Natural Resource Projects

 

Did you know McConnell AFB has a Natural Resource Program? This page outlines a few of the projects we are currently working on.

 

Pollinator Gardens

 

The pollinator gardens were established as pilot projects for the National Air Force Pollinator Partnerhsip. They are located at the FamCamp near the fishing ponds. Checkout one or all three:  the hourglass garden, the arrowhead garden, and the AF Wing garden.

  • Each garden has a selection of different plants, all of which are native to Kansas in an attempt to support native pollinators and minimize maintenance.
  • The gardens were planted in Fall 2016 from plugs and in the Spring of 2017 with seeds.  Additional plants were added in Spring of 2018, so not all plants have bloomed or are fully grown.
  • Pollinator surveys were conducted to see what kind of insects are attracted to the plants, and contrasted to non native flower beds on base in 2017. Report is available in the Natural Resource Office.
  • Monarch butterflies have already found the gardens. Biologists have observed Monarch eggs, larvae, and a single chrysalis (the protective case a larva forms to change into a butterfly) on the various species of milkweed planted throughout the gardens.

 

Click here for maps of the gardens and a plant list!

 

 

Survey array set up.
Checkerspot Butterfly
Close up of yellow bee bowl.

 

 

 Monarch Garden

 

June 2017 saw the addition of a butterfly garden complex at the School Age Program yard on base. Biologists are helping to maintain the garden in collaboration with the 4-H club and staff at the Program.

  • The team planted 32 common milkweed plants from MonarchWatch in addition to a few native nectar sources for the adult butterflies. Addtional plants were added in Spring of 2018.
  • The garden complex is now an official Monarch Waystation and belongs to a nationwide community of similar butterfly gardens.
  • When the adult Monarchs visit the garden they have the opportunity to eat and lay eggs on the milkweed. The eggs take 3-5 days to hatch, and then the little caterpillars take about 2-3 weeks to grow and turn into a chrysalis. After another two weeks the adult butterfly emerges and takes time to dry out its wings before taking flight to begin the cycle again.
  • The egg is white and very, very small (about the size of a point of a pencil) with small vertical lines on it. When the caterpillars first hatch they are green-white with a black head, then they grow and become striped black, yellow, and white with little "horns" on their heads and tail. Adult monarchs are bright orange with black markings, and you can tell males from females because they have a black spot one each of their bottom wings (also known as hindwings). The monarch, throughout it's lifecycle, is poisonous due to the milkweed it eats, and is brightly colored to ward off potential predators.

 

 

Official Waystation sign.
Garden out front.
Main garden in back.

 

 

Prairie Restoration

 

In 2016 the old 1090 building lot was repurposed for a prairie restoration project.

  • The lot was reseeded with the help of contractors using drill-seeding which is a method using a machine that puts the seeds automatically in the ground in rows.
  • The project was left to grow with little human interaction and has begun to flourish even after only one growing season. Several species of wildflowers native to Kansas have also grown even without being planted by the contractors or anyone else.
  • Some seeds were spread by hand as the growing season progressed, but this project is a good example of why planting natives is so time, energy, and cost efficient. Native plants adapted to live in a certain type of soil with a certain amount of rainfall and flourish there even when left alone. This is also one of the reasons we planted natives in the pollinator gardens (in addition to just being better for the pollinators and other animals). 

 

 

May Growth
Clouded Sulfer
June Growth

 

 

Buffers

 

If you've seen the tall grass around the streams on base, you've seen a buffer! These very simple pieces of engineering not only reduce the amount of land that needs to be mowed by contractors, but also help decrease erosion and pollution. The roots of the fully grown grasses and other plants in the buffers hold the soil together better than if the plants were mowed. The above ground "roughness" from live and dead vegetation slows stream water velocity. Streams are very strong forces, especially after a long or heavy rainfall and the flowing water can cut away at the banks. This can lead to costly erosion of roads, parking lots, or even buildings and damage to infrastructure. The buffers are also pleasing to look at and provide a nice break to the mowed lawns. 

Presently we are working on removing saplings and invasive plants from the buffers. Removal of saplings simulates disturbances such as grazing by deer or wildfires that have otherwise been supressed due to the urban setting. Invasive plants can disrupt ecosystem function by crowding out the growth of native plants.

 

 

 

trap
A flagged trap in a buffer.
Just released deer mouse.
Scruffed hispid cotton rat.

 

 

Questions, comments, concerns? Feel free to stop by Building 9 on base to talk to us, or contact:

Laura Mendenhall: 316-759-5765 or laura_mendenhall@fws.gov or Tina Seemayer: 759-4445, tina.seemayer@us.af.mil

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