Celebrate Spring with MNA!

By Michelle Ferrell, MNA Intern

Spring has sprung, and has already brought with it markedly warmer weather and the beginning buds of plants sprouting back to life. In addition to numerous sanctuaries ideal for Michiganders eager to invigorate their muscles and minds after another winter, MNA has several upcoming events and activities for nature enthusiasts to look forward to. It’s a great time to be outdoors and reconnect with nature and one another through seasonal family-friendly fun!

Participate in a 5K

The Karner Blue Butterfly and Family Fun Run & 5K will be hosted Saturday, May 20 at Millennium Park in Grand Rapids as part of the Pure Michigan™ FITness Series Challenge; in addition, there will be a Kids 1 Mile Fun Run as well. As if being active in the great outdoors and supporting a good cause isn’t motivation enough, participants who earn a mere 5 points will be entered for grand prize drawing for a trip up the Mackinac Bridge Tower! Proceeds from the race go to the protection of habitat for the endangered Karner blue. Read up on this small yet splashy species and its preferred habitat here.

Celebrate Earth Day

A fun and earth-friendly activity is planned for visitors to the MNA booth Sunday, April 23 during the Ann Arbor 46th annual Earth Day Festival, held from 12-4pm at the Leslie Science and Nature Center. The festival is a great opportunity to engage in activities that celebrate Earth and learn about environmental topics through live-animal presentations, naturalist-led hikes, informational presentations and discussions. You can even dress up as your favorite plant or animal! Nature lovers of all ages are welcome. No signup is necessary.

Earth Day - GVSU interns and Five Lakes steward

Visit a sanctuary

Many MNA sanctuaries that are open to the public are ideal destinations for visitors to enjoy and connect with nature through various outdoor activities like scenic hikes and peaceful walks, seasonal wildflower displays, birding and photography. Below is a list of MNA sanctuaries selected for these springtime activities, but a more comprehensive list allowing you to search for sanctuaries in your area can be viewed here.

Sharon Zahrfeld Memorial Nature Sanctuary

Zahrfeld

Keweenaw Shores No 1 Nature Sanctuary

Keweenaw Shores 1 - Charles Eshbach (2)

Estivant Pines Nature Sanctuary

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Twin Waterfalls Plant Preserve

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Trillium Trail Nature Sanctuary

Prairie trillium at Trillium Ravine

Dowagiac Woods Nature Sanctuary

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Timberland Swamp Nature Sanctuary

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Become a volunteer

MNA coordinates numerous volunteer workdays throughout the year, providing participants with information and experience on the removal of invasive species for the preservation of native plant communities that form the basis of ecologically important habitats. Find a day to get involved with workdays in your area by keeping tabs on the MNA events calendar! Upcoming workdays include Dolan Nature Sanctuary, Dowagiac Woods, Mystery Valley Karst Preserve, Riley-Shurte Woods, Black Creek Nature Sanctuary, and Grinnell Nature Sanctuary. Also upcoming is a guided nature hike through Dorion Rooks Nature Sanctuary.

workday at Goose Creek

Become a steward

Those looking for additional involvement can become a steward for MNA. It is both easy and rewarding, with a minimum requirement of visiting a sanctuary once per year and completing a comprehensive monitor report. The ideal steward also leads field trips and educational events, marks boundaries and maintains trails at the sanctuary. If you are interested in becoming a steward, please contact MNA Stewardship Coordinator Andrew Bacon by email at abacon@michigannature.org or by calling the MNA office at (866) 223-2231.

Bill McEachern and David Mancini at Kernan - Rachel Maranto

Summer Stewardship Internships Open!

Stewardship Assistant
Volunteer Internship
Michigan Nature Association

Location: Variable by day – work will take place at numerous MNA sanctuaries across southeast Michigan.

Duration: Negotiable, May–September is preferred

Time Commitment:  Applicants should be available a minimum of one full day – can be up to 10 hours (including drive time) – per week and arrange for their own transportation to the day’s meeting location. Options to carpool with staff or other interns may be available.  Internship will be considered fulfilled when the Stewardship Assistant has completed 18 full days of volunteer service with MNA.

Required Experience: Some previous experience in the environmental field – can be through education, volunteering, past internships or jobs, etc.  Ability to perform physically demanding work outside, in a wide range of weather conditions, while maintaining a positive attitude.  Ability to communicate professionally and politely is a must as there is a high level of interaction involved with staff, stewards, and volunteers.

Responsibilities:  The Stewardship Assistant’s primary responsibility will be to assist MNA staff, stewards, and volunteers in the management of sanctuaries through various forms of field activity, which may include: removal of invasive species, trail and boundary maintenance, participating in controlled burns, conducting species surveys, site monitoring, etc.

This volunteer internship will include opportunities to:

  • Gain valuable insight into the diverse and often hidden natural environment of Michigan.  With 170+ sanctuaries that are spread across both peninsulas, interns will be exposed to a wide variety of Michigan’s animals and plants, some that are exclusive to the state.
  • Work outdoors in an academic setting that also involves getting one’s hands dirty.  You will learn basic plant identification skills, become familiar with high quality examples of many of the natural communities that occur in southeast Michigan, and gain experience with a range of common management techniques used in the restoration field.
  • Work with experts in the various fields that share a common goal in protecting and preserving our environment.  Botanists, wildlife biologists, ecologists, etc. are working directly at MNA or are closely affiliated with our organization.
  • Learn how to deal with multiple parties across different levels of involvement in the organization, along with gaining excellent communication skills.
  • Become part of an energetic and highly motivated non-profit land protection organization.

*Please Note: This is an unpaid volunteer internship.

Background Information on MNA:

The Michigan Nature Association (MNA), the state’s first land preservation organization, manages and maintains over 170 nature sanctuaries across the state, totaling over 11,000 acres, through ownership and conservation easement.  Most of the sanctuaries house rare habitats and species and are managed to protect their viability.

For More Information or to Apply:

For more information on this position or to apply, please contact MNA Regional Stewardship Organizer, Rachel Maranto, at rmaranto@michigannature.org or 517-525-2627.  Application materials should include resume, cover letter, and contact information for 3 references.  For more information on MNA, please see our web site at www.michigannature.org.

MNA to recognize volunteers and conservationists at October 17 ceremony

By Kary Askew Garcia, MNA Intern

Don’t miss out on MNA’s annual Volunteer and Donor Recognition Dinner on Oct. 17 at the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center.

Guests will enjoy a delicious meal, jazz music and the presentation of awards to hard-working, dedicated individuals who do so much to protect Michigan’s natural heritage.

Tickets are $30. You can purchase tickets online through the MNA website or by contacting Danielle Cooke at dcooke@michigannature.org or 866-223-2231.

The following awards will be presented during the celebration:

Continue reading

MNA Volunteer Days: Red Cedar River Plant Preserve

By Kary Askew Garcia, MNA Intern

Part of the boardwalk at the Red Cedar River Plant Preserve Sanctuary. Photo via MNA archives.

Part of the boardwalk at the Red Cedar River Plant Preserve Sanctuary. Photo via MNA archives.

The Red Cedar River Plant Preserve is more than just a 10-acre sanctuary in Williamston, Michigan, and the only one in Ingham County. This sanctuary is one of five MNA sanctuaries within the boundaries of a city and is close to the MNA’s former headquarters.

Usually land within cities has been far too degraded for MNA to claim as a sanctuary, but because of the floodplains within the Red Cedar River Plant Preserve, this area has surprisingly maintained its natural character so close to an urban area. This sanctuary was historically known as the Williamston Floodplain.

The sanctuary consists of floodplains and wetlands because it is so close to the Red Cedar River. There are also marshy and swamp-like areas as well.

These habitats are home to plant-life like marsh marigold, skunk cabbage and jewelweed. Some types of trees that grow on the floodplain ridge are black cherry and red oak. The ridge is welcoming to visitors, giving them a place to walk and explore during spring flooding season.

Volunteers at the boardwalk. Photo via MNA archives.

Volunteers at the boardwalk. Photo via MNA archives.

This sanctuary is one of the few that MNA has built a boardwalk on and it is one of the longest and the only with an observation deck included in its design.

The area was donated in 2005 by Doug and Darlene Price, who with the help of engineer David Geyer have worked on protecting important parts of the habitat. MNA collaborated with them to change the future plans of the development of uplands in order to preserve the area within the sanctuary.

The redevelopment of the sanctuary’s boardwalk will help protect the floodplain. The old design could not withstand the severe flooding so MNA has organized volunteer days to rebuild the boardwalk with a design engineered to allow it to be more stable and provide more access to the sanctuary. About 40 feet of the boardwalk must be built this year of a total of 150 feet, and MNA is enlisting all the help it can get.

MNA extends its gratitude to engineers Jim Rossman  and Paul Rice for volunteering their time to develop the design, cost estimates and construction phases, and stewards Jim and Besty Pifer who assisted in the planning process.

Upcoming Volunteer Days:

  • Thursday, July 10 at 9 a.m.
  • Thursday, July 24 at 9 a.m.
  • Wednesday, August 20 at 9 a.m.
  • Thursday, September 11 at 10 a.m.
  • Thursday, September 18 at 10 a.m.

Please contact Rachel Maranto for more information about the project and volunteer days at rmaranto@michigannature.org.

Uprooting invasive knapweed

By Kary Askew Garcia, MNA Intern

A moth rests atop a knapweed flower. Photo courtesy of MNA archives.

A moth rests atop a knapweed flower. Photo courtesy of MNA archives

MNA is hosting several stewardship events this summer to remove the invasive knapweed plant from various sanctuaries.

The invasion of knapweed poses a danger to native plant life and must be uprooted. The knapweed’s origins are traced back to southeastern Europe. The plant begins to grow as a rosette of leaves in its first year of life and then later on grows a flower stalk ranging from six to 36 inches in height. The flower is usually pink or purple in color with a spotted head underneath, as knapweed is also referred to as “spotted knapweed.”

Knapweed can be found in well-drained soils, dry prairies and dunes. Knapweed is especially harmful to oak barrens, which are endangered worldwide.

The weed’s invasion has caused a decline in native plant species, which is threatening to the ecosystem. It can also alter water quality by causing an increase in soil runoff and erosion.

Spotted knapweed growing on dry terrain. MNA archives.

Spotted knapweed growing on dry terrain. Photo courtesy of MNA archives

Two common ways of eliminating knapweed are simply pulling the plants or mowing them down. There are also herbicides and chemicals that can also be used for removal but have several regulations and must be used carefully as to not upset any other plant or wildlife.

Two different insects have also been introduced to inhibit the knapweed from spreading seeds: flower weevils and seedhead flies. These insects introduced to the knapweed are a form of biological control of the invasive species.

Of these methods, MNA has most commonly uprooted the weed. Uprooting sounds much easier than it is, involving tools to help pull as many of the knapweed’s roots out of the soil as possible. If left behind, the roots could help the weed grow again and damage native plant life.

The knapweed has a tendency to knock out all other vegetation surrounding it, making many ecosystems bare if it isn’t removed.

MNA has also used prescribed burns and herbicide to remove larger amounts of knapweed in sanctuaries. Simply pulling knapweed when it is extremely abundant wouldn’t prove effective; burns and chemicals have helped to reduce the occurrence of the plant.

For more information on spotted knapweed, see Michigan State University’s Agriculture and Natural Resources website here.

Volunteers and stewards help pick knapweed at an MNA nature sanctuary. Photo courtesy of MNA archives

Volunteers and stewards help pick knapweed at an MNA nature sanctuary. Photo courtesy of MNA archives

MNA is calling for volunteers to help pull spotted knapweed from different sanctuaries. The next pull will be hosted at the Calla Burr Nature Sanctuary in Oakland County on July 10 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

More upcoming knapweed removal events:

  •  July 22: Volunteer Day: Lefglen Nature Sanctuary in Jackson County. 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.
  • July 25: Spotted Knapweed Pull at Calla Burr in Oakland County. Begins 9 a.m.
  • July 26: Spotted Knapweed Pull at Keweenaw Shores II Plant Preserve in Keweenaw County with Nancy Leonard. Begins 11 a.m.
  • August 9: Hike & Volunteer day: Redwyn’s Dunes in Keweenaw County. Begins 11 a.m.

Please contact the MNA office for more information about volunteering and preserving Michigan’s nature.

Celebrate Earth Day with MNA

By Alyssa Kobylarek, MNA intern

Before Earth Day, protecting the planet’s natural resources and the environment was not part of the national agenda. Factories spewed pollutants into the air and dumped toxins into lakes and rivers without any ramifications. Something had to be done to protect the environment and the inhabitants that rely on it.

Earth Day is on Tuesday, April 22. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Earth Day is on Tuesday, April 22. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Earth Day was founded in 1970 as a day of education about environmental issues, which Americans had become more aware of since the 1960s. The idea came to the founder of the movement, Gaylord Nelson, who was a Senator from Wisconsin at the time. He had witnessed the detrimental effects of a massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California in 1969, which inspired him to do something. After seeing an anti-Vietnam war movement by college students, he realized that he could use that passion and energy that students had to bring public awareness to air and water pollution. He hoped that bringing these two things together would push environmental protection on to the national political agenda.

As a result, on April 22, millions of Americans banned together coast to coast in rallies to demonstrate for a clean and healthy environment. Public opinion polls indicate that there was a permanent change in national priorities following the first Earth Day. it was seen as an important goal to protect the environment. During the 1970s, the Clean Air Act, the Water Quality Improvement Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Toxic Substance Control Act, the Surface Mining Control Act and Reclamation Act were all passed. The Environmental Protection Agency, which was tasked with protecting the human health and the environment, was also created.

Helping to clean trash from lakes and rivers will help the wildlife that live there and can be harmed by trash. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Helping to clean trash from lakes and rivers will help the wildlife that live there and can be harmed by trash. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Today, Earth Day is a globally celebrated event and is even sometimes extended to Earth Week. Earth Day was successful because it organized itself. There was a huge response that led to millions of people organizing and participating in a short amount of time with little direction. The fight for a clean environment continues year to year to help protect our environment to keep it beautiful and healthy for generations to come.

There are many things that we can do to help celebrate Earth Day and better the environment. By planting trees, recycling and cleaning up trash from lakes, rivers and parks, we are protecting the plants and animals that thrive on a clean environment. MNA has many opportunities to get involved so be sure to check out their volunteer days!

  • Tuesday, April 22: Celebrate Earth Day at Powell Memorial Nature Sanctuary (near Hudson, Lenawee County) to help pull invasive garlic mustard from this wooded paradise!
  • Wednesday, April 23: Help pull invasive garlic at Phillips Family Memorial Nature Sanctuary (near Decatur, Van Buren County) to help keep these woods beautiful and thriving.
  • Friday, April 25: Help pull invasive garlic mustard and dame’s rocket in the floodplain forest at Joan Rodman Memorial Plant Preserve (near Saline, Washtenaw County).

Get involved! Visit www.michigannature.org/events for a complete list of events and details. If you’d like more information about volunteer opportunities at MNA, call (866) 223-2231.

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.