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Conservation Neighbor – Jenny Meisel

By Laura Brown | May 15, 2020

Jenny Meisel, like so many of us, has been at home a lot recently. Like, a lot a lot. As in, the most consecutive time at home ever. While working a full-time job as Marion SWCD’s Native and Invasive Species Plant Specialist and simultaneously wrangling her extremely active three-year-old daughter, Jenny has still somehow managed to stop and take the time to appreciate her small urban yard in Benton County. She’s been amazed with being able to watch what’s going on in her own backyard – from the birds migrating through to the native plants blooming in full force. If you have to be at home, spring seems like a pretty good time for it. It’s also a constant reminder to Jenny that you “can’t just plant it and forget it.” She keeps thinking about all the additional native plants and trees to plants, weeds to pull, and work to do. That’s one of the things we love about Jenny Meisel – even though Jenny works for Marion SWCD, she often brings her job home with her to Benton County and continues to work tirelessly to help people and maintain the biodiversity of plant species in Oregon.

Jenny has what we call the “Invasive Eye,” and Benton SWCD has greatly benefited from her being a Benton County resident. While running errands downtown, Jenny came in to our office one day just to “mention” a huge patch of B-listed Italian thistle (Carduus pycnocephalus) in a parking lot. Since her spotting, Benton SWCD has been able to respond by hosting two Italian thistle volunteer weed pulls downtown and educating local business owners on the species and how to manage it in their parking lots.

Another day, Jenny was at a friend’s house enjoying their backyard, when suddenly she saw it – A-listed oblong spurge (Euphorbia oblongata)! Jenny was the first to find and identify this A-listed species in all of Benton County! Oblong spurge is one of our Early Detection Rapid Response (EDRR) species, meaning that it is in very few areas in Benton County, and that we have caught it early enough before it spreads further that eradication is possible.  Once she spotted this species, we were able to control it at that site and begin our outreach campaign on oblong spurge, trying to find other locations of it in the county. Since our outreach began, we have found five additional sites that have oblong spurge, including another spotted by Jenny.

Jenny is originally from Wisconsin and was raised in a rural area that was surrounded by cornfields, but still relatively close to the town. She spent her childhood playing outside barefoot in the creeks and bringing home tadpoles and turtles. After graduating from University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire, she began earnestly applying to internships where she could use her biology degree. On a cold day in January (-50 degrees F with the windchill), Big Cypress National Preserve in Florida (where it was 80 degrees…) called her about a position. She leapt at the opportunity and spent six months solidifying what she had already begun thinking about – conservation biology was for her! More importantly, though, she realized that the public service component of conservation biology was a huge draw for her. She enjoys helping people enhance and maintain the biodiversity, resilience, and productivity of native ecosystems. Her conservation goal, personally and professionally, is to preserve the integrity and diversity of native habitats for current and future generations.

Jenny got her Master’s degree from Oregon State University, bringing her to Benton County. She began working for Marion SWCD in 2008 and has been here ever since! She’s participated in our Aquatic Weed Identification Paddles and you may have even visited her beautiful yard on our Native Plant Garden Tour last year. We all know that Benton County would have a lot more weeds in it if it wasn’t for our Conservation Neighbor, Jenny Meisel. Thank you Jenny, for your Invasive Eye and for all you do for Benton County!

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