News & Resources


A Pastor and A Creek

lindsaybarden | Jan 29, 2018

One of our goals at the Au Sable Institute is to engage and mobilize churches to care for God's creation. We recently spoke with Rev. Gerry Koning about his church's involvement in the Michigan Clean Water Corps program.

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Featured Faculty: Matt Ingle, Animal Ecology

lindsaybarden | Jan 23, 2018

Dr. Matt Ingle is known by his students for his warm approachable teaching style at Au Sable. Associate professor and Assistant Chair of Biology at The Master’s University, Matt has been teaching Animal Ecology at Au Sable’s Great Lakes Campus during Summer Session I since 2016.

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Faces of Leadership: Helena Cicero, Board of Trustees

lindsaybarden | Sep 18, 2017

There is a kind of ‘classic’ story that you often hear when talking to someone on the staff, board, or faculty at Au Sable. A story of coming to Au Sable, encountering a new perspective of God and his creation, being captivated by the community and mission of the Institute then returning again and again. It's the kind of story we love to hear and love to tell. Helena Cicero, the Interim Director of the Oakes Museum at Messiah College in Pennsylvania, and member of Au Sable’s Board of Trustees is someone whose story is one of those classics.

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Faces of Leadership: Dale Stephenson J.D., Board of Trustees

lindsaybarden | Sep 07, 2017

What do expertise in Middle Eastern culture, international and environmental law, and educational leadership – combined with a passionate Christian commitment to care for God’s earth – have in common?  You can find them all residing in Au Sable’s newest Trustee, Dale Stephenson.

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Faces of Leadership: Bert Froysland, Founding Trustee, Board of Trustees

lindsaybarden | May 25, 2017

As a Founding Trustee on Au Sable’s Board, his knowledge of and influence on the Institute is exceeded only by Dr. Harold Snyder, Au Sable’s Founder. In 1963 Bert arrived on campus with his wife Mae and two children (aged 3 and 5 at the time) to help Harold Snyder by overseeing operations, which involved managing finances, food service, and facilities for the boys camp, Au Sable Trails Camp for Youth.

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Faces of Service: Jessi Kramer M.S., Environmental Education Program Assistant

lindsaybarden | Apr 19, 2017

Since September 2016, Jessi Kramer has been serving as the Environmental Education Program Assistant at Au Sable. Her affiliation with Au Sable began in the spring of 2016 when she came to the Great Lakes Campus in Michigan to take part in the Environmental Education Internship Program.

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Featured Faculty: Tom Smith, Conservation Biology

lindsaybarden | Apr 18, 2017

“Growing up, I remember being outside in the woods for hours on end from morning to night. So, Conservation Biology comes naturally as a steward of God’s creation,” said Tom when asked what inspires his work.

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Faces of Leadership: Dave Lamb, Board of Trustees

lindsaybarden | Apr 10, 2017

“I think there is a kinship among people who deeply love the Lord Jesus Christ, and are in awe of the wonders of the world He created,“ explains Dave Lamb; member of Au Sable Institute’s Board of Trustees.

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Director’s Blog - The Work at Au Sable

lindsaybarden | Feb 20, 2017

Sometimes local people ask me, “What do you do at the Institute in winter,” apparently thinking, perhaps, that when the college classes are over we simply wait in expectation for the next ones to begin. As much as I enjoy and value our college program, there is no shortage of engaging work at Au Sable in this season. 

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Faces of Leadership: Dr. Bob Zwier, Treasurer, Board of Trustees

lindsaybarden | Feb 17, 2017

Dr. Robert Zwier, 'Bob' as many call him, currently serves on Au Sable’s Board of Trustees as Treasurer. Joining the Board in 2015, Bob is one of the newest Trustees and brings expertise and administrative experience to his role from decades spent holding senior academic positions at Northwestern College in Iowa, Malone University in Ohio and Roberts Wesleyan College in New York.

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Featured Faculty: Rachel Lamb, Environmental Law and Policy

lindsaybarden | Feb 14, 2017

Understanding how science and policy interact has never been more necessary and relevant than it is today. Rachel Lamb M.S., M.P.P. teaches Au Sable’s May Term course Environmental Law and Policy. Students studying and planning to work in the environmental field will be well equipped by Rachel’s teaching with knowledge of the policy making process and an exploration of the linkages between policy and science, all through the lens of Christian faith.

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Director’s Blog - The Work at Au Sable

lindsaybarden | Jan 31, 2017

This will be the first of a series in our new website feature, "The Director's Blog - The Work at Au Sable" which will be produced regularly as a means for Executive Director, Dr. Fred Van Dyke, to let all of you know about ongoing work here at the Institute on a regular basis.

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Faces of Leadership: Dr. Eugene Dunkley, Board of Trustees

lindsaybarden | Jan 30, 2017

Dr. Eugene Dunkley is the newest member of Au Sable’s Board of Trustees and comes into this role of leadership at the Institute as an Associate Professor of Biology and Dean of Diversity at Greenville College, IL.

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Faces of Leadership: Dr. Noah Toly, Secretary, Board of Trustees

lindsaybarden | Jan 06, 2017

Noah Toly, Secretary for Au Sable’s Board of Trustees has been serving as a board member for over two years. In his position of leadership as Secretary of the Board, Dr. Toly puts an emphasis on listening well, striving to see the big picture, and thinking strategically about the present and future operations of the Institute.

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Courses That Change Your Life: Environmental Chemistry (CHEM 332)

lindsaybarden | Jan 05, 2017

To fully understand the many pressing environmental issues of our day, it is necessary that students study the environment and its influences from every angle. The natural world and the problems it faces can be analyzed and better understood from a chemical level. Environmental Chemistry, taught at the Au Sable Institute during Summer Session II builds on a foundation of general chemistry to provide students with an understanding of the principles, analysis and impact of chemical movement and distribution in natural environments. 

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Faces of Service: Paul Wiemerslage M. Ed., Environmental Education Program Coordinator

lindsaybarden | Jan 04, 2017

From even your first interaction with him, you will be met by friendly enthusiasm, genuine interest and a personality marked clearly by a zest for life. Paul Wiemerslage is the Au Sable Institute’s Environmental Education Program Coordinator and brings passion and care to his work delivering the hands-on, field based K-12th-grade environmental education experiences at the Institute, and mentoring recent college graduates in the Environmental Education Internship Program where interns are equipped with the necessary skills to become effective environmental educators.

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Faces of Leadership: Dr. Dorothy Boorse, Vice-Chair, Board of Trustees

lindsaybarden | Nov 18, 2016

Dr. Dorothy Boorse has been a member of Au Sable's Board of Trustees for four years now, this year the first as Vice-Chair. Currently a Professor of Biology at Gordon College in Massachusetts, Dorothy loves to teach, viewing each student as representing Christ and teaching as a way to serve God.

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Courses That Change Your Life: Insect Ecology of Streams, Forests, and Fields

lindsaybarden | Nov 17, 2016

When we were children, most of us can relate to playing outdoors, we would explore, play games, and catch bugs to show to our playmates and parents. This natural curiosity for insects serves the science of ecology well, these creatures play an important role in ecosystems and their study helps us to better understand both the insects themselves as well as the environments in which they live. 

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Faces of Service: Dr. Fred Van Dyke, Executive Director

lindsaybarden | Nov 03, 2016

A leadership characterized by steadfast faith and principles, decisive vision and a determination for success describes Fred well. Dr. Fred Van Dyke has served as Au Sable's Executive Director since 2001, though his association with the Institute began long before that.

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Faces of Leadership: Dr. Steven Bouma-Prediger, Board of Trustees

lindsaybarden | Nov 03, 2016

Dr. Steven Bouma-Prediger has been a member of the Board of Trustees since 2012, and with experience as a faculty member at Hope College for 22 years and being a well-established author, he brings much insight to Au Sable through his leadership.

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Courses That Change Your Life: Conservation and Development in the Indian Tropics (BIOL 367)

lindsaybarden | Oct 26, 2016

It is easy to think we understand something well, like environmental conservation, when we view it from the perspective of our own culture. But when we make the effort to see the same kinds of problems in the eyes of a culture other than our own, we may discover that we did not understand as much as we thought. And that can be the beginning of real learning.

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Featured Faculty: Elizabeth Zwamborn, Marine Mammals

lindsaybarden | Oct 25, 2016

Hailing from Canada, Elizabeth completed her undergraduate degree in biological studies with an ecological emphasis from Trinity Western University in Langley, B.C. Rounding out her education on both of Canada's coasts, she completed her Masters at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia where she studied the vocalizations of long-finned pilot whales.

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A Spark - by Jessi Kramer, Environmental Education Program Assistant

lindsaybarden | Oct 25, 2016

"We're gamers; what do you expect? We hate nature. We hate math and science too."

My eyes widen and I glance over at them, not sure how to respond, my heart sinking as I try to mentally prepare myself for the hours ahead.

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The Disinclined Educator - by Claire Adams, Fall EEIP Intern, 2016

lindsaybarden | Oct 24, 2016

"You know, Honey," my mom said one Saturday afternoon in early June, "you would make a great teacher." My first thought was, "Yea right. Maybe I can handle one-on-one tutoring in college, but elementary age kids? I'm not so sure." I was in the process of editing my cover letter for the environmental education internship program, while still internally contemplating whether or not I would be a good fit for the position. But I decided to send my application in anyway.

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Faces of Leadership: Charlene Quint J.D., Board of Trustees

lindsaybarden | Oct 10, 2016

Charlene has served on the Board of Trustees for Au Sable since 2011 and bringing years of legal experience and expertise to the table, she has helped contribute to the success of the Institute through her influence.

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The Warmth - by Taylor Reed, Fall EEIP Intern 2016

lindsaybarden | Oct 06, 2016

I hear the rain drizzling slowly outside my window. I know I need to wake, but I don't much feel like doing so. "Do I want to do this?"', I question. I turn this thought over and over in my mind as I force my feet out and onto the carpet. It continues on as I brush my teeth. It continues until the heat in my coffee mug has dissipated- through my fingers, into the elements and is then gone.

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What have Au Sable’s Graduate Fellows Been Up To, You Ask?

lindsaybarden | Oct 03, 2016

Au Sable’s Graduate Fellows have been hard at work all year. Read on to learn about the field work, research, and various projects each of the Fellows were working on this summer.

Keep up the good work of advancing God’s kingdom through creation care and higher education, Fellows!

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Faces of Leadership: Dr. David Foster, Chair, Board of Trustees

lindsaybarden | Sep 21, 2016

"Leadership should be born out of the understanding of the needs of those who would be affected by it." - Marian Anderson

It makes sense that to lead well, one must understand well. There are few who can say they know and understand Au Sable as well as Dr. David Foster, Au Sable's new Chair for the Board of Trustees. Dave's affiliation with Au Sable began in 1988 when he first came to the Institute as a college student.

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Faces of Service: John Farrell, Food Service Director & Support Services Associate

lindsaybarden | Aug 09, 2016

Few individuals make such a lasting impression, or are more deeply appreciated, morning, noon, and night than Au Sable’s Food Service Director and Support Services Associate, John Farrell. Serving at Au Sable’s Great Lakes campus in Michigan, John’s very nutritious and even more delicious breakfasts, lunches, and dinners are a daily delight to students throughout the summer academic sessions, just as they nourish Au Sable’s retreat visitors during January and February. John manages the kitchen, cooking and coordinating all aspects of the food services and seasonal kitchen staff to ensure that everyone is well fed.

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Returning to a Sense of Wonder - by Sam Kruguer

lindsaybarden | May 17, 2016

L.M. Montgomery’s fantastically whimsical book, Anne of Green Gables, although told from the perspective of an 11-year-old girl, speaks truth to all ages. Through Anne Shirley’s sincere and questioning demeanor, we learn the deep importance of viewing our surroundings through child-like eyes to discover the wonder and amazement that it can bring.

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Being (Small): A Teaching From the Rocks - By Jessi Kramer

lindsaybarden | May 16, 2016

Tiny stones. I stopped, gazed down at them curiously. 

We've all been there.
Walking along that life path--
Then all of a sudden, the lie settles down and makes itself comfortable in our minds and we think,
Why am I so small?
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Faces of Service: Eric Bond, Director of Support Services

lindsaybarden | May 09, 2016

Eric Bond, the Director of Support Services at Au Sable oversees buildings, grounds, and logistics to ensure good, sustainable operations for all programs. Also directing the retreat program, Eric has a long history with the Institute. Beginning as a student in 2003, Eric enrolled at Au Sable to complete field courses for his Environmental Biology degree at Cornerstone University.

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Featured Faculty: Dave Warners, Restoration Ecology

lindsaybarden | Mar 17, 2016

World traveler, outdoorsman and self professed composting addict, Dr. Dave Warners teaches Restoration Ecology (BIOL 482) at the Au Sable Institute during Summer Session II at the Great Lakes Campus in Michigan. While Dave’s past education and training is predominantly in plant ecology, he is inspired to pursue and teach Restoration Ecology because of the connections it shares with the Christian faith. Restoration ecology serves as a means of reconciliation between humanity and the earth

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Courses That Change Your Life: Animal Ecology (BIOL 321)

lindsaybarden | Mar 11, 2016

“Lions, tigers, and bears, oh my!”  Ahem..or more accurate for Northern Lower Michigan’s fauna it should read, “skunks, voles, and foxes, oh my!” Few things capture our attention in quite the same way as the animals that inhabit the environment around us, this makes studying animals, their populations, environments and communities an engaging pursuit! Au Sable’s Animal Ecology course during Summer Session II, taught by Dr. Matt Ingle provides a learning experience that is just that.

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Anthropomorphize, it’s Okay, Really!

Paul Wiemerslage | Mar 09, 2016

I wonder how long it would take you to notice the regular recurrence of the seasons if you were the first man on earth.  What would it be like to live in open-ended time broken only by days and nights?  You could say, “it’s cold again; it was cold before,” but you couldn’t make the key connection and say, “it was cold this time last year,” because the notion of “year” is precisely the one you lack.  Assuming that you hadn’t yet noticed any orderly progression of heavenly bodies, how long would you have to live on earth before you could feel with any assurance that any one particular long period of cold would, in fact, end?

This excerpt from Annie Dillard’s classic Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, always comes to mind this time of year as winter persists.  I think of the animals, those hibernating eager to emerge from their dormancy unaware (mostly) of what their animal brethren have been up to the for the previous 4 months.  I think too of those hearty critters that brave the winter head on staying active.  How terrifyingly difficult it would be to survive day in and day out with scant resources.  All the while knowing that, even if you survive this winter, you’ll have to do it again the following year, and the year after that.  How many winters could you last? How long could you endure?  

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Changing The World Around You - MiCorps Spring 2016 Update

Paul Wiemerslage | Mar 08, 2016

When I was little, my neighborhood friends and I would sneak away from our houses just after lunch, traverse down the wooded bluffs and spend the afternoon exploring the nooks and crannies of the nearby Willow River. Barefoot and sunburned, we would wade up the stream in search of wildlife.  In all of our rumpus and commotion we didn’t usually see much and as the sun’s angle neared the tree tops, we would let the current deliver us back to our starting point and rush to be home before dinner.

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Pizza, Newt, Hare, Banana - By Lydia Gorrell

Paul Wiemerslage | Feb 02, 2016

Here is a story: nine third graders, three chaperones, and one excited-but-flustered twenty-two year old walk into a rec building to put on snowshoes. The latter, the instructor, huddles the eight-year-olds into a circle. “Tell me your name, and then tell me something that starts with the same letter of your name,” Pizza. Newt. Hare. Banana. Jumping Bean. These are their monikers for the remainder of the day, as they are strapped into their winter apparatuses and guided on a wobbly winter hike.

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Putting on the New Self - By Jono Naritoku

Paul Wiemerslage | Jan 14, 2016

I am extremely envious of extroverted people. In particular, I envy their ability to just talk. My most recent roommate, Matt, is definitely an extrovert.  When you first meet him, he talks to you like you were old friends. On the opposite side of the spectrum, there’s me. Conversationally I consider myself a slow starter, but once I’ve gotten to know you aspects of my personality can resemble those of an extrovert. I bring this topic up because I have tried many times to pull and extract extroverted-ness from the very depths of my being.  An act that any introvert will tell you ends with the individual feeling emotionally and physically exhausted. The reasons for me doing this are many, some selfish (popularity, attention, etc.) while others are honest attempts to produce better results for a given situation. However, in trying to force a new self, I felt I started to lose what made me Jono. 

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Courses that Change Your Life: Wildlife Ecology (BIOL 345)

Paul Wiemerslage | Jan 12, 2016

Last year, the Institute received a letter from a recent alumnus. He told us that “…I wanted to pursue a career in wildlife ecology. [My home college] did not, and still does not, offer a single course in wildlife ecology. I was able to fill this gap through…Au Sable. I was immersed in field-based learning developing skills which led directly to my acceptance into graduate school…When I decided to attend graduate school, it was an Au Sable professor who accepted me as an advisee to the University of Wisconsin. My Au Sable experiences were more extensive than most students, but even if the wildlife class was the only one I took it was hugely influential, leading directly to my MS research. The opening of that door ultimately led to a PhD and the launching of my career.” The author was Dr. David MacFarland (see photo, right), currently the top carnivore biologist for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and head of the programs for managing wolves and black bears. The course Dr. MacFarland is referring to is Wildlife Ecology.

Immersed in the forests of northern Michigan at Au Sable’s Great Lakes Campus, Wildlife Ecology has been one of the Institute’s best offerings in preparing students for graduate programs and professional employment in wildlife management and conservation.

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Faculty Profiles: Michael Ferber, International Development and Sustainability

Paul Wiemerslage | Jan 12, 2016

Michael Ferber never runs out of things to do at The King’s University College (Edmonton, Alberta), where he serves as the university’s Director of Development, Co-Director of Environmental Studies and Associate Professor of Geography. Being a multi-talented and multi-disciplined scholar and teacher is essential for teaching Au Sable’s International Development and Environmental Sustainability course (Pacific Rim, Summer Session II), where students engage problems diverse in subject and intertwined in effect, like ecological sustainability, the relationship of poverty and environmental conditions, international debt, missions in developing countries, and appropriate technology. 

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Featured Faculty: David Hoekman, Insect Ecology of Streams, Forests, and Fields

lindsaybarden | Dec 23, 2015

A background steeped in extensive experience as a speaker, teacher, mentor and professional in the world of insect ecology, is what Dr. David Hoekman, brings to Au Sable as the faculty member teaching Insect Ecology of Streams, Forests, and Fields, which began in 2016. David’s pursuit of ecology began with a B.S. from Wheaton College where he studied Biology and Archaeology. He later gained his Ph.D. in Ecology from Notre Dame in 2008 while also working as a Graduate Teaching Assistant.

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Tracks in the Snow - By Sarah Faber

Paul Wiemerslage | Dec 17, 2015

During my time at Au Sable I followed many tracks and made quite a few of my own. Whether animals made the tracks, snowshoes from a previous group, or cross-country skis, each set told a different story. Children love to interpret the tracks they find and create a story to explain them.  They want to follow them and make up their own story and share it with others.

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Courses That Change Your Life: Field Botany (Biol 311)

Paul Wiemerslage | Dec 14, 2015

Many students are drawn to the study of biology by their fascination with the lives and behavior of animals. But those who go on to positions of research and management in environmental science and conservation soon learn that everything starts with plants. Plant species and plant communities influence soil structure and nutrient availability, alter site-specific topography and hydrology, and create or alter the specific conditions and availability of resources on which all animal species depend. Thus, modern conservation technologies like Geographic Information Systems (GIS), satellite imagery, and rapid assessment inventories all begin with plant species and plant communities. 

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Featured Faculty: John Korstad, Lake Ecology and Management

Paul Wiemerslage | Dec 14, 2015

Professor of Biology and Director of the Honors Program at Oral Roberts University (ORU), John Korstad is a well-known and much beloved member of the Au Sable faculty, annually teaching Lake Ecology and Management at Au Sables Great Lakes Campus in Summer Session II since 1996. Raised in northern California, John was a double major in biology and geology at California Lutheran College in Thousand Oaks. There John was strongly influenced by and attracted to Christian professors who expressed their faith in Christ transparently in many disciplines. Their examples had a profound impact on his ultimate decision to become a college professor who would teach students in a faith-based institution. After earning his Bachelor’s degrees (BA in Geology and BS in Biology) from California Lutheran, John earned an MS in Environmental Biology from California State University- Hayward before completing both an MS and PhD in Zoology from the University of Michigan. A research contributor to such journals as Hydrobiologia, Journal of Great Lakes Research, and Green Chemistry, John is also known for his outstanding skill as an educator, having received awards at ORU for Faculty Member of the Year (Excellence in Teaching), Outstanding Faculty Member of the Year in the School of Arts and Sciences, and the Outstanding Faculty Award for All Schools, and, from the Carnegie Foundation, Professor of the Year in Oklahoma. A former Fulbright Scholar, John has conducted research in Norway on aquaculture research and the development of biofuels from algae. Known locally around Au Sable’s Great Lakes Campus, John and his students in Lake Ecology and Management annually conduct surveys of local lakes and provide the results to local lake owner associations, a practice that has made many friends for the Au Sable Institute. 

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Habitat Revival - By Jennie Krob

Paul Wiemerslage | Dec 09, 2015

When I found out that I was going to have to complete a project as part of the environmental education internship, I thought it was going to be this big, long, report and I honestly didn’t know if I could pick a topic and complete it in four weeks with all of my other responsibilities.  It turned out that the general guidelines for the project were that we (the interns) were to find a part of the program that we could improve or could make easier for future interns.  That sounded like a much more feasible project to accomplish and not just a big report.  So a little while later when we were going over the mammal study that we would be teaching to the 1st graders, Paul pointed out that someone’s intern project could be redoing an old, beat up habitat poster with movable mammal pictures.  This poor poster was on its last leg and while it and the animals were beautifully hand drawn, it needed to be retired.  I like to draw so I thought it would be fun to draw a new poster but when someone mentioned making the poster more of a flannel graph, I thought that was a perfect idea and I knew what my project would be.  I was going to make a habitat poster, complete with movable animals, all out of felt.  

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Courses That Change Your Life: Restoration Ecology (Biol 482)

Paul Wiemerslage | Dec 02, 2015

Today there is nowhere on Earth that is not touched by human influence, even in places where humans are rarely, if ever present. Yet climate change affects penguins in Antarctica, toxic wastes reach uninhabited islands, and invasive species spread even in wilderness areas. Never has there been as great a need to understand the theory, obtain the skills and gain the experience needed to restore degraded habitats, re-introduce endangered species, and relieve larger-scale ecological stressors in all of Earth’s ecosystems. 

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Featured Faculty: Scott Carr, Environmental Chemistry

Paul Wiemerslage | Dec 02, 2015

Although many people think of “environmental issues” as large scale effects they can see or physically describe, the causes of these effects are often chemical in nature.  Scott Carr, Professor of Chemistry at Anderson University (Indiana), enables students to enter a new level of understanding of environmental problems through his unique course, Environmental Chemistry, offered each year at Au Sable’s Great Lakes Campus (Michigan) during Summer Session II (July-August). In Scott, students find a rare combination of expert teaching skill, personal concern for every individual, and depth of scientific expertise. A widely published expert on ionization chemistry, chemistry of gases, and chemical instrumentation, Scott takes a subject potentially intimidating to most students and shows them how to understand both its theoretical foundations and its visible effects in ways that genuinely engage their interest. 

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Summer Sees Construction Wrap up on Teaching Shelters

Paul Wiemerslage | Nov 20, 2015

Prior to taking over Au Sable’s environmental education program I had spent 2 years working for the North Cascades Institute in Washington State.   North Cascades Institute is located at the base of the cascade crest, which meant that we literally worked and taught in a rain forest.  Wet weather brought about inherent challenges in keeping the children warm and all of our teaching materials dry.  Aside from perpetually wrapping everything in plastic (students included), the Institute designed a trail system that included strategic placement of a handful of shelters along the pathway allowing for respite from the elements.  These teaching shelters did more than provide cover from the wind and rain, they also provided a familiar setting for learning and the fort-like qualities generated a unique excitement in the children.  As a result, despite the wet cold conditions, we were able to deliver remarkable learning programs, which provided the children with positive outdoor experiences when often the situation presented significant challenges to anything outdoors affirming. 

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Courses that Change Your Life: Field Biology in Spring (BIOL 361)

Dieter Bouma | Nov 19, 2015

Have you ever been in an environment so stimulating and so full of life it seemed impossible to take everything in, or make sense of all that was happening around you? The forests, fields, bogs, beaches, dunes, and lakes of northern Michigan are like that in each returning spring. Dynamic changes are occurring literally beneath your feet in complex chemical reactions in soil and water, the emergence of new plants (many with dazzling flowers), the buzz of insects, the songs of frogs, toads and birds, and the complex movements and behaviors of mammals, all integrated in diverse and complex habitats that are also changing as they experience new dynamics of light, temperature, and moisture. 

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Faculty Profile: Dan Ippolito, Aquatic Biology

Paul Wiemerslage | Nov 19, 2015

Not every Au Sable course can claim to be taught by a fourth-degree black belt in karate, or an instructor who can cut a dashing figure in a wet suit, but “Aqua Man Dan” Ippolito provides this and much more to Au Sable’s Aquatic Biology course, offered annually at Au Sable’s Great Lakes Campus each year in Summer Session I (June and July). Starting his college studies by earning a BS in Biology from Yale University, Dan went on to gain a PhD in Zoology from the University of Texas where his doctoral research focused on competition between an aquatic invasive species (blue tilapia) and native bass in a power plant reservoir in the eastern part of the state.  After teaching marine biology at the University of New England in southern Maine for four years, Dan joined the faculty of Anderson University in Indiana, where he has now taught for 26 years.

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Courses That Change Your Life: Environmental Law and Policy (ENVR 310)

lindsaybarden | Nov 11, 2015

As the environmental field becomes increasingly diversified and continues to grow, so then must our skills and knowledge. A multi-disciplinary approach to conservation and caring for God's world has never been more necessary. Law and policy are the structures which undergird and inform most environmental work today, and so, it is important to understand the world of law and policy on both national and international levels in order to be fully effective in the environmental sector. In Au Sable’s Environmental Law and Policy (ENVR 310) course, students will learn about the policy making process, explore current environmental challenges in policy, and gain experience interacting with regional policy-makers.

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Featured Faculty: Tim Wakefield, Marine Biology

Paul Wiemerslage | Nov 09, 2015

Although oceans cover most of the Earth, and are home to some of its most fascinating creatures, their study requires expert guidance and skill. Tim Wakefield provides such expertise to students in Au Sable’s Marine Biology course, offered each summer at the Pacific Rim Institute’s Campus on Whidbey Island (Washington). Currently Professor of Biology at John Brown University (Arkansas), Tim brings lifelong experience and in depth professional training and study to students in his Marine Biology course. 

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Courses That Change Your Life: Environmental Applications for GIS (BIOL/ENVST/GEOG 362)

Paul Wiemerslage | Nov 02, 2015

No technology has revolutionized the practice, management and strategies of modern conservation as much as the development Geographic Information Systems and associated remote sensing techniques. Enabled by such technologies to match and relate different environmental, political, social and biological attributes in space and time to solve complex environmental problems in spatial analysis, and to do so using remote-sensing data collection systems, scientists and managers with skills in GIS applications and its attendant data-organization systems have become some of the most sought-after and highly-paid professionals in conservation science, as well as in other fields, where the same technologies have been applied to social, political and economic analyses, and subsequently better integrated with analysis of conservation problems. Environmental Applications of GIS, will be an applications-oriented course on GIS and GIS data management and organization, and focus on use of GIS technology in the field and in the actual application of GIS procedures to solving contemporary, real-world problems in environmental science.

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Faculty Profiles: Ron Vos, Ecological Agriculture

Dieter Bouma | Nov 02, 2015

As a professor of agriculture and environmental studies at Dordt College in Iowa, Ron Vos often finds himself working with people who don’t naturally get along with one another, namely, farmers and environmentalists. It has been Ron’s lifelong work to bring such people, and the expertise they represent together in caring for God’s earth. Although his work and study in agriculture have taken all over the world to countries like Hungary, Ukraine, Russia, Honduras, Zambia, and Kenya, Ron has also made a lasting difference in how farming is done in the United States. An early director of Dordt College’s unique Agriculture Stewardship Center, a 200 acre “farm” near the college which takes on the practical problems of raising livestock, cultivating row crops, and growing small grains and produce, all done in appropriate ways to exemplify biblical principles of creation care and sustainability.

Ron is no stranger to applying biblical principles in his teaching. He is a recipient of Dordt’s prestigious John Calvin Award for his excellence in integrating and articulating a Christian world view toward daily life and contemporary issues. He also received the Master Researcher Award from the organization Practical Farmers of Iowa for his work in developing an extensive and comprehensive agricultural research program at Dordt’s Agriculture Stewardship Center.

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My Teaching Takeaways - By Matt Ridenour

Paul Wiemerslage | Oct 30, 2015

Now that I have almost completed the Au Sable Environmental Education Internship, I have an opportunity to reflect on the way my perceptions of kids and teaching have changed over the last six weeks. I have found that while it is important to teach children facts and concepts, it is equally necessary to teach them to be interested in these facts and concepts. This has required learning what kids are interested in these days and how to make things that aren’t interesting become interesting.

The problem is not everything they should know will be of interest to them.  And therein lies the teacher’s predicament.  Determining what is necessary for the students to learn, and what methods will result in the greatest learning potential. In my short time teaching, I have found that environmental education with its emphasis on experiential learning is an extremely beneficial teaching practice.

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In Appreciation of Freshwater - By Eli Baker

Paul Wiemerslage | Oct 30, 2015

If you grew up in Michigan, or any of the great lakes states, you know that water, by virtue of its shear abundance, is an extremely important resource. Every season of the year people are interacting with Michigan’s plentiful freshwater in different ways. From the long days of summer spent lounging in the lake to the frigid days of fall casting to silvery specters in the stream. It is true that we Midwesterners love our bodies of water. But during my time as an intern at Au Sable I came across another way to interact with the wet world that we love that is educational, fun, and beneficial for the environment. It is called the volunteer stream-monitoring program!

For several years now Au Sable has been participating in the MiCorps volunteer stream-monitoring program. Working in partnership with the DEQ, local municipalities, and several non-profit organizations, Au Sable’s stream monitoring program works to collect important water quality data on the Upper Manistee River through the help of volunteers. This is a lot of work and it would be very difficult to get done if they didn’t have the help of many volunteers from all walks of life.

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Courses that Change Your Life: Tropical Agriculture and Missions (Biol/Agric/Geog 343)

Paul Wiemerslage | Oct 27, 2015

Do people who plan to work as missionaries and development specialists in foreign countries need environmental skills? The answer is, not surprisingly, yes. But the next question is, where can a student see missions, development, and environmental science effectively combined in a single college course? The answer to this second question is: in Au Sable’s Tropical Agriculture and Missions course. Like all Au Sable courses, this one is field intensive, but this time the “field” is in Costa Rica, and it may be a field of corn, soybeans, cassava, or any of a multitude of crop plants that can flourish in a tropical environment. Tomas Dozier of Costa Rica's Association for Development through Education takes students from colleges across the US and Canada to learn how missions and the environment interact, and why they need to. 

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Featured Faculty: Ben Van Ee, Applied Biodiversity Genetics

Paul Wiemerslage | Oct 27, 2015

Another of Au Sable’s faculty who is himself an Au Sable alumni, Ben is a scientist and scholar who pays attention to detail, especially genetic and molecular detail. Ben earned his Bachelor’s degrees (two of them) from Dordt College (Iowa) in Environmental Studies and Spanish before completing his PhD in Botany at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  Ben also holds a Naturalist and Land Resources Analyst certificate from Au Sable. Presently a faculty member and Director of the Herbarium in the Biology Department of the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez, a Land Grant, Space Grant, and Sea Grant institution, he is the author of over 30 publications in molecular DNA analysis and plant systematics.  His work represented in some of the best journals in his discipline, including American Journal of Botany, Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, Systematic Botany, and Taxon. He also serves as associate editor for the journals Phytotaxa and Systematic Botany.

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Featured Faculty: Dieter Bouma, Conservation & Development in the Indian Tropics

lindsaybarden | Oct 21, 2015

Dieter Bouma, professor of “Conservation & Development in the Indian Tropics” has a long and enduring history with Au Sable Institute. First visiting Au Sable as a child when his father Rolf Bouma began teaching Environmental Ethics in 1992, Dieter grew into many different roles at the Institute over the years, from seasonal worker to student, staff member to now faculty. “Au Sable has been a formative part of my life, and I thank God for every faculty, staff member and student who played a role in directing my passion for caring for God’s earth,” says Dieter.

A recipient of not one but two graduate degrees, Bouma holds a Master of Science from the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources and Environment as well as a Master of Public Policy from U of M’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. His graduate research focused on community-based conservation in Nepal, home of the Himalayas and a border country with India.  Through an international forestry research program and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), he researched community-based conservation, specifically how rural communities in Nepal sustainably manage their forests.  The work required interdisciplinary study of forest ecology, social organization, cultural practices, and policy prescriptions and Dieter brings this interdisciplinary lens to studies in the Indian subtropics.

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Courses that Change Your Life: Marine Biology (BIOL 318)

Paul Wiemerslage | Oct 19, 2015

Humans are land dwellers. Our reference points, our expressions, and our spatial perspectives all reveal that we consider land our “home,” and we have studied the biology of land well. Marine systems, although they cover most of the Earth, are not places where we live. But they are the abode of millions of unique species; the exact number and types is still being discovered.

Au Sable’s offering in Marine Biology provides a fascinating introduction to the species and systems that comprise marine life. Offered in the coastal environment provided by Au Sable’s Pacific Rim Campus on Whidbey Island (Washington), Marine Biology provides opportunity for firsthand study of marine creatures, especially in the intertidal realm prevalent on the Whidbey Island coast, the eelgrass communities of adjoining shallow water zones, and marine communities associated with the island communities of Puget Sound. These biological systems, which can be studied firsthand at this location, provide students with examples of how to comprehend broader concepts and theories of marine community structure, population management and exploitation, oceanic microbialization and marine biogeochemical cycles and processes.

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A Day in the Life of a Fur Trader - By Colten Wolfe

Paul Wiemerslage | Oct 16, 2015

The internship has been an absolute blast! The last three days have been devoted to teaching about Michigan’s history and I have been playing the part of a French fur trader from the year 1800. This gives me the opportunity to dress as a voyageur and teach the children about what life was like before Michigan’s statehood.  It’s also a great opportunity to start a conversation with the students about conservation and natural resource use.  Conversely this results in the children teaching me about the joys of technology and the inventions they are familiar with which have made many of the tasks I end up showing them obsolete.  Like candle making for example.  They say, “Where we come from we don’t use candles anymore.”  At that point the hardest part of the day is remembering to act confused when they attempt to explain how light bulbs work for the tenth time!  It is such a joy to watch them connect the dots as they work through the steps of explaining to me the miracle of electricity. 

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Making the Most Each Moment - By Matt Ridenour

Paul Wiemerslage | Oct 14, 2015

Three weeks into my internship, I am thoroughly glad I chose to come back to Au Sable. Taking classes here was beneficial and enjoyable, but I would say that I have enjoyed my internship experience more. Not only have I had the opportunity to share everything from Michigan history to pond ecology with young and enthusiastic students, I explored some of the most beautiful places in Michigan.

Not having taught before, I was initially apprehensive about my ability to effectively connect and communicate with children. While I am still learning the best ways to maximize an energetic child’s meager attention span, I have found that they generally do not lack enthusiasm about the things we teach here at Au Sable. While this enthusiasm can lead to excessive talking or disruptive behavior, I believe it also makes it infinitely easier for children to learn. This makes my job as a teacher easier as well. 

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Featured Faculty: Darren Proppe, Research Methods I

lindsaybarden | Oct 13, 2015

Meet Dr. Darren Proppe, affectionately nicknamed “DProp” by his Au Sable students, this year will be teaching Research Methods I during Summer Session I at the Great Lakes Campus. In the past Darren taught the Animal Ecology course at the Great Lakes Campus during Summer Session I. Darren is an Assistant Professor of Biology at Calvin College and is broadly trained in animal behavior, ecology, and conservation biology. His research interests have focused on vocal communication and the distribution of songbirds in response to anthropogenic noise, building from his Ph.D. research at the University of Alberta. 

After growing up saying, “I will never go under the ocean or out into space,” Dr. Darren Proppe started his research career studying coral diseases on a reef 100 miles off the coast of Texas as an undergraduate at Texas A&M University. Shortly after graduation, however, a temporary position assessing populations of endangered golden-cheeked warbler in Central Texas shifted Darren’s focus from the marine environment to terrestrial ecosystems. His interest in birds, the ecological processes that support them, and the need for conservation measures, blossomed throughout his graduate research and as an assistant professor.

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Courses That Change Your Life: Applied Biodiversity Genetics (Biol 360)

lindsaybarden | Oct 11, 2015

With Geographic Information Systems (GIS), molecular DNA analysis has become and will continue to be a dominant technology of investigation in environmental science and conservation biology for at least the next two decades. Because of the opportunity it provides to investigate the characteristics of plant and animal populations in non-invasive ways, using material from feces, hair, urine, skin and skeletal material, skills in the use of molecular DNA analysis will be at a premium for employment and graduate school admissions, as its applications are both versatile and cost effective. Students taking Applied Biodiversity Genetics will gain a greater, deeper, firsthand understanding of DNA sequences and structures, and the complex mathematical bioinformatics tools used to analyze them, as well as a greater grasp of basic and advanced chemistry in manipulating chemical solutions of enzymes, buffers, detergents and solvents needed to isolate genetic material and replicate it using the technique of the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR). 

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The Colors Beneath Us - By Eli Baker

Paul Wiemerslage | Oct 09, 2015

Fall is once again upon us. The days are getting shorter and we begrudgingly pack away our swimsuits and pull out warm coats and mittens. Even though the joys of summer are past for the year, the arrival of fall brings many treasured traditions. From picking apples in the cool crisp autumn air and warming up afterwards with a cup of hot apple cider and spiced doughnuts, to watching the salmon charge upstream. But perhaps one of the most cherished traditions, in which we partake, is viewing the changing colors of the leaves.

Each year we keep our eyes on the trees as they transition from the luscious greens of summer to the rusty reds and browns of oaks, the bright yellows of birches, and the vibrant oranges and reds of maples. We love to celebrate the beautiful colors of autumn so much that we have scenic routes which people can drive in order to take in as many colors as possible. It is true we love our leaves.

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Courses that Change Your Life: Marine Mammals (BIOL 359)

Dieter Bouma | Oct 07, 2015

Few species arouse as much human interest, curiosity and empathy as large mammals, and few large mammals have proved so enduringly fascinating to peoples as those in marine environments; cetaceans (whales and dolphins), pinnipeds (seals and sea lions) and sirenians (manatees and dugongs). Such creatures are not only the object of scientific study, but the actors and principals in human legend, literature, economics, politics and folklore. What better array of mammals to feature in its own course? 

At Au Sable, we bring the study of these fascinating creatures together in Marine Mammals, taught at our Pacific Rim Campus on Whidbey Island in Puget Sound.

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Featured Faculty: Vern Peters, Conservation Biology

Paul Wiemerslage | Oct 07, 2015

Among conservation biologists, it is common to find one group dedicated to the practice of conservation working for government agencies and private conservation organizations, while a second group, the academics, focus on conservation research and teaching. In Au Sable’s course in Conservation Biology, however, the Institute has been blessed with a unique individual who has depth of experience and skill at both, Vern Peters, Associate Professor at King’s University, Edmonton, Alberta, and Adjunct Professor of Biology at the University of Alberta.

Vern’s career in conservation began with multiple dimensions of experience in practical conservation management with Ducks Unlimited (a private conservation organization), the Alberta Pacific Forest Industry (an industry concerned with forest conservation and management), and a large federal government agency (the Canadian Forest Service). In these organizations, Vern worked for 11 years learning how to make conservation work in ways that involved hunters, the timber industry, and the general public in practical, concrete, and economically sustainable ways. Vern’s second decade as a professional, from 2005 until now, has been focused on academia, teaching undergraduate students at King’s University and graduate students at the University of Alberta the right way to understand and practice conservation biology as science, while at the same time making practical applications toward solving real conservation problems.

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Au Sable at the White House - Rachel Lamb Honored

Paul Wiemerslage | Jul 23, 2015

Invitations to the White House don’t come often, but when they do, they deserve notice. The Au Sable Institute is honored to name one of its own faculty as a recent White House invitee, Rachel Lamb, Assistant Professor of Land Resources. On Monday, July 20th, the White House recognized twelve people of faith as “Champions of Change” for their efforts in protecting our environment and communities from the effects of climate change. In the words of the White House Press Release, “These Champions have demonstrated clear leadership across the United States and around the world through their grassroots efforts to green their communities and educate others on the moral and social justice implications of climate change.” Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy and Senior Advisor to the President Brian Deese were the primary speakers at the event, and the presenters of the awards to their recipients. David Foster, Professor of Biology at Messiah College (Pennsylvania) and Vice Chair of the Au Sable Board of Trustees, also attended the event representing the Institute and to congratulate and support Rachel.

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Songbird Research Gains National Attention

Paul Wiemerslage | Jun 30, 2015

A joint research effort of the Au Sable Institute and Calvin College (Michigan) aims to determine the effects of noise pollution associated with roads and oil drilling on communities of forest songbirds, and to assess whether reductions in bird abundance and diversity in these noise-affected areas can be mitigated through the introduction of another acoustic cue: playback of songs recorded from other male songbirds. The first step of this research employed this concept – generally referred to as conspecific attraction – to assess the effects of playback on a community of songbirds that reside in low noise areas in the Au Sable region. In addition to being foundational for further work, these first year results offer much to the scientific community, and have been recently published in the journal, Behavioral Ecology...

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Late Nights and Sturgeon

Paul Wiemerslage | Jun 25, 2015

Once a common species in the Great Lakes and larger rivers of Michigan, the Lake Sturgeon was depleted through overfishing throughout its range. Now a species of high conservation priority, efforts to restore populations of Lake Sturgeons are underway throughout the Midwest. One of these efforts is led by the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians (LRBOI). Focused on the lower Manistee River, near the center of the Band’s traditional homeland, fisheries biologists of the LRBOI are capturing sturgeon fry in the lower Manistee River and raising them in a special sturgeon rearing facility. In this controlled environment, young sturgeon are protected from predators and environmental hazards, growing to larger sizes to be released later when they are less vulnerable. The program thus increases the survival of sturgeon fry and augments the river’s sturgeon population. 

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Springtime by Kevin Vande Vusse

Paul Wiemerslage | May 14, 2015

As we welcome back spring for another year, it has been exciting to be up in Northern Michigan at the Au Sable Institute.  Having the opportunity to be a part of the spring internship has been fun in more ways than one.  Not only do we get to spend the days teaching with the school groups that come in, we also get to watch as the forests come alive again.  The ground starts to burst with color as the Trout Lily, Trillium, Dutchman's Breeches and Violets among many other wildflowers start to awaken from their long winter slumber.  

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Featured Faculty: Mark Gathany, Environmental Applications for GIS

Paul Wiemerslage | Mar 26, 2015

Dr. Mark Gathany brings a rare combination of expertise to the Au Sable Institute, as well as to his students at Cedarville University, as a scientist with a Ph.D. in ecology, formal training and certification in conservation biology, and a specialist in ecosystem science and biogeochemistry.  Remarking on his own work, Mark says, “The overall objective of my research is to develop our understanding of nutrient cycling and energy flow within ecosystems.  Within this framework I study carbon and nitrogen dynamics in response to disturbances (such as fire) and changing land use (urbanization, agriculture, forestry). ” Mark’s studies of the effects of wildfire on carbon storage in western forests has received support from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and he has participated in studies that are part of the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) program. His publications have appeared in scientific journals like Forests, Global Change Biology, and the International Journal of Wildland Fire, and his current research is examining the effects of forest fragmentation on wildlife disease transmission. 

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Courses That Change Your Life: Conservation Biology (BIOL 471)

Paul Wiemerslage | Mar 17, 2015

In the late 1970s a new discipline formally emerged from the ranks of older, more established fields like ecology, wildlife management and fisheries biology. The newcomer came to be called Conservation Biology, a study of “the biology of endangerment,” a science that was mission driven and value laden, intended to be employed practically and, if necessary, quickly to learn what steps were required to save endangered and threatened species, to restore small and declining populations, conserve genetic diversity, preserve and restore rare and critical habitats, and manage entire ecosystems to enhance biodiversity.

Few courses so fully and naturally capture Au Sable’s ethic of stewardship and creation care as Conservation Biology, where ethical questions like “Why save an endangered species?” are not inquiries about philosophical abstractions but biological and management realities. Few courses can address so directly the practical value of learning skills like population viability analysis, captive population management, measurement of genetic diversity, or estimations of community species richness. Few courses can so quickly and meaningfully connect the scientific facts and theories of a textbook or classroom to a problem that can be observed directly in the field. 

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Courses That Change Your Life: Alpine Ecology (BIOL 478)

Paul Wiemerslage | Mar 10, 2015

By definition (in biology) alpine ecosystems are treeless areas found at high elevations (above “tree line”) characterized by short growing seasons, shallow soils, harsh environments and unique life forms adapted to their conditions. You can’t study the ecology of an alpine system just anywhere, but you can study them in Alpine Ecology, one of Au Sable’s most fascinating courses offered at Pacific Rim.

A field intensive course with study sites centered in the beautiful Olympic Mountains of northwest Washington, Alpine Ecology provides students, especially those considering graduate studies, with the chance to see and learn what it’s like to study a unique biological community in detail and at an advanced level. To learn the ways of an alpine system, one’s study has to be as specialized as the adaptations of the alpine species being studied, whose unique growth forms, physiology, migratory patterns and resource use strategies permit them to live in what, for non-alpine species, would be an inhospitable environment. 

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Faculty Profiles: Ken Petersen, Field Ecology of Birds

Paul Wiemerslage | Mar 10, 2015

A man with many talents, multiple roles and multitudes of duties at Bethel University (Minnesota) where he serves as Professor of Biology and Director of the Environmental Studies Program, Ken Petersen brings everything he is and has to his Au Sable course, Field Ecology of Birds (May Term, Great Lakes Campus). Moving from the general to the specific as his education progressed, Ken received his Bachelors’ degree in Biology from Dordt College (Iowa) before going on to earn a Master’s in Wildlife Biology and PhD in Animal Ecology from Iowa State University. A widely respected ornithologist, Ken’s research has been published in the leading bird journals in science, including Auk, Condor, Journal of Field Ornithology and Wilson Bulletin, and he is one of the nation’s leading experts on the ecology of Brewer’s sparrow, a sagebrush-dependent species that has suffered declines in some parts of the US intermountain west under programs converting sagebrush to grassland or other habitats. A man of extensive teaching experience and skill, Ken taught at his alma mater, Dordt College, before coming to Bethel University, as well as at Viterbo University (Wisconsin) and Monmouth College (Illinois), where he received Monmouth’s award for Outstanding Achievement in Teaching. It takes a combination of great eyes and ears to teach a field ornithology course well, but Ken is among the best. One of his students, Deborah Cushman of Cornerstone University (Michigan), remembers the Field Ecology of Birds class at Au Sable vividly, noting, “Professor Petersen did not leave any room for a dull moment in class. During our breaks in between lectures someone in the group might bring up something fun or funny and everyone including Professor Petersen would be laughing. Professor Petersen knew what he was teaching well and had a strong love for the subject that was very evident as we worked through class material or were out birding…He did very well and had great patience with some of us who were slow at finding the birds that had been sighted.” 

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Faculty Profiles: Ken Sytsma, Field Botany

Paul Wiemerslage | Mar 05, 2015

Recognized as one of the world’s leading authorities in plant systematics and taxonomy, Dr. Ken Sytsma is Past-President of the American Society of Plant Taxonomists and a former Head of the University of Wisconsin Herbarium and Curator of the Summit Herbarium of the Missouri Botanical Garden. He is also author of over 100 peer-reviewed publications in plant taxonomy and the current recipient of a nearly three million dollar grant from the National Science Foundation to support studies of plant biodiversity and the roles of functional, phylogenetic, and genetic diversity in structuring and sustaining plant communities through environmental change. Although his skills and expertise are in demand worldwide, Sytsma brings his enthusiasm for plants to Au Sable's Great Lakes Campus year after year to teach Au Sable's Field Botany course.

“I always look forward to this great opportunity,” says Sytsma, “to both teach and learn about plants in their natural communities across Northern Michigan with motivated Christian students that come to Au Sable. Although an intensive five weeks, this time in the field and at Au Sable can be a refreshing ‘sabbatical’ for both students and faculty.”

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Courses That Change Your Life: Ecological Agriculture (Biol/Agric/Geol 303)

Paul Wiemerslage | Mar 05, 2015

There are few skills more practical, or more biblical, than that of growing your own food, and doing it the right way. Adam’s first responsibility was tending a garden. Today, amidst all the technology and complexity of modern life, understanding the basics of an ecological approach to agriculture has never been more important. That practicality is vividly presented to students in Au Sable’s course, Ecological Agriculture. Offered at Au Sable’s Pacific Rim Campus in the central portion of Washington’s Whidbey Island, a region of active and diverse agricultural activity, Ecological Agriculture, Ecological Agriculture offers students an opportunity to learn how to make an agricultural system as productive and an environmentally valuable as the natural system it replaces. Instead of the usual one-dimensional approach typical of modern industrial farming, Ecological Agriculture shows students how to design agricultural systems that can achieve multiple outcomes that not only produce food, but create stable communities, vibrant and diverse economies, and healthy environments.

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The Wonders of Winter - By Kevin Vande Vusse

Paul Wiemerslage | Feb 27, 2015

Spending the winter in the great North Woods of Michigan can be challenging.  Usually associated with bitter cold, hostile temperatures, roaring blizzards and below zero wind chills, it’s no wonder people find winter in the north hard to endure.  However, as an intern at the Au Sable during the winter session, I was able to see this cold and quiet season from a new perspective. 

Growing up in Michigan, winter has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember.  The bitter cold, short days, and slippery roads have long since been a part of my childhood and early adulthood.  I wouldn't say that I dislike winter, I enjoy outdoor sports such as cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, but it's always been a sort of season to endure.  Au Sable has always been a place where I can connect with God's creation on a deeper level, the atmosphere has a way of captivating me and slows me down to see the natural world in a new way.  

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Profiles in Stewardship: Krista Boltjes Pendergrass, Mother and Homemaker

Paul Wiemerslage | Feb 26, 2015

Most of our past profiles have been stories of individuals who exercise their ministry of caring for God’s creation in some form of fulltime, paid employment outside their home. But there are many alumni caring for God’s creation, and teaching others the same, within their own homes and families. This edition of Profiles in Stewardship examines an outstanding example of the latter, the full time work of Krista Boltjes Pendergrass, wife of David Pendergrass, an Assistant Research Scientist at Tarleton State University (Texas) and mother of four growing boys, aged 1, 4, 6, and 7. 

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Featured Faculty: Eric Steinkamp, Alpine Ecology

Paul Wiemerslage | Feb 24, 2015

Professor of Life Science at Northwest University (Washington), Dr. Eric Steinkamp provides his students with an exceptional variety of interests and expertise in the process of teaching one of Au Sable’s most unique courses, Alpine Ecology (Pacific Rim). Eric effectively involves his students in new discoveries throughout the course because he never stops learning himself. After obtaining graduate degrees in science from two different state universities in different parts of the country (MS in Forest Management from Stephen F. Austin State University in Texas and a PhD in Forest Science from Colorado State University), Eric then went on to complete a Masters of Divinity from the Assembly of God Theological Seminary in Springfield, Missouri. Although his particular expertise is in alpine ecosystems, Eric is pursuing a new line of interest in learning all he can about marine environments, and even carries a PADI Dive Master Certification in scuba.

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Courses That Change Your Life: Environmental Health (BIOL 452)

Paul Wiemerslage | Feb 18, 2015

One doesn’t usually think of medical and health issues as being the focus of a course at a biological field station, but Au Sable’s Environmental Health breaks the mold. More than any other factor, a person’s surrounding physical and biological environment will determine health parameters like physical well being, susceptibility to disease and life span, as well as many other health characteristics. Today perhaps not field in medical science is expanding as rapidly or as uniquely as that of environmental health as medical scientists begin to learn more about how the environment affects the rate of disease transmission (environmental epidemiology), provides resources for medicine and pharmaceuticals (environmental medicine) and affects the delivery of both private and government health agencies to deliver health services. No wonder the new version of MCAT will now contain a section devoted to questions related to environmental health.

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Overcoming Doubt - By Jared Hinken

Paul Wiemerslage | Feb 18, 2015

Scared, anxious, terrified, petrified, excited and uncomfortable are all words that describe the way I was feeling driving up to Au Sable to start this environmental education internship. Typically when I’m asked to do anything with kids I tend to take a pass because I’m not quite sure how to interact with them. It sounds silly but when I look down at these tiny humans we call children my mind goes blank and all I can think to do is to just start speaking gibberish. Once training started I was feeling fairly comfortable with my situation, mainly because I wasn’t thinking about the kids who would be coming in just under a week.  However, as the first day of teaching grew closer my anxiety started to soar and I was filled with doubt. I was constantly thinking that I made a mistake and wasn’t the right type of person to do this internship, but I kept praying that God would give me the strength to make it through and that I wouldn’t be a complete failure. The night before the kids arrived I didn’t get much sleep and couldn’t look at my notes enough. 

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Faculty Profiles: Dave Dornbos Field Biology in Spring

Paul Wiemerslage | Feb 03, 2015

What course could possibly teach you everything about any natural environment you walk into, from sampling soil to keying out wildflowers to identifying bird songs to correctly distinguishing animal tracks? Only one, Field Biology in Spring (Great Lakes Campus, May Term), taught by Calvin College Professor of Biology David Dornbos. Don’t let David’s area of specialization (MS, from The Ohio State University and PhD, from Iowa State University in crop production and physiology, of all things, after receiving his BS in Biology from Calvin) fool you. Although his current research and publications focus on plants (domestic, wild and invasive, with studies published in scientific journals like Crop Management, Crop Science, and Canadian Journal of Plant Science), David’s natural curiosity and fascination with all things living and natural makes him the perfect instructor for a course requiring an enormous range of scientific and observational skills. David explains, “Natural systems illustrate how food production systems should be constructed because natural systems are inherently sustainable.  So it is deeply interesting to learn how these systems function and to think carefully how Christians should live, what we should eat, how we might use agroecological ideals to construct food production systems, to live out the dual command of Genesis 2:15 to ’serve’ and ’protect’ God’s Creation.” 

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Courses That Change Your Life: Field Ecology of Birds (Biol 305)

Paul Wiemerslage | Feb 02, 2015

With every return of spring, no animals are more visible, more vocal or more demonstrative than birds. Yet their very abundance and complexity can make their identification and observation seem an overwhelmingly complex task. But a well-trained observer can not only distinguish birds by sight, but also by song, as well as relate the presence of different birds to different habitats, vegetation types and key natural resources. Such skills open a world of wonder and pleasure to nature that many people have never known – until they take Field Ecology of Birds with Ken Petersen of Bethel University. A widely respected ornithologist, Ken’s research has been published in the leading bird journals in science, including Auk, Condor, Journal of Field Ornithology and Wilson Bulletin, and he is one of the nation’s leading experts on the ecology of Brewer’s sparrow, a sagebrush-dependent species that has suffered declines in some parts of the US intermountain west under programs converting sagebrush to grassland or other habitats. This depth and combination of skill, scholarship and scientific expertise is deeply valued by his students. As one member of Ken’s 2013 class noted at the end of the course, “I loved learning about birds, I have always been interested in them and to learn at the extent that I did was fantastic. [Ken Petersen was] by far the best instructor I have ever had.”

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Faculty Profiles: Luke Naeher, Environmental Health

Paul Wiemerslage | Jan 26, 2015

As Au Sable courses go, Environmental Health (Pacific Rim, Summer Session II), may not be the offering with the most interesting or ear-grabbing name, but, under the instruction of University of Georgia’s Luke Naeher, it is one of Au Sable’s best educational offerings. A course of exceptional value to students considering overseas work in missions and development, as well as biology students intrigued by issues where policy issues of health and environment intersect, Environmental Health brings critical issues from multiple disciplines together in the hands of one of the nation’s leading environmental health experts, Luke Naeher. 

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Courses That Change Your Life: Watersheds in Global Development (Biol/Geog 355)

Paul Wiemerslage | Jan 20, 2015

Many courses at Au Sable are admirably devoted to specialization and fine-focused investigation of particular areas of environmental science. In contrast, Watersheds in Global Development provides students with a course investigating a fundamental and increasingly used worldwide management unit, the watershed. Although watersheds are fundamental and truly reality-based ecosystem management units in traditional management-oriented conservation sciences, they are also of increasingly vital importance in the work of mission and development, as the problems of developing sustainably clean water and sanitation systems for people in developing countries will become an increasing concern for Christian mission and development organizations.

Integrated to include best current practices of watershed identification and management as identified by national and international standards, students who complete Watersheds in Global Development not only gain skill in various types of water monitoring, but also receive four certifications from Global Water Watch after successful demonstration of these skills, as well as certification in Watershed Science from the Watershed Academy of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 16 EPA modules in watershed identification and management. By the time the course is finished. Students in Watersheds in Global Development will have learned essential principles of watershed ecology, best practices of community-based water monitoring and watershed management for developing and developed countries, and how to create data access and analysis using an online relational database and data-to-action strategies. 

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Courses That Change Your Life: International Development and Env. Sustainability (Biol/Geog 304)

Paul Wiemerslage | Jan 12, 2015

Many of Au Sable’s offerings provide opportunity for more focused and specialized study of particular aspects of biology and conservation science. But sometimes there’s a need for a course that can provide a truly “big picture” of the issues, forces and people shaping the environmental landscape worldwide, and not only in science, but in politics, sociology and economics. International Development and Environmental Sustainability is that big picture course. Taught at the Pacific Rim Institute’s campus near Seattle, one of the USA’s major gateways to international exchange of ideas, goods and people, International Development and Environmental Sustainability provides an introduction to the critical issues and agents associated with global environmental degradation, poverty, international debt, appropriate technology, Christian missions and the environment, and the biblical basis of environmental care and its implications in global development. 

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Featured Faculty: Bill Deutsch, Watersheds in Global Development

Paul Wiemerslage | Jan 05, 2015

Bill Deutsch is the founder of Global Water Watch (GWW), a community-based water quality monitoring program based at the Auburn University (AU) Water Resources Center. He has taught the principles and practices of community-based water quality monitoring via nearly 100 trips to 20 countries, including the Philippines, Mexico and Kenya. He has worked with many governmental agencies and non-profit organizations, including USAID, USDA, USEPA, Heifer International, and the Green Belt Movement.

Bill was a Research Fellow at the AU, School of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Aquatic Environments for 25 years. He has degrees in zoology (B.S., Houghton College), anthropology (B.A., Bloomsburg University), biology (M.A., State University of New York at Binghamton), and aquatic ecology (Ph.D. and postdoc, AU). Bill was named Alabama’s Water Conservationist of the Year in 2011, and given Emeritus status at AU upon his retirement in 2013. He now works part-time on water-related projects at AU and through the nonprofit organization, GWW, Inc. 

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Courses that Change Your Life: Lake Ecology and Management (BIOL 302)

Paul Wiemerslage | Dec 30, 2014

Good ecology and good education have this in common: integration. At Au Sable, perhaps no course does integration better than Lake Ecology and Management. Between field and lab, Lake Ecology and Management students learn good ecology by integrating physical, chemical, and biological science through studies of underwater ecosystems at a number of the 900 lakes surrounding the Au Sable campus in northern Michigan. At the same time, the course uses good education techniques by integrating knowledge, skills, and service through its extensive field experiences. Venturing out into the lake, students learn skills for collecting data on the temperature, chemistry, and organisms within its waters, the same skills aquatic scientists use in their professional work. Returning to land, students gain knowledge of lake ecosystems by piecing together the data they have collected to understand how complex lake ecosystems work. Lastly, students service the local community by taking the information collected about each lake and putting together an informative report for the local Lake Association, made up of neighbors who live in cottages around the lake, to help them serve, protect, and restore their lake. 

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Faculty Profiles: Rafe Payne, Marine Mammals

Paul Wiemerslage | Dec 08, 2014

Rafe Payne would be the first to admit that, in his career in biology, he started small, studying parasites of waterfowl in western Nebraska and fish in the Pacific Ocean. But Rafe moved on in life to bigger things, now studying marine mammals, especially seals, dolphins, and whales, and delighting students with his knowledge, vivacious teaching style and integration of faith and science in Au Sable’s Marine Mammals course, taught each year at Au Sable’s Whidbey Island campus in Washington. Rafe’s college education began in California (where he now resides), receiving a B.A. in Biology from Westmont College. From there Rafe took up graduate studies at the University of Nebraska (a long way from either coast) where he earned an M.S. and Ph.D., first studying parasites of ducks (M.S.), and then gill parasites of marine fishes (Ph.D.). 

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Courses that Change Your Life: Aquatic Biology (Biol 322)

Paul Wiemerslage | Dec 02, 2014

Water is a mysterious world, yet foundational to all life and every biological community. For many people, even scientists and students of biology, the lakes, streams, and bogs of northern Michigan seem, on first inspection, difficult to investigate. Au Sable’s course in Aquatic Biology opens the door to that investigation, exploring these fascinating environments that compose Michigan’s hydrosphere. Increasingly recognized in environmental law, policy and regulation (as well as science) for their importance, aquatic systems offer fruitful fields of interesting study and sustainable employment for those who learn how to understand, measure and monitor their dynamic states. Au Sable’s Aquatic Biology offers opportunity to pursue that interest and gain that expertise in a landscape endowed with diverse aquatic features. Aquatic Biology provides experience in learning identification and systematics of freshwater fishes and invertebrates within an integrated ecological approach examining patterns of energy flow, nutrient cycling and trophic dynamics in aquatic systems. It also offers an introduction to skills needed in the growing field of environmental inventory and assessment, an area in which aquatic environments receive disproportionate attention.

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Featured Faculty: Dave Unander, Tropical Agriculture & Missions

Paul Wiemerslage | Dec 02, 2014

David Unander has always been a practical man. He began his scientific career as a plant breeder, studying genetics, agronomy and agricultural ecology while completing his PhD at the University of Minnesota, and then spent several years at the University of Puerto Rico, investigating disease resistance and harvest quality in vegetables and dry beans. That introduction to the study of disease led Dave to the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, where he combined his interests in botany and medicine by studying tropical plants with potential antiviral effects.  Joining the faculty at Eastern University (Pennsylvania) in 1992, Dave was soon teaching not only core courses in science like ecology, but adding electives like Medical Botany and Tropical Biology. He has taught Au Sable’s Tropical Agriculture and Missions course in Costa Rica since 2003.

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Featured Faculty: Tim Van Deelen, Wildlife Ecology

Paul Wiemerslage | Nov 25, 2014

Associate Professor of Wildlife Ecology, Tim Van Deelen is known throughout the scientific community as an expert on deer and wolf ecology and wolf-deer interactions in the United States Upper Midwest, and the ecology of exploited species. Receiving his Bachelor’s degree in Biology from Calvin College (Michigan), and an MS in Wildlife Biology from the University of Montana before completing his PhD in Wildlife Ecology from Michigan State University, Tim served as a Natural Resource Scientist for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and as a Forest Wildlife Ecologist for the Illinois Natural History Survey before assuming his present position at UW-Madison. Expert in both experimental field studies, applied conservation and theoretical modeling of predator-prey interactions, Tim’s work has appeared in such publications as Journal of Wildlife Management, Human Dimensions of Wildlife, Ecological Modeling, and Landscape Ecology, and he is a co-editor of the recent book, Recovery of Gray Wolves in the Great Lakes Region of the United States (Springer 2009). 

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Practical Au Sable Skills - by Neil Gilbert

Paul Wiemerslage | Oct 17, 2014

At the beginning of every summer college session, Dave Mahan delivers an introductory speech that always contains the line, “And, because we want to make sure you leave Au Sable with a practical skill as a back up in case grad school doesn’t work, we have assigned you to a dish crew to help clean up after meals…” His proclamation is met with tentative laughter and groans. During my sojourn at Au Sable, I have learned many such practical skills.

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A Humble Wonder - by Casey Shoaff

Paul Wiemerslage | Oct 15, 2014

I have been affiliated with Au Sable for several years now.  My first Au Sable experience came as a research student during the summer of 2013.  During this time I was fortunate to work as a member of the Boardman River research team.  Growing up near Traverse City and being an avid fisherman, I was well acquainted with this stream and I thought I knew most of what there was to know about the quality of it’s water, the debate surrounding the removal of its dams, and particularly the location of many of its trout. But through my research that summer something new was revealed to me.   Questions that I hadn’t thought to ask before became obvious.  In all my time growing up around the Boardman, I felt as though the Boardman and I were just being introduced.

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Autumn Musings (9/18 - 10/1) by Neil Gilbert

Paul Wiemerslage | Oct 08, 2014

I enter the woods nearly daily with my journal. In this and forthcoming series of entries, I will share what I’m seeing and hearing out there. Since birds are my first love, most of the entries will having strong avian components—but, I promise, it won’t just be birds! 

18 September 2014, 6:30PM

Out here at Beaver Pond, doing some sitting. The air is cool and moist; the sun is down, twilight comes. I sit, I listen. I hear.... 

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Fall 2014 Interns

Paul Wiemerslage | Sep 21, 2014

There is always something happening at Au Sable that keeps life interesting and training week during the internship never disappoints.   We had a birthday, thunderstorms, MiCorps stream monitoring training, encounters with bats (the mammal, not the equipment), and wasps.  Training week is a merging of people and place.  We learn about each other and our surroundings.  Information and expectations are doled out like Halloween candy.  And when it is all over the real work begins.  Thankfully, that is the fun part.

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Au Sable eNotes: July 2014

Dieter Bouma | Jul 09, 2014

Watch Clips from our 2014 Graduate Fellows Conference with Writer and Farmer Wendell Berry
Wendell Berry, whose writings have been a potent and challenging voice for modern Christian environmental stewardship, had a lot to share with our Graduate Fellows at their 2014 Conference. Now we are excited to share it with you.[Watch excerpts from Wendell's Q&A with the Grad Fellows]


Student Teams Explore Key Questions in Conservation through Summer Research

Au Sable research students are scattering throughout Northwest Michigan to study key environmental issues throughout the region and beyond. Read up on each of our projects and the students gaining valuable skills as they study these important issues:


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Wendell Week - Day 5: On Moving Back Home to Kentucky and Being a Public Figure

Dieter Bouma | Jun 25, 2014

All this week, we'll be releasing excerpts from our Au Sable Graduate Fellows Conference with Wendell Berry this past January. The Conference title, "For the Love of God's Earth," delved into a theme Berry has explored in his Jefferson Lecture and in his most recent collection of essays, "It All Turns on Affection." As part of the Conference, the Au Sable Graduate Fellows, a community of 40 Christian graduate students across 10 major public research universities who are engaged in studies and research on the care of God's creation, had the opportunity to speak with Berry during a two hour Question & Answer session.

These last two excerpts are more personal in nature. Berry discusses his motivation for moving back home to Kentucky and what enabled him to do so. He also discusses what it means for him to be a public figure.

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Wendell Week - Day 4: On Nature in Western Literature and Hymns, Violence, and the Civil War

Dieter Bouma | Jun 25, 2014

All this week, we'll be releasing excerpts from our Au Sable Graduate Fellows Conference with Wendell Berry this past January. The Conference title, "For the Love of God's Earth," delved into a theme Berry has explored in his Jefferson Lecture and in his most recent collection of essays, "It All Turns on Affection." As part of the Conference, the Au Sable Graduate Fellows, a community of 40 Christian graduate students across 10 major public research universities who are engaged in studies and research on the care of God's creation, had the opportunity to speak with Berry during a two hour Question & Answer session.

These next two excerpts demonstrate the depth and range of Berry's thought. In one of the most fascinating parts of the Q&A, he discusses the other matter that he has been researching and puzzling over most recently (in addition to "science"; see Day 1), which is nature's role and description in the Western literary tradition. He follows this response with a description of the hymns that have been meaningful, and two that have not, in his own life, which leads to a description of how the Civil War still affects Kentucky and the broader effects of war on community and country. Each shows Berry's love and knowledge of literature and his commitment to place.

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