Giving Back with the Great Buckthorn Bandits

Tonya Boyer | July 12, 2023

At IPS, giving back to our community has always been a big part of our culture. We want to help create a better community and a better world. We organize donation drives and fundraisers, host food drives, volunteer at clean-up events, participate in events like Walk to End Alzheimer’s and Erie Gives, raise money for Because You Care with our IPS pet calendar, and sponsor families in need around the holidays.

Recently, we decided to join forces with the Buckthorn Bandits to do our part in helping to protect the forest and wetlands at local nature preserve, Asbury Woods.

The Buckthorn Problem

Does the word “buckthorn” mean anything to you? Unless you’re a plant enthusiast, probably not.

How about the phrase “invasive species”? That might ring more of a bell. You’re probably familiar with the efforts to remove the invasive population of Burmese pythons from the Florida Everglades. You may also have seen recent news reports about the spotted lanternfly that’s threatening the east coast of the US.

The buckthorn is an invasive species of shrub or tree that has spread throughout the US, crowding out native plant species and taking over the understory of forests and wetlands. Its quick spread can be attributed to the fact that, like many invasive species to the US, it has no natural predators here. The berries are colorful and have a laxative effect, which means birds commonly eat them and spread the seeds further afield. Native plants, meanwhile, are being pushed out in favor of the buckthorn.

Giving Back at Asbury Woods

At IP Services, we love giving back to help keep our community safe and healthy, but we’d never taken on a project quite like this before. We partnered with a local group called the Buckthorn Bandits, weekend warriors who trek out to Asbury Woods – a local non-profit environmental learning center and park – to tenaciously fight the buckthorn menace.

This wasn’t our first time volunteering at Asbury Woods. We previously hosted clean-up events there for Earth Day in the pre-pandemic world. But most of us who headed out this spring to help the Buckthorn Bandits had no idea what a buckthorn looked like in the wild.

Giving Back at Asbury Woods
IP Services employees and family at a volunteer clean up event at Asbury Woods in 2018.

Identifying Buckthorns

Luckily, we’re a detail-oriented group of analysts and investigators who love giving back and appreciate a challenge! True, we’re usually putting that skillset to good use stopping e-commerce fraud and the sale of counterfeit goods. But when you get down to it, identifying an invasive tree in the undergrowth has a surprising amount in common with identifying a bad actor on a marketplace of good customers.

In this case, our evidence included football-shaped leaves, silver-brown bark, and broken “thorn” twigs. Our tools were shovels, mattocks, and a lot of elbow grease. It was a far cry from our usual evidence and toolset online and in the office.

In the end, we were able to clear many of the buckthorn trees from our little patch of forest. We enjoyed giving back and the forest looked much cleaner and freer thanks to our efforts.

Uprooted buckthorn trees ready to be hauled away.

Looking Ahead: Keep Giving Back

Even though we made a huge difference that day, the fight is far from over. The buckthorns are still spreading and it will take continued efforts from nature enthusiasts to keep pushing back the tide.

If you’re in the US and need help with invasive species in your area, you can reach out to local National Forest Service officials.

On the other hand, if you need help with fraud prevention or brand protection services, feel free to contact us here at IP Services.

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Tonya Boyer

Tonya has been with IP Services since 2014. After several years serving as a Subject Matter Expert in the cloud computing space, she began managing the Fraud Protection team in 2017. She believes in creating a happy, casual but professional workspace where everyone can live their best lives while doing good work. She is dedicated to community outreach and helps coordinate the IPS Connects volunteer and donation committee.