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)


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.


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.


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).

Stewardship Talk this Thursday: “An Alternative to Boring Midwestern Bluegrass and Fescue Lawns”

Our second winter stewardship talk is this Thursday, February 11, 2021 at 6:30 pm (VIRTUAL). Dr. Dan Carter will be talk about using native species for alternative lawns and landscapes. Imagine short native grasses, sedges, and wildflowers instead of fescue and bluegrass! Winter is a great time to start dreaming and planning for your summer gardening escapades.

Please register at After you register you’ll receive an email with a link to the virtual event about 24 hours before the event starts. Keep scrolling to see more information about the event!

Stay safe, and I hope to see you at the talk!

Native plants can be used in all parts of the home landscape, from heavily-used lawns to quiet corners of the yard. Photo courtesy of Dan Carter.

“An Alternative to Boring Midwestern Bluegrass and Fescue Lawns” with Dr. Dan Carter

Blur the separation between daily life and nature by thinking about your lawn differently, and learn how to create home landscapes that allow your lifestyle and nature to co-mingle. This presentation will introduce how North American grasses, sedges, and wildflowers can be used to create alternative lawns and native gardens that are inspired by natural plant communities in the Midwest. Preparation, planting, and maintenance will be discussed.

Photo courtesy of Dan Carter

Dan Carter is Landowner Services Coordinator for The Prairie Enthusiasts, a conservation non-profit that protects fire dependent ecosystems in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Illinois. He is also a research associate and former research fellow with the Milwaukee Public Museum and owner of Dropseed Ecological and Botanical Services. Dan is lead-author of several scholarly articles in botanical and ecological journals and his primary hobby has been gardening with native plants since he was a teenager.

Go Exploring! Hibernation-Adaptation Nature Scavenger Hunt

If you need any excuse to get outside on these beautiful fall days, check out this hibernation-themed nature scavenger hunt! Our recreation staff worked with Oakland County Parks to bring you this scavenger hunt. Go explore the parks!

On this self-led Nature Scavenger Hunt in Oakland Township Parks, investigate and learn how animals prepare for winter and survive the cold. Riddles and clues will lead you around Oakland Township Parks to explore, crack codes, piece together puzzles, and solve the mystery of how animals survive the cold! After completing the nature adventure, participants will submit their answers and be entered in a drawing to win a special reward!

Begin your quest by registering with Oakland Township Parks and Recreation:

Clues will be displayed from September 18-27 throughout Oakland Township Parks.
The Nature Scavenger Hunt is free and open to anyone, but you must register to
obtain the first clue!

2019 Natural Areas Stewardship Annual Report

What can we say? With your continued support we continued to care for the land and water in our township parks. You can read the summary below and the linked report, but to really see what we did in 2019, here are a few spots to put on your hike list for this spring and summer:

  • Bear Creek Nature Parkwe cleared dense stands of invasive shrubs north of the center pond, and along Bear Marsh.
  • Charles Ilsley Park – the prairies continue to look good, and the new connector trail on the west side winds through meadows, past ponds, and through peaceful woodland.
  • Draper Twin Lake Park – the planted prairie in the northeast corner is looking good after its fourth growing season, and forestry mowing has knocked back invasive shrubs around the kettle wetland just to the south of the prairie.
  • Gallagher Creek Park – we installed a big native plant landscaping area around the new playground.
  • Stony Creek Ravine Nature Parkwe added 208 acres to the original 60 acres. Wetland restorations are already in full swing, with plans in motion to plant the farm fields to native wildflowers, grasses, and sedges in the next 3-5 years.

Check out the highlights of the year below, or read the full 2019 Annual Stewardship Report. (Click link to view). The table of contents in the PDF is hyperlinked to help you navigate the report.


A beautiful fall day in the wooded wetland near Cranberry Lake.

Volunteer Program

Volunteers contributed 1284 hours in 2019! Volunteer workdays focused on garlic mustard (May), invasive shrub control (July to November), and seed collecting (October). Volunteers also monitored nest boxes at Bear Creek Nature Park, Draper Twin Lake Park, Charles Ilsley Park, and the Paint Creek Trail; monitored vernal pools at Bear Creek Nature Park; and monitored water quality at Lost Lake and Twin Lake. We had fun at summer and winter potlucks!


Alex installs a new nest box at Bear Creek Nature Park

We continued the nest box monitoring program, expanding to Bear Creek Nature Park with six new boxes. We added predator guard to all the boxes. Thanks to our volunteers who monitor the next boxes using the Cornell Lab of Ornithology NestWatch protocols!

Stewardship Blog

The stewardship blog continued to thrive, with regular posts from Cam Mannino. The seasonal technicians also wrote weekly posts about recent stewardship work. We published 47 posts (+2 from 2018) and had 8378 visitors (+2145), with 14,776 page views (+3032).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Education Events

Stewardship talks included presentations on New Zealand Mud Snails, monarch butterfly ecology and conservation, coyotes, and bird nest box monitoring. We enjoyed a pleasant April evening at our annual Woodcock Watch at Bear Creek Nature Park. We also held weekly bird walks every Wednesday morning.


Dr. Nate Haan from Michigan State University talks about Monarch butterfly ecology and conservation.

Phragmites Outreach Program

We continued the Phragmites Outreach Program to help township residents get Phragmites treated on their property. We received about 31 requests for no-obligation cost estimates, and treated about 26 properties with a contractor, PLM Lake and Land Management.


Phragmites does not recognize property boundaries! Catch your Phragmites while it is small and easy to control for the best results.

Stewardship Staff

Alex Roland graduated from Michigan State University in May 2018 with a degree in environmental biology/zoology. In 2018 she completed an internship with the Student Conservation Association in Idaho doing backcountry conservation work, and she previously served as a Stewardship Coordinator Intern for the Thumb Land Conservancy. Grant Vander Laan graduated from Calvin College in 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in biology. He previously worked as a land management fellow for Pierce Cedar Creek Institute and as an Ecosystem Preserve Steward for Calvin College.  Marisa Kaddis has been a life-long resident of Oakland County and had just completed her first year of study in Natural Resources Management at Grand Valley State University. Marisa’s dream is to study tropical rainforest ecology and endangered species restoration.

Alyssa Winters (Radzwion) continued as the Stewardship Specialist until August, when she took a full-time position with the Blue Water Conservation District. Grant Vander Laan applied for the Stewardship Specialist position, was offered the job, and accepted the position to continue his work in October.


The 2019 Natural Areas Stewardship Staff (L-R): Ben, Alyssa, Marisa, Grant, and Alex

All of our annual reports can be found on the About page.

Stewardship Talk TONIGHT: The Poweshiek Skipperling Butterfly

For our first Stewardship Talk of 2020 we are excited to host Dr. Pete Blank from The Nature Conservancy for his talk, “The Poweshiek Skipperling Butterfly: The Life and Times of Michigan’s Most Endangered Species.” The talk is free and will be TONIGHT, January 30, 2020 at 6:30 pm at the Paint Creek Cider Mill, 4480 Orion Road, Rochester, MI 48306.

The Poweshiek Skipperling butterfly was once common in the Upper Midwest in tallgrass prairies and prairie wetlands. Over the last 20 years its population has crashed and the species is now endangered in North America and critically imperiled in Michigan. One of its last strongholds is Oakland County, Michigan. Dr. Blank will discuss the current population status of the Poweshiek Skipperling, its life history, and efforts to bring it back from the brink of extinction.


Hope to see you there!