Andrew Bishop

Andrew Bishop '05

Biologist, Cuyahoga Valley National Park

The sprawling Cuyahoga Valley National Park, located between Akron and Cleveland, was once home to farms and businesses, made rich by the Erie Canal and later by the railroad. Worried that urban sprawl and industrial pollution would compromise the valley, local residents pressed for preservation, and in 1974, 33,000-acres were declared a national park.

But memories and reminders of past lives remain. The Ohio and Erie Canal towpath follows the crooked Cuyahoga River; the beautiful Beaver Marsh was once a junkyard; homesteads, mines, and old barns dot the area; what was once a gravel quarry is undergoing a transformation to become a native prairie.

And that’s where Andrew Bishop ’05 comes in. Coordinator of exotic plants for the park, Bishop looked at the abandoned quarry and imagined something quite different. Almost the entire 10-acre area was choked with autumn olive, an invasive bush originating in Asia, brought to the States to stabilize banks and control erosion. The 15-foot bush created a dark understory, where garlic mustard, another invasive species, thrived. An area that has been conquered by one plant—a monoculture—cannot sustain diverse bird, insect, and animal populations.

The quarry’s soil was poor, but it could support plants native to Ohio, and Bishop imagined tall prairie grasses—Indian, switch, big bluestem; and prairie flowers—purple cone, black-eyed Susans, and Ohio spiderwort. “One day,” says Bishop, “the prairie will be a-buzz with pollinators.”

The first task in any restoration is removing invasive species, and Bishop and his colleagues mobilized volunteers, including school groups, corporate executives, and community organizations. Five thousand volunteer hours later, Bishop’s crew had cleared two-thirds of the area—approximately six acres.

Bishop nurtures native plants in a hoop house across from his office (an old farm house) and with the help of volunteers collects all the seed that will be used to sow the quarry and other newly cleared areas. The park’s 43 invasive species, including Japanese knotweed, multiflora rose, buckthorn, and garlic mustard, are being replaced with Ohio-hardy trees and plants, including buckeyes, red and white oaks, maples, sycamores, black cherries, and diverse prairie flowers. Bishop also nurtures more delicate Ohio plants that are at risk of disappearing, such as the fringed gentian, ladies’ tresses, and buffalo berry.

Bishop, who grew up in the area and worked summers at Cuyahoga Valley National Park,landed his present job a little over a year ago. A biology major, he researched the effects of environmental pollution on lichen populations for his Independent Study by comparing lichens in a Wayne County forest with those in the Cuyahoga Valley. About the time Bishop was offered his permanent job, his wife, Wooster alumna Elaine Morgan Bishop ’04, found a job as nurse-midwife with Paragon Health Associates, serving N.E. Ohio. “We are happy and lucky to be back,” says Bishop.

The steamy, hot summer of 2011 made removing 15-foot bushes exceptionally sweaty work. But Bishop wouldn’t trade his job for the world. “I love it. I tell the volunteers that I work where I do for a reason. I remind them to stop and pay attention—to listen to the sounds, feel the wind, and be mindful of the beauty.”

This profile appeared in the Fall 2011 issue of Wooster magazine.