie State Natural Landmark, one of the largest prairie remnants in Ohio, since 1988.

Do it at Home

The backyard is a great place to get involved in urban nature data collection, while getting more intimate with our local ecosystems.

View a list of suggested projects that you can do at home.

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