Volunteers at work

How do we measure something as large as the timing of natural events? By studying the intimate details: the swelling in leaf buds, the timing of a bud break, and the rate of leaf growth. All of those details require a team of volunteers, including individuals such as Patrick Comer.
Comer, a volunteer at the Arboretum since 2010, collects data for Robert Fahey, the Arboretum’s forest ecologist. Comer samples leaf bud break and leaf growth progress for northern Illinois hardwoods, which leaf out and flower in the spring. Fahey uses this data for his phenology study, examining the timing of natural events to understand their relationship to climate change.
Comer’s work takes him across the Arboretum grounds and beyond. He’s visited tracts in Lake County and participated in studies at the Arboretum, in attempt to determine the effects of established native and exotic trees on the growth and development of nearby mixtures of native and exotic seedlings.
“Some days were very cold in the spring,” says Comer. “It reminded me of the many days I spent on the baseball fields while my young son was growing up.”
Back in the Research Building, Kendall Wolff, a recent high school graduate, is busy volunteering this summer in the soil lab. Wolff, along with other young adult volunteers, helps with root size classifications, using measuring tools and trimming the tree roots depending on what scientists need, and helping measure out different amounts of soil for various experiments.
“I am looking to major or minor in biology when I get to college,” says Wolff. “I used to be a counselor in training at the Summer Science Camps and I love working with the kids, but I wanted to see what else I could do to help at the Arboretum. And volunteering in the soil lab is more applicable to what I want to do in the future.”
Wolff and Comer are just two of the Arboretum’s hundreds of volunteers. Want to join and make a difference at the Arboretum? Check out our list of volunteer opportunities at mortonarb.org/volunteer or by calling 630-719-2443.