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When the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Wildlife Division in conjunction with researcher Dr. Allen Kurta of Eastern Michigan University discovered bats hibernating in Rockport State Recreation Area, a unique site in the Northern Lower Peninsula, they knew something had to be done to conserve this critical habitat. The bats were hibernating in old mining tunnels, a remnant of the former Rockport Quarry. A project was then set in motion to conserve the bats habitat and ensure public safety at the site.
Bat hibernacula in this area are unique and warrant conservation efforts. There is only one other known hibernaculum in the Lower Peninsula, Tippy Dam in Manistee County. A recent bi-national Lake Huron Biodiversity Conservation Report identified the importance of habitats for aerial migrants, illustrating a broader importance of these hibernation habitats for migrating bats. In addition, the bat species found in at Rockport revealed little brown, big brown and tri-colored (formerly known as eastern pipistrelle) bats. Tri-colored bats are listed on the State’s threatened species list.
Alpena area students are working to promote conservation and wildlife habitat restoration by helping to protect the hibernacula with support from the Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative, Michigan DNR, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, 4-H Youth Programs and the Organization for Bat Conservation. Alpena High School industrial arts teachers Scott MacKenzie and Zach Grulke are enthusiastic about supporting their student’s involvement in helping protect not only the bats using the hibernacula, but the public as well.
MacKenzie’s welding students are making specially designed steel gate structures to protect the hibernacula. These gates will protect the bats habitat by safely excluding the public from accessing these dangerous tunnels while enabling the bats to come and go freely. Additionally, the gates will minimize disturbance to the hibernating bats.
Grulke, Alpena High School Woodshop Instructor, is also getting his students involved. Woodshop students are making summer bat habitat houses to put at the park. This will help provide further habitat for bats at the recreation area.
Huron Pines is able to provide support to great initiatives like this by placing AmeriCorps members with partner organizations. Helen-Ann Prince began her Huron Pines AmeriCorps service in November with the Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative. As the Education Coordinator, Helen-Ann supports place-based education programs. She coordinates with educators, students and conservation partners to expand the classroom beyond the traditional walls into the community for real-world high-impact projects. To learn more about the project, please contact Helen-Ann Prince at hprinceGLSI@gmail.com.
Huron Pines AmeriCorps is a program of Huron Pines and is supported in part by the Corporation for National and Community Service, Michigan Community Service Commission, Huron Pines and contributions from host sites.