Thankful Thursday: Exciting Endangered Bee Species Discovery at Riveredge

Happy Thankful Thursday!

This Thankful Thursday, we’re connecting the dots between donors who fund conservation research and a Federally Endangered species…discovered onsite at Riveredge!

In recent years, the William R. and Charlotte S. Johnson Fund has supported research and conservation interns at Riveredge. Char, as we knew her, was one of the founders of Riveredge Nature Center and their donations have afforded us the capacity to provide college students and recent graduates with work experience in the field.

One of our interns this year is Caleb, a student at Concordia University Wisconsin, and his focus has been on researching insects in the prairie. In the past couple of weeks, with dogged focus, documentation, and follow-up research, Caleb confirmed with this photograph the existence of the elusive Rusty Patched Bumble Bee (Bombus affinis) at Riveredge.

For years, we’ve fostered habitat for this Federally Endangered species, hoping that we would one day be able to confirm its presence here. Thanks to the support of the William R. and Charlotte S. Johnson Fund, and the determination of the interns they’ve empowered us to employ, we’re pleased to announce that Riveredge is indeed a home for the Federally Endangered Rusty Patched Bumble Bee!

Char’s legacy lives on through the wonderful creatures, abundant and uncommon alike, that know these acres along the Milwaukee River as their sanctuary. Thank you!

Riveredge Nature Center improves trails and conserves orchids with National Resources Foundation of Wisconsin Quiet Trails Fund Grant

New, water permeable accessible trail now winds from both the prairie and the parking lot to meet the existing stair network (seen on the right).
Riveredge Nature Center is pleased to have received the National Resources Foundation of Wisconsin Quiet Trails Fund Grant to both improve trails to welcome a wider range of people to explore the trails, and to protect sensitive floral habitat from deer over-browsing. Through a partnership with Access Ability Wisconsin, Riveredge has become the host site for an all terrain wheelchair that can be used both at Riveredge and anywhere offsite.

This trail now winds through Riveredge’s oldest restored prairie.
With this greater consideration, Riveredge has been re-imagining trails to better accommodate wheelchairs, strollers, and people who might be experiencing limited mobility or other sensory challenges. The National Resources Foundation of Wisconsin Quiet Trails Grant empowered Riveredge to recreate a trail through our oldest restored prairie with a gradual slope to accommodate more trail users.

Fencing now protecting vulnerable orchid habitat from White-tailed Deer.
Additionally, as a nature center housing The Riveredge School, the first nature-based public charter elementary school in the region, Riveredge flora has seen issues with deer over-browsing sensitive habitats due to a lack of predation (human or otherwise). This includes a population of rare and sensitive native orchids, which are a favorite to White-tailed Deer.

Lesser Yellow Lady’s slipper orchids successfully conserved and blooming at Riveredge.
Riveredge has partnered to bolster native orchid habitat throughout the region, however, locally, deer remain a challenge. Through the Quiet Trails Grant, Riveredge was able to establish fencing around these sensitive habitats, minimizing browse by deer in these areas and protecting populations of Lesser Yellow Lady’s-slipper, a Wisconsin Species of Special Concern.
Thank you to National Resources Foundation of Wisconsin and to all of our volunteers, partners, members and friends dedicated to conserving and improving the experience for all at Riveredge!

Accessible trails at Riveredge, and elsewhere, benefit everyone.

Exploring Riveredge: “Prescription Strength RX for Everyone”

Over the years, Riveredge has been a home to various communities. From a range of artistic creators, to the memory loss community, to the homeschool and neurodiverse communities, we strive to stretch the definition of who explores the outdoors. In the past year, we’ve overall been working to welcome people who, historically, haven’t spent much time at Riveredge.

Riveredge has recently become more acquainted with the Hispanic community that encompasses more than 6,000 people throughout Ozaukee and Washington counties. Children within these families are often bilingual, speaking Spanish in the home and English at school. All generations in the home may not necessarily be English speakers, however, and organizations such as Casa Guadalupe work to bridge this gap.

We became aware fairly recently of this fact by way of Riveredge member and 2019-20 Riveredge School Governance Council member, Cecilia Guajardo. Cecilia and her family moved from her native Mexico to begin living in Ozaukee County about 10 years ago with her husband’s workplace relocation. Since then, when not parenting, working, or working in the home, Cecilia has spent her time exploring outdoors throughout Wisconsin’s various seasons.

She first visited Riveredge as a field trip chaperone with her daughter’s Thorson Elementary School class. “We walked into the river with waders and it was such an incredible experience!” said Cecilia. “We became members that day and we’ve been Riveredge members ever since.”

“That’s part of what I love being outdoors.

Nobody needs a translator to enjoy nature.”

In one of her many community roles, Cecilia works with Casa Guadalupe, a West Bend organization that works to be the bridge of integration to Hispanics and to the communities in which they live through education and community access.

Cecilia has spent the pandemic outdoors, exploring Riveredge trails daily. “Coming from a sunny climate I like to call it Nature RX – prescription strength nature,” she smiles. “Nature is the best antidepressant I’ve found.” With so many various business closures, she started wondering if extended family health in the Casa community might be suffering throughout the pandemic.

A little bit of blooming Coreopsis is part of nature’s prescription strength RX.

Riveredge and Casa Guadalupe have started a partnership welcoming Casa families who are a part of the Read to Succeed program to explore Riveredge with family memberships. Cecilia graciously translated Riveredge membership materials into Spanish so that all generations could read the text. Our shared hope is to provide healthy outdoor options to Casa families while also welcoming people who might not otherwise explore these 10 miles of trails along the Milwaukee River.

Cecilia realizes that diversity in the outdoors might be new for some. “It’s funny, sometimes, how people respond when they hear an accent different from their own in the outdoors,” said Cecilia. “People sometimes give me that look of surprise, that they didn’t expect to hear my voice out on a trail. But I hike here so much I’m often helping people figure out where they are on their map,” she laughs. “I am the person who moved here and sometimes giving directions to people from this area. That’s part of what I love being outdoors. Nobody needs a translator to enjoy nature.”

Riveredge is Seeking Homeschool Education Volunteers

For a decade, Riveredge Nature Center has hosted a premier Homeschool Program helping families add science, environmental education, and inquiry-based outdoor exploration to their home curriculum. In the current Covid-19 landscape, the Riveredge Homeschool Ed-Ventures Program is seeing unprecedented registration, and has even added an extra day of homeschool scheduling. As a result, Riveredge is seeking additional volunteers to aid in homeschool education efforts.

Homeschool volunteers help inspire young learners about the great outdoors. Every other week on either Monday,  Wednesday, or Friday, homeschool students come from all over southeast Wisconsin to Riveredge Nature Center to learn about science and the environment. Homeschool Assistants are responsible for aiding our education staff in keeping the group together while outdoors, supervising for short periods, helping students with their activities and crafts, and creating a safe, positive environment for students. Consistency is preferred, must be able to hike up to 1 mile on unpaved terrain. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday shifts are available. Each shift is from 8:45am-12:15pm. Please follow this link to complete our volunteer application and receive training. As these volunteers will have direct interaction with children, a background check is required.

COVID-19 UPDATE: Volunteers are protected by a mask requirement for themselves and all guests of the program while indoors or unable to social distance 6ft apart. Additionally, Riveredge can provide clear face shields for volunteers who would like to wear them. Learning tools are wiped down between volunteers and cleaning spray is available to volunteers to re-wipe any area if guests touch surfaces. We have separate enter and exit doors to keep traffic flow going in one direction. If you have additional questions regarding our COVID-19 procedures please feel free to contact us.

For additional information, please contact Kacey Tait, Riveredge Inquiry-Based Curriculum and Instruction Manager (also copied in this email) at ktait@riveredge.us or (262)375-2715 x13.

Riveredge COVID-19 Update: Visitor’s Center Closed, Future Programs Cancelled, Trails Open

Dear Community,

Due to the increasing spread of COVID-19, directives from state and federal government, and the need for us all to work together to flatten the curve, Riveredge Nature Center’s Visitor Center, programming, events, and volunteer groups will be closed and cancelled until Tuesday, May 26.  As that date approaches, we will reassess to determine if operations may be reinstated.

If you need to contact a staff member, please visit our staff directory for emails and phone extensions. Voicemails will be forwarded to the staff’s email.

In these challenging times, we know that nature can help provide a respite from the uncertainty around us. Because of this, the Riveredge staff is working to ensure the continuation of our mission. We’re starting the #RiveredgeVirtualNaturalist video series, which you can view here, as well as on our Riveredge Facebook Page. Stay tuned to Riveredge’s social media accounts and email for opportunities to learn more about the natural world in your backyard, get creative outdoors with your family, and for technical help with improving your land management skills – all through the power of online communication.

The 10 miles of Riveredge trails will remain open from dawn until dusk, and we hope that you’ll come and enjoy them!  When you do, here are some helpful tips to keep in mind:

  • Directions and trail maps are available on our website.
  • Printed trail maps are available at most trail heads.
  • Please follow Leave No Trace principles when hiking at Riveredge.
  • To protect the migratory and ground nesting birds, no dogs are allowed at Riveredge. Complete explanation and alternative local dog-friendly locations here.
  • Trail fees are $5/person or $15/family per day for non-members.
  • Trail access is free for members. Membership begins at only $40 per household for an entire year of access.
  • Families with a 4th grade student are eligible for a free family membership.
  • Built outhouses are available just southeast of the Visitor’s Center by the yurts and noted on the trail map. A port-a-john is also available in the west parking lot near Newburg.
  • It’s best to bring a full water bottle with you.
  • You can purchase Riveredge Maple Syrup and maple candies, Riveredge apparel, and other goodies through the Riveredge Nature Store, which are then picked up through curbside delivery. All purchases must be made online and can be picked up during our normal business hours (the Visitor’s Center will remain closed to the public). This is a great way to support Riveredge during this time!

As our friends at the Association of Nature Center Administrators shared, “…access to trails and open spaces are going to be critical to people at this time. They are havens, allowing for recreation and activity when people are discouraged from being in large crowds…

In fact, we’ve already begun hearing the croaking call of Sandhill Cranes flying overhead and the song-filled warblers won’t be far behind. Pretty soon you’ll begin to see the delicate blooms of spring ephemeral flowers along the trail, and the skunk cabbage has already begun to emerge! In this time of social distancing, we’re going to crave the health benefits offered by nature more than ever.

We know that this is a challenging time for all of us, yet by observing nature, we also know that we will overcome. We will work together and become a stronger Riveredge Family through the challenges we face today.

Keep Smiling & Get Outside,

Jessica Jens

Executive Director

Sugarin’ Day For Scouts, Maple Sugarin’ Festival, and Pancake Breakfast Canceled Due to COVID-19 Concerns

Due to COVID-19 concerns, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services has recommended canceling all non-essential gatherings of 250 people or more. With safety in mind, Riveredge Nature Center has canceled the March 14 Sugarin’ Day For Scouts, March 21 Maple Sugarin’ Festival, and April 4 Pancake Breakfast.

Just as with any program canceled by Riveredge, refunds will be issued to people who have pre-registered for the Scouts Day, Maple Sugarin’ Festival, and Pancake Breakfast.

At the present time, the Riveredge Visitor’s Center will remain open during regularly scheduled hours. All other Riveredge programs with smaller expected attendance are currently scheduled to take place as planned.

Riveredge trails will remain open sunup to sundown.

Our paramount concern is the health and safety of Riveredge members, volunteers, staff, and guests. Riveredge staff will continue to monitor this evolving situation and will update accordingly based on the most up-to-date information available.

Jessica Jens

Executive Director, Riveredge Nature Center

RIVEREDGE FAMILY TIES: The Haislmaiers

Sue Haislmaier and her husband Dan recently attended the Barn Dance at Riveredge in October with her daughter’s family who was visiting from Montana. Following their visit, Sue shared the following testimony of her family’s connection with Riveredge through the years. A connection that continues today…..

“… all three of our kids were involved at Riveredge and are now
environmental advocates as adults. My grandkids know me as
the grandparent that likes to explore outside when we visit them.

I recently looked at old family slides and found a couple from the
year our son found the Yule Log around ‘82. We still have the
slice of log cookie memento from that find.

In those days I became known as “Nature Mom” with one of the
first naturalized yards in the area. I have served as a volunteer
Teacher Naturalist at Riveredge since the late ‘70’s and continue
to teach maple syruping program in the spring. I served on the
board of directors in the ‘80’s as well as chaired and participated
in many events throughout the years. The kids remember me
at a Halloween Hike as “a leaf pile” when I would rise from a
heap on the ground in my camouflaged cape to give a lesson on
composting and worms.

Riveredge holds a dear place in my heart and mind. Knowing
that, my kids gifted me with a tree for my birthday this year that
will be planted in the spring, I look forward to a place on the
landscape to visit frequently.”

~ Sue Haislmaier, Riveredge Kid since 1968

You can help ensure that even more families have the opportunity to make memories like these in the coming year and decades. Support the passing of the torch and the next generation of environmental stewards. By making a gift to the annual fund, your generosity will do just that. Visit www.riveredgenaturecenter.org/donate to make your charitable contribution this holiday season.

On behalf of everyone at Riveredge Nature Center, thank you for being a part of the family!

Riveredge Announces Artist Sally Duback for River Outpost Artwork

Original architectural rendering of The River Outpost facility at Riveredge Nature Center.

Riveredge Nature Center has selected Mequon-based artist Sally Duback to create community-based artwork for display surrounding its new River Outpost Building. Duback has spent the last 30 years creating her own artworks, as well as engaging in community art collaborations throughout the region. Some of her prior community-based artworks can be seen at Virmond Park, the Niederkorn Public Library, Prairie Springs Environmental Education Center, Messmer Elementary School, and the Milwaukee Intermodal Station.

Artist Sally Duback

For this project, community participants are invited to mold and paint clay artworks that relate to their experiences with the Milwaukee River and Watershed, which Duback will then fire, arrange, and incorporate into sculptural pieces to be installed permanently near the River Outpost Building. “I am so pleased to have the opportunity to create this work with the Riveredge community and to engage participants in the project as a visual conversation about the Milwaukee River watershed. Any time I am able to create a work of public art that deals with environmental issues is a win/win for me,” said Duback.

A recent collaborative community artwork by Sally Duback, on display in Virmond Park.

This opportunity takes place through a Mary L. Nohl grant awarded to Riveredge to create and display community-based artworks at its River Outpost facility, the focus of which is water-related education. The Mary L. Nohl Fund, among the largest funds created at the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, invests in local arts education programs and projects.

Upcoming Public Community Art Engagement Events

Riveredge and Duback welcome people to participate in creating artworks during community events, and which can eventually be displayed along Riveredge’s Milwaukee River trails.

Currently scheduled events include the following dates and locations:

River Outpost Celebration at Riveredge | Friday, September 20

Sturgeon Fest in Milwaukee’s Lakeshore State Park | Saturday, September 28

Music in the Mushroom – A Historic Riverside Celebration at Riveredge | Saturday, October 12

Woodland Pattern Book Center | Saturday, November 9 at 2:00pm

Findings of Milwaukee Public Museum Riveredge BioBlitz

Researchers at the Riveredge BioBlitz.

24-Hour BioBlitz Uncovers Stunning Species Diversity at Riveredge

Scientists from Milwaukee Public Museum arrived on the afternoon of Friday, June 14 to spend 24 hours at Riveredge Nature Center for the 2019 BioBlitz – a quest to discover as many species as possible in 24 hours.

MPM research scientists, students, and lovers of nature visited Riveredge to forage throughout the Center’s 379 acres of various restored habitats to find as many plants and animals as possible.

Riveredge Land Manager Matt Smith discussing species with botanists Dr. Robert Freckmann and Dr. Lawrence Leitner.

Riveredge has “enormous richness”

Dr. Robert Freckmann, who began his botany career in 1959 and for whom the Herbarium at University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point is named, was one of many researchers on-hand to participate in the 24-hour celebration of science. “It’s going to be interesting to see how many species we can come up with in 24 hours, but I think that’s more a function of the number of botanists and their level of energy than it is the place,” said Dr. Freckmann.

“This place has enormous richness, and all we can do [in 24 hours] is get a small sample of it,” added Freckmann.

BioBlitz at Riveredge Findings

Both MPM and Riveredge staff were pleased to document a grand total of 1,254 species within 24 hours across the Riveredge property! This total is the highest number of any of the 5 total locations surveyed since MPM started its annual BioBlitz program. A playful debate ensued about whether to include examples of the Lake Sturgeon, which Riveredge raises onsite for the Return the Sturgeon program.

BioBlitz Species Highlights

UW-Madison mycological students determining species at Riveredge.
UW-Madison students Carl Kemp and Celeste Huff determining fungi species.
  • Dr. John Zaborsky | UW-Madison – reported 536 plant species including garden plants, highlights include Small Yellow lady’s-slipper & rare Handsome Sedge.
  • Gina LaLiberte | Wisconsin DNR – found 120 species of microplants including cynobacteria, red algae, and several species of euglena in the Vernal Pond.
  • Dr. Suzanne Joneson | UW-Waukesha – found 31 species of lichens, which she surmised indicates a “happy forest.”
  • Birds 80 species seen, including Ruffed Grouse and Pileated Woodpecker.
  • Mammals – 16 species, including humans, the highlight being a Southern Flying Squirrel.
  • 343 species of insects were discovered; of which 180 were Lepidopterans (moths & butterflies).
  • Findings of 21 species of fish (22 if you count sturgeon). Highlights include Brown Trout, Iowa Darter, and Mottled Sculpin.
  • Riveredge was the first of the BioBlitz locations surveyed where invasive Jumping Worms were not found.
MPM BioBlitz at Riveredge Nature Center

Reaping Biodiversity Benefits through Long-term Conservation

“Riveredge was one of the first locations in the region to begin restoring habitats, and we have such a diversity of habitat in this immediate area – from wetlands to dry and wet prairies to creeks, marshland, forests and woodlands – and of course the mile of Milwaukee River banks for which Riveredge is named,” said Jessica Jens, Riveredge Executive Director. “I’m pleased by the number of species documented – I was hoping we’d surpass 1,200, but must admit I’m not entirely surprised by the huge number of species that were found,” said Jens.

University of Marquette students speak with a birder overlooking a restored prairie Friday evening. At that moment he’d reported 23 bird species.

“I see the passion, care, and work that goes into our 379 acres everyday and these findings are evidence of not only the work we put in every day at Riveredge, but the legacy of caretakers who came before us,” said Jens.

A Public Science Extravaganza

BioBlitz
BioBlitz participants learning about bees through one of the BioBlitz partners in attendance.

A BioBlitz is a unique occasion in that it’s a science event in which, during a portion, the public is invited to participate and learn alongside researchers. Several partner organizations throughout the region were on-hand to engage the public about populations of local plants, rodents, bees, fireflies, large mammals, and other species.

Farm Pond at Riveredge Nature Center.
A family searches for frogs at Farm Pond during the BioBlitz.

In at least one occasion, members of the public found species that researchers had not yet documented. On Saturday afternoon, a young girl presented researchers with a Painted Lady Butterfly that had yet to be discovered during the BioBlitz.

Researchers at the Vernal Pond
Researchers finding frogs and Tiger Salamander larvae at Vernal Pond.

Riveredge is a Year-round Nature Sanctuary

The BioBlitz only lasted 24 hours, but at Riveredge Nature Center, you can experience this rich tapestry of diverse plants and wildlife year-round. Our 10 miles of trails are open 7 days a week from sunup to sundown for hiking, strolling, birding, sauntering, running, cross country skiing, and snowshoeing. Become a member of Riveredge today and begin exploring your nature!

Prairie Flowers are Beginning to Blossom at Riveredge

Within the past week prairie plants have shot up from the soil throughout Riveredge! Many are not yet blooming, but some have begun to display flowers. These pictures were taking in the last few days, and are a few of the plants you can find flowering throughout the prairies.

This weekend Riveredge hosts the Milwaukee Public Museum BioBlitz – a 24-hour celebration and race to find the most species in an area. Join us for free on Saturday, June 15 for the public portion of the BioBlitz from 10:00am – 3:00pm to meet MPM scientists and learn about their research. What’s a BioBlitz? Learn more here.

Daisy Fleabane at Riveredge Nature Center.

Daisy Fleabane Erigeron strigosus is blooming aplenty along the trails. This one is perfect for kids to learn to identify as it’s about perfect eye level for a three-year-old.

Red Clover at Riveredge Nature Center

Red Clover Trifolium pratense is a favorite of Bumblebees and increases soil fertility. Red Clover leaves and flowers are edible and it can even be ground into flour.

Slender Penstemon at Riveredge Nature Center

Slender Penstemon Penstemon gracilis also known as Slender Beardtongue is in the Snapdragon family. These can be seen in our Dry Prairie.

White Wild Indigo at Riveredge Nature Center

White Wild Indigo Baptisia alba is just barely beginning to show flowers. This showy legume grows tall and wide in the prairie, shaped like a bush. Despite how pretty it looks, this plant is toxic for humans and cows to eat.

Spiderwort Tradescantia occidentalis is just beginning to blossom and is immediately recognizable by the bright yellow anther against the purple backdrop. This species is named after John Tradescant the Younger (1608 – 1662), who was the head gardener for King Charles I of England.

Prairie Smoke at Riveredge Nature Center

Prairie Smoke Geum triflorum is beginning to display the reason for its name. The flower opens to display a wispy plume that blows in the the wind like a flowery smoke.

A few Sand Coreopsis Coreopsis lanceolata are just beginning to bloom at our Lorrie Otto Prairie. The interesting thing about Riveredge is that sometimes the same species in different locations will bloom at slightly different times depending on sunlight, soil type, and other factors.

Virginia Waterleaf at Riveredge Nature Center

Virginia Waterleaf Hydrophyllum virginianum looks like a flower that’s straight out of a Dr. Seuss book! These fascinating flowers can be found in shadier spots along the trails.

Blue False Indigo at Riveredge Nature Center

False Blue Indigo Baptisia australis is also known as Wild Blue Indigo and has many other colloquial names. It’s very similar in appearance to White Wild Indigo pictured above, but with deep blue-purple leaves, which seem presently a little farther along in blooming than the white.

Wild Four O’clock Mirabilis nyctaginea can be found beginning to bloom just outside of the backdoor the Riveredge Visitor’s Center. This plant is named for the time of day during which its flowers tend to open. This picture was taken around noon, and one could anticipate a showier flower later in the afternoon.

White Campion at Riveredge Nature Center

White Campion Silene latifolia is another that can be found close to the Visitor’s Center, and was introduced to North America in the early 1800’s. It’s flower petals tend to retract during the day.

Blue Flag Iris Iris versicolor is not a prairie plant, in fact it grows on the edges of ponds or along streams, but it’s blooming right now in its full splendor. Iris comes from the Greek word for rainbow, indicating its variety of colors.

Stop by and see what you discover at Riveredge – make sure to visit for the Milwaukee Public Museum BioBlitz on Saturday, June 15 from 10:00am!

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