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FYRES: Michigan Academy Presentations 2014

FYRES students investigating Castle Park duneFYRES mentor Natasha Strydhorst discussing her research on Pitcher's Thistle.

What is the Michigan Academy Conference?

The Michigan Academy of Science, Arts and Letters holds an annual multidisciplinary conference on the campus of a Michigan university or college. In 2014, the conference was held at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. FYRES: Dunes research results were presented in the Geological Sciences section of the conference, but FYRES students attended sessions in sections ranging from psychology to environmental sciences.

Who Attended the Conference?

The four FYRES mentors presented research posters at the conference. Eight students in the FYRES 2013 class came along to experience an academic conference. Professor van Dijk was there to mentor everyone through presenting or attending. And all of the FYRES 2013 students were represented at the conference as coauthors on the research posters.

What Were the Research Topics?

Blowouts and Unmanaged Trails in Hoffmaster State Park, Michigan

Presented by: Katie Burkley

Dune systems in public parks can be exposed to the pressures of high recreational use, but few studies have investigated the resulting changes to the dunes. Our study focused on human impacts at Hoffmaster State Park, MI by investigating the unmanaged trails and blowouts along a dune ridge. We mapped all trail segments with GPS, recorded their characteristics, and categorized each segment as either leading into a blowout, near a blowout, or not near a blowout. We mapped all blowouts with GPS including their deflation and deposition areas, recorded blowout characteristics and categorized each blowout as either saucer or trough. We analyzed the data to see if there were any relationships between the unmanaged trails and blowouts. Our study area contained 85 trail segments and 27 blowouts. Trail segments were mostly wide and bare of vegetation. The trails “not near” blowouts had a greater vegetation height than the trails near or through blowouts. Most blowouts were saucer-shaped and had at least one trail. Blowouts which contained one or more trail intersections tended to have larger deflation areas. Our results suggest that human disturbance along the dune ridge can cause larger amounts of instability on the dune surface. Poster (PDF)

Investigating the Relationship Between Deer and Trails on Coastal Sand Dunes

Presented by: Chengbi Liu

Abstract: Although scientists have studied the impacts of deer browsing and trampling on coastal dune vegetation, few studies have been done on the impacts of deer on trails. We investigated the relationship between deer presence and trail characteristics in North Ottawa Dunes, Michigan. We first recorded deer evidence (i.e. tracks and scat) on both an open dune area and a wooded dune area. At the same sites, we mapped trails and documented their features including width, slope, direction, length and surface condition. In the open dune area, we identified numerous trail segments and evidence of deer, with most of the deer evidence concentrated on the lower windward slope. In the wooded area, we also recorded the most trails and deer evidence on the lower slopes although the observed amounts were much smaller because of the thick leaf litter. The spatial pattern of trails and deer evidence indicates a positive relationship between deer presence and trail location. Our results suggest that deer activity contributes to disturbances such as trails that affect coastal dune dynamics. Poster (PDF)

Dune environment influences on a rare Great Lakes thistle: An investigation in Ottawa County Parks’ Rosy Mound Natural Area

Presented by: Natasha Strydhorst

Native to the Great Lakes dunes, Cirsium pitcheri is listed as threatened at both the state and federal level and is sensitive to changing environments. This study investigated the C. pitcheri population and its environmental conditions in Rosy Mound Natural Area on Lake Michigan’s eastern shore. During the fall of 2013, we mapped selections of the population, unmanaged trails (both deer and human-caused), and the park’s boardwalk using Trimble Juno GPS units. For each plant, we recorded surface conditions, longest leaf length, and whether deer trampling and/or grazing was evident. We also compared four plant population areas characterized by different features: the managed boardwalk, an unmanaged human trail, an unmanaged deer trail, and an open dune area. Significant deer evidences were visible around the 253 individual plants mapped. Despite the deer presence, few indications of damage to C. pitcheri from trampling or grazing were observed. The thistles’ density was similar near the boardwalk and human-caused unmanaged trail, and greater around the deer trail and open dune areas. Our results suggest that the deer population is ideally sized to provide the disturbance required by C. pitcheri without exerting undue strain on the population. Poster (PDF)

Impacts of Three Autumn Storms on a Lake Michigan Foredune

Presented by: Jacob T. Swineford

Although studies have analyzed the effects of storms on sand transport and foredune development, few studies have targeted Great Lakes dunes.  We investigated how autumn storms affected a foredune in Hoffmaster State Park, Michigan. Our study objectives were to analyze the nature of several autumn storms, measure erosion and deposition on the foredune, and measure effects of wave run-up on the beach and foredune. We used sand traps and erosion pins to measure sand transport and surface changes. We mapped wave run-up and vegetation change with GPS. Wind measurements were recorded with an on-site anemometer tower. During a two-week period, we documented three different storms with varying wind speeds and precipitation. During one storm, winds reached up to 15 m/s, causing erosion on the upper windward face of the foredune. All three storms showed wave run-up onto the foredune, causing deposition in the first few rows of erosion pins. Wrack lines indicate wave run-up as much as twenty meters beyond the pre-storm shoreline.  The combined effects of the three autumn storms suggest that storms are responsible for the majority of change to Great Lakes foredunes. Poster (PDF)



2015 MASAL Conference

Research Information

FYRES 2014-2015 produced 6 research projects, 3 conference posters, and 3 conference presentations. 6 research reports are underway.

FYRES 2013-2014 produced 5 research projects, 4 conference posters, and published 4 research reports.

FYRES 2012-2013 produced 6 research projects, 6 presentations (5 papers and 1 poster) at the North-Central meeting of the Geological Society of America, and 5 research reports.

FYRES 2011-2012 produced 4 research projects, 5 presentations (3 papers and 2 posters) at the Michigan Academy in March 2012, and 3 research reports.