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AmeriCorps Great Story: Adapting to Service with COVID-19

Trillions of trilliums thrive on a hillside preserved and protected by Conserving Carolina.

This past quarter, the impacts of COVID-19 have actually encouraged more creativity to take place in my service position. I am the 2019-2020 Communications and Education Associate at Conserving Carolina and much of my service is enhancing my organization’s communications efforts and providing educational lessons and workshops for the community.

With many people spending more time on social media, I’ve seen it as a great opportunity to enhance my host site’s visibility online. I’ve been most interested in providing educational content through social media posts to help people learn about the natural world. One theme I found particularly interesting are spring ephemeral wildflowers.

I provided weekly ‘Wildflower Wednesday’ social media posts featuring the earliest wildflowers that could be seen blooming in early March. These specific wildflowers are also called spring ephemerals, referring to their short life-spans. As I did more research, I learned how incredibly unique and adaptive these plants are. The social media posts I wrote received a lot of great feedback, and provided an educational component for those that were staying in touch with us solely online. I also put together a slew of photos and videos of our Land Management Coordinator, Max Howes and AmeriCorps Habitat Restoration Associate, Emily Powell, speaking about spring ephemerals.

Max Howes, Land Management Coordinator and Emily Powell, Habitat Restoration Associate, search for Dutchman’s breeches and its look-alike, Squirrel corn amongst the trilliums.

Max and Emily had previously met up with me at a property owned and protected by our host site featuring millions of wildflowers that thrive in its forest cove environment year after year. They gladly talked about the flowers and provided fun facts for each species for my videos, which I later shared all together to our Instagram and Facebook stories. It was very well-received, and I even had messages from many people thanking us for the educational content. It was so rewarding working up to a point where other people were just as excited about spring ephemerals as I was on social media—and they showed their gratitude for my educational contributions through heartfelt comments, likes, shares, and messages.

My supervisor suggested I put together a photo essay for our website, and after so much positive feedback, I decided to do one more final push about spring ephemerals by writing a blog article listing some species. I wrote about why they are different from other plants and listed photos and fun facts of some you might see in our region. I even tied the message of the essay to reflect the current circumstances of COVID-19, indicating that we can also adapt like these fleeting flowers do.

Spring ephemerals are masters at adapting to their environment. Having evolved for millions of years, the flowers have synchronized their reproductive cycles with the deciduous forests where they thrive. They complete their life cycles before nearby trees have leafed out and have even developed clever ways to maintain their populations. I admire these particular flowers because they have gracefully evolved into one of the most resilient representations of the natural world.

Sweet white trillium (Trillium simile) Photo by David Lee

I think everyone can learn a thing or two from these unique wildflowers. As we continue to adapt to COVID-19, I encourage you to get outside to observe the magic of spring ephemerals. As masters of adaptation, they can teach us all something about growth, even in the most unlikely circumstances. Hiking along a trail and seeing colorful petals peeking through the leaf litter is a memorable experience, and surely one that reminds us winter doesn’t last forever.

It felt natural for me to become passionate about a topic that was new to me, perform research, and communicate it to the community in various ways. I’ve always been intrigued by the way organizations communicate about nature online, and this opportunity to share information about an incredible topic arose in the most timely manner. I’m so thankful I got to hone in my communications skills and express my own creativity through this project. I’m looking forward to contributing even more topics to grow appreciation and teach our community just how amazing nature really is.

Written by AmeriCorps Communications and Education Associate, Rachel Hess.