Field Trip Descriptions
Mycology at Pine Bend (Saturday Morning) (Saturday Afternoon)
Species of fungi will be examined along some of the six miles of trails in Pine Bend Park (part of Hemlock Crossing County Park). Part of our field trip will be held in the recently renovated 1901 Weaver House, where we can enjoy a cup of coffee and some provided snacks. Pine Bend is part of a 239-acre Ottawa County Park along Pigeon River. The park, located about 10 miles south of Grand Haven, contains a variety of plant communities including several mature wetland and upland habitats. WPC member Dennis Dunlap earned his MS degree in Biology, specializing in Mycology, at Iowa State University. He enjoys discovering and identifying the numerous fungi species occurring throughout West Michigan.
Five Lakes Preserve; Coastal Plain Marsh Plant Community (Saturday Morning) (Saturday Afternoon)
This Michigan Nature Association 5-acre preserve is located in Southern Muskegon County, where sandy soils from glacial outwash are widespread. In shallow depressions, several small lakes with peaty bottoms occur and are locally common. It is around these fluctuating lakes that a Coastal Plain Marsh Community flora abounds. Rare grasses, sedges, rushes, and flowers can be locally abundant, along with several disjunct species. On this trip, we will explore the preserve's lake edge and nearby dominant white oak forest with its interesting plant life. Tony Reznicek is Curator of Vascular Plants at the University of Michigan Herbarium. He is also a Director of the Michigan Natural Areas Council and Chairman of the Endangered Species Technical Committee for Plants, Michigan DNR. Tony is a Midwest authority on Coastal Plain Marsh disjunct species.
Research Vessel "Angus" (Saturday Morning) (Saturday Afternoon)
Grand Valley State University’s "D.J. Angus" is a 45-foot long Education/Research vessel, docked a short distance from the Holiday Inn Conference Center. Our 2.5-hour scientific cruise will involve water sampling and plankton analysis in Lake Michigan (weather permitting) and Spring Lake. Water quality parameters including dissolved oxygen, pH, conductivity, turbidity, and bottom sediments will be investigated and compared. Lake Michigan represents a less eutrophic (enriched) body of water while Spring Lake contains considerably more nutrients. Special emphasis will be placed on plankton sampling and analysis. Minimum age for participation is 10 years. This trip will take place rain or shine, warm or cold, so dress accordingly. WPC member Roger Tharp taught biology for 32 years at Mona Shore High School in Muskegon, Michigan, and has spent the last ten years as a science instructor aboard the D.J. Angus.
Photography (Saturday Morning)
Join WPC member Ed Post on an excursion to a nearby dune landscape to learn about the art and secrets of excellent photography. With his knowledgeable background about nature, Ed will lead us to an area rich in plants, birds, and insect found in the dune community. If the weather does not look promising, this photography workshop will be held indoors at the hotel. Bring your camera if you have one.
Birding the Muskegon Wastewater Facility (Saturday Morning)
The Muskegon Wastewater facility and nearby areas are truly one of Michigan’s “birding hot spots.” A variety of natural communities and the large wastewater lagoons are accessible by a network of roads and dikes and will provide birders with the opportunity to see good numbers of ducks, geese, gulls, raptors, shorebirds and songbirds. Breeding birds will be back in their nesting territory, including grasshopper sparrow, vesper sparrow and upland sandpiper. If time and weather permit, the group will also visit the nearby Muskegon State Game Area to look for willow flycatcher, marsh wren, sedge wren and other wetland species. Binoculars are necessary. Bring a spotting scope (if you have one) and insect repellent, and dress for the weather. Ottawa County Parks Naturalist Chip Francke will lead this trip. Chip has led birding trips throughout North America since 1975 and has been involved in banding as well as a variety of bird census and research projects.
Hortech Inc. Tour (Saturday Morning)
Hortech is a local wholesale producer of ground covers, ferns, vines, and ornamental grasses. If you've ever wondered about the business end of growing plants, this is your chance to see the inside story as they open their doors to MBC members for a tour of their greenhouses, production facilities, and experimental plots. Hortech has also developed an innovative modular planting unit ("LiveRoof") to be used for "green roof" installations.
Aman Park (Saturday Afternoon) (Sunday Morning)
Located in a rapidly urbanizing landscape west of Grand Rapids, Aman Park contains intact examples of two natural communities, dry-mesic southern forest and floodplain forest. The dry-mesic southern forest occupies the uplands and steep slopes bordering Sand Creek, and is dominated by red oak, white oak, beech, and white pine. The floodplain forest along Sand Creek contains a diversity of tree species and is notable for containing populations of several plant species near the northern extent of their ranges in Michigan, including redbud, paw-paw, blue ash, and the state-threatened Virginia bluebells. Brad Slaughter, Ecologist with Michigan Natural Features Inventory, will lead us on the trails in search of the elusive green violet, green dragon, and other botanical treasures. Special emphasis will be placed on the juxtaposition of northern and southern flora, and on threats this park faces in the face of suburban sprawl. Prepare for wet ground, standing water, and mosquitoes. As an Ecologist at Michigan Natural Features Inventory, WPC member Brad Slaughter works to study and conserve Michigan’s natural communities. He has inventoried natural communities, performed site-based assessments of ecological integrity statewide, and contributed towards the development of a revised natural community classification for Michigan.
Hidden Lake, Muskegon State Park (Saturday Afternoon) (Sunday Afternoon)
This part of Muskegon State Park is nestled east of the dunes in a mature hardwood forest with scattered vernal pools, successional woods and a cranberry bog. We will explore the area looking for butterflies, birds and plants of the different habitats. WPC member Linda Koning is the founder of West Michigan Butterfly Association (WMBA), a chapter of North American Butterfly Association (NABA). Linda is an independent photographer specializing in butterflies, wildflowers and birds. Her fascination with the symbiotic relationship between host and nectar plants with butterflies along with her photographic skills has allowed her to combine her talents in a unique way.
Dune Ecology at Rosy Mound Park (Saturday Afternoon) (Sunday Afternoon)
Rosy Mound County Park contains large tracts of forested dunes, old blowouts, and open backdune plant communities. A 0.7 mile trail from the parking area to the beach will take us on a very scenic walk through the heart of the wooded dunes. Caution: this trail contains many stairs and boardwalks and may be strenuous for some, though we will be taking it slowly (as botanists generally do!). This trip will explore the ecology of various dune communities and provide a close-up look at a federally endangered species (Pitcher's thistle). WPC member Dr. John Shontz grew up in northwestern Pennsylvania and was introduced to Great Lakes Sand Dunes at Presque Isle, near Erie, PA. He holds a BS degree in mathematics from Edinboro State University, an MA in botany from Miami University and a PhD in botany from Duke University. He taught botany and ecology courses at Mount Holyoke College for seven years and at Grand Valley for 31 years, retiring in 2005. He has extensively studied the flora and ecology of the Lake Michigan sand dunes and has conducted research on the structure of dune plant communities and on the ecological requirements of Pitcher's Thistle.
Hudsonville Nature Park and Upper Macatawa Greenway Restoration (see below) (Sunday all day)
The 75-acre Hudsonville Nature Park is located among hills and ravines along the post-glacial former Grand River Valley that traverses Hudsonville. Mature hardwood forest is dominant in most of the park, along the hills and where a small creek meanders in the rich bottomland. The spring wildflower show is spectacular in both variety and abundance, and is the only known Ottawa County location of Jeffersonia diphylla (twinleaf), which is locally common. The trip will take in most of the park and focus on various native plants, with over 150 species identified. A 6-acre planted prairie and wetland are also some of the habitats to be visited. WPC member Craig Elston has been the Naturalist for the City of Hudsonville for 15 years and was member of the Parks Committee for over 15 years. He gives talks on native plants, gardening, butterflies, and prairies to various nature and gardening groups, as well as growing many native plants in his own yard.
Upper Macatawa River Greenway Restoration (Sunday all day)
Brian Majka will be leading a tour of the Ottawa County Parks' Upper Macatawa River Corridor restoration project near Zeeland. This 500-acre property is under varying stages of restoration. Participants will be able to see wetland and upland areas that have been planted and those that have been left to natural recruitment and seed bank development, allowing for a comparison of restoration techniques and an assessment of varying levels of plant succession. Brian Majka has worked as a restoration ecologist with JF New Inc. for approximately 8 years. He graduated from Purdue University with a degree in Natural Resources and Environmental Science and is responsible for all aspects of JF New restoration projects, including native planting, invasive species control, controlled burning, bioengineering, and storm-water management.
Freshwater Sponges along the Grand River (Sunday Morning) (Sunday Afternoon)
WPC member Roger Tharp will conduct a workshop on this interesting group of invertebrates known as Porifera or pore-bearing animals (sponges). This session will include a fieldtrip to the surrounding area to see sponges in their natural habitat, and then a car caravan to Muskegon to Grand Valley State University’s Annis Water Resources Institute, located on the shore of Muskegon Lake, to see a slide presentation on Freshwater Sponges and to view them microscopically. A brief tour of the Water Resources Institute facility will be conducted by Dr. Janet Vail, Manager of the Educational Outreach Division of the Institute. The Institute is comprised of three Divisions: Aquatic Research, Information Services, and Education and Outreach. The Education program utilizes two education/research vessels, the W.G. Jackson sailing out of Muskegon and the D.J. Angus sailing out of Grand Haven. After 32 years teaching biology at Mona Shores High School in Muskegon, Michigan, WPC member Roger Tharp has spent the last 10 years as a science instructor aboard the D.J. Angus. He completed a Masters thesis on Freshwater Sponges of Muskegon County and continues to study these individuals.
Kitchel Dunes Preserve (Sunday Morning) (Sunday Afternoon)
This program will focus on identification of invasive exotic plants, their biology and how they affect native plants and ecosystems. We will walk Kitchel Dunes to discover which exotic species are on the preserve and discuss how they are altering the environment to which they have been introduced. WPC member Melanie Good is the Stewardship Coordinator for the Land Conservancy of West Michigan. She received her B.S. in Environmental Science & Biology and M.S. in Conservation Biology, from Central Michigan University. Previous to her current position, she worked 10 years as an Environmental Educator at Chippewa Nature Center in Midland, then at Blandford Nature Center in Grand Rapids.
Great Lakes Marsh at Hofma Preserve (Sunday Morning) (Sunday Afternoon) (Monday Morning)
This Great Lakes Marsh is a wetland community occurring along a major connecting river to Lake Michigan. It provides an important habitat for migratory waterfowl, shorebirds, fish spawning, and aquatic mammals. Hofma Preserve has an extensive boardwalk system to provide access to many parts of the wetland.
Sunday leader: WPC member Leon Schaddelee graduated from Calvin College and holds a master degree from Michigan State University in environmental interpretation. He is retired from teaching in the Benton Harbor School District and is presently an environmental consultant. He served as a field survey worker for the Nature Conservancy and Michigan Natural Features Inventory. His studies have resulted in the preservation of several natural areas, rediscovery of species previously thought to be extirpated (Kirtland’s Snake, Dwarf Burhead, Three-ribbed Spikerush, and Downy Gentian), and the discovery of species new to Michigan’s flora (Engelmann’s Quillwort, Long-leaved Panic Grass, and Maryland Meadowbeauty).
Monday morning leader: WPC member Steve Mueller, is Director/naturalist at Wittenbach-Wege Agriscience Environmental Center in Lowell, and was formerly director at Howard Christensen Nature Center. His consulting business, Ody Brook Enterprise, is focused on educational programming and scientific research. Besides his knowledge of natural history, he is an expert in butterflies and excellent birder, and seeks activities throughout the Untied States taking him to wild places to study ecological interactions (he is a strong advocate for large tract wilderness as the best steward of biodiversity).
Bryophytes of Palomita Preserve (Sunday Morning)
Bryophytes, including mosses and liverworts, abound at the 40-acre Palomita Preserve, owned by Land Conservancy of West Michigan. Situated on both sides of Little Pigeon River and a small pond near the shore of Lake Michigan, this preserve contains a wide range of plant communities, including young woods, an open prairie-like area, and various shoreline wetlands. Dr. Elwood B. "Woody" Ehrle is a retired professor from Western Michigan University. After completing degrees at Rutgers, Columbia and Penn State, he taught at SUNY Geneseo, Indiana State University, and Western Michigan University. A former president of the Michigan Botanical Club, Woody is instrumental in tracking Michigan's Champion trees.
Hoffmaster State Park Bog (Monday Morning)
Muskegon County's Hoffmaster State Park covers nearly two square miles along the shoreline of Lake Michigan. Part of the inland section includes the shoreline of nearby Black Lake, where the bog is located. WPC member Steve Ross has been photographing and studying nature for over 40 years. Now retired, he conducts dragonfly and butterfly surveys for the National Forest Service, collects dragonflies for U of M, and travels widely in Central and South America. He also presents nature-oriented programs to a variety of groups, maintains the Mecosta County bird list, and is the author of The Natural History of Mecosta County.