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.

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. 


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, 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. 


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. 


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.  




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.