By Cathy Munson, SDI Climate Change Intern
The College of Menominee Nation’s Sustainable Development Institute Earth Day was an exciting and event-filled day. It started in the morning with a campus-wide clean-up and then participants went to stations across campus where they participated in activities. One of those stations was a mini-BioBlitz which is an event that Dr. Jennifer Youngblood, Jennifer Gauthier and my mentor, Marie Schaefer and I worked together to plan and coordinate. I had been watching the weather forecasts all week leading up until the event and was worried that the day would be rained out, but luckily, Mother Nature was kind to us and the day turned out to be a beautiful, warm and sunny! The rain didn’t decide to show itself until the late and great Dr. Jerilyn Grignon’s apple tree planting ceremony, which was fine since the freshly planted tree needed to be hydrated anyway. We could hear the thunder in the distance as we were cleaning up and taking down the tent that fellow SDI intern, Denise Kasprzak’s, Dad, John, let SDI utilize for the day’s festivities.
For the mini-BioBlitz, we had a wide range of awesome volunteers giving tours of the CMN Learning Path and Phenology Trail. Two of the U.S. Forest Service volunteers even drove 180 miles from the U.S. Forest Service Hiawatha National Forest in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to help with the event. The volunteers were made up of a combination of five U.S. Forest Service people, four representatives from the Menominee County and Menominee Environmental Services including medicinal plant and cultural knowledge holder Bonnie McKiernan as well as Dr. William Van Lopik. Dr. Jennifer Youngblood’s husband, Kevin, and CMN student Sabrina Hemkins were also volunteers. Kevin and Sabrina graciously offered their photographic skills throughout the day. Plus, Sabrina managed to fend off a wood tick that was trying to hitch a ride on her camera bag while she was sitting at the Learning Path/future Phenology Trail entrance!
All of the tour guides interacted with each other in a joint effort by serving as dual tour guides for each 30 minute tour. Each of the tour guides had their own knowledge to draw from about various forestry aspects ranging from the basic plant and tree identification to invasive plants to medicinal/cultural knowledge as well as pollination ecology. Dr. Retha Edens-Meier actually came the furthest, originally from St. Louis but has been in the vicinity since February as a visiting scholar. She conducted the Pollination Ecology workshops that took place at CMN during the spring semester.
I was stationed at Woodhenge most of the afternoon so that I could show young and old all of the biodiversity that occurs just in that small area. The Woodhenge is an outdoor classroom that is located at the mid-point of the main part of the Trail. I had the pleasure to present the sensory observation activity of the fuzzy mullein leaves, prickly bull thistle, crimson red partridgeberry, ground cedar, wild strawberry and Princess Pine, otherwise known as Northern Tree Club Moss, all of which grow around the perimeter of Woodhenge. These plants are just the tip of the iceberg for what is growing and popping up throughout the entire Learning Path and Phenologoy Trail.
Phenology Trail Update
I have had the most awesome opportunity to go on adventurous plant identification walkabouts on the Learning Path since the beginning of this year with Jennifer Gauthier, Bonnie McKiernan and Marie Schaefer. We were able to identify many plants even in their winter stages but now that spring has finally decided to show her pretty face, so have many plants! We have cute, little purple flowering Hepatica nobilis which has been one of the first plants to display her blooms on our future Phenology trail. Many plants and trees have already popped their leaf buds (budburst) and flower buds open such as the beautiful red maple at the CMN Learning Path trailhead. It is getting more and more exciting to hike along the trail each day to start experiencing and observing the various phenophases of plant life that are occurring faster and faster each warming day!
Don’t forget about all of the exercise stations that are on the Learning Path, as well, as the Frisbee golf course. You can have the best of both worlds in between classes by getting a workout in and enjoying all that Mother Nature has to offer on our beautiful forest path. So, if you haven’t hit the trail yet, now is the time to do it!