Five Minutes with Land Management Fellows Hana Christoffersen and Corey Lucas

This summer the Institute has been honored to have two land management environmental fellows.  Corey Lucas, biology major from Western Michigan University and Hana Christoffersen, a biology major from Grand Valley State University are working at the Institute this summer to learn land and property management.  Both are very enthusiastic about their time at the Institute and have learned a great deal from this experience.

Corey Lucas pulling spotted knapweed on a Volunteer Day at the Institute
Hana Christoffersen hard at work during a Volunteer Day.






How did you hear about the Institute?

Corey: “I had hiked the trails at Pierce Cedar Creek Institute with my wife and daughter somewhat regularly and later learned of this opportunity through my ecology professor at Western Michigan, Dr. Steve Malcolm.”

Hana: “I served as Gordon Art Fellow last year, so I heard about this Fellowship from Head of Stewardship, Jen Howell.”

Why do you love nature and science?

Corey: “I have always enjoyed outdoor activities like hunting, fishing, camping, and hiking.  Nature has always given me sanctuary, and spending time in it often gives me a necessary respite from life’s stresses.”

Hana: “I love what this land has to offer. It is beautiful, inspiring, and is a great teaching tool, too.  What’s not to love?”

Tell me more about your final project.

Corey: “It will be developing a land management plan for the wetland portions of the newly acquired Jones Property. My hopes are that I can help develop a plan that will aid the Institute staff with protecting and improving the wetland habitat on the property now and in the future.”

Hana: “It will be a portion of the Jones Property Management Plan that will address the restoration of the open fields and prairies.”

What do you hope to learn from the program?

Corey: “I hope to learn techniques for land management that will benefit me as a wildlife manager.  Skills and techniques like chain sawing, herbicide/ pesticide application, prescribed fire, plant identification, management plan development, and habitat restoration are just some things I have learned that I know I will use in my career.”

Hana: “I hope to be exposed to new research methods, accrue tangible job skills, and take what I learned from this experience with me in to the classroom and beyond.”

What is your favorite location at the Institute?

Corey: “The observation deck overlooking the Cedar Creek flooding just off the blue trail. The early morning or late evening is a great time to sit out there and watch the wood ducks, mallards, sandhill cranes, great blue heron and more!”

Hana: “I love the Beech Forest Trail. The stately beech trees and quiet calls from nearby birds are mesmerizing to me.”



A Lesson in Stream Restoration


Grand Valley State University Students Nick Preville and Adam Walker, as well as Auburn University student Mary Szoka, are hanging out this summer in the culverts of Barry County.

The students are studying the effects culverts have on the sediment and flow regime of the rivers and how that then affects macroinvertebrates and fish.


Preville, Walker, and Szoka culvert hunting!

Preville and Walker are studying biology with an emphasis in aquatic science. Szoka is a biosystems engineering major who was working this summer at Grand Valley State University’s Annis Water Research Institute.  Preville is from Lansing, and Walker is from Otsego.  Szoka  lives in Alabama.

Learn more about their project in the below:

Why did you choose this particular project?

Preville: “My professor suggested it, and I love nature and science because there is always something new to discover.  It’s always amazing to see just how many macroinvertebrates and fish are in a stretch of river.”

What do you hope to learn from the project?

Walker: “I really want to be able to identify fish and insects on the spot without hesitation.  I also want to gain as much knowledge into the aspects that revolve around rivers and streams.  Ecology is the most important thing in my mind so I hope working at Pierce will really broaden my mind on the subject.”

What can the project teach others?

Preville: “Our project can teach people that rivers are vital aspects of modern life, and when we manipulate them it can lead to problems for not only the ecosystem but also for people in the area.

I hope to learn more about fish ecology and how they respond to disturbances in rivers.”

Walker:  “I hope they learn some major ecological roles that rivers and streams have. I also hope that they understand how sensitive these waterways are and how easily affected they are based on human activity.

What is the process for analyzing the fish?

Preville: “We have a backpack with a battery hooked to it. It shocks the fish and then we put them in a bucket that has a tub around it.  It makes sure we don’t lose the fish. We take the fish out and identify and measure them.

Does shocking hurt the fish?

Walker: “No, the small fish come back almost immediately. Older ones catch more voltage, so they stay out longer…I’d say 30 seconds.”

What is your favorite spot at the Institute?

Preville: “I love Brewster Lake.”

Szoka: “Being out in the streams.”

Walker: “My favorite location is an old growth section of forest about a mile or so down the yellow trail. It has massive vines you can swing around on.”

What are your hopes after graduation?

Preville: “Get a job or graduate school. Find a job in river rehab or fishing community research.”

Walker: “Take the GRE and go to graduate school.”

Szoka: “Same for me—take the GRE and go to graduate school.”





Five Minutes with Cassandra “Cassie” Damer and Gina Lamka

KODAK Digital Still Camera
Cassie Damer, “Herm,” and Gina Lamka

Cassie and Gina are very excited to be studying at Pierce Cedar Creek Institute for the summer. As self-described city girls, they are mesmerized by the beauty of the Institute. Cassie is from the Detroit area and Gina is from Dallas. Both attend Central Michigan University as biology majors with a focus on natural resources.

The pair are easily recognized at the Institute because they are usually with “Herm.” Herm is a stuffed badger on wheels and is a vital part of their research project.

Cassie and Gina are testing the predator flight response in squirrels and how parasites affect that response. They will trap squirrels and give them anti-parasite medicine and then release them.  They use the sound of Herm’s motor and his shape to see how close he can get to the squirrel without it fleeing.

Learn more about Cassie and Gina below:

How did you hear about Pierce Cedar Creek Institute and Biological Field Station program?

Gina and Cassie: From our mentor at Central Michigan University, Professor Brad Swanson.

KODAK Digital Still Camera
Cassie and Gina give “Herm” a walk on the trails at the Institute.   Click here for a video of Herm.

Why do you love nature and science?

Gina: Science is the only way to work in nature, and my love for animals and nature has helped me into this field.

Cassie:  I have always had a love for animals and nature ever since I can remember, and it was definitely sparked by Animal Planet with Steve Irwin and Jeff Corwin.  Ever since I always find myself in nature, and science has always been an interested from that.

How are you going to combine them in your project?

Gina and Cassie: We combine them because we have to be out in nature every day to walk the trails and observe squirrels.

What do you hope to learn from your research?

Gina and Cassie: Since we are working on a research project, it all depends on the data we get, but we hope to find a connection between flight initiation and parasites.

What do you hope to learn from the program?

Gina and Cassie: We hope to learn more about parasites and their effect on small mammal flight initiation, but also to learn different research techniques by doing our project and helping others on their projects.

What is your favorite location at Pierce Cedar Creek Institute?

Gina and Cassie: The Blue Trail on the new property.

Why did you want to study at Pierce Cedar Creek Institute this summer?

Gina and Cassie: It’s a perfect situation to do our own research project and get paid for it! Such an amazing experience!



Pierce Cedar Creek Institute Welcomes 2016 Biological Field Station Students!

Every summer the Institute welcomes biological field station students from the Institute’s consortium of colleges and universities. In the fall of 2004, the Institute created a partnership with a group of West Michigan colleges and universities called the Pierce Cedar Creek Consortium. Current members are: Albion College, Aquinas College, Calvin College, Central Michigan University, Cornerstone University, Grand Rapids Community College, Grand Valley State University, Hope College, Kalamazoo College, Kalamazoo Valley Community College, Kellogg Community College, Valparaiso University (Indiana), and Western Michigan University.

The purpose of this series of blogs is to introduce each student and the research they are conducting at Pierce Cedar Creek Institute.

Five Minutes with Laura “LB” Barrett

KODAK Digital Still Camera
LB Barrett working on her stipple drawing entitled, “Freedom in the Woods.”

Hometown: Kalamazoo, MI

College Attending:  Kalamazoo Valley Community College and Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) in Savannah, GA in the fall

Major: Illustration and Sequential Arts

Fellowship Type: Gordon Art Fellow

How did you hear about the Institute and the Gordon Art Fellowship?

Through my professor Beth Purdy at KVCC, who encouraged me strongly to pursue the Fellowship.

Describe your Fellowship project.

It’s called “Freedom in the Woods,” a series of illustrations looking into the relationship between people and nature. My main piece is a large stipple drawing.

Why do you love nature and art?

They are both excellent and healthy forms of escape as well as things that we as a species can communicate through across linguistic, societal, and cultural barriers.

How are you going to combine them in your project?

I will show in my drawing and paintings that many forms of interactions exist between us and nature. For example, I’m currently working on a piece that is contrasting the skin of a snake and the tattooed skin of another student here.

What do you hope to learn from the Fellowship?

I hope to gain a better sense of discipline, honing of skills without distractions, as well as seeing if I can really do this for the rest of my life as my life.

What can others learn from your project?

To take a second look, find a different perspective, about absolutely everything physical, spiritual, emotional, mathematical – EVERYTHING. To see the pain and beauty – or maybe the pain of beauty/beauty of pain – at our roots, in our souls and out in nature, where we originated and ultimately return to. If my pieces even just barely wedge open one eye of one person, I’ve accomplished something valuable.

What is your favorite location at Pierce Cedar Creek Institute?

I like the orange trail a lot. It has a lot of good sights and compositions. Also, when I first got here, I was amazed at all the clocks in the buildings, especially in the big open dining hall. I felt like I’d walked into a dream, or a surrealistic painting.

Check out more of LB’s work at:


Enjoy a Wildflower Hike at the Institute!



Hepatica wildflowers

Spring wildflowers are in full swing at the Institute. This spring’s warm weather has encouraged many of the wildflowers to bloom a little earlier than normal. To try and capture many of the early wildflowers in bloom, like hepatica and Dutchman’s breeches, the Institute is offering a special wildflower hike.

This hike will meet at the Visitor Center, where participants will car pool to the Little Grand Canyon property for a hike down into the ravine. The hike has some steep slopes and challenging footing in places. Enjoy the spring weather and come out to the Institute for this Special Wildflower Hike.
Members Free /  Non-Members $6, Children $3
Pre-registration is required.
Register or call (269) 721-4190.