Conservation interns help with bog mitigation project

Workers pull invasive plants and create extensive plantings

By Christie Bleck
The Mining Journal (Marquette)

MARQUETTE, Mich. (AP) — Northern Michigan University student Daniel Mayle joked about having to look out for alligators in the Presque Isle Bog, but the reality is narrow-leaved cattails are more of a danger.

Mayle and other Marquette County Conservation District interns have been working at the bog and other sites in the region on various projects, including invasive plant removal, according to The Mining Journal.

Renee Leow, MCCD district manager, called the interns “our first line of defense.”

Leow said 11 interns have worked for the district since May 18, with a new batch in this week.

The bog probably is a good place for restoring wildlife — because there’s lots of it.

“You can hear the frogs and the peepers and the dragonflies and the birds, and there are some muskrat living out here,” Leow said. “There’s a mink living out here.”
She said workers at the Presque Isle Bog have been pulling invasive plants such as narrow-leaved cattails, swamp thistle and reed canary grass. The effort is part of a Michigan Department of
Environmental Quality mitigation project for the city of Marquette to make that part of the bog a forested wetland.
The district is in its second year of working with the city under contract, Leow said, moving a lot of invasive species there as well as creating extensive plantings.

“As you can see, we’ve done with tests using these new planting devices, these cones,” Leow said. “We’re using just straight netting and straight cones, and we can see the plant differential and see how they’re doing and how much better they are, or how they’re not doing.”

The intern program is grant-funded though the Upper Peninsula Resource Conservation & Development Council’s Development Fund as well as the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, she said.
The interns working at the bog come from NMU, Michigan Tech University and St. Norbert College in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

There were a few challenges for spending time in the bog. Leow instructed the interns on how to properly clip the plants from the bog, and getting to the plants required slipping into waders and sloshing through the water.

That didn’t seem to bother the interns, though, since that’s the sort of activity they might have in the real world.

Spenser Chicoine, an NMU graduate student studying biology, moved to the area after graduating from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

“It’s mostly helped me get acquainted with the area and learn about the Upper Peninsula,” said Chicoine, who will work with NMU biology professor Jill Leonard on brook trout and environmental physiology this fall.

Interning with the conservation district will broaden his knowledge, he said.

“Fish is my big thing,” Chicoine said. “I don’t really have a big background in plants and plant ecology, and I’ve gotten to learn a lot of that by working here, so it’s been really nice getting that different side of things, and also, like I said, just getting out, seeing the U.P., and also being able to actually help on projects like this, with these environmental restoration projects.”

Mayle, an NMU junior majoring in ecology, said he enjoys spending time outdoors and getting hands-on experience.

“It’s much better than sitting in a classroom,” Mayle said.

Leow said the intern program also acts as a bonding experience for what she called “a great group of kids.”

In fact, she was listening to them talk with each other during work at the mitigation project on McClellan Avenue in Marquette last week, and it was like “a college party,” she said.

“Some of them didn’t know each other, or most of them didn’t know each other before, but they got along famously,” Leow said. “It was beautiful, and (I’m) sad to see them leave. Six weeks just isn’t long enough.”

Of course, there was a “pay it forward” aspect to the interns’ experience as well.

“It’s a mentoring experience for the interns, and hopefully they learn something from it and they walk away with a good message,” Leow said.