The Fightin' IRIS Awards
The Fightin' IRIS Awards recognize people, businesses, and other organizations in Monroe County who have made a real difference in fighting invasive plants in the county. Each year, winners are chosen from among all those who are working to help reduce the impacts of invasive plants.
Debi O’Heran – Action Award
The property manager of Center 37 on Liberty Drive, Debi O’Heran, worked with the Monroe
County Soil and Water Conservation District (which has its office at that property) to remove
invasive species and plant natives in the landscaping of that building. There were 48 Japaneses
Barberry Bushes removed and replaced with shrubby St. John’s wort, and there also 31 areas of
For her efforts to improve their property by removing invasive landscaping and replacing it with
natives, we award Debi with the Fightin’ IRIS Award.
Mary Reardon – Action Award
Mary Reardon is a Sierra Club Uplands Network Hike Leader. Mary is an avid hiker and
committed leader who shares her time and love for the Hoosier National Forest. By bringing her
enthusiasm for protecting native ferns, flowers, and small tree seedlings from being swallowed
by stiltgrass, she has expanded awareness and action for the control of invasive species on the
Pate Hollow and Hayes Trail.
Her efforts have helped to forge strong connections between the Hoosier National Forest, The
Sierra Club, and MC-IRIS. Through these associations many friendships have formed and
subsequently have led to a strengthening and growing community of caring Weed Wranglers.
Mary has also spearheaded and hosted Sierra Club multiflora rose and garlic mustard hikes,
and she's currently monitoring the spread of Japanese barberry.
Mary is excited to commit to the ‘Hikes, Boating, and Meet the Mules’ campaign in 2024. This
initiative is focused on handling easier access to hour-long hike locations within the Hoosier
Ken Cote – Partner Award
We have been fortunate to have Ken Cote as the Division of Entomology and Plant Pathology’s Nursery
Inspector for our region for the last 21 years. I’ve been privileged to work with Ken for many years
and we have all benefited, even if we didn’t know it, from his regular inspections and the removal of any
invasive pests or pathogens on nursery stock in our area. Many of us know Ken because of his leadership
to map and control kudzu throughout the state, which has had a dramatic reduction in its cover in Indiana
because of his efforts.
You may not know about Ken’s work as a volunteer at the Outdoor Learning Lab located on Ivy Tech
College’s Bloomington campus. His wife, Sarah, created this Outdoor Learning Lab and Ken, along with
other volunteers, have been working on this for about three years now. This is a garden that is focusing
on native, deer resistant plants.
For all Ken’s work in reducing invasive pests and pathogens in Indiana and working so effectively with our
organization, we award him the MC-IRIS Fightin’ IRIS.
Margaret Dalle-Ave (Action Award)
Margaret Dalle-Ave is a positive advocate for environmental conservation. She takes action each day to control invasive species in her yard, neighborhood and city greenspace. She is influential in making engagement happen. Whether working alone with her loppers or with a group, you can be sure she is ready to talk to a passerby, neighbor or engage a weed wrangler in why we care about the spread of invasive plants. Her outreach is always friendly and her ‘never met a stranger’ spirit is uplifting. Her well-informed message reached her neighbors in Blue Ridge Neighborhood, which led to self-organized action supported by HAND (Housing and Neighborhood Development grant SSCIPS) to remove invasive plants and plant native. Her involvement and civic service can be recognized through her involvement with the City of Bloomington Parks and Recreation Adopt-a-Greenspace program. She is a leader alongside her friends and neighbors removing invasive species in the Griffy Lake Nature Preserve – Dunn Street greenspace. Margaret is a regular weekly attendee at Weed Wrangles. Her suggestion to use bright flags to mark freshly cut stumps for treatment has led to a high rate of efficiency of control at each event. In addition to making other great observations, she tackles the largest Asian bush honeysuckle stump and can be found sawing and lopping up to the last minute of every event. And most of all, we appreciate her invaluable encouragement and support. Thank you Margaret, we wouldn’t be as good at what we are doing without you on our team.
Ann Kamman (Action Award)
Ann Kamman has been involved for several years with MC-IRIS, and bit by bit she has become one of the real leaders in our group. A regular attendee at Weed Wrangles, at these events she is not only controlling invasives but talking with other attendees about MC-IRIS, what we do, and how to become active. She staffs tables at events, talks to neighbors, and generally spreads the message of MC-IRIS far and wide. She took on a huge role in this last year – the Native Plant Sale chair! Given the size and number of people involved in the Native Plant Sale, this is a very complicated role and Ann coordinated it all, resulting in a plant sale that was much more organized and successful than our first sale. From the floor layout to the volunteer roles, to the coordination of growing thousands of plants, she made the sale a huge success. For all she has done, and continues to do, for MC-IRIS, Ann receives this MC-IRIS Action Award.
Monroe County Solid Waste Management District (Partner Award)
Elisa Pokral from MCSWMD reached out to MC-IRIS to see if we could help host a Weed Wrangle on the District’s land. They were concerned about invasive plant species on the area behind their office and wanted to make it a better place for the native trees they had planted there and for wildlife. When we surveyed it, we found they had good reason for concern. We found lots of Callery pear, white mulberry, Asian bush honeysuckle, and other invasives. MCSWMD ended up hosting not one but TWO Weed Wrangles on their property, and we enlisted volunteers with chainsaws to handle the bigger invasives. They generously donated tools and gloves to MC-IRIS to help with future Weed Wrangles across the county. For caring enough to host a Weed Wrangle and providing tools to help others, we give this award to MCSWCD.
Don Eggert (Action Award)
Don Eggert is a steadfast advocate for the environment and community engagement. He is a regular volunteer at Southeast Park as an Adopt-a-Park official and 2021 Fightin’ Iris champion.
His personal retelling of cutting Asian bush honeysuckle at Southeast Park had become legendary in my mind to the point where I had to see for myself the piles of ABH that must surely be piling up. Upon my site visit I found huge piles of ABH in place that were enough to describe Don as an ABH human hacking machine!
Don’s goal is to remove every ABH in Southeast Park. In addition to this focus he often shares his knowledge of how community co-operation supports city government and policy making. He points out how individuals can work together as a group to help offset the costs of stretched tax-payer dollars in City Parks.
With this in mind his solitary workdays expanded to include his neighbors and MC-IRIS helpers who started removing ABH on a regular basis. These early meetings evolved into weekly Weed Wrangles through all weather conditions.
The ripple effect of Don’s personal effort has positioned Southeast Park as a hub and sanctuary for invasive plant education, action, a gathering for comradery, a magnet for student service learning, an Earth Day event, and gratefully, an opportunity for outdoor COVID relief.
Cheryl Coon (Partner Award)
Cheryl Coon is our stand-out Fightin’ Iris partner for 2021. Cheryl’s rapid response to our MC-IRIS Japanese stiltgrass sighting, in the Deam Wilderness last summer, opened the way for a management plan to be developed and a beneficial partnership to flourish.
We were able to establish a Weed Wrangle plan to tackle hand pulling JS on the Hayes Trail, which led to adding Grubb Ridge and Pate Hollow Trails. This partnership has been joyous, creative and productive.
I wish to point out the thoughtfulness, patience and time Cheryl has given over to this project. She has joined us on weekends to attend hand pulling events, all the while explaining the reality of how JS is spread and the management options available to us due to the restrictive Wilderness designation. Her ability to share this, in her easy going style, translates this knowledge to volunteers in a meaningful and productive way.
Cheryl met with us in October to hike Pate Hollow Trail to develop a management plan for this site. This plan included hand pulling and pre and post emergent herbicide use. Volunteering alongside Cheryl we have developed a new understanding of the measured steps needed to manage large tracts of land under threat. In 2021 we have seen a noticeable and measurable reduction in JS infestation on these beloved trails!
In addition to JS control, we enjoyed partnering on garlic mustard and multiflora rose pulls this spring and leveraging our efforts to meet and involve more volunteers. Her sense of humor, knowledge of botany and nature makes Cheryl a pleasure to partner with and the Hoosier National Forest a place we can protect together.
Linda Thompson (Partner Award)
We all know that the first step to addressing invasive species problems is preventing them from arriving, right? Linda Thompson has been working on this strategy for the city of Bloomington for many years. In her role as Environmental Planner for Bloomington, she handles the city code of the UDO for Landscaping standards. Initially take the bold step of prohibiting invasive plants from being used for landscaping requirements for a development petition, in the latest update of the UDO she’s gone even further to make the plantings as diverse and native as possible. She met with MC-IRIS in February of 2018 at the start of the process and discussed with us the kind of input she was looking for, and we provided comments. As usual, things take awhile to come to fruition, and in ‘January 2021?’ the current landscaping standards were amended with the new ones. The highlights?
All in all, a big improvement over the former standards. For being so open to our input, and crafting these improvements to the landscaping standards and being an overall great partner, we gratefully give a Fightin’ Iris Partner award to Linda Thompson.
Judith Brennan (Action Award)
Judith has been a long-serving MC-IRIS volunteer, attending countless meetings and events through the years. She has attended almost every First Saturday Weed Wrangle we’ve had at city parks, representing MC-IRIS and working with volunteers to achieve the day’s work. She is one of those people who watches, sees what needs to be done, and steps in every time she sees a chance to help. Since we started doing the Reduce One Invasive Species challenge, she has been the one to drive to native plant sellers in northern IN to pick up our replacement plants. At the plant sale in September, she was omnipresent, spending much of the day before organizing tables and setting up the sale and most of day of the plant sale moving plants around, cleaning and restocking tables, and answering customer questions. For her continued volunteering through the years, we want to recognize Judith Brennan with a Fightin’ IRIS Action Award.
Margaret Clements (Action Award)
In May of 2014, Margaret Clements asked for an invasive survey for the property she and her husband had recently acquired. Barb Seal volunteered to give the survey, and noted abundant Asian bush honeysuckle and multiflora rose, among other invasives. Margaret took it seriously and started work to improve their land, both on their own and with contractors. Six years later, she reached out for another invasive survey because of a new invasive that had shown up – Japanese stiltgrass. Ellen Jacquart did this survey, and what a difference! I had a hard time finding any invasives on her land, and even the Japanese stiltgrass had already been sprayed. Her focus is continuing to reduce Japanese stiltgrass on her property and adding native plants to increase the diversity of the woods. For all her work to improve her land, I’m proud to give Margaret Clements a Fightin’ IRIS Action Award.
Rush Ridge Road, Overlook, Shawnee Bluffs, and Land’s End Neighbors (Action Award)
Over half of the 50 property owners in the Rush Ridge, Overlook, Shawnee Bluffs, and Land's End neighborhoods receive this Action Award for leadership, awareness and education for identifying and taking action to remove Japanese stiltgrass on their properties and surrounding area. Working together has resulted in voluntary efforts to identify stiltgrass, learning methods of control, lending a hand to others and taking action. Your awareness of your goal to reduce infestations, improve erosion control, protect water quality and forest diversity makes us proud of all the ways you are making a difference and strengthening your community. We are honored to give Stephanie Richards, on behalf of all the neighbors, this well deserved Action Award.
Mary Welz (Partner Award)
Mary Welz is the Southern Indiana Cooperative Invasives Management (SICIM) Regional Specialist for seven southern Indiana counties, manages the SICIM website, and does much of the media outreach for the Indiana Invasives Initiative. So she would be forgiven if she focused her efforts on starting CISMAs in the other southern Indiana counties since MC-IRIS is already up and running. But she has been one of our most consistent supporters, helping with graphic design, Weed Wrangles, sharing ideas and resources for potential projects, and so much more. We thank Mary for her incredible support for MC-IRIS and award her the Fightin’ IRIS Partner Award.
Bloomington Playwrights Project Education (Partner Award)
BPP Education created and performed two original plays at SNAYL Day this year. The Director, Rachael Himsel, involved Boys & Girls Club children in the process of understanding invasive and native plants and the effect on our environment. The children were directly involved with interpreting the knowledge, script writing, acting and creating props with the sole purpose of performing at SNAYL Day. The Monroe County based plays added to our efforts of outreach, education and engagement.
We appreciate their time, talent and energy.
Joe Bailey and Kelly Higgins (Action Award)
Joe and Kelly moved into southern Monroe County just a few years ago, on 20 acres along Clear Creek. Since they moved in, they made managing their land for biodiversity – especially birds – a high priority. They had an invasive survey done in April 2017 and the progress made since then is inspiring, tackling a wide variety of invasives on their land. Joe even let MC-IRIS test different methods to treat lesser celandine on his land in spring 2019 and gather seeds from Japanese hops for research. For being excellent stewards of the land, and making invasive plant control a priority on their property, we award Joe and Kelly this Action Award.
Jack Cathcart (Action Award)
Jack Cathcart is a gentle warrior. He’s deceptively laid back – the invasives don’t even know what hit them. When informed of this nomination he said he would celebrate by eradicating two Japanese Barberry!
He wrote a delightful booklet entitled “Habitat Stewards Guide to the Universe.”
He was mentioned when the current Bloom magazine gave him a shout out about the Center for Sustainable Living series at the Monroe County Public Library – Resilient Together: Responding to Climate Change. (You should be able to see an amalgamation of these on CATS.)
Jack has willingly led invasive-identifying tours in the Elm Heights neighborhood as well as in Bryan Park.
I wonder what I would have to ask him for to get a negative response! Thanks, Jack, and congratulations!
Housing and Neighborhood Development (HAND), Doris Sims and Vickie Provine (Partnership Award)
Doris and Vickie have showed forward-thinking energy and open mindedness in supporting MC-IRIS. They quickly grasped the scope and the urgency of reducing invasive plants in Bloomington neighborhoods and partnered with us to do something about it.
Based on their suggestion and financial support to host a city park workshop, MC-IRIS was able to host an event to address Invasive plant ID and removal techniques, Native plant ID and Neighborhood Native Landscaping options, and to underscore how Neighborhoods can make a difference to increase our native plant base and buffer our forests. In addition, their creative thinking has opened the HAND Small and Simple Grant for neighborhoods to use for similar educational purposes.
Nancy Anderson (Action Award)
Nancy has been helping to organize her neighborhood, Park Ridge East, to take on invasive plants and plant native plants for the last few years. She organized getting her neighborhood entered into a Clean Water Indiana grant agreement to fund invasive control and native plantings. She helped coordinate the native plant exchange in her neighborhood this spring and has helped at just about every tabling and work day MC-IRIS has put on. When you need help, she is there! For all she has done to help MC-IRIS in so many ways, promote the invasive plant message in her neighborhood, and inspire other citizens to get involved, we are honored to give Nancy an Action Award.
Desirae and Nate Draluck (Action Award)
Desirae and Nate Draluck receive this Action award for the incredible amount of work they have put into removing invasive plants from their yard in Bryan Park neighborhood. (Hand out picture) They moved to Indiana from Florida where they had already learned about the threat that invasive plants pose. Once they learned about the invasive plants of Indiana they found out the house and yard they just bought had most of them. This summer they came to the Bryan Park neighborhood Invasive Control workshop, they borrowed a Weed Wrench from the tool loan program, and they went to work. By the time I did an invasive survey for them last month, they had already made phenomenal progress. In addition to doing all this work, they shared it on the INPAWS Facebook group, letting others know what they have accomplished and inspiring them. For their hard work on invasive control and serving as a positive example for other homeowners in Bloomington, we are pleased to award them this Action award.
Gillian Field (Action Award)
In December of 2016 MC-IRIS got an email from Gillian Field wanting to know if we could put on an invasive control workshop in her neighborhood, Grandview Hills. We had no idea that that request would be the spark that started a whole new chapter for MC-IRIS. Gillian is an unstoppable force filled with a creative energy and persistence. She has championed and pursued organizing neighborhoods around invasive plant control and native plantings and in the process has created a model for neighborhoods to follow that is still rippling through Bloomington. Just some of the things she has taken on:
- A Summary of Some of the Worst Invasive Plants in Monroe County
- Asian Bittersweet
- Asian Bush Honeysuckle
- Autumn Olive
- Burning Bush
- Callery Pear (aka Bradford Pear)
- Garlic Mustard
- Japanese Barberry
- Japanese Knotweed
- Japanese Stiltgrass >
- Jumping Worms
- Lesser celandine
- Mile-a-Minute Vine
- Multiflora Rose
- Purple Wintercreeper
- Sweet Autumn Clematis
- Tree of Heaven
- Yellow groove bamboo
- Native Plant Sale
- Reduce Invasive Species Challenge
- Fightin' IRIS Award Winners
- Mapping Invasive Plants in Monroe County
- Callery Pear Replacement
- Cascades Park
- Dunn's Woods Project
- Grow Indiana Natives
- Hinkle-Garton Farmstead
- Adopte-a-Kudzu Site
- Wintercreeper Control Assistance
- Invasive Plant Rule
- Love Our Land Contest
- Reduce Invasive Species School Grant Program
- Resources for Landowners
- Composting Invasive Plants
- Terrestrial Invasive Plant Guide
- Tool Kits for Loan
- Invasive Plant Surveys
- Homegrown National Park™
- MC-IRIS Brochure
- Information for Educators
- Invasive Plant Control Contractors
- Native Plant Links
- Sustaining Nature And Your Land Day
- Contact Us
- Annual Reports