Before dedicating about 90 hours to an extensive invasive species project, local Eagle Scout Logan Mathews didn't know anything about the topic.
As the junior assistant scoutmaster for Boy Scouts Troop 4, Mathews was searching for a conservation-related project to do with younger Boy Scouts he mentors to advance their ranks.
After coming across the William T. Hornaday Awards, a Boy Scouts award for service in conservation and ecology, he contacted Runge Conservation Nature Center Manager Kevin Lohraff, who suggested an invasive species project. An invasive species is an organism that causes ecological or economic harm in an environment where it's not native.
Lohraff showed Mathews around the Jefferson City nature center and taught him about the different plants, which species were invasive, what changes they could cause in an environment, and how to safely remove them by cutting them at the base and treating the stump and the soil around it with herbicide.
"I definitely was stepping out of my comfort zone because I had zero clue about what invasive species were, what species that we have, things like that, but Kevin was really helpful," Mathews said.
Soon enough, Mathews was an expert.
"It really opened my eyes, and I noticed that they can be a pretty big problem; and now that I've gotten to be really familiar with these species, everywhere I go, I see them," he said.
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Mathews completed the invasive species project with about 20 people, including his sister and some of her friends, Boy Scouts from his troop and Troop 4, a friend from Troop 11, and Girl Scouts Troop 3004, under Lohraff's advisement. They volunteered more than 150 hours removing 10 invasive species from about 5 acres of Runge Nature Center.
"I really liked seeing the before and after — coming in, removing the invasive species and then coming back two weeks later after everything had died and seeing an area free of invasive species," Mathews said. "It was really satisfying, really great to see."
The main difference between a Hornaday Award and a regular Eagle Scout award is that it requires an educational aspect, extensive research and community impact. Mathews spent hours researching the invasive species and completing about 45 pages of paperwork.
For the educational aspect, he filmed and edited a series of 12 YouTube videos to inform the community about why we should care about invasive species and how to identify and properly remove them.
He also created a brochure titled "I Spy Invasive Species" with bar-code links to each video and a map. Once the brochures are printed, they will be available at Runge Nature Center. If visitors find an invasive species and mark it on the map, they can turn it in for the species to be removed.
About every three months, Mathews will return to the nature center to ensure the invasive species haven't returned and to monitor for soil erosion.
Mathews encourages everyone to watch his videos and use the brochure to learn about invasive species and look for them at the nature center, in your yard and in downtown Jefferson City, where Mathews has seen an invasive species.
"I'll give you a hint — they're climbing up trees," Mathews said.
To view Mathew's invasive species videos, visit The Scout Academy on YouTube.