Trustee Profile: Paul Messing

By Alyssa Kobylarek, MNA Intern

Paul Messing with Executive Director Garret Johnson after receiving the 2012 Volunteer of the Year Award.

Paul Messing with Executive Director Garret Johnson after receiving the 2012 Volunteer of the Year Award.

Paul Messing joined MNA’s Board of Trustees in 2013 and has been an active member and volunteer at MNA sanctuaries in southeast Michigan for years. Paul began his work at MNA by leading hikes and distributing information about the Michigan Nature Association to the community. Now, in addition to joining the board, he serves as the steward at Lost Lake Nature Sanctuary and is the co-steward at Frinks Pond Plant Preserve and Wilcox-Warnes Nature Sanctuary. He was named one of MNA’s Volunteers of the Year at the 2012 Volunteer and Donor Recognition Dinner.

We took a few minutes to chat with Paul recently about his experiences with MNA:

1. When did you first learn about the Michigan Nature Association and what made you get involved? I first found out about a Michigan Nature Association Sanctuary (Anna Wilcox and Harold Warnes Nature Sanctuary) near my home in 2010 when I was researching the possibility of identifying tall trees in the area as part of the American Forests Big Trees program. An internet search yielded a link to the MNA website, and I became very curious about the Wilcox-Warnes sanctuary from the description. I visited shortly thereafter, and I was impressed by the nature of the sanctuary. The tall trees described on the website were so impressive in person. Leaves on the sprouting wildflowers were emerging on the early spring day. In 2011, after becoming a member, I met at the Wilcox-Warnes sanctuary for a workday to build sections of boardwalk and learn more about the sanctuary from the people that supported the organization.  I was instantly hooked by the enthusiasm of the volunteers and staff and what supporting the mission had to offer.

I quickly made it my goal to find out more about the other sanctuaries, and I worked throughout the year to visit sanctuaries and participate in various events that MNA offered.  These included the Spring Adventure offered that year and a hike at McGaw and Polovich sanctuaries. I also joined in on a workday at Saginaw Wetlands. After that, Bullard Lake Fen and Lefglen sanctuaries captured my attention to round out the year. In all, I had visited 18 sanctuaries that year, and was impressed by what I saw at every turn. 2012 was another great year as I continued adding to my stewardship roles, volunteer experience at many sanctuaries, and then finally being recruited to volunteer as a Trustee.

2. Is there anything you have accomplished or hope to accomplish since becoming a Trustee for the Michigan Nature Association?  My goal as a Trustee is to help the organization in its mission, especially as it relates to technology. I feel I bring a wealth of experience with my use of computers, and I hope to find ways to improve aspects of the organization in that respect.  I have enjoyed being part of a great team of knowledgeable Trustees. The responsibility to keep MNA a sustainable organization, just as we look to keep all of the habitats we steward sustainable, is all of our responsibility.  It is my goal to continue to support the organization in ensuring our mission continues.

3. What is special to you about the natural environment of Michigan?  Michigan seems to me to be a such a transitional, moderate climate; it’s certainly not tropical, nor arctic, but covered with some hilly terrain, wetlands, and even well drained areas. It harnesses such a variety of wildlife, be it our year-round birds or those migrating through.  It is also interesting how we are at one of the transitions between the conifer forests of the north and the deciduous forests more common to the south. All this helps me appreciate the place each species has in the environment. There are so many species of plants and animals to be discovered, some of which keep only a small piece of their range in Michigan.

4. What activities are you currently involved in for the Michigan Nature Association?  Besides Steward and Trustee roles, I have volunteered to mark boundaries at various sanctuaries. As I continue to try to transition from a novice birder toward an expert, I use Cornell’s eBird to report what I see or hear while hiking and volunteering at sanctuaries. I also enjoy trying to capture the wildlife through photography. It is such a great way share with others and for posterity the great variety of life out there.

5. What are some of the most memorable moments you have with the MNA?  Seeing many firsts at the sanctuaries, have been quite memorable. These include observing three rare ferns on a trip through the Eastern UP, and seeing Michigan’s only rattlesnake, the Massasauga, at two MNA sanctuaries last year. I also really enjoyed creating the design for a bridge that I helped to build at Kernan Memorial Sanctuary.  That was a real team effort and I was so proud to see the project completed.


Katherine Hollins, Bill McEachern, and Paul Messing stand on the completed bridge at Kernan Memorial Nature Sanctuary.

Katherine Hollins, Bill McEachern, and Paul Messing stand on the completed bridge at Kernan Memorial Nature Sanctuary.

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