Hello! My name is Heather Zengler, I am the new Invasive Species Technician at Vanderburgh County Soil and Water Conservation District. I will also be working with the five counties of Posey, Gibson, Pike and Warrick.
I grew up in Portage, Indiana, in Northwest Indiana. I grew up loving to be outside. My family would go on annual camping trips that would consist of hiking, primitive camping and canoeing. These hikes would normally involve me and my cousin far out ahead of everyone trying to see where the next bend would take us. The canoe trips would entail laughter that could be heard a mile down the river as canoes were flipped. I grew up loving to explore the outdoors and to this day I still enjoy camping and backpacking.
During the summers I was outside a ton; mostly due to my softball addiction. I started playing softball at a young age and it just seemed to click. After a year or two I took to pitching like a natural. This is what led me to college at the University of Saint Francis to play on the softball team. After many major changes, I settled into a double major in Biology and Environmental Science.
After my junior year of college, I got an internship at Eagle Marsh in Fort Wayne as a Property Steward. It was hard work but it was rewarding. The work included control of invasive species and trail maintenance.
This internship helped me realize that I wanted to go into natural resource management, conservation and education. I think it is important for people to learn about the world around them and to help conserve and restore it.
After college, I went to work for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources as a Seasonal Field Steward. The work included invasive species management through manual and chemical applications. I was also included in the application of pesticide in Ash trees to save them from the Emerald Ash Borer. This position helped to greatly expand my knowledge.
As I move to Vanderburgh County, I am currently being funded by the Clean Water Indiana (CWI) grant. One of my main tasks while with the SWCD will be starting CISMA (Cooperative Invasive Species Management Areas) in each of the five counties.
CISMA’s are groups of people wanting to raise awareness for invasive species through education and work days. The CISMA will be looking for people who want to learn more about invasive species and do more in the community to raise awareness. In the next few months there will be a call out meeting for the CISMA. Please look for more information on the website, Facebook pages and newsletters of the SWCDs.