News & Resources

Director’s Blog - The Work at Au Sable

Posted by 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.


Dear Friends of Au Sable,

Thanks to all of you who have been keeping in regular contact with the Institute in so many ways; through your notes and emails to me, your visits to Au Sable, and your financial gifts. Thanks also to the many of you who have told me you have enjoyed by regular correspondence with many of you about changes in the seasons and landscapes around Au Sable. Those letters are my way and effort to help you continue to connect with a beautiful place, our Great Lakes Campus, which has been a setting in which so many lives have been changed.

           This Director’s Blog is not intended to replace those “Seasons” letters, but to complement them with a different emphasis, a brief review of recent work and events here at the Institute and what they mean in advancing our mission to inspire and educate people to serve, protect, and restore God’s earth. I know that, if you have read this far, you have an interest in keeping up.                      

January at Au Sable brings our annual Au Sable Graduate Fellows (AGF) Retreat. This year 25 graduate students from eight different state universities, all participating in our AGF Program, gathered at the Great Lakes Campus on the weekend of January 14th  and 15th for fellowship, learning about and practicing the integration of science and Christian faith, worship together, and exploration and enjoyment of God’s creation around us. I led a snowshoe hike from nearby Papoose Lake to Deadman’s Lake. Finding a fresh porcupine track, we followed it to the base of a dead tree, where I pointed out, from the fresh excavation and porcupine poop, that “here’s the den” (my very words). One of the grad students, looking inside, added, “And here’s the porcupine!” Yes, the owner was home, but, after a picture or two, we departed, being uninvited guests who had no business disturbing our neighbor in his own living room.

            Our Winter Session for the Environmental Education Internship Program started this week with training for all the new interns by Paul Wiemerslage, our Environmental Education Coordinator. I am glad that the training is intense, and that Paul is good at it, because students from local schools will start to arrive next week, and we must be ready. Over 130,000 people have participated in this program since it began in the 1970s, and I am constantly meeting folks who still remember vividly the lessons they learned on campus when they took part. We are proud of the many interns who have completed the program, some of these becoming environmental educators themselves. Some of you readers may be among them.

            Lindsay Barden, our Scientific Technician, and I are both involved in the new effort by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the US Fish and Wildlife Service to restore an iconic native fish, the arctic grayling, to the rivers of Michigan (sadly, it was exterminated in this state by the late 1930’s). I will be working with other scientists to help identify suitable habitat sites for the initial releases. The study will provide funding for two students from our Participating Colleges to participate in the effort. Lindsay, for her part, is among those engaged in educating the public about the work, and has been given the task of creating the logo that will grace the new “MIGrayling” website. Although it is not yet certain if Lindsay’s design will be the one chosen (designs are being considered from multiple sources), I wouldn’t be surprised. So if you visit this website in the future, you might be seeing Lindsay’s icon.

            I’ll stop for now, but I’ll be communicating regularly with you about what is happening right now at Au Sable. Write to me at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). We’d love to hear from you.

Fred Van Dyke, Executive Director


photos by Steve Roels