Michigan Conservation Stewards Program (CSP) currently enrolling students

Intensive volunteer leader training program geared towards individuals who want to help restore and conserve ecosystems through Michigan.

Michigan State University Extension is offering a volunteer leader training program designed for those interested in learning science-based ecosystem management principles and sharing this knowledge with others to help improve Michigan’s natural communities. Participants learn about the history of conservation activities in Michigan, basic ecological principles, ecoregional classifications, current conservation issues, how to make choices to managing natural resources, and how citizens can get involved in the citizen science. In addition to this foundation, participants learn about terrestrial ecosystems (forestlands and grasslands) and aquatic ecosystems (wetlands, lakes, and streams). Through participation in this program, participants learn essential strategies to help restore and conserve ecosystems throughout Michigan.

CSP is a great opportunity to learn about conservation and natural science in a community context and assume leadership roles through volunteering time, knowledge and skills as a Conservation Steward. One past participant of the 2007 Conservation Stewards Program shared, “The most useful thing about CSP for me was networking and finding others with my interests and passion about the environment as well as professionals in the field… I ended up with knowledge across the board. This has helped me to fill in the missing pieces of knowledge regarding the environment as well as encouraging me to be involved.”

Individuals interested in volunteer conservation are encouraged to enroll in the Michigan State University Extension’s Michigan Conservation Stewards Program (CSP). Programs will be offered in Kalamazoo County, beginning on September 8, 2015 and in Washtenaw County beginning on September 9, 2015.

Kara Haas, Science Education & Outreach Coordinator for W.K. Kellogg Biological Station, has been involved in coordinating and teaching the program in Kalamazoo in partnership with the Kalamazoo Nature Center since 2009. She has watched the knowledge and skills of Conservation Steward participants explode throughout the duration of the program: “Conservation Stewards have been really valuable volunteers at the Kellogg Biological Station and throughout our community. Each group of participants is unique and energizing. My favorite part of the program is watching how the in-class projects change and grow more robust as participants learn more ecological principles and land management techniques. The projects are really great because each participant’s interests are reflected in them.”

CSP Washtenaw partner, Shawn Severance, Parks Naturalist for Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation Commission, adds, “Our Conservation Stewards tackle real-world projects that make a difference for nature and for our community. Five years ago, one of our Stewards planted seeds to create a pollinator meadow. Now we have regular workdays there every season. The same volunteers come back every year, and new ones join also. Science teachers take classes there to study insects. This little project has gathered lots of support and has become a real hub of friendship and learning. Thanks Conservation Stewards!”

Becoming a Conservation Steward involves the completion of the following:

  • Classroom and field-based training led by experts in various fields of conservation and natural resources, including the following lectures, interactive learning and field experiences:
  • Self-paced online learning modules provided via Michigan State University's Desire2Learn (D2L) course management interface which participants will complete on their own
    • Program Overview & Michigan Conservation Heritage
    • Ecological Foundations and Ecoregions
    • Terrestrial Ecosystems: Grasslands
    • Invasive Species/Climate Change
    • Aquatic Ecosystems: Streams
    • Terrestrial Field Experience
    • Aquatic Field Experience
    • Michigan's Unique Conservation Heritage & Making Choices for Natural Resources Management
    • Ecology 101
    • Forests and Forest Ecosystems and Management 101
    • Introduction to Lakes and Wetland Ecosystems & Management
  • 40 hour Volunteer service requirement (including the completion of an in-class volunteer project related to an area of interest that begins during the course and continues after course work is completed, as well as additional community-based volunteer service related to restoring and conserving Michigan’s ecosystems.)

To become a certified Michigan Conservation Steward, participants must fulfill all segments in each of the above sections.

CSP Washtenaw partner Jason Frenzel, Volunteer and Stewardship Coordinator for Huron River Watershed Council, points out how CSP fast-tracks the process of producing a conservation-ready volunteer who is ready to hit the ground running: “The CSP brings our advanced volunteers through all the entry level knowledge in just a few weeks. Historically, it took our parks department many months or years help a key volunteer gain all of this background knowledge. Ultimately our volunteers became more capable, more quickly, which helped us all make better decisions and get more restoration work done.”

Enrollment is currently open for both the Kalamazoo and Washtenaw programs. For more information, visit the Michigan Conservation Stewards Program page.

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