NMU biology students outfitted with waders and manual hedge trimmers trudged through the Presque Isle Bog last month, cutting invasive narrow-leaved cattails at their base to waterlog them. Others collected the residual clippings floating on the surface and carried them away for proper disposal. The goal is to restore a portion of the bog as a forested wetland. The student interns spent six weeks working throughout the region as part of a broader central U.P. invasive plant prevention and control effort involving the Alger and Marquette County Conservation Districts.
“We removed invasive species from residential and commercial sites, but we also did some planting projects with native species to create or enhance habitat for wildlife and birds,” said graduate student Spenser Chicoine. “The number one invasive we’ve seen in the area is garlic mustard. Others we removed were spotted knapweed, swamp thistle and Japanese knotweed. In addition to learning about plant ecology, students are able to see management in practice.”
Daniel Mayle Jr., who is pursuing an ecology concentration, said, “It’s nice to learn while you’re also making meaningful progress toward something. I’ve been studying this type of
material for a while and really wanted to do hands-on work in the field. Any time spent outdoors is worth it. These invasive plants take over the space where native plants grow and hybridize very easily. It’s important to keep them under control.”
One key to containment is the method of disposal. Pulled plants should go to the dump. If they are mixed with yard waste or added to compost piles, there is risk of spreading. Invasive plant seeds also can be carried by soil erosion, machinery and human activity.
Jill Leonard (Biology) received a $32,000 grant from the Alger County Conservation District to support the employment of two NMU graduate students this summer and next.
“The project is important because the conservation districts are tasked with restoration and preservation of our local ecosystems, which is important for maintaining a healthy ecosystem and all the benefits that it gives to local residents,” Leonard said. “It is a great project for NMU students because it gives them hands-on experience working in conservation and also provides them with connections to local natural resources and conservation professionals."
The summer interns working on the collaborative effort represented NMU, Michigan Tech and St. Norbert College.
“We really value the students’ help,” said Renee Leow, Marquette County Conservation District administrator. “They’re on the front lines of this effort. Hopefully the benefit is mutual and they learn some things along the way by gaining this real-life experience.”