CCEP green heron logo Calvin College Ecosystem Preserve

May/June 2014 Newsletter


Native Plant Sale

Gardening for Nature

Volunteer Opportunities

Junior Camp Crew

Friendly Faces

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

Lauren Cremean,
Program Assistant

Jeanette Henderson,
Program Manager

Native Plant Sale

Grow beautiful landscapes with plants that support local wildlife!  Native plants are the flowers, grasses, trees, and shrubs that have inhabited Michigan since before European settlement.  Since these plants originate from Michigan, they are often better able to withstand our unique climate and soils than their cultivated counterparts.  This makes them easier to establish and maintain, and require less watering and fertilizing.  Another advantage of native perennials?  They are a great way to add color to your gardens, and attract butterflies, song birds and other wildlife!  Come to our Native Plant Sale, where our expert staff will be available to help you choose plants to create a garden you will delight in.

When:   Saturday, May 3 at 10 a.m.–12 p.m.
Where:  Bunker Interpretive Center, West Entrance

shopping plant saleProceeds from the sale support our educational programming, allowing us to keep our programs free or reasonably priced.

Help us spread the word! Tell your family, friends and neighbors about the Native Plant Sale, and encourage them to try gardening with native plants.

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Gardening for Nature: Creating Sustainable Landscapes for Home, School & Business

This conference outlines the principles and techniques involved in creating sustainable landscapes for the home garden, school outdoor learning lab, or business property. The event is designed for home owners, educators, and grounds managers interested in using native plant species to develop urban habitats. Landscaping with native plant species is shown to improve biodiversity, reduce water and chemical use, lower maintenance costs, and provide place-based learning experiences for all ages.

Presentations include:
Elements of a Habitat Gard
en, Growing Native Plants: America´s Roots In Your Garden, Best Native Plants for Your Habitat Garden and Where to Get Them, Using Native Plants in the Curriculum

Saturday, June 14, 2014 at 8 a.m.–4:30 p.m.
Ecosystem Preserve & West Michigan Cluster of the Stewardship Network
Bunker Interpretive Center
Stewardship Network members $35, Non-members $45. Includes a mobile workshop, lunch and refreshments.
Pre-registration is required by June 4, as space is limited to 60 participants.

See the Gardening for Nature flyer for more details.

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Volunteer Opportunities

Spring is in full swing at the preserve!  Here are a couple of opportunities for you to get your hands dirty, learn more about native plants, and help out a great cause.  We appreciate whatever time you can contribute.  If there are other weekday times you are able to help, please let us know as we may be able to accommodate your schedule.  While you can just show up, it is helpful for planning if you are able to let us know when you plan on volunteering: CLICK HERE.  If you have specific questions, contact the leader in charge of the event.  Please bring your own work gloves, and wear clothes you do not mind getting dirty.
volunteers planting
Spring Cleaning at the BIC & Native Gardens
We will be cleaning out gardens, clearing cob webs, raking leaves, and pulling garlic mustard.
Leader: Jeanette Henderson, Program Manager

Location: Bunker Interpretive Center
Friday, April 25 at 3–5 p.m.
Wednesday, April 30 at 2–5 p.m.

Preparing for the Native Plant Sale
Plants raised support this and future Native Plant Sales, as well as restoration efforts at both the Ecosystem Preserve and Flat Iron Lake Preserve.
Leader: Neil, Stewardship Intern (, 248-794-6458)

Location: Greenhouses at the Preserve House on Lake Drive (3770 Lake Dr. SE, GR 49546. There is construction on Lake at East Beltline, so you must approach the house from East Paris. The house is on the south side of the road; the address is on a white mailbox. You can see a greenhouse at the end of the driveway.)
Potting, Tagging & Moving Seedlings:

Mondays, April 21 & 28 at 1:30–3 p.m.
Wednesday, April 23 at 10:30 a.m.–12 p.m.
Wednesday, April 30 at 9:30 a.m.–12 p.m.
Plant Sale Setup:
Friday, May 2 at 2:30–6 p.m.
Native Plant Sale (greeting and selling):
Saturday, May 3 at 9:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m.
Transplanting (for future plant sales & restoration projects):
Mondays, May 5 & 12 at 1:30–3 p.m.
Wednesdays, May 7 & 14 at 10:30 a.m.–12 p.m.

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Junior Camp Crew

youth volunteerOur Junior Camp Crew offers a rewarding volunteer experience for youths between the ages of 12 and 17. The Crew stays busy assisting with younger campers during the summer. It's a great way for teens to be a part of the exciting things taking place at the Preserve, get outside, have fun and learn about nature at the same time, or even fulfill community service hours or class credits. Junior Camp Crew members choose one session of our Wetlands & Woodlands summer camps in which to volunteer; applications are currently being accepted. To find out more, click here.

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Friendly Faces

KendraIntroducing: Kendra Antonides, Animal Caretaker

What is your role at the preserve?
I feed live crickets, worms and pellets to the turtles, toads, frogs and salamander on a regular basis, and I maintain a clean terrarium for each species. I monitor water levels, scrub filters and wash the tank walls.

What is your biggest challenge as an Animal Caretaker?
Cleaning is straightforward in terms of what it involves, but it is a large time commitment. Amphibians and reptiles are more sensitive than mammals to ions and the pH of the water. Even though they live in a “controlled” environment that is relatively cleaner than the outdoors, it is no reason to let their closed system get dirty. A clean turtle is a happy turtle.

What are the rewards of your job?
It can be as simple as just watching the animals. They are so beautiful! Take the time to admire their skin colorations and their behavior. After I feed them, I need to ensure they don't lose sight of their food, and so the observation part of the job is a highlight.

How is this job preparing you for your future?
I am currently enrolled in the class of 2018 at Washington State University's College of Veterinary Medicine. Being responsible for animals is an excellent way to prepare for this career. I've researched issues for the ecosystem preserve ranging from salamander tail problems to turtle edema. Solving mysteries to care for the well-being of another animal is adventurous and rewarding. In doing this, we´ve both elucidated a conundrum and helped an animal feel better—the best outcome of this job.

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Nature Neighbors

Meet Your Neighbor: Yellow Trout Lily (Erythronium americanum)

yellow trout lily

Description:  Has a single yellow flower, located a few inches above the ground on a leafless stalk. With petals that stretch backward, the flower faces downward, exposing a reddish tint on the back of the petals. The leaves grow from the base, are small and pointed, and have a mottled coloring: silvery-green, purple, and brown.
Size: Can grow up to a foot high. The flowers range from 3/4–1 inch in width.
Habitat: Meadows and woodland areas, often deciduous forests. Commonly found near wetlands or bodies of water. Dozens of species spread across the country, but the yellow trout lily is native to eastern North America.
Interesting Facts: Trout lilies are one of the first wildflowers to bloom in the spring, and only mature plants with two leaves will flower. It grows by rhizomes & seed (ants eat part of a seed, leaving the rest to germinate). Trout lilies received their name because the shape and color of their leaves resembles a brook trout.

Be a Good Neighbor:

Trout lilies are delicate plants with short blooming stages. It can take up to seven years for a bulb to mature enough to produce a flower, and up to 200-300 years to produce a large colony. Please be cautious not to tread on them, and refrain from picking them.  By treating them with care, we allow them to reproduce and thrive, and allow everyone to enjoy them spring after spring.

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Unplugged: Connecting with Nature

Have you ever wondered why worms crowd our sidewalks after a heavy spring rain? Scientists aren´t completely sure, though they no longer believe it´s because the ground gets too wet for the worms to breathe. Some scientists believe that the worms come to the surface to avoid predation by moles, because raindrops create vibrations on the soil surface similar to the vibrations moles make. Others say it´s to travel farther and more easily across larger surfaces. Still other scientists believe they come to the surface to mate while the surface is moist enough for them to be in the open air. Find out more about worm behavior in the rain by visiting Why Do Earthworms Surface After Rain?

Maybe you´re not a fan of creepy-crawlies, but any child (or adult) may be fascinated by worms, or at least the science behind their instinctive travel and work. Next time you´re stuck inside on a rainy spring day, learn more about worms by exploring websites like Journey North: Earthworms and Adventures of Herman the Worm. Both of these websites are good resources to learn more about worm history, anatomy, and other facts. From an explanation of how to make a worm compost bin to a MadLib-style word game, the Herman the Worm website has dozens of kid-friendly pages, all “guided” by a friendly cartoon worm named Herman. The site also has a version in Spanish. If you want to laugh and smile, read Miss Jeanette´s favorite storybook, The Diary of a Worm by Doreen Cronin; while it is a fictional story, it does contain fairly accurate information about worms.

When the rain stops, go outside and look for all our crawling friends! Spend some time watching how they move and how they interact with their surroundings. Why do you think they come to the surface when it rains? Have fun learning about worms, and getting a little wet and muddy this spring!

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