While many Knox students spend their school breaks across the country and the world, numerous students opt to stay close to campus. In order to work a day job doing casual labor and to cater to preparations for post-grad life, senior Olivia Lemke chose to live in Galesburg during her last summer before graduating. Her campus job warranted her to take care of routine chores across campus, from completing work orders to reupholstering damaged campus furniture.
“We drove the gators,” Lemke said. “That was the best part.”
She wanted to take a job which wouldn’t require her to work past her scheduled shift, as she spent her spare time studying for the GRE as well as looking into applications for graduate schools and the Peace Corps. Beyond professional planning, around town Lemke went to the farmer’s market and participated in the Civic Art Center’s bi-annual Paint Crawl.
“The cool thing about being in Galesburg for the summer is that there’s so few students here so you all end up hanging out together,” Lemke said. “[We] did a lot more Galesburg-y things than I usually do at Knox because there’s so much Knox stuff to go to that I’ve never really branched out.”
Branching out from Galesburg, junior Zuri Peterson studied ash trees from June to August at Green Oaks Biological Field Station. In the years after 2002 when the Emerald Ash Borer beetle, native to Asia, began infesting tree populations all across North America, past alumni and professors of Knox noticed the population of ash trees at Green Oaks experiencing a decline. Peterson spent her summer days in the sun, analyzing the symptoms of an ash borer infestation by setting up 20 radiuses throughout the nature reserve.
“I would go through each radius and identify all the [ash] trees in [the radiuses]. For every tree, I took their diameter, breast height, identified the species and crown class. I gave it the canopy rating, which is how thin it was,” Peterson said. “If it was dead I counted how many branches it had, so that tells you how recently the infestation was, how recently the tree died.”
Peterson was able to conclude that the population was being intensely affected by an ash borer infestation, epidemics of which have affected numerous North American ash tree populations. Members of the Knox community are seeking measures to preserve the trees being threatened by infestation.
“Seed collection is a thing we’ve thought about doing for the trees that are still producing seeds, so we can collect those and preserve them and try to re-plant them later in attempt to preserve some of our native genotypes,” she said.
Peterson spent her free time at the field station swimming in the lake onsite, reading books, laying under fans or watching Netflix.
Senior Rafael Cho stayed at Green Oaks for July and August where he assisted Environmental Studies Professor Katie Adelsberger with her research on the different factors between remnant prairie soil and restored prairie soil. Their research aimed to look into a type of original prairie soil broken in by farmers, Shepard’s Prairie, as opposed to a prairie soil which attempted to reinvigorate used land, Lost Meadow.
“The soil used to be farmland. By the time the farmer wanted to sell the land, the soil was really depleted,” Cho said. “The restoration tried to reintroduce these plants and prairie paths and get the soil back to a good state of health.”
Using a probe across 10 rows of prairieland that spread up to 100 meters, Cho collected over 200 samples of soil for further analysis of elements such as horizon level, color and pH level. Cho will continue his analysis of the soil samples during this school year.
“What we expect to see is a difference between the two,” he said. “One [soil] hasn’t really been changed that much, while the other has gone through its entire cycle of being good, bad, sort of being good.”
With an interest in field research as a potential career prospect, Cho enjoyed the unique experience that living at Green Oaks allowed.