MNA Seeks Summer Stewardship Interns

By Annie Perry, MNA Intern

MNA is looking for Natural Area Stewardship interns for summer 2013. Under supervision of MNA’s stewardship staff, interns will focus on maintaining natural communities on MNA sanctuaries and will work with some of the most intact native natural communities in Michigan.

2012 Summer Stewardship Interns

Rebecca Andrews, Rowanna Humphreys and Cara Burwell were stewardship interns at the Newaygo Prairie Nature Sanctuary in summer 2012. Photo by Matt Schultz.

Summer internships may last from May until August, but the exact dates are negotiable. The hours, location and projects are all flexible—interns can work two to four days a week, can work in most parts of Michigan, and can get involved on a project that interests them. Interns can participate in conducting invasive species management, conducting plant and animal surveys, boundary making, sanctuary monitoring, leading volunteers, management plan writing, trail maintenance, and other tasks as assigned.

This past summer, MNA had four stewardship interns: Michigan State University environmental biology student Sam Edelen and Grand Valley State University natural resource management students Rebecca Andrews, Cara Burwell and Rowanna Humphreys.  Sam worked with Katherine Hollins, the regional stewardship organizer for the eastern Lower Peninsula, on several projects at sanctuaries in the eastern Lower Peninsula. Rebecca, Cara and Rowanna worked with Matt Schultz, the regional stewardship organizer for the western Lower Peninsula, at the Newaygo Prairie Nature Sanctuary. The four interns mainly worked on invasive species control and removal.

Sam’s work on invasive species removal, roughly 120 hours in all, was extremely important to helping the natural biodiversity of the sanctuaries’ plants and animals. Because invasive species threaten the habitats of native plants and animals—including those that are of special concern, threatened or endangered—they must be managed in order to promote the area’s natural biodiversity.

“I spend a significant amount of my field time on invasive species, and it is wonderful to have another pair of eyes and hands to help,” Katherine said of Sam’s assistance at the sanctuaries.

There’s more to MNA internships that protecting the land; through hands-on experience at some of MNA’s beautiful sanctuaries, summer stewardship interns learn more about the natural environment and develop skills they can apply to their future careers. A highlight of the internship for Cara was seeing the succession of the prairie at the Newaygo Prairie Nature Sanctuary and learning about the sanctuary’s plant species. And Rebecca, who hopes to work in habitat restoration or wildlife management once she finishes her degree, plans to spread the invasive species removal techniques she learned during her internship to others with similar interests.

But for Rowanna, the beauty of the Newaygo Prairie Nature Sanctuary was what made the internship worthwhile.

“The view of the prairie was always breathtaking and so peaceful every time I went there,” she said. “It made me want to work there so that we wouldn’t lose that view to invasive species.”

For more information on the internship, please contact Andrew Bacon, stewardship coordinator at 517-655-5655 or abacon@michigannature.org.  Application materials should include a resume, cover letter and two references.

Species Spotlight: The Great Blue Heron

By Annie Perry, MNA Intern

When I’m at my parents’ house in metro Detroit, one of my favorite sightings are the great blue herons that wade in the neighborhood’s ponds. Great blue herons can adapt to almost any wetland habitat in its range and can be found in heavily developed areas as long as they have bodies of water with fish. These large, majestic birds are not on Michigan’s endangered species—in fact, the populations in the state are large and healthy—but MNA works to protect great blue herons and their rookeries, which are being displaced by shoreline development and timber cutting.

A great blue heron at Lake George, Michigan. Photo by Amalia Jonas. Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

The great blue heron is the largest heron in North America and can be recognized by its long legs; long, slender neck; and thick, dagger-like bill. Great blue herons appear blue-gray from a distance, but the upper-side of the wings are two-toned in flight and are pale on the forewing and darker on the flight feathers.

MNA protects the great blue heron because of its colonial nesting behavior and declining habitat. Construction of vacation homes, boating, sport fishing, camping, or hunting within or near active heronries are all sources of disturbance or direct habitat loss. These activities have caused some herons to abandon their breeding colonies or have led to reduced reproductive success.

Great blue herons build their nests in tree branches high off the ground using sticks, twigs, leaves, and other materials. These nests are refurbished and reused every year, making it important for MNA to protect the rookery.

Protection provided by MNA sanctuaries

Black River Nature Sanctuary protects 102 acres of floodplain and mesic southern forest and was donated to MNA in 1992 specifically to protect the heron rookery. One reason Black River is a Class C sanctuary—meaning guests must be authorized by the MNA office or a steward before visiting—is for the herons’ benefit. During 1993, when the sanctuary was open to visitation, Black River received a high volume of traffic from the general public. That year, there were numerous reports of disturbance to the rookery, as well as vandalism, camping, and disturbances to neighbors living near the sanctuary. As a result, unauthorized visitors are not permitted in the sanctuary in order to keep disturbances of the rookery to a minimum.

MNA recently acquired the Great Bear Swamp Nature Sanctuary, which is located near the Black River Nature Sanctuary. While Great Bear Swamp is a few miles from the rookery and does not protect it directly, protecting more land in that area will continue to benefit the many plant and animal species that live there.

For information on other MNA sanctuaries, visit the MNA website.

Hummingbirds, black bears, warmer lakes: This week in environmental news

By Annie Perry, MNA Intern

MNA is starting a new weekly blog series! Each Friday, we are going to highlight news stories from the week to help you stay up-to-date on environmental news around the state and country.

Here are six articles you might’ve missed this week:

A female ruby-throated hummingbird. Photo by Cindy Mead.

A female ruby-throated hummingbird. Photo by Cindy Mead.

Ruby-throated hummingbirds arriving earlier (Michigan Radio): Ruby-throated hummingbirds are migrating north from Mexico earlier than ever. Last winter was one of the warmest in Michigan history, and hummingbirds arrived to the state as early as March 17—before a major cold stretch in April. Hummingbirds can survive in the cold for a day, but die quickly if the weather stays cold. The ruby-throated hummingbird population is stable for now, but Pamela Rasmussen, an associate zoology professor at Michigan State University, is concerned about what will happen if hummingbirds continue to migrate early.

From the Mouths of Babes (Conservation Magazine): Parents normally pass on knowledge to their children, but when it comes to the environment, it might be the other way around. Environmental education programs tend to be aimed at children because environmental attitudes are often formed at a young age, and a new study suggests that children can teach their parents about environmental issues and even influence their families to behave in “greener ways.”

Warming Lake Superior stresses wildlife, observers say (CBC News): Lake Superior broke its previous high-temperature records last year. This means bad news for the lake’s native trout, which thrives in cold water, as well as some of the lake’s other species. As water temperatures rise, sea lamprey are getting bigger, living longer, and having a negative impact on native fish. Increases in temperature don’t only harm fish—some land-based wildlife, like moose, are poorly suited to warmer climates. Wildlife Federation spokesperson Melinda Koslow said reducing greenhouse gases and protecting habitats will help prevent future harm to species.

Northern Michigan Outdoors: DNR Discusses the Latest on Black Bears (MyNorth): In February, Northern Michigan’s black bears are hibernating in their dens—except for new moms of the Ursus americanus variety. These bears are busy giving birth, nursing their young, and keeping the cubs and den clean. DNR wildlife biologist Mark Boersen has been checking up on bear families for more than 10 years and shared what he’s learned about the species.

West Michigan women come together to educate and inspire women to take action to protect our environment and natural resources (mlive): On February 15, the West Michigan Environmental Action Council met in Grand Rapids to honor women environmentalists at the second Women and the Environment Symposium. The symposium honored women who are inspiring others, protecting the environment and leading change.

Scientists seeks solutions to Lake Erie algae (mlive): Toxic algae blooms may form more often in Lake Erie unless farms and cities do a better job of controlling phosphorous runoff, scientists say. A team of 40 scientists met in Windsor, Ontario, this week to compare research findings about Lake Erie’s algae blooms and work on a report for government policymakers. The team is putting together a series of papers that study where the phosphorous comes from, which management practices best cut down on runoff, and how climate change affects algae blooms. A draft will be released for public comment in May.