Undergraduate education and training are central to the mission of Corey Marsh Ecological Research Center. Since 2019, undergraduate students have been conducting independent field research under the mentorship of MSU faculty based in multiple departments across the university. Current student-led projects include studying game and non-game wildlife through camera trapping, radio/satellite tracking, acoustic monitoring, and capture, mark, and release. Students are interested in and gain experiences in a wide range of research areas including population assessments, wildlife disease, animal movement, and behavior. In addition, students are learning about assessing wetland habitat quality and are actively engaged in ecosystem restoration activities at CMERC that support diverse wildlife communities.
Collaborators: Jen Owen, Alexa Warwick
Units/Partners: MSU Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, MSU Extension
Timeline: 2018 – present
Description: BioBlitz is a periodic event where scientists and the general public work together to survey an area in an attempt to record all the living species there. Our most recent BioBlitz occurred in spring 2023. More than 430 species have been detected thus far, including plants, bugs, birds, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, and more! Results from BioBlitz are used to help facilitate long-term planning and research directions.
Herpetofauna Monitoring (Herp Team)
Collaborators: Alexa Warwick, Yu Man Lee, A Proudfoot, Olivia Ruppert, Endi Piovesana, Jen Owen
Units/Partners: MSU Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Michigan Natural Features Inventory
Funding Source: CANR Teaching and Learning Education funds, NSF DUE award #1914722, US Fish and Wildlife Service, MSU Extension.
Timeline: 2021 - present
Description: Longterm monitoring of organisms is an important way to track changes over time in the species present in an area. For this project we are focusing on herpetofauna or ‘herps’ at Corey Marsh. The term herpetology comes from the Greek word for “creeping animal” and is the study of reptiles and amphibians. Although reptiles and amphibians are not closely related groups (reptiles are more closely related to birds), their seasonal activity patterns and methods for sampling are often similar. In Michigan we have 13 species of frogs and toads; 10 salamanders; 10 turtles; 18 snakes; and 2 lizards, and many of them (6 amphibians, 10 reptiles) are listed as threatened, endangered, or a species of special concern. Conservation efforts rely on a better understanding of the distribution and abundance of such species. Thus, we are collaborating with staff from the Michigan Natural Features Inventory on this project. Beyond simply knowing which species inhabit an area, tracking the same individuals over time also informs our understanding of population demographics. Finally, because amphibians especially are often very sensitive to environmental changes, they can be important indicator species to monitor. Our project goals are to develop a comprehensive herpetology-focused monitoring effort at Corey Marsh that can then serve as an exemplar site to be replicated and implemented elsewhere, with data-sharing across sites to generate larger datasets. The current sampling methods include: (1) salamander mark-recapture using wooden cover boards, with a focus on the red-backed salamander (partnering with SPARCnet), in addition to other salamander species and snakes that are also found under the boards; (2) turtle mark-recapture using hoop traps; (3) frog and toad acoustic call monitoring using both manual surveying and passive frog logger devices; and (4) use of environmental DNA or ‘eDNA’ to detect reptiles and amphibians. Environmental data is also collected at each sampling session. Undergraduate and graduate students are actively involved and even leading some of these herpetology sampling efforts through both independent and course-based research.
Michigan State Bird Observatory
Units/Partners: MSU Departments of Fisheries and Wildlife
Funding Sources: Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Private Donors
Timeline: 2019 to present
Description: The Michigan State Bird Observatory (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. The mission of MSBO is to integrate research, train future natural resource professionals, and provide education and outreach for people of all ages – while also promoting the protection and conservation of migratory birds and their habitats. We are particularly interested in the health of migratory birds relative to habitat quality.
Storied Landscapes: Bridging Ecological and Oral Histories on the Corey Marsh Interpretive Trail
Collaborators: Jen Owen, Patricia Norris, Lissy Goralnik, David Wright, Jeno Rivera, Ross Greedy
Units/Partners: MSU Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, MSU Department of Community Sustainability, MSU Bailey Scholar’s Program
Funding Source: Michigan Humanities Council
Description: The Corey Marsh Interpretive Trail was established to 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 combined 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 weaved stories about land use history, oral histories, and information about ongoing habitat restoration and scientific research at the CMERC site and connected 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. The overarching goal of this project was to strengthen connections to and concern for natural systems through experiential education that imbeds current experience within its historical context.
CMERC Education and Outreach Coordinator Kristy Taylor shows the opportunities for the public and other groups to experience Corey Marsh Ecological Research Center.
Dr. Jennifer Owen discusses one of the biggest facets of the Corey Marsh Ecological Research Center.