Be Part of the Volunteer Steward Program
Are you interested in...
- Helping restore natural areas in state parks and recreation areas?
- Learning more about the landscape around you?
- Working with others who love nature?
- Working individually on restoration and monitoring projects?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, consider joining our Volunteer Steward Program! The Parks and Recreation Division, Stewardship Unit is looking for volunteer stewards to help us restore and maintain fragile, native ecosystems in seventeen state parks and recreation areas across southern Michigan. We are looking for dedicated volunteers who can make a unique commitment. There are many ways to get involved and different levels of commitment you can make. You can attend volunteer stewardship workdays or help organize and lead them as part of a team, or you can work on individual projects. Either way, volunteer stewards will learn from natural resource professionals and help to restore the unique natural areas in our state parks.
Volunteer stewards help restore ecosystems through a variety of activities:
- controlling the spread of invasive species
- collecting native seed
- planting native species
- conducting rare plant and animal surveys
- mapping the extent of invasive species
Volunteer stewards will learn about Michigan 's plants animals and ecosystems and feel a great sense of accomplishment in helping to restore native ecosystems. Stewards will learn and work along-side natural resource professionals. In addition, participating in ecological restoration activities will provide a great opportunity to get outside and enjoy fresh air and exercise. Volunteer stewards participating in workday teams will work in an atmosphere of fellowship and make new friends. All volunteer stewards will be notified about and encouraged to attend various training opportunities including those put on by The Stewardship Network.
Interested? Here's How to Get Involved
To express interest in becoming a volunteer steward and for additional information about the program, contact the Natural Resource Steward in your area. In southeast Michigan contact Laurel Malvitz-Draper at firstname.lastname@example.org or 248-359-9057. In southwest Michigan contact Heidi Frei at email@example.com or 269-685-6851 ext. 147.
Workday Team Activities
Here are some ways that volunteer stewards can get involved as part of team! Workday teams are groups of volunteers who help organize, advertise, and conduct workdays. As part of a workday team, volunteer stewards may choose to help with one or more of the following:
- organize and lead workdays throughout the year
- recruit new volunteers
- involve local groups in ecosystem restoration
- help advertise volunteer stewardship workdays
- assist with workday paperwork
- help set goals and plan restoration activities
- establish means of communication (newsletter, etc.)
To get a feel for the different activities performed by a workday team, attend one or more of the workdays listed on our Calendar of Volunteer Stewardship Workdays. We are forming workday teams at the following parks: Algonac, Bald Mountain, Brighton, Highland, Island Lake, Pinckney and Waterloo Recreation Areas.
Here are some ways that volunteer stewards can get involved on their own! Some training and coordination is required before you can volunteer on your own. Once you are trained, these activities can be preformed whenever it is convenient for you! If you are interested in these opportunities, please contact the Natural Resource Steward in your area for more information.
- Invasive Plant Mapping (year-round)
Do you like to take walks outside? Do you know how to identify invasive plant species? Would you like to learn? If you answered yes, we'd love your help mapping patches of invasive plants. This data will be incredibly helpful as we plan where to focus our restoration efforts. Map reading skills will be helpful, but no experience is necessary.
Volunteer Position Description: Garlic Mustard Mapping
- Invasive Plant Removal (spring and summer)
Help pull herbaceous weeds like garlic mustard, sweet clover and others when it fits into your schedule. These non-native plants out compete native plants and can reduce complex ecosystems to very simple ones with low biological diversity. Pulling these plants is not too strenuous, almost like weeding a garden.
Volunteer Position Description: Garlic Mustard Pulling
- Forest Health Watch (spring and summer)
Help keep a watchful eye on our wonderful forest resources! Learn to identify the early stages of forest diseases and pests like oak wilt, beech bark disease and Asian long-horned beetle so that we can detect and treat cases early on. Plus, you'll get to help while enjoying a hike outdoors at several parks in picturesque southwest Michigan!
- Bird Surveys (spring and summer)
Are you an avid birder? Do you know how to identify grassland birds or rare bird species? If so, we need your help to gather baseline bird data or monitor known populations of rare birds in select areas of certain parks.
Volunteer Position Description: Bird Surveying
- Galerucella Beetle Redistribution (late May - mid June)
Want to help us combat purple loosestrife? We'd love to have you collect Galerucella beetles, purple loosestrife's natural enemy, and redistribute them to wetlands within the state parks and recreation areas we are focusing on.
Volunteer Position Description: Galerucella Beetle Redistribution
- Native Planting (mid-May to mid-June and September)
From the middle of May to the middle of June, and possibly in September, we will be planting native plants at a handful of parks. Some of this will be done at workdays, but we could really use your help beyond the 3-hour workday and during the week!
Volunteer Position Description: Native Planting
- Eastern Box Turtle Surveys (spring, summer and fall)
Fort Custer Recreation Area provides habitat for many species including the Eastern Box Turtle. Help us track and monitor this population by joining our Box Turtle Search Crew! Volunteers will be trained to canvas priority areas to help us better document their habitat requirements. Activities are weather dependant and opportunities to help may arise with little notice.
Volunteer Position Description: Box Turtle Surveying
- Insect Monitoring (July - October)
Help us determine whether we have rare insects in some of our highest quality ecosystems. No prior insect identification experience is necessary. All information and equipment will be provided. Insects to watch for include the following:
- Culver's Root Borer Moth - help monitor this species at Algonac State Park and Pinckney Recreation Area. You will find a ratio of the number of "infested" stems of Culver's root to the number of total stems in a given area. The best time to do this is while Culver's root is in bloom in July.
- Red-legged Spittlebug - help monitor this species at any of the following parks and recreation areas: Pinckney, Waterloo , Algonac, Island Lake , Highland and Brighton . You will sweep a net back and forth while walking through native prairies and then look for this insect in your net. We need your help between mid-July and early September for this activity.
- Blazing Star Borer Moth - help monitor this species at any of the following parks and recreation areas: Algonac, Waterloo , Pinckney, Brighton , or Island Lake . You will go out into prairie remnants that may contain the native blazing star wildflower, the host plant for the borer moth. Here you will attract moths to a black light, collect moths that resemble the blazing star borer moth, and send them to a DNR specialist for identification and verification. Collection takes place from dusk until about midnight . This opportunity works best with two or three people and requires one night of training and use of specialized equipment provided by DNR. This activity requires carrying a lot of equipment and may require walking a long distance. We need your help with black lighting on as many nights as possible in the last week of September and the first week of October.
- Native Seed Collecting (May-November)
We are looking for help throughout the growing season to hand collect native seed within several state parks and recreation areas across the state. Species range from rare sedges to giant oak trees and from prairie grasses to wildflowers. After a training session you can collect when it is convenient for you. All seed will be collected for later planting by the Stewardship Unit to restore ecosystems in state parks and recreation areas. Participation at all skill levels is welcomed. If you enjoy our fall seed collecting workdays or are an amateur botanist, and would like to help during other times of the year, we would love to have your help. Collection for personal use is not allowed.