Learn photography skills with MNA and Great Lakes Photo Tours

By Annie Perry, MNA Intern

In March and September, MNA members and guests will learn to shoot—photos, that is. MNA is partnering with Great Lakes Photo Tours for the second One-Day Eco-Photo Excursions at Dowagiac Woods Nature Sanctuary on May 13 and Goose Creek Grasslands Nature Sanctuary on September 20. Participants will learn more about their cameras and sharpen their photography skills at the two all-day events, which begin at 10 a.m. and end at 4 p.m.

The tours are led by naturalist photographer Mark S. Carlson and digital photography instructor Bob Grzesiak, who have a combined 50 years of professional expertise in photography. Mark has had photographs published in magazines, books, calendars and other various publications and offers a wealth of photography and naturalist knowledge, while Bob is an expert in digital camera systems and technology and can help participants understand the nitty-gritty controls and settings on their cameras.

The first tour is on May 13 at the Dowagiac Woods Nature Sanctuary in Cass County. Dowagiac Woods stretches for 364 acres and is the largest sanctuary in the Lower Peninsula. This sanctuary gives photographers a living example of what forests were like when settlers first came to Michigan, as the majority of the property has never been plowed or clear-cut, which allows for great species diversity. More than 50 wildflower species grow in Dowagiac Woods and will be blooming—and ready to photograph—during the tour.

Goose Creek Grasslands Nature Sanctuary in Lenawee County, the site for the second tour, is smaller than Dowagiac Woods, but offers its own sights and beauty for tour attendees. Goose Creek is a unique prairie fen found only in the glacial Midwest. The sanctuary is nestled in a valley and boasts a variety of habitats, including saturated soil, wet prairie, marsh and fen. It’s also home to roughly 221 plant species and comes to its full glory in September and October. Photographers on this tour will be able to spot turkeyfoot grass, the most important Michigan tall grass, which flowers profusely in September and October.

To register, visit the Great Lakes Photo Tours website and select one or both of the MNA tours. The program is $65 for MNA members and $99 for non-members. The $99 fee includes a one-year MNA membership. For more information, call the MNA office at 866-223-2231.

Great Lakes cleanup plans, loon deaths, and The Biggest Week in American Birding: This week in environmental news

By Annie Perry, MNA Intern

Every Friday, MNA highlights recent environmental news stories from around the state and country. Here are six articles you might’ve missed during the past two weeks:

Gray Wolf

Wolf management is one of the natural resource policy issues Michigan faces this year. Photo by the Seney Natural History Association. Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

Outdoors: Key issues to keep an eye on (Detroit Free Press): Michigan faces some stormy natural resource policy issues this year. The state must answer questions on who should pay for Michigan’s natural resources and how these funds can be supplemented; whether legislators, private citizens or biologists should dictate wildlife decisions; wolf management in general; and if quality deer management principles will be applied to the state’s herd.

Bill removing biodiversity, restoration as DNR goals clears Michigan Senate (Detroit Free Press): A bill that would remove biodiversity and restoration from Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ forest management goals passed the state Senate on March 5 on a 26-11 party-line vote. The bill now goes to the state House of Representatives and will likely first be considered in the House Natural Resources Committee. Environmental groups believe the bill would hurt Michigan’s wildlife and natural resources and diminish the value of the state’s public lands in the future.

Feds making long-range Great Lakes cleanup plans (MLive): The Obama administration is planning to continue a long-range Great Lakes cleanup program and will begin work this summer on a new five-year blueprint for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. According to the Associated Press, “the program is designed to make progress on some of the Great Lakes’ biggest ecological problems, such as invasive species and toxic hot spots.” The government will make decisions about paying for the cleanup program on a year-by-year basis.

Scientists blame invasive species in loon deaths (Traverse City Record-Eagle): Roughly 900 loons died while migrating south across Lake Michigan last summer, and scientists think invasive zebra and quagga mussels are to blame. Zebra and quagga mussels filter the water so it’s very clear, allowing algae to grow and eventually creating an oxygen-free environment and ideal home for bacteria that produce toxic botulism. This toxin is ingested by worms and freshwater shrimp, which are eaten by the fish that are then eaten by loons. Scientists are searching for ways to break this link before more loons are killed.

Lake Erie shoreline shapes up as test for birds and energy (Great Lakes Echo): Businesses along the western Lake Erie shoreline are getting ready for The Biggest Week in American Birding, 10-day birding festival scheduled for May 3-12. Tom Henry, the author of the column, says birding plays a part in the future of energy production and the environment. He adds that The Biggest Week in American Birding is “a showcase for how educational and business programs can be more effective working in combination with each other, from ferry shuttles to guest lectures.”

Northern Leopard Frog

The Northern Leopard Frog is one of 13 frog and toad species in Michigan. Photo by Douglas Wilhelm Harder. Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

Northern Michigan Outdoors: Frogs & Toads Leaping Toward Spring (MyNorth): As winter turns into spring, Michigan residents can hear springtime birds chirping, watch the snow melting, and listen for frogs and toads trilling. Frogs and toads are good indicators of environmental quality and are monitored by the Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Division each spring. The surveys are conducted by a mix of professional and non-professional volunteers, who learn to identify calls for Michigan’s 13 frog and toad species. Each survey spot is examined three times in the spring and early summer.

MNA Acquires New Sanctuary in St. Joseph County

By Annie Perry, MNA Intern

MNA acquired a new sanctuary! The new sanctuary, Hidden Oaks Nature Sanctuary in St. Joseph County, protects 42 acres of emergent marsh, tamarack swamp, and sedge-dominant wet meadow. The site was chosen for its wetland values and will help protect the Flowerfield Creek riparian corridor.

Hidden Oaks is located in northwest St. Joseph County, just west of the confluence of Spring Creek and Flowerfield Creek. Almost the entire sanctuary is wetland, aside from the northwest corner, which contains a dry-mesic southern forest and a small, upland hill.

Hidden Oaks Nature Sanctuary. Photo by Andy Bacon.

Hidden Oaks Nature Sanctuary. Photo by Andy Bacon.

Hidden Oaks provides various natural services to the environment. The sanctuary protects water quality along Flowerfield Creek, provides floodwater storage during periods of high water, and is a source of wildlife habitat.

Hidden Oaks’ natural features currently face two threats: invasive species and habitat transition. Invasive species found in the sanctuary include reed canary grass, phragmites, and invasive shrubs. In addition, the absence of fire and other disturbance at the sanctuary is allowing the open, sedge-dominated wet meadow areas of the sanctuary to transition to shrub-dominated areas. If this continues, the micro-habitat provided by the tussock sedge will be lost, along with much of the forb diversity.

MNA stewards plan to minimize the encroachment of shrubs and protect wetland diversity through a burn regime and treating all invasive shrubs. They also plan to get a better understanding of the sanctuary’s ecology by conducting botanical and wildlife surveys in the coming year.

Hidden Oaks is a Class C sanctuary, which means that visitors should get authorization from the MNA office, regional stewardship organizer or steward before visiting the sanctuary.

For information about other MNA sanctuaries, check out the MNA website.

MNA Seeks Summer Communications Interns

By Annie Perry, MNA Intern

College internships teach you skills you can apply in a career. They give you hands-on experience in your chosen field and prepare you for the job you’ll get after graduation. But some internships give you more than that; some teach you more about yourself, or they teach you about the community and natural environments in which you live.

In my opinion, those are the internships that are truly worthwhile, and that is the type of education I’ve received as a communications intern for MNA.

If those experiences (plus a lot of writing) sound interesting, then MNA has an internship opportunity for you.

In addition to hiring stewardship interns, MNA is looking for communications interns for summer 2013. Communications interns are supervised by MNA’s Outreach & Development Specialists and develop promotional and educational print materials, create original content for the MNA blog, help manage MNA’s social media accounts, write and edit articles for MNA’s magazine, and write press releases. Because the job is heavily writing-based, students enrolled in journalism, public relations or communications programs are encouraged to apply, although other qualified candidates will be considered. Summer internships run from May until August, although exact dates and schedules are flexible.

According to the job description I read when I applied for the internship, MNA offers “real-world experience in a friendly setting,” and that is exactly what I’ve experienced while working here. I’m hoping to get a job in public relations or social media after graduation, and the projects I’ve completed during my internship have taught me practical skills that I can use in my career. I’ve learned to write using an organization’s voice instead of my own—a skill every PR or social media professional must have—and I’ve further developed my writing and organizational skills. I’ve also learned how to take complex information and communicate it in a way that is easy to read and understand.

But, more importantly, I’ve learned more and more about Michigan’s habitats and species each time I research a new post or article. I’ve always been interested in Michigan’s environment, but didn’t know that much about specific habitats or species until I began this internship. For me, learning about Michigan’s different natural environments and sharing that knowledge is the most rewarding part of being a communications intern for MNA.

For more information, contact Outreach & Development Specialist Allison Barszcz at abarszcz@michigannature.org or 517-655-5655. Application materials should include a resume and writing sample.