Au Gres-Sims elementary students team up with Great Lakes scientists to monitor threatened pitcher’s thistle and invasive phragmites plant populations on Charity Island.
Posted on October 13, 2015 by Brandon Schroeder, Michigan State University Extension, Michigan Sea Grant; and Tracy D’Augustino, Michigan State University Extension
The bow of “Miss Charity Ilse” cut through the waves and waters of Lake Huron, and smiles flashed across the faces of elementary students from Au Gres-Sims School. These fourth graders were on an adventure to Charity Island located in Saginaw Bay. They also were on an important scientific mission, teaming up with Great Lakes scientists from Michigan State University Extension(MSUE), Michigan Natural Features Inventory (MNFI), Michigan Sea Grant, Huron Pines, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and others in an effort to help promote Lake Huron biodiversity conservation on the island.
Toting clipboards and data sheets, identification charts and global positioning system units these young scientists were ready to collect data for their research project. Local businesses of Charity Island Excursions and Brown’s Landing charter services (operator of Miss Charity Isle) contributed in getting students out to the island for their study. Once there, students were charged with counting, mapping and monitoring populations of the federally threatened Pitcher’s thistle plant known to inhabit the sandy dune areas of the island’s coastline. They also collected data on phragmites, an invasive plant species encroaching upon and threatening this very same coastal habitat. Of course, students also were prepared for a little fun enjoying and exploring both natural and historical aspects of island—getting their feet wet, blowing milkweed seeds and exploring the historic lighthouse.
Supported by the Sea Grant Center for Great Lakes Literacy and the Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative network, this opportunity connects schools and students with Great Lakes scientists and community partners of the Charity Islands invasive phragmites project led by Huron Pines. This partnership is aimed at managing and removing invasive species, namely phragmites, currently threatening biodiversity on this island. Huron Pines AmeriCorps members helped students to evaluate densities of the plants currently found on the island by counting plant stems in a measured area. The school hopes to collect and monitor this same information annually, giving them purpose to return to the island in future years...
To read more about this Center for Great Lakes Literacy supported student stewardship project online, click here!