Michigan Tech Students Make a Difference at MNA Sanctuaries

Michigan Techline Group

The Michigan Techline Group helped out at Keweenaw Shores II

By Nancy Leonard

Make a Difference Day is a national day of helping others – a celebration of neighbors helping neighbors. Everyone can participate. Created by USA WEEKEND Magazine, Make a Difference Day is an annual event that takes place on the fourth Saturday of every October.  The leaders of Michigan Technological University encourage their students to help their neighbors in the Keweenaw on Make a Difference Day, and this year, an overwhelming 700 MTU students volunteered their time throughout the community.

For the second year in a row, steward Nancy Leonard with the help of naturalist Karena Schmidt welcomed a group of  21 enthusiastic volunteers at Keweenaw Shores II Nature Sanctuary.  This class C sanctuary protects 100 feet of spectacular conglomerate Lake Superior shoreline and the rare and threatened plants that reside there.  The day’s project was the careful removal of invasive spotted knapweed that threatens the fragile rocky shoreline environment.

Students Digging

MTU students digging a water bar at Estivant Pines

Meanwhile, at Estivant Pines, stewards Ted Solden and Charlie Eshbach, assisted by volunteer Peter Ekstrom, worked with a group of 10 student volunteers. The students carried lumber, cleaned and built new water bars, and rebuilt a rock stairway on the sanctuary’s Cathedral Loop.

Group along shore

The volunteer group at Keweenaw Shores II spread out across the shoreline

After several hours of work at both sanctuaries, all the students were pleased that they could actually make a difference in the Keweenaw and MNA was thrilled to have their help!  Thank you to everyone who spent the day with us to protect Michigan’s natural heritage.

If you’re interested in helping out at an MNA sanctuary in your area, visit MNA’s calendar of events for a list of volunteer days.

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June 24 Botany Walk in the Keweenaw

By Nancy Leonard, Keweenaw Shores II Steward

Purple-Fringed Orchid

Lesser Purple-Fringed Orchid. Photo by Nancy Leonard

Twenty-seven people joined Karena Schmidt and myself for a Sunday afternoon of botanizing at Keweenaw Shores II at Dan’s Point in the Keweenaw.  This Class C plant preserve is on an ancient conglomerate beach at the northernmost edge of the Keweenaw Peninsula.  Tilted rocks and hidden crags create depressions for collected water but also provide high and dry exposures. An unusually large number of plant species ranging from bog plants to those preferring exposed dry rock as their home can be found here.

Although we were concerned with such a large number of explorers having a negative impact on a sensitive area, our worries soon diminished as enthusiastic botanizers spread out naturally in small groups, moving with great care across the rough beach terrain. Before entering the preserve, we had reviewed the importance and fragile nature of the preserve, what plants might be found here and their ranking, and how best to navigate without doing harm.

The showiest find of the day was the Lesser Purple-Fringed Orchid  (Platanthera psychodes).  In a good year, dozens of these colorful orchids can be found here.

Common Butterwort

Common Butterwort. Photo by Nancy Leonard

The Pale Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja septentrionalis), a state-ranked threatened plant, was in bloom and everyone was thrilled at their abundance to be found here.

Even though the bloom time had passed for the tiny insect-devouring Common Butterwort (Pinguicula vulgaris), a plant of special concern, a few still-blooming plants were discovered in a protected place beside a liverwort.  The lichen-covered rock captivated some members of the group and Karena readily shared her knowledge of lichen lore with them.

Weather-wise, the day was just as perfect.  A slight breeze off Lake Superior kept participants cool and comfortable even though it was sunny.  Most were reluctant, even after more than two hours of exploring, to leave this beautiful preserve.

If you’d like to join MNA on a field trip at a sanctuary near you, visit MNA’s Calendar of Events. We hope to see you in the field!