Sarah Krzemien

Sarah has recently graduated from Central Michigan University with a BS in Environmental Science and Spanish. She is now a DTE Fellow for MRWA and is working as a Project Manager, where she is writing grants, assisting with projects, and promoting community engagement and education in the watershed. Sarah wants to help protect and preserve the Muskegon River Watershed so that current and future plants, animals, and community members can continue to enjoy it. She is passionate about education and is interested in environmental topics like invasive species management and hydrology.

November 29, 2023

Flying Classroom with Grant Public Schools

This past June I traveled with Grant Public Schools (GPS) and their partners to Miami, Florida for an educational training. The goal was to learn more about the organization Flying Classroom and brainstorm ideas for new educational programs in the Grant Public School and Newaygo County area. Stephanie Dood from Grant Public Schools organized the training. In addition to Grant Public Schools, the Newaygo Conservation District, and Quest High School were also in attendance. This whole experience ended up being amazing. I enjoyed having the opportunity to connect with those in and around Grant and discuss creative educational projects. We all also participated in quite a few new and thrilling activities, which I am excited to tell you all about.

Flying Classroom is a supplemental PK-12, digital STEM+ (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) curriculum aligned with national/state standards and is based on the global expeditions of Captain Irving. At age 23, he was the youngest person (and first African American) to fly solo around the world. Captain Irving launched Flying Classroom in 2013. Flying Classroom bases their lessons and STEM activities off Captain Irving’s global expeditions, which focus on problems facing global communities. For example, Captain Irving dove between two continental shelves in Iceland to teach about tectonic plates and land formations. He also flew over an active volcano to observe lava flow and volcanic processes. This connection creates increased excitement and engagement around STEM topics.

Our Flying Classroom expedition was two days long; however, no one in the group knew what we would be doing prior to meeting the organizers. All of the excursions were a surprise, and we were given clues that we solved together to reveal the activity. The first expedition was about the forces of flight: lift, thrust, drag and weight. Flying Classroom then told us that we were going to be flying, but not as passengers; we were going to be piloting the planes, too. While I was a little nervous, I was mainly super excited because this was something I’ve always wanted to do but never thought I would have the opportunity to. We flew in a four-seater Cessna plane in teams of three: two GPS members and a pilot. The plane was set up like a driver’s training vehicle, in the sense of both front seats could control the plane. The plan was to fly down the Miami Beach coast for an hour, come back to the airport and then switch with our GPS partner, so that we both had a chance to pilot the plane. While in the pilot’s seat, our instructor gave directions on where to go and explained the different instrumentation and controls. We helped with the taxiing, take-off, flying, and landing. I had never ridden in a plane that small before but enjoyed the entire experience. The views were absolutely breathtaking. I loved seeing the city, beach, and Atlantic Ocean from a bird’s eye view. If given the chance, I would definitely fly again.

After we landed, we got our second clue about communication. The answer was the air traffic control tower, which we headed to next. We had the chance to communicate with the air traffic controllers that were directing us when we were flying in the planes. They told us about their job, how they got involved with air traffic controlling, and gave us a tour of the tower. It was cool to see all the instruments and hear them communicating with planes trying to take off and land.

After the air traffic control tower, we were given a tour of Flying Classroom Headquarters. We saw the plane Captain Irving flew around the world, their classrooms, and the packaging area where they put together all the STEM+ classroom kits. At the end of the tour, we participated in a hands-on engineering and design challenge, which was one of the STEM+ activities that Flying Classroom offers. It was about using an assortment of everyday materials to build a boat that would float and be self-propelled in water. We were supplied a plastic water bottle, paper, cardboard, scissors, tape, popsicle sticks, and rubber bands. Working in teams of 2-3, we all constructed our boats. All of the boats looked different, and the activity was very fun and mentally and creatively stimulating. I enjoyed trying out one of their activities and seeing the corresponding Captain Irving video that went along with the content. While we were working, Captain Irving came by to meet us and talk about our experiences so far. It was so cool to actually meet and have a conversation with the person who helped create this organization and who we’d been hearing so much about. He was very nice and was interested in hearing about where we were from and what our organization is working on.

The final expedition of the day was sailing a boat. This activity was a blend of art, science, communication, and teamwork. This was another activity I had never done before. I have been in motorized boats, as well as have gone kayaking and canoeing, but have never been on a sailboat before. The captain of the boat was very friendly and informative. He taught us what each line did, how to steer, and other useful sailing information. Whenever we had to change directions, he would go around and give us each an opportunity to change the lines and steer. We also learned about fluid dynamics and how to optimize boat performance and stability. The trip started out as very rainy but turned into a beautiful day on the water. The entire sailing trip was four hours long and we traveled around Biscayne Bay near Miami. The captain asked if we would be interested in sailing to a nearby sand bar to go swimming and we all replied with an enthusiastic yes. I thought that the water would be cold like the lakes in Michigan, but it was fairly warm around 70 degrees. Sailing the boat was also a lot harder than I thought it would be because it is very easy to over correct the course. The boat takes a minute to adjust to any changes in direction so you have to wait a second before turning your wheel further, because if you don’t, the boat will go too far to the right or left. I had a blast sailing that day and another plus is nobody got seasick! When we returned to shore, we docked the boat and went to dinner and discussed everything we did that day. Then it was an early night back to prepare for more excursions the next day.

On day two, we travelled to the Florida Keys for our fourth and final expedition: the Laura Quinn Wild Bird Sanctuary and the Mission Wild Bird Hospital. While visiting these two places, we met with experts in rescue, rehabilitation, and release of native and migratory birds. At the Laura Quinn Wild Bird Sanctuary, we went on a tour around the sanctuary, where we learned about the different birds there, how they got there, and what we can do to make sure birds stay safe and healthy in the wild. The birds included songbirds, owls, ravens, crows, vultures, hawks, and more. All of the birds in the sanctuary could not be released back into the wild but still had a good quality of life. Many of the birds were injured in some way, either from cars, fishhooks, or other human-caused injuries. Others were mistakenly taken in by humans and ended up imprinting onto their caretakers, so they never learned how to survive in the wild. For example, a morning dove named Craig lives at the sanctuary because someone thought he was abandoned and took him in. He imprinted on the humans and now thinks that he is a human, so he doesn’t have any skills to survive in the wild. He doesn’t even relate to other birds well. This is why it is important to try and leave birds alone in the wild. Even if they are out of a nest and seem abandoned, they actually aren’t. Something I learned at the sanctuary was that when birds are learning to fly, they are often found on the ground, outside of their nests. However, even when the birds are out of the nests, the parents still return to feed them for some time. If a bird does seem like they are injured, however, be sure to contact a nearby animal hospital so that they can receive the help that they need. After the tour, we created enrichment activities for the birds. We were each assigned a different bird and created activities at the difficulty level and with food that they would enjoy. Songbirds don’t eat meat, so the people who got them used blueberries and eggshells for their activity. The predatory birds that ate meat were given frozen mice and chicks and eggshells for their activity. We created the enrichment activity by wrapping the food of choice in newspaper and placing them, along with additional crumpled newspaper, into paper towel rolls. The birds would then unwrap the rolls to find their treat. I received crow, which eat meat and berries, so I made some paper towel rolls with chicks. Crows are very smart, so I was also given a complicated puzzle box that I could fill with treats for their activity, too. The puzzle box had compartments that were hidden by covers, so the crows would have to move the pieces to uncover their treat. I placed blueberries and eggshells in the puzzle for them. It was fascinating to see the different types of birds and how they each interact with their enrichment activities. The birds were cautious when approaching the enrichment toy and assessed it before they started taking it apart. They would then pull out the paper and search the roll for the food that was hidden inside. Some ate theirs right away while others waited until their food thawed out to dig in. The bird sanctuary was also right on the water so on our tour I took a photo of the most picturesque view I have ever seen (pictured below).

After the bird sanctuary, we headed to the Mission Wild Bird Hospital just down the road. This bird hospital is where injured or sick birds go to get better. Some of the birds in their care were young birds that were malnourished, a pelican that had a fishing hook caught in his wing and birds that were hit by cars. The hospital’s goal is to release all the birds that come in for care back into the wild. However, if a bird cannot be released and they still have a good quality of life, they will go to the bird sanctuary instead. Once at the bird hospital, we received a tour of the building. We then went outside and sorted and washed fishing line to recycle the filament. Fishing line is often thrown into bodies of water instead of being thrown in the trash or even recycled. By collecting and recycling this filament we are both removing it from waterways, so that it doesn’t harm any animals or plants, and promoting the reuse of materials. I enjoyed the recycling activity. It made me think more about what we are doing in the Michigan lakes to promote fishing line recycling. I will make sure to continue disposing of my fishing line properly, pick up any line I see when I’m out by the water, and educate others on the harm that fishing line can cause. I also liked learning about the bird hospital and seeing the amazing work they are doing there. As we left, they handed us a box of three Carolina Wrens that were ready to be released. We drove to the release site on the way back to Miami and released these birds back into the wild. The birds were a little apprehensive to leave the box, but once one left the other two followed and they flew into the nearby bushes.

Overall, this trip was a wonderful experience. I did not expect to have so many first-time experiences, like flying an airplane and sailing a boat. I also enjoyed connecting with professionals/partners in the Grant area. I am looking forward to continuing to work with Grant Public Schools and the Newaygo Conservation District on projects in Newaygo County in the future.

July 26, 2023

Boat Decontamination Station

We are officially in the midst of Summer in Michigan, which means weekends are often full of various water activities, including fishing, swimming, and boating. While you are out at boat launches with family and friends, you may see signs and hear conversations about “AIS” or “Boat Decontamination Stations”, but what does all this mean? This article will provide clarity on these topics, as well as offer essential information on ways we can protect our beautiful Michigan lakes.

 

What is AIS? According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, AIS stands for Aquatic Invasive Species, which is a “freshwater or marine organism that has spread or been introduced beyond its native range and is either causing harm or has the potential to cause harm.” Some common examples in Michigan include zebra mussels, Eurasian watermilfoil, curly-leaf pondweed, and European frog-bit. A full list of Michigan invasive species can be found on the michigan.gov site (https://www.michigan.gov/invasives/id-report/plants/aquatic).

 

But why are aquatic invasive species so harmful? Invasive species possess many traits that help them out-compete native species. For example, they often spread and reproduce in areas where they have no natural predators. This means that they can spread with little control from the natural environment. Ultimately, this can change the balance of the ecosystem we rely on, because the invasives out-compete the native species for food and space. Without native species, the ecosystem’s biodiversity (the variety of life in a particular habitat or ecosystem) is reduced, making it more susceptible to disturbances, like disease or climate change. Additionally, invasive species can affect the economy, by impacting property values, agricultural productivity, native fisheries, tourism, and outdoor recreation. Overall, invasive species can be detrimental to an area’s ecosystem and economy; therefore, it is important that we do what we can to prevent their spread throughout the state.

What can we do? There are many things we can do to prevent the spread of AIS throughout Michigan. One is to practice Clean, Drain, Dry, Dispose with all watercraft and outdoor recreation gear after every use.

  • Clean: Boats, trailers, and equipment
  • Drain: live wells, bilges, ballast tanks and all water by pulling drain plugs
  • Dry: boats and equipment before using them in another body of water
  • Dispose: of unwanted bait in the trash

AIS can travel from lake to lake by attaching to boats, trailers, and gear. When we clean, drain, and dry, we try to remove AIS before they can be transported to another body of water. Another strategy is education. Learn about the different aquatic invasive species in your area and how to identify them. Educate neighbors and visitors on AIS, its harm, and the prevention methods.

The Muskegon River Watershed Assembly and Newaygo County Parks and Recreation are working together to make it easier for you all to practice Clean, Drain, Dry, Dispose at one of the local boat launches. On June 23rd, a Boat Decontamination Station was installed at the Sandy Beach Boat Launch on Hardy Dam Pond. The station includes a sign containing instructions for decontaminating your boat, and links/QR codes for information about AIS in Michigan. The sign also includes four decontamination tools: grabber tool, scraper tool, and two boat brushes. The grabber tool assists boaters in removing any plant material from the trailer or boat that is in hard-to-reach places. The scraper tool can scrape mussels or algae from the boat and trailers. The boat brushes can scrub the boats to remove any AIS. Located directly to the right of the sign is an Aquatic Invasive Species Disposal Bin, where boaters can deposit AIS that they remove from their boat, trailer, and equipment. Finally, plug wrenches are placed on either side of the boat launch. This tool allows boaters to remove bilge plugs and drain all water from the boat when leaving the site. They are located on posts with signs reminding boaters to put in and remove drain plugs when entering and exiting the lake. When boaters utilize this important resource, they will be doing their part to help stop AIS from leaving Hardy Dam Pond and potentially spreading to nearby lakes.

Sources

What is an aquatic invasive species? | U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. (n.d.). https://fws.gov/story/what-aquatic-invasive-species

April 27, 2023

Spring has sprung! The ice is melting, and the rivers are flowing, which means it’s time to start sampling for macroinvertebrates. Macroinvertebrates are small organisms that you can see without a microscope that lack an internal skeletal system and live part or all of their lives in water. They are very good indicators of stream conditions, because they have short life spans and cannot move to a new location easily, which means that if their home is polluted, they can’t escape it. The Michigan Clean Water Corps (MiCorps) developed a standardized method to evaluate stream health using macroinvertebrates. We can use macroinvertebrates to calculate the health of a stream because different macroinvertebrate species have different pollution tolerances. A pollution ranking of 0 means the macroinvertebrate is highly sensitive and not tolerant to pollution, while a ranking of 10 means the macroinvertebrate is not sensitive and highly tolerant to pollution. For example, stoneflies have a pollution sensitivity of 1.3, meaning they are mainly found in streams that are not heavily polluted. Aquatic worms on the other hand, have a pollution sensitivity of 10, meaning they can be found in streams that have a lot of pollution.

But what is MiCorps? Michigan created MiCorps “through Executive Order #2003-15 to assist the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) in collecting and sharing water quality data for use in water resources management and protection programs” (MiCorps). MiCorps sampling includes two parts: a habitat assessment and macroinvertebrate sampling. The habitat assessment evaluates stream health through analyzing overall stream habitat (vegetation, stream riffles and pools, streambed composition, etc.). The macroinvertebrate sampling evaluates stream health through collecting and identifying the stream’s macroinvertebrates. Both components are important to determining stream health.

But what is the MiCorps macroinvertebrate sampling process? There are two main roles in macroinvertebrate sampling: collectors and pickers. A collector enters the stream and uses a net to collect debris from different stream microhabitats, such as rocks, riffles, runs, submerged wood, vegetation, etc. They then bring the debris they collect to the pickers, who are working on the shore. The collector dumps their debris into trays, which the pickers sort through and pick out the macroinvertebrates. The pickers place the macroinvertebrates into jars, so that they can be identified later. The collector samples a 300-ft stream section over 35-45 minutes, while the pickers pick for a total of 60 minutes. Once this step is completed, the team works together to identify the macroinvertebrates they found in their stream section. They can then use this information to calculate the stream health.

The MRWA has been conducting MiCorps sampling since 2005. Over the past 18 years, MRWA has sampled 73 sites across over 30 streams. These streams range from the upper part of the Muskegon River Watershed at Higgins Lake to the lower end of the watershed at Wheeler Drain. Many of the sampled locations are also areas where restoration has occurred or will occur in the future, allowing us to monitor changes in stream health before, during, and after restoration. MiCorps has become an essential procedure and tool to continue our mission to preserve and protect the Muskegon River Watershed, and we look forward to continuing to collect data for years to come.

This past weekend we had our MiCorps Macroinvertebrate Collector Training, where we trained our volunteers to be collectors for our official MiCorps sampling event this spring. Before I started working for MRWA, I did not know anything about MiCorps sampling or macroinvertebrates. When I first learned about them, I was shocked at the amount of life that goes unnoticed in a stream. While these macroinvertebrates are abundant and can be found in streams all over, I had never noticed them until now. I was also a little uneasy to return to the water after learning that I have been swimming with all these creatures my whole life, but this apprehension eased once I had a chance to get up close and interact with them in the real world. I was not prepared for the level of excitement I felt while picking and collecting macroinvertebrates. I haven’t been studying them for long, so I didn’t know how many I would be able to identify without a guide; however, as soon as we started picking, I was pointing out hellgrammites, caddisflies, and stoneflies. It was so cool to see them in person, after only knowing them from photos in books or online. While collecting, I felt such a sense of accomplishment whenever I returned to my pickers with some debris that had macroinvertebrates. There were a few times I thought I had not caught anything in my net, but when my pickers looked, it turns out I had caught some dragonfly nymphs and the biggest stonefly I had ever seen.

As I mentioned before, the part I thought I would struggle with was the identification; however, this part was a lot easier than I imagined. We all sat together to identify the macroinvertebrates we caught, using identification keys and working together when we needed extra input. It was like a giant group game of “Guess that Macroinvertebrate!” I would recommend macroinvertebrate sampling to people of all ages who are interested in the outdoors and insects. While you do need to be trained to be a collector, you don’t need any experience or training for picking. Additionally, picking just involves finding the macroinvertebrates in debris and placing them into jars. So, both children and adults can be great pickers.

If you are interested in volunteering with MiCorps monitoring, our next official monitoring event will take place on May 20th from 10am-1pm at Ed Henning Park. Please see the attached flyer for more information. Email SarahKrzemien@ferris.edu to register. Download flyer here.

Sources

Michigan Clean Water Corps (micorps). SOM – State of Michigan. (n.d.). Retrieved April 24, 2023, from https://www.michigan.gov/egle/about/organization/water-resources/assessment-michigan-waters/micorps

 

March 22, 2023

Since March is reading month, I decided to create a list of environmental books that I’ve read for children and adults to read. Each book explores a different aspect of the environment with topics ranging from environmental activism, water quality, bees, and extraordinary women in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Mathematics). The entries below contain the book’s author and illustrator, a picture of the cover, and a summary. The children’s book entries also include the recommended age range and links to online read-alouds or interviews with the author. There is so much information to learn about the environment; reading is one of the best ways that we can increase our knowledge of these topics and the world.  

Book Recommendations for Adults: 

The Death and Life of the Great Lakes  

Written by Dan Egan 

Published: 2017 

Summary: This incredibly informational book covers the history of the Great Lakes from the last ice age tens of thousands of years ago to the construction of the St. Lawrence Seaway and all the way up to present day. The novel is divided into three parts: the front door, the back door, and the future. These divisions move through the lakes geographically, starting from one end of the lakes at the St. Lawrence Seaway in the East, and traveling to the other end of the lakes at Chicago in the West. The author goes in-depth about the history of the Great Lakes and their evolution from an isolated system into a major player in international trade. Egan also tells the history of many Great Lakes fish (lake trout, coho, and chinook salmon) and invasive species (sea lamprey, zebra, and quagga mussels). Finally, the novel looks to the future and discusses problems like Asian carp, climate change, and the ongoing threat of the sale/movement of Great Lakes water out of the basin. Overall, The Death and Life of the Great Lakes covers a wide variety of Great Lakes topics. It is also written in an engaging and story-telling way, versus a list of facts, which makes it enjoyable to read.    

 

 

The Muskegon: The Majesty and Tragedy of Michigan’s Rarest River 

Written by Jeff Alexander 

Published: 2006 

Summary: This novel dives into the long and complicated history of the Muskegon River, from its formation 8,000 years ago to present day. Author Jeff Alexander tells this narrative story from the human perspective vs the nature perspective; it is told: “through people who have changed the river, for better and worse.” The story is also ordered chronologically and divided into two parts: damage and restoration. The damage includes the effects of logging, dams, urbanization, the introduction of invasive species, the loss of native species, pollution, and more. The restoration portion discusses how people have combated or corrected these damages over time. For example, cleaning up pollution at Muskegon Lake or removing the Newaygo and Big Rapids dams. Alexander tells a deeply engaging and informative history of the largest cool-water river in Michigan. The book provides stories and facts that will entertain both novices and lifetime residents of the Muskegon River watershed. It also includes footnotes, an index, and some photos of logging, fishing, dams, and eroding banks over the years. Finally, the book is printed on 100% recycled paper.  

 

Book Recommendations for Children: 

We Are Water Protectors 

Written by Carole Lindstrom and illustrated by Michaela Goade 

Ages: 3-6 

Summary: Author Carole Lindstrom is Anishinaabe/Métis, was born and raised in Nebraska, and is a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe. This book focuses on the environmental activism of Indigenous peoples and was inspired by the many Indigenous-led movements in North America, including the Dakota Access Pipeline Protests at Standing Rock. The story follows a young girl who was told stories of a black snake (the oil pipeline) that will destroy the land and water. The young girl knows that water is sacred, so she needs to stand together with her community to protect it. At the end of the story, the author has also included more information on water protectors, a glossary, an illustrator’s note, and an Earth Steward and Water Protector Pledge.  

More Information: This link includes an interview and a read-aloud of the book We are Water Protectors, with Carol Lindstrom. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2YHaRmj9wLU 

 

Greta and the Giants: Inspired by Greta Thunberg’s Stand to Save the World 

Written by Zoë Tucker and illustrated by Zoe Persico 

Ages: 4-8 

Summary: This book covers topics such as deforestation, human impacts on the environment, and environmental activism. The story follows a young girl named Greta, who discovers that the forest she lives in is growing smaller and smaller. This is because giants are cutting down the trees to use the wood and make space for homes, factories, and cities. Greta decides to stand up to the giants; however, the giants don’t take notice of her. Over time, other people and animals began to join her and, as the crowd grew, the giants stopped and listened to their concerns. They could now work together to build a better world. A key takeaway from this story is, “no one is too small to make a difference.” At the end of the story, the author includes more information about Greta Thunberg, as well as some things you can do to help Greta combat climate change. The book is also printed on 100% recycled paper and when a copy of the book is purchased, 3% of the cover price is donated to 350.org, a non-profit dedicated to combating climate change. 

More Information: This link is to a read-aloud of the book Greta and the Giants, with author Zoë Tucker. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HFI0XNM7Pzg 

 

Fantastically Great Women Who Saved the Planet 

Written and illustrated by Kate Pankhurst 

Ages: 9-12 

Summary: This book features extraordinary women who helped save the planet through lots of hard work. The list of characters includes Eugenie Clark, Wangari Maathai, Ingeborg Beling, Anita Roddick, Edith Farkas, Jane Goodall, Isatou Ceesay, Florence Augusta Merriam Bailey, Maria Telkes, the Chipko Movement, Eileen Kampakuta Brown and Eileen Wani Wingfield, Ursula Marvin, and Daphne Sheldrick. These women studied sharks, the ozone layer, meteorites, and chimpanzees. They fought for reforestation, plastic recycling, animal conservation, and nuclear-free zones. All these women played a huge part in protecting their planet. These stories are inspiring and demonstrate that “small changes can make a big difference.” 

More Information: This link is to a video of author Kate Pankhurst giving a talk to schools about how she started her Fantastically Great Women series and her drawing process. https://www.readingzone.com/news/discover-fantastically-great-women-with-kate-pankhurst/ 

 

Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera  

Written by Candace Fleming and illustrated by Eric Rohmann 

Ages: 6-9 

Summary: This book follows one honeybee, Apis, throughout her life. It covers the many different jobs that a worker bee has, including nursing, queen tending, comb building, food handling, guarding, and foraging. While working on this book, the author and illustrator sent their work to a bee expert, to make sure all the information and illustrations were as accurate as possible. At the end of the story, the author included a diagram of a honeybee, information on how you can help protect honeybees, and some bee facts.  

More Information: This link is a video of author, Candace Fleming, talking about her book, Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jY7L07a8XRE  

 

 

 

January 25, 2023

Welcome to the first installment of the monthly Follow the Fellow blog. This blog will be a place where I’ll share fun environmental topics or activities, various projects the Muskegon River Watershed Assembly (MRWA) is working on, and opportunities for community involvement. Before I get too far, I wanted to start my first blogpost off by introducing myself. I graduated from Central Michigan University this past May, with a Bachelor’s of Science in Environmental Science and Spanish. Three months ago, I started working as a Project Manager for MRWA. This position was made possible through the DTE Foundation Environmental Fellowship. The MRWA and the DTE Foundation have been working for over a year to make the Fellowship Program a reality. The Fellowship Program was created by DTE Foundation to provide future environmental leaders from underrepresented groups in the workplace, with comprehensive work experience that is necessary to make a positive impact in the world. This program allows me to work for MRWA for two years and assist them on pursuing their mission, which is dedicated to the preservation, protection, restoration, and sustainable use of the Muskegon River, the land it drains, and the life it supports, through educational, scientific and conservation initiatives. Over the past four months, I have enjoyed the position and view it as a wonderful continuation of my environmental science path.

My path in environmental science started many years ago with my grandfather, who had always wanted to be a forest ranger. He loved the outdoors and tried to immerse himself in nature as much as possible. While this career never became a reality, he did buy a house up-north in the middle of the woods. Whenever my family would visit him, he would take me on walks around his property. I grew up in southeast Michigan, so I normally had few opportunities to go on walks like this in my town. On these walks, my grandfather would point out and identify the different flora and fauna we saw. He also taught me very important lessons about the relationship humans have with nature. He told me that humans and nature should share a mutualistic relationship; the Earth cares for us, but we have a responsibility to provide the same great care for it, too. I still live by this mindset today and think that learning this lesson at a young age has fostered my passion and love for the environment. As I grew up, I continued taking every opportunity to learn about the environment. I took environmental science classes in school, watched nature documentaries, and went outside as much as possible. When it finally came time to choose my future career path, it wasn’t a hard decision. I now get to work on projects every day that will improve the Muskegon River Watershed. To date, I have worked on invasive species prevention projects and developed educational programming with the MRWA. I have also submitted a grant proposal to fund the planting of 361 trees throughout three counties in the watershed. In addition to writing a proposal, this process included conducting site visits, contacting partners, and creating a budget. MRWA should hear back if the grant was approved in the next couple months.

There are many things I hope to achieve for the Muskegon River Watershed. I am passionate about educational programming and community outreach; therefore, I am excited to continue developing educational opportunities for the Muskegon River Watershed community. I also hope to continue working with the rest of the MRWA staff on a variety of projects, ranging from tree plantings and trash clean-ups, to invasive species prevention and streambank restoration. I want to thank you all for tuning in and I hope you will continue to follow along on my journey. Stay tuned for more posts, which will be released on the last Wednesday of every month.