Helping restore habitat and protect native plants and animals on Michigan island

Michigan Sea Grant coordinated efforts to team up students with scientists to monitor Pitcher’s thistle and effectiveness of treatments to reduce invasive Phragmites on Big Charity Island.

Charity Island

Michigan’s Charity Islands in Lake Huron provide important habitat for resident and migratory birds, reptiles and amphibians, and native plant species. The Pitcher’s thistle – a federally and state-listed threatened species – grows along the sandy perimeter of Big Charity Island, part of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Michigan Islands National Wildlife Refuge. A non-native rapidly spreading grass, Phragmites australis, is displacing native plant species and degrading wildlife habitat there.

Michigan Sea Grant coordinated efforts to team up students with scientists to monitor Pitcher’s thistle and effectiveness of treatments to reduce invasive Phragmites on Big Charity Island. Students collect data to monitor Pitcher’s thistle populations and also calculate densities of Phragmites stands to evaluate success of treatments applied to manage this plant. The project has resulted in a long-term Pitcher’s thistle monitoring and coastal habitat improvement effort becoming established. The school is installing a greenhouse where high school students will take charge of rearing plants from seeds collected on the islands as part of this restoration effort.

  • Conducting surveys every spring and fall since 2016, students have documented 476 Pitcher’s thistle plants while surveying close to 500 yards of coastal dune areas.
  • Students also planted nearly 100 Pitcher’s thistle seedlings in 2016.

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