CCEP green heron logo Calvin College Ecosystem Preserve

September/ October 2014 Newsletter

IN THIS ISSUE:

With Gratitude

First Saturdays

Critters & Company Fall Series

Family Weekend Open House

Volunteers in Action

Forty Year Tree Census

Nature Neighbors

Unplugged

 



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.

Summer:
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
www.calvin.edu/go/preserve
(616) 526-7600


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Contributing Writers:

Julie Wilbourn,
Department Assistant

Sheila DeVries,
Summer Preserve Steward

Jeanette Henderson,
Program Manager

With Gratitude

During the 2014-2015 academic year, all our educational programming will be financially assisted by The Bea Aldrink Idema Foundation. We are truly grateful for their generous support of our elementary school visits, Critters & Company, First Saturdays, adult education, and spring break programs. This grant will allow thousands of adults, families, and children to experience nature first hand during our various educational programs. It will also give more than a dozen Calvin students work experience, preparing them for future careers in science and education.

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First Saturdays

Our First Saturday family series returns for fall!

Looking at Leaves
fall leavesFamilies will have fun hiking through the preserve with Miss Jeanette as they learn to identify trees by their leaves.  Also discover why leaves change color, and create your own leaf art project to take home with you.  This program is appropriate for families with children aged 4 and older.

When:    Saturday, October 4 at 10:30 am - 12 pm
Where:  Bunker Interpretive Center
Cost:      Free, no registration required
Dress for the weather and walking the trails.

To see more First Saturday programs planned for fall, click here.

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Critters & Company Fall Series

grandma & girl doing craftBring your little naturalist, and let's go trail trekking with Miss Jeanette! This October, we'll discover how fascinating the colors of nature, leaves, turkeys, and apples & acorns can be. For more details and to register, click here.

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Family Weekend Open House

The preserve is hosting an open house during Calvin College's Family Weekend.  Everyone is welcome to stop in to create some of our favorite nature art projects.  You can even make a lovely marbleized leaf!  Then go on a hike in the preserve, and take in some of our beautiful fall colors.  Light refreshments will be offered.

When:    Saturday, October 18 at 10 am - 4 pm
Where:   Bunker Interpretive Center
Cost:       Free, no registration required

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Volunteers in Action

Our Junior Camp Crew had a great time volunteering at the preserve this summer.  A big "thank you" goes to our crew members: Olivia, Sterling, Matt, Zachary, Elizabeth, Jillian, Ransom, Sydney, Alisa, and Mark!  Each of them spent a week (or more) helping our Wetlands & Woodlands campers and camp leaders in various ways.  They kept things clean and organized, and assisted with setting up the lessons each day.  They were wonderful role models to younger campers needing a little more care and attention, and  managed keeping everyone on the trails.  Some even assisted with our animal care responsibilities.  Our camp leaders appreciated all their help throughout the summer.
junior
                    crewjunior crewjunior crewjunior crewjunior crew

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Forty Year Tree Census

Throughout this summer, a tree census study, now in its fortieth year, was conducted in the preserve. Very few surveys of this duration exist, making it a valuable study that will potentially reveal the impacts of both intrinsic and extrinsic factors on woodlot development. Smaller stands of trees like this one comprise a significant number of urban forests. These small woodlots are subject to many pressures that affect their development over time and, with that, the role they play in the urban environment.

Our team of Tree Survey Research Students, David Postma and Jon Knott, both Biology majors, worked diligently to investigate and record the trees located on the public 40 acres of the preserve. They identified and counted every small tree at least 30 cm. tall with a diameter less than 2 inches.  Each large tree with a diameter of 2 inches or more was numbered, identified, mapped, and its diameter measured.  Additionally, they calculated the height of each tree with a diameter greater than 12 inches. And for the first time, in 2014, they measured the average amount of light in each section of the study area.

The Ecosystem Preserve is classified as a Beech Maple forest in secondary succession. As of this summer, a total of 1,850 large trees and 2,000 saplings reside in the study area of the preserve. To learn more about this and other research being conducted here and on Flat Iron Lake Preserve, click here.
measuring tree diameter
identifying saplingmeasuring tree height

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Nature Neighbors

Meet Your Neighbors: Goldenrod (Solidago sp.) vs. Ragweed (Ambrosia sp.)

goldenrodGoldenrod: This is a genus of generally tall plants, growing up to five feet high. Goldenrods have a single, smooth stem, and simple, lance-shaped leaves. The golden yellow flowers are showy, and can be clustered in a variety of ways, from the spikes on the tops of Canada goldenrod, to the round clusters at each leaf axis of the Zigzag goldenrod, to the flat tops of Stiff goldenrod. Each individual flower is less than a half inch wide, and has petal-like ray flowers surrounding tiny disk flowers in the center.
ragweedRagweed: This genus tends to be shorter, from only a few inches tall to about three feet in height. Ragweed has a branched, hairy stem, and compound, lacy, deeply lobed leaves. The green flowers are inconspicuous, arranged in clusters on a spike usually 1–6 inches long. Flowers in the spikes are the male flowers, loaded with pollen. Female flowers sit below these spikes, in the forks of the stem and leaf.
Similarities: Both Goldenrod and Ragweed are plants native to Michigan. They both have late bloom seasons, flowering in late summer or early fall. Also, both can be found in prairies, on roadsides, and in abandoned fields, favoring locations where the soil has been disturbed.

Be a Good Neighbor:

goldenrod and ragweedPictured: Canada goldenrod (Solidago canadensis, on L), Common ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia, on R)

Since goldenrod and ragweed grow side-by-side in the same habitats, and bloom at the same time, many people associate goldenrod with allergies in the fall. When allergies strike, they notice the tall, brightly colored goldenrod, not the inconspicuous ragweed growing beneath, and mistakenly blame the wrong plant for their symptoms. The real culprit is ragweed. Ragweed pollen is a fine dust that is distributed by the wind. This pollen blowing around in the air is a common cause for hay fever. Goldenrod pollen, however, is larger, heavier, moist and sticky, requiring an insect to carry it from flower to flower. Goldenrod is important to the wildlife that come to it to drink nectar, collect pollen, munch on stems and leaves, lay eggs, and prey on insects. So as allergy season arrives, remember to grow the goldenrod and remove the ragweed!

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Unplugged: Connecting with Nature

goldenrod gallGalls: Small Homes for Tiny Creatures.  Do you ever wonder what those sphere-shaped growths on goldenrod stems or reddish worm-like protrusions on black cherry leaves are? A gall is an abnormal growth of plant tissue produced by a chemical irritation or intrusion by fungi, viruses, mites, or insects. There are about 2,000 types of gall makers and gall homes on about half the families of plants in North America. One of the most common types of galls is the goldenrod ball gall. It is the result of an adult goldenrod gall fly laying eggs in the plant stem, which stimulates plant tissue growth around the egg. A larva emerges from the egg and spends the winter in the gall. In the spring, it pupates and emerges as an adult fly, from a hole in the gall previously created by the larva.

Go on a Gall Hunt.  Fall and early winter are great times to discover galls. Many different types of galls can be found in fields and woods including: goldenrod galls, oak leaf galls, willow-cone galls, and numerous other galls on poplar, dogwood, hackberry and maple trees. Go on a gall hunt to see how many different types of galls you can find as a family, then discover what is inside.

Investigate What’s Inside.  Under adult supervision, use a sharp knife to cut open a gall and investigate whether or not the larvae is still inside. What texture does the leaf tissue have inside? If the larvae is gone, can you find an exit hole? If you find larvae, leave them outside so a woodpecker can find them and enjoy the tasty treat.

Galls comes in a fascinating range of sizes, shapes, and colors! Here are some internet resources to continue learning more about galls:

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