Research

Oral History Project 

Collaborators: Jen Owen, Patricia Norris, Lissy Goralnik, David Wright, Jeno Rivera, Ross Greedy
Units/external partners: Departments of Fisheries and Wildlife, Community Sustainability, Bailey Scholar’s Program
Funding Source: Michigan Humanities Council
Timeline: December 2019 – December 2020
Description: The Corey Marsh Interpretive Trail will inspire care for ecological systems and special places through stories. The ways people interact with nature have changed significantly over the last century; that change has been accelerated by technological changes that result in youth and adults spending more time with technology than with one another or the outdoors. This project combines ecological education with historical narrative and outdoor activity through an interpretive and educational trail, creating a new opportunity to connect people to nature and enable community members to participate in the re-storying of the land. We will weave stories about land use history, oral histories, and information about ongoing habitat restoration and scientific research at the CMERC site and connect them to a series of interpretive stops along an already existing 1.5 mile trail that winds through a portion of the property. This trail provides visitors with views of wetlands, bird habitat, abandoned agricultural land, forests, and open water, and it is a haven for bird watchers. We will interpret this trail with at least ten planned educational stops (at least five of them will be developed during the grant period) to capitalize on local community members’ connections to the region and the property, inviting them to revisit stories in a place that has meaning for them. The overarching goal of this project is to strengthen connections to and concern for natural systems through experiential education that imbeds current experience within its historical context. Building programs at CMERC is an opportunity to build these connections and concern. A secondary goal is to engage the broader community in conversations about ecosystem restoration at CMERC. However, answering the “restoration to what” question is not possible without understanding what came before. Thus, a third goal is to engage the broader community in an exploration of the history of CMERC and MSU and how that history has shaped what the property looks like now and what changes in its use will mean for future research and educational activities. An oral history of the Corey Marsh, the Muck Soils Research Farm, and the connection of community members to the property will be created. Vignettes from this oral history will become part of an experiential education program at CMERC, and it will augment recorded histories of MSU and its research facilities (such as the On the Banks of the Red Cedar archive hosted by the MATRIX project at MSU - https://onthebanks.msu.edu/) . In this way, the history of CMERC will have been preserved and will be readily accessible to the public. The existing trail at CMERC will become an environmental science and humanities interpretive and educational trail, modeled after a similar site at the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest in the Oregon Cascades (external link provided). Interactive educational modules designed to connect ecological and historical stories and inquiry will be created for a series of stops along the trail.

Michigan State Bird Observatory 

Units/external partners: Departments of Fisheries and Wildlife
Funding Source: Michigan Department of Natural Resources, AgBioResearch, MSUE, Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, donors
Timeline: 2018 to present
Description: The MSBO is an umbrella organization that encompasses bird banding, education, and outreach activities at two locations: Burke Lake Banding Station and Corey Marsh Ecological Research Center. Bird banding at the Burke Lake Banding Station began in 2010 and opened to the public in 2013, with the mission of integrating research, training of future natural resource professionals, and education and outreach for people of all ages – while promoting the protection and conservation of migratory birds and their habitats. The MSBO was created in 2019 to encompass BULA's mission and their activities at multiple locations to better reflect the breadth of their efforts.

Cavity Nesting Bird Demography Study 

Collaborators: Jen Owen, Hannah Landwerlen (UG), Evan Griffis (UG)
Units/external partners: Department of Fisheries and Wildlife
Funding Source:  Summer 2020 CANR Undergraduate Research Grant
Timeline: Summer 2020 - present
Description: Monotypic vegetation is increasingly prevalent in natural communities for several reasons including agriculture and the introduction of non-native species. Wetland and prairie ecosystems in southern Michigan are susceptible to invasive species that overtake these habitat types (Zedler 2004, MacDonald 2007). Eastern Bluebirds and Tree Swallows depend on open fields and prairies where they forage for insects. Currently, the open prairie habitat at CMERC is dominated by reed canary grass (Phalaris arundinacea). Invertebrates decrease in diversity when vegetation decreases in diversity (Durst et al. 2008); thus fewer distinct prey species are available for bluebirds and swallows in habitats dominated by non-native plant species. Deterioration of insect diversity due to monotypic stands could have major impacts on breeding bird and nestling health (Menegelkoch et al. 2004). We propose a long-term demography study of these prairie species (i.e. EABL and TRES) in relation to wetland and prairie restoration research that will be occurring at Michigan State University’s Corey Marsh Ecological Research Center (CMERC) in Clinton County, MI. We will monitor reproductive success and survival of these indicator species. Additionally, in EABL and TRES we will study the potential negative effect of monotypic habitat on the birds’ physiological and nutritional condition through blood sampling both adults and nestlings. We will examine (1) the availability of food through arthropod sampling and (2) the birds’ diet through opportunistic fecal sampling. Results from this study will inform managers on the impacts of monotypic vegetation stands on avian health and fitness. One of the goals of our ongoing avian research is to train university students in field research and data collection, as well as science communication. The communication piece is critical as our goal is to make our science accessible to the public through demonstrations, public talks, and hands-on activities.

Secretive Marsh Bird Demography Study

Collaborators: Jen Owen, Hannah Landwerlen (UG), Evan Griffis (UG)
Units/external partners: Departments of Fisheries and Wildlife
Funding Source:  Summer 2020 CANR Undergraduate Research Grant
Timeline: Summer 2020 - present
Description: Monotypic vegetation is increasingly prevalent in natural communities for several reasons including agriculture and the introduction of non-native species. Wetland and prairie ecosystems in southern Michigan are susceptible to invasive species that overtake these habitat types (Zedler 2004, MacDonald 2007). Secretive marsh birds are important indicators of the health of emergent vegetated wetland ecosystems and are state-listed species of concern in most of the states in which they breed, including in Michigan (https://mnfi.anr.msu.edu/species/animals).  Populations have declined with the loss and degradation of wetlands, primarily through the expansion of agricultural activities and draining of land for growing crops (Lor and Malecki 2006). Additionally, secretive marsh bird are sensitive to invasion of non-native species, particularly Virginia rails whose abundance is negatively associated with presence of monotypic reed canary grass (Glisson et al. 2015). We propose a long-term demography study of these marsh species (i.e. VIRA and SORA) in relation to wetland and prairie restoration research that will be occurring at Michigan State University’s Corey Marsh Ecological Research Center (CMERC) in Clinton County, MI. We will monitor reproductive success and survival of these indicator species. We will examine (1) the availability of food through arthropod sampling and (2) the birds’ diet through opportunistic fecal sampling. Results from this study will inform managers on the impacts of monotypic vegetation stands on avian health and fitness. One of the goals of our ongoing avian research is to train university students in field research and data collection, as well as science communication. The communication piece is critical as our goal is to make our science accessible to the public through demonstrations, public talks, and hands-on activities.

Bioblitz 

Collaborators: Jen Owen, Alexa Warwick
Units/external partners: MSBO, FW, MSUE
Timeline: 2018 – present
Description: In order to catalog as many species as possible on the property, three bioblitz efforts have been held at CMERC in May 2019, September 2019, and July 2020. More than 430 species have been detected thus far (last updated July 2020).