The Field Crew:
This group of hardworking field technicians are the reason OKES is still a company, we simply would not exist without these amazing people working in sensitive natural areas every single day the weather allows it. We are so so thankful for our field crew and all the invasives they kill!
The Admin Team:
Mason Smith is our trusted Field Operations Manager and Owner here at OKES. He grew up in Southern Illinois and says he was fortunate enough to spend his childhood running through creeks, climbing trees, and camping. Mason says, “There are a lot of magical places in the world and this is one of them. At the end of the day Southern Illinois just feels like home.”
Mason suggestion to landowners is to “Learn your land! Taking the time to educate yourself about the native and invasive plant species, geological qualities, and history of your land is more entertaining than many people would suspect. This can help you appreciate your land more deeply, and leads many to feel more invested in and connected to their property.”
Mason wants to encourage landowners to reach out to OKES for all their land management needs, saying, “OKES has been hard at work restoring ecosystems for over a decade. Our passion for our work has attracted talented and dedicated individuals who care about your property for reasons beyond a paycheck.”
Taylor Hepp is our Field Crew Lead. Taylor is originally from Pinckneyville, IL. She says Southern Illinois was an area she had always planned to move away from, but after she finished her B.S. in Forestry at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale 2019 and began working at Ozark Koala Ecosystem Services, her appreciation for Southern Illinois’ flora and fauna grew. Taylor appreciates the amount of people in Southern Illinois that are interested in conservation and restoration. She enjoys the closeness of the community, the beauty of the area, and the friends she’s made here greatly.
Taylor advises landowners to get to know their property well and research the species found on their property. She suggests learning which species belong on landowners’ properties and which ones need to be eradicated. She says, “We want to help you meet your objectives as a landowner and we will work with you to find the best solution possible. Our entire team cares about your property.” Taylor emphasizes that land management is very important for the preservation of Southern Illinois’ native species and creating healthier forests!
Jeremy Schumacher is our Lead Forester and Operations Manager. Jeremy is from a small grain town in Iroquois County, IL, called Ashkum. Jeremy gradually moved south throughout his adult life, living in Gibson City, Rantoul, and now in Carbondale. Jeremy says he quickly fell in love with the area and its forests, especially its critters. He jumped on the opportunity to call Southern Illinois his home, and spent almost every waking moment exploring the area, mostly looking for snakes. At 36 years old, he enrolled in the Forestry Department at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale and says he’s never regretted the decision! Jeremy says “Southern Illinois is special to me because I get to take an adventure across many ecosystems with hardly any travel at all. In a short drive I can visit the grasslands of Iowa, The hills of Appalachia, the Ozarks of Missouri, and the swamps of Louisiana, all without leaving the state.”
One piece of advice Jeremy offers to landowners when dealing with invasive species is, “Kill it at first site! Early control is key! Once invasive species get out of control, it becomes financially burdensome for most landowners and they give up. Even some work is better than giving up!”
Jeremy says, “Really, I just want to do my part as a land steward. I want to educate landowners on simple things they can do. I also want to be there to answer any questions I can. I view your property as I would my own and I always ask myself, “What if this was mine?; What would I do?” I do not want to overwhelm a landowner, and it is quite easy to do so when managing land. I would love to come talk to you and let you know what Ozark Koala can do for you and the ecosystem as a whole.”
Marsha Bockmann is a Trainer and Mentor at Ozark Koala. Marsha grew up in the south side of Chicago. Since Southern Illinois University, Carbondale is situated near the Shawnee National Forest, Marsha chose to pursue her interest in forestry there. Upon graduating with a B.S. in Forestry and Outdoor Recreation Management, she chose to remain in Southern Illinois with the hopes of landing a job in the field of forestry. Marsha says, “Needless to say, during the passing years, I’ve come to love and appreciate the wonderfully amazing natural areas that are disappearing throughout the world at an alarming rate.”
Marsha says, “With the convergence of multiple ecotypes here, the natural resources that abound in Southern Illinois are a treasure! As the world turns, these resources are becoming more and more important and precious. We all need to do our best to protect our ‘corner of the world’ from the degradation of natural environments.”
When asked to provide a piece of advice to landowners, Marsha suggested that landowners invest in their properties and leave them better than they found them. Marsha wants to emphasize to landowners that calling Ozark Koala will be worthwhile; at the very least, landowners will learn about and understand the health of their properties. She says after contacting Ozark Koala, “the clients will be informed enough to make better decisions regarding their land management.”