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FYRES: Research

FYRES Students taking measurements with the total station

Managing Trails on a Dune to Protect Pitcher's Thistle

Mentored by: Steve Musch
Team: Elaine Hilverda, Evan Legge, Natasha Strydhorst, Lucas VanderBilt

Report Abstract: Our study was conducted in a new dune preserve located 0.5 km north of Meinert Park. The property (hereafter referred to as Dune A) was recently purchased by the West Michigan Land Conservancy, which was concerned with the protection of the local Pitcher’s Thistle (Cirsium pitcheri) population. The ultimate goal of this study was to analyze human impacts  (particularly unmanaged trails) in relation to this population and to suggest a management strategy to reduce and/or eliminate those that had a negative effect. Trimble GPS units were used to collect data points identifying the location of each plant (206 total), while leaf lengths were measured and recorded. These data points were compared to the location of various unmanaged trails in the system, which were also mapped via GPS. The study results indicated that the Thistle population was adversely influenced by the presence of these unmanaged trails, especially where they are the most condensed. In other, similar case studies, human impacts such as these are noted to further threaten this delicate species (Santoro et al., 2012). While our study was conducted with the intent of developing a sustainable management plan specifically for this area, its results may have more universal relevance for later studies and protection initiatives. Poster (pdf)

Conference Presentation: Musch, Steven, Elaine Hilverda, Evan Legge, Natasha Strydhorst, Lucas VanderBilt (2013). "Interactions between dune trails and Cirsium Pitcheri habitat." North-Central Section of the Geological Society of America (Kalamazoo, MI), 2-3 May 2013. Abstract (pdf)