The Flora Richardson Foundation and the GLISTEN Program

Our 2020 GLISTEN Interns

By Eric Bird

photo of Alexander Hlebasko
Alexander Hlebasko
photo of Ashlynn Morin
Ashlynn Morin

Initially worried that we may not have to the ability to work with GLISTEN Liaisons this year, we were fortunate to find two students with the ambition and perseverance to work through this year’s Covid challenges. Ashlynn Morin and Alexander Hlebasko, both students at Indiana University Northwest, were able to help us with a study that our Stewardship Program is interested in.

In spite of having to start a little later than usual and do things a little differently, Ashlynn and Alexander were able to collect data regarding the current composition and conditions of a forest stand at Meadowbrook Nature Preserve.

We have worked very hard on reforestation efforts at Meadowbrook, which is part of our greater Valparaiso Moraine Conservation Area. The particular stand is about 2.5 acres in size and has experienced a lot of ash tree death as a result of the emerald ash borer. Our Stewardship Program is interested in learning more about this stand in order to guide management efforts in response to the ash tree death.

Ashlynn and Alex have been working independently to determine how many dead ash trees are still standing, what species of trees are still living, the size and age class of the living trees, and the current canopy cover in the stand. They identified and measured over 840 individual trees and took over 90 canopy cover data points. We are still working together to analyze the data and describe the current conditions of the forest stand.

This project will help us determine what new trees we should be planting, and select locations for planting new trees. It will also serve as a model for collecting data in similar forest stands throughout Meadowbrook and other forest sites we manage.

We are grateful to Ashlynn and Alex for helping us collect scientific data to better guide our management strategies.

photo of study area at Meadowbrook Nature Preserve
Study area at Meadowbrook Nature Preserve


About The Flora Richardson Foundation

The GLISTEN program (Great Lakes Innovative Stewardship Through Education Network) is one of the educational programs supported by the Flora Richardson Foundation, an organization whose mission includes promoting education in the various fields of natural history within the southern Lake Michigan region. Flora and her husband William Richardson were early 20th century naturalists who lived in the Indiana dunes. As part of the organization’s educational programming, it supports internships for college-level students through the GLISTEN program.

Since 2013, the Foundation has provided an annual grant to GLISTEN’s local Calumet Cluster, which is overseen by Dr. Erin Argyilan, Professor of Geosciences at Indiana University Northwest. Over the years, the foundation has provided annual funds to GLISTEN ranging from $20,000 to $24,000.

“The GLISTEN program provides an opportunity for students and faculty to build collaborations that are beyond what we can achieve in a classroom or by working within our own institutions, says Dr. Argyilan. “The value added is the opportunity to engage in direct action to benefit the environment of the Lake Michigan watershed. Students return from projects with Shirley Heinze Land Trust with a unique set of skills, knowledge and confidence that they share with their classmates and their instructors. The GLISTEN program has undoubtedly changed the way that I approach both teaching and research, driving me to build stewardship-based projects into the undergraduate curriculum.”

Student interns who participate in the program are called Stewardship Liaisons. Each year between 4-10 students are hired on with a number of community partners in the area, including Shirley Heinze Land Trust, the Indiana Dunes National Park, The Northwest Indiana Restoration Monitoring Inventory, the Great Lakes Science Center of USGS, Save the Dunes, Coffee Creek Watershed Conservancy, and the Northwest Indiana Paddling Association.

Student Liaisons come from a wide range of higher education institutions in the area including students who attend schools in Illinois and Michigan.

“The program has had a wide reach on assisting to train a new generation of conservation-focused individuals,” says Gayle Tonkovich, Director of the Foundation’s College Education Programs. “Several Stewardship Liaisons have gone on to hold permanent employment with regional conservation organizations.”.

Learn more about the Flora Richardson Foundation at