CCEP green heron logo Calvin College Ecosystem Preserve

July/August 2014 Newsletter


Thank You

Friendly Faces

Tales from the Trails

Nature Neighbors



Walking trails are open to the public every day from dawn to dusk.

Bunker Interpretive Center (BIC) hours

Academic year:
M–F  9 a.m.–5 p.m.

M–F  8:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m.

Closed weekends and holidays.

Admission to the trails and BIC is free.

1750 East Beltline Ave. SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49546
(616) 526-7600

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Contributing Writers:

Julie Wilbourn,
Department Assistant

Leah Jonker,
Program Assistant/
Program Leader

Sheila DeVries,
Program Assistant/
Program Leader

Jeanette M. Henderson
Program Manager

Thank You

Thank you to everyone who supported our annual Native Plant Sale last month! Whether you were a volunteer potting, tagging, or moving plants, or a visiting shopper, we greatly appreciate your contribution to the sale. Thanks to you, these new plants will nourish a healthy ecosystem for our community, by boosting the genetic diversity of wild plants and animal biodiversity, and improving the air and water quality. Also thanks to you, we are able to provide another year of great educational programming, giving hundreds of youths in the community opportunities to learn about, and connect with, the natural world.

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Friendly Faces

Introducing: Emily Harrell, Program Leader

What is your role at the preserve?
My purpose is to guide elementary and occasionally middle school students through the preserve, teaching them environmental lessons.

What is your biggest challenge as a Program Leader?
The greatest challenge as a Program Leader is to focus and guide students, primarily the younger ones, in the exploration of a variety of different subjects. It is so easy to get excited and distracted while on the trail, following the many whims of the students; but each time I lead, I discover new ways to cover more ground and new techniques to engage the students.

What are the rewards of your job?
Working as a program leader is incredibly rewarding. It is great to see the wonder and delight of the kids as they learn and explore new things about creation using all of their senses! One of my favorite things about working with kids is their curiosity. It is also great how kids love so easily and trust their leader's guidance while also showing excitement about what they find.

How is this job preparing you for your future?
I am studying Elementary Education, Spanish, and Fine Arts, so the preserve is preparing me as a future educator. It teaches me how to better engage with kids, find ways to capture their interest, and also keep them focused. I have learned so much about nature and biology from working as a program leader, and sometimes I feel just like the kids when I learn new things. It´s exciting when I´m able to identify plants, animal signs, and bird calls that I otherwise didn´t know before working at the preserve.

What advice can you give prospective students or freshman to encourage their involvement at the Preserve?
I love learning more about nature, so I would encourage students to get involved at the preserve. The BIC is a wonderful resource for learning and exploring! In the busy lives of a typical Calvin student, the nature preserve represents a place of rest, whether used for Sabbath reasons or simply academic respite. There is nothing quite like being surrounded by an incredible and active creation that shows us the beauty of God's creativity!

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Tales from the Trails

Reflections of Jacob Meier, former Preserve Steward & Stewardship Intern in 2008-2009

What is your favorite story, memory, or experience from the preserve?
My favorite memory/experience from the preserve is using trail cameras to track wildlife. One of my favorite pictures was of a grey fox. It wasn't a great picture, but it was a unique species to have on the preserve.

What did you learn from your job at the preserve?
I learned a lot of important field research skills while working at the preserve, including handling small rodents and identifying birds. I never took an official ornithology class, but the experience I gained led to one of my favorite summer jobs - working for Ducks Unlimited, catching ducks for radio telemetry studies near wind turbines.

What do you do now, and how did your job experience at the preserve influence your career, family life, faith, or lifestyle in general?
I just started in a position at the United States Geological Survey research facility in Jamestown, ND. This position is a culmination of all of my education which started at the Ecosystem Preserve, working with Dr. Van Dragt and Dr. Warners. The attitude of the people and goals of the preserve instilled in me a sense of care for creation and the importance of stewardship. I get to carry this on by studying the impact of agricultural development on native grasslands and wetlands, and its effect on greenhouse gas exchange and global warming.

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Nature Neighbors

blanding turtle

Meet Your Neighbor: Blanding´s Turtle (Emys blandingii)

Description: Blanding´s turtle is medium sized with an average carapace (top shell) length of 6-11 inches. It is most distinguishable by its bright yellow chin and throat. Flecks of yellow are also found on its domed carapace and in symmetric patterns on its plastron (lower shell). Similar to a Box turtle, Blanding´s turtle has shell hinges that allow it to pull its carapace and plastron tightly together for additional protection.
Habitat: Native to Michigan, Blanding´s turtle is primarily aquatic, though it can travel far on land to nest and mate. The specie is primarily located in the Great Lakes region, though it is rare in Michigan´s Upper Peninsula. Blanding´s turtle thrives in wetland habitats with clean, shallow water. In the summer, it can be seen basking on logs, but in the winter it is hiding in the mud at the bottom of ponds and marshes.
Diet: Blanding´s turtle is omnivorous, eating both meat and plants. Its diet includes crayfish, frogs, fish, invertebrates, tadpoles, and berries.
Interesting Facts: The sex of hatchlings is dependent on the temperature in which they incubate. Eggs that incubate below 77 degrees Fahrenheit are mostly male, while eggs that incubate above 86 degrees Fahrenheit are mostly female. It takes 50-75 days to incubate.

Be a Good Neighbor:

Blanding´s turtle is listed as a special concern specie, meaning the turtle is either threatened or endangered. The cause of their population decline is due to the fragmentation and destruction of their habitat. In Michigan, wetland habitats are being replaced with neighborhoods and cities, breaking up habitats with roads and highways. Help Blanding´s turtle survive by maintaining wetlands in your neighborhood or township. If you see a turtle crossing the road, assist it by placing it on the side of the road it was traveling towards.

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Unplugged: Connecting with Nature

bee pollinatingIf you´re afraid of bees and wasps, you´re not alone. Many people don´t like these flying insects because of the pain their sting brings. But bees, wasps, and other insects play an important role in the ecosystem around us. Plants, people, and pollinators all benefit from pollination! Plants benefit from pollination, as it allows them to fertilize, make seeds, and reproduce. People benefit from pollination, because it makes possible all the delicious fruits and vegetables we eat each day. Did you know insect pollinators contribute to one-third of the world´s diet? Pollinators themselves benefit from pollination, since the plants they visit provide them with food - nectar and pollen from flowers in summer, and the honey made by bees for sustenance during the winter. Children can learn more about pollination by visiting Science With Me.

Observing bees and other pollinators up close is a great way to spend your summer afternoons. The nice thing about pollinating bees is that they are not likely to become aggressive. Bees sting to defend their hive; when a bee is out foraging on its own, it has little need to defend its territory. You can use Observer Cards provided by the Encyclopedia of Life as a way to guide your observation. Can you see the pollen on the bee's body? What type of flower does it visit most? Can you find a nectar robber? Is the bee a miner, mason, leafcutter, or carpenter?

Bees aren´t the only pollinators; butterflies, hummingbirds, and bats are too! They are all fascinating creatures to observe doing what they do best. You may enjoy watching The Beauty of Pollination – Moving Art, a short video with lovely scenes of pollinators.

Find out more on some of our favorite websites:

Find a flower patch outside, and enjoy watching the pollinators float by this summer!

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