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Forest Family: Michelle Foss

Meet Michelle Foss, one of Fontenelle Forest’s restoration biologists and member of Team #SaveTheOaks…

How long have you worked at Fontenelle Forest?

I have worked at Fontenelle Forest for a total of four and a half years – almost three years as a part-time educator, and the rest as a Restoration Biologist.

What do you do at Fontenelle Forest?

Currently, as a restoration biologist, I have a variety of tasks, depending on the season. Right now is prescribed fire season, so that is the main focus of what I do. I do community and staff notifications when we plan on burning, help construct our firebreaks, create the maps we use, and carry out prescribed burns with the rest of the conservation staff and burn crew volunteers. After the burn, I help get the equipment cleaned up and ready to go for the next burn. When the weather shuts us down for burning, I help with targeted thinning, and more firebreak construction/maintenance. Our chainsaw season usually runs late-September through March, so as not to interfere with breeding bird season. Prescribed fire season usually runs into April, with hack and squirt/invasive species control picking up at that time. We go out and mechanically remove/hack invasive plants, and treat them with herbicide. I do most of our mapping using GIS software and GPS units that we take out into the field with us. Mixed into all of the other things, I keep track of the Nebraska Environmental Trust Oak Woodland Restoration grant-funded activities and purchases. I attend trainings and conferences, and do public outreach on our restoration activities. I also compile and use computer software to analyze our breeding bird survey data.

What is your background?

The first summer out of high school, I was lucky enough to serve as an intern in environmental education at Rocky Mountain National Park. I have a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science from the State University of New York at Albany, and was a stay-at-home mom for 10 years. I have three kids, and when my youngest started kindergarten, I became a part-time educator here. When Fontenelle Forest received the Nebraska Environmental Trust grant, I applied for one of the Restoration Biologist positions and here I am!

What is your favorite part about working at Fontenelle Forest?

It’s hard to pick a favorite part about working at Fontenelle Forest. I love the variety of things I do, from using chainsaws and tractors, to maintaining them; gathering field data to creating maps; helping plan prescribed fire, to conducting burns, to helping report on all of our activities. I love that I get to work outside most of the time, and also still interact with the public. I’m thankful that I get to work on restoring oak woodlands, and the people I work with are fantastic.

What keeps you busy when you’re not working?

When I’m not at work, I’m either working with Scouts (Cub, Boy and Girl – I have one of each), teaching at church, walking my dog or hanging out with my kids. I enjoy reading, and hiking, and am always looking to learn new things.

Fontenelle Forest is a 501(c)(3) tax exempt nonprofit.

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