Meet Our 2021 Natural Areas Stewardship Crew!

We’re excited to welcome our 2021 seasonal stewardship crew! Katri Studtmann, Max Dunn, and Parker Maynard joined us mid-April and will be out in the parks doing much-needed ecological restoration work until the end of September. Since starting a few weeks ago they have already helped with prescribed burn, pulled garlic mustard, spread native plant seed, and maintained our native plant landscaping. Each has written an introduction, so keep reading to learn about the unique background and skills they bring to our parks. Drop a comment to help us welcome our crew!

Max, Parker, Katri, and Stewardship Specialist Grant Vander Laan spread native plant seed at Bear Creek Nature Park (L-R)

Katri

Hi, my name is Katri Studtmann, and I am one of Oakland Township’s Land Stewardship Technicians for the summer! I graduated from Michigan Technological University in May 2020 with a degree in Biological Sciences with a concentration in Ecology. During college, I played for the Women’s Soccer Team, and I also was a part of a Fish Biology and Ecology Lab.

During my senior year, I did an honors research project in that lab. My project looked at the effects of removing the upper maxilla bone of brook trout to see if it was a viable alternative bone to complete microchemistry analysis. Microchemistry analysis is important for species of conservation concern like brook trout so that the researchers can know which streams and creeks they need to protect where brook trout spawn. A few summers ago, I worked for the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Minnesota as an Avian Intern taking care of sick, injured, and orphaned baby birds. During this internship, I had the chance to work with many different bird species and learn what many baby bird species look like. This past fall, I worked for the University of Minnesota as a Research Forest Ecology Intern working on their B4WARMED project, which looks at the future effects of climate change on the native trees of Minnesota through artificially warming the soil and air.

I hope to go to graduate school soon studying direct and indirect anthropogenic effects on the environment. As a kid, I was curious about anything and everything outside. This curiosity led me to study ecology in college which allowed me to learn and explore even more outside. In my free time, I enjoy mountain biking, skiing, camping, hiking, running, and playing soccer.

Max

My name is Max Dunn, I am currently studying Crop & Soil Science at Michigan State and will be graduating with a bachelor’s degree in December 2022. I spend most of my free time hiking through the meadows and woodlands of Lake Orion in search of various native organisms, with most of my attention spent on wildflowers and birds. My passion for these topics stem from a geology class I took in high school with Mr. P. He would guide us into the seemingly uncharted territory of Bald Mountain State Park twice a week to reveal and teach us about the biotic/abiotic diversity in nature. Up until this class I spent my time outdoors in areas such as the quaint lake I live besides, my yard, or an athletic field, so these natural woodlands were completely new to me. I was amazed at how much there was to see and experience when you simply slow down and increase your awareness.

I started exploring different parks on my own time and soon realized I preferred meadows over woodlands and began spending a lot of time in Orion Oaks County Park.  I took up the hobby of identifying Michigan’s native forbs, dazed by all the different plant structures and searching for new ones whenever I could.  To my dismay, I realized that there were as many invasive species as natives, and that the natives were not as diverse as I once thought. Realizing these natural areas were lacking in diversity and being invaded by non-native species pushed me to get involved with organizations that value these topics and work at restoring the meadows and woodlands near me.

After attending a presentation by Ben two winters ago I set a long-term goal to get employed as a Natural Areas Steward to learn about the restoration process and bring native diversity back. I completed this goal in April and will be working along the Oakland Township Parks and Rec crew until August! I am grateful to be given this opportunity and look forward to maintaining and restoring the beautiful nature areas of our township.

Parker

I have always been particularly interested in the power of plants. When I was young, I was fortunate enough to learn about the wonders of gardening right from my own backyard. I was amazed at the process of creating food simply from planting and taking care of seeds. I couldn’t believe that produce didn’t just come from the grocery store, but from the earth itself!

Growing up in Oakland County has afforded me many other opportunities to appreciate the outdoors and our state’s many great natural resources. I learned many practical skills and made some great memories while camping away from home. I particularly took interest in the many trees and other plants I had never seen in the suburbs. These experiences helped solidify my passion for nature and later lead me to realize the importance of working in the field of conservation.

While attending college at Eastern Michigan University, I reignited my love of gardening by helping to manage the community garden on campus. It was here that I met some students who introduced me to the university’s Environmental Science program. Originally planning on studying music, I had never given a second thought to a bachelor of science. However, I realized I would love nothing more than the opportunity to pursue a career to help preserve our planet’s natural wonders for future generations.

Since graduating, I have learned a lot through working with a variety of conservation-based organizations and professionals who share my passion for the environment. I have experienced conservation work in many forms, from helping manage parks and natural areas to leading educational interpretive nature programs. I am especially glad to be back working with the Oakland Township Parks and Recreation stewardship crew for my second season. With this experience, I hope to give back to the state that has provided me with so many great outdoor memories and recreational opportunities, and better help determine my future path towards graduate school and beyond.

The 2021 Natural Areas Stewardship Crew completes a prescribed burn at Bear Creek Nature Park in April. Parker, Max, Katri, and Grant (L-R).

2 thoughts on “Meet Our 2021 Natural Areas Stewardship Crew!

  1. Thanks so much for telling us about your backgrounds. Clearly all of you are in the right area of study and have promising futures in conservation/restoration work of any kind. Knowing your interest in natural areas gives me real hope for our future. So glad you are all with Ben and doing such important work!

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