Educational Opportunities

Please come out and join us for one of our nature events!  Updated information and any last minute changes to these events can be found on our Natural Areas Notebook website at

Yellow Ladyslipper - Ben
Yellow Lady’s Slipper

Flora and Natural Communities of Southeast Michigan

Max registration is 15 people. $20 for township residents, $35 for non-residents. First two classes are free. Sign up by March 16 for the March, April, May, and June classes.

This class will meet monthly to learn about the plants of southeast Michigan, focusing on local examples in Oakland Township. We will learn about the basics of plant anatomy and morphology, winter woody plant identification, identifying common plant families, and natural communities of Michigan. All adults 16+ are welcome, no plant experience necessary. Meet at the Paint Creek Cider Mill one evening per month (two in February), 6:30-8:30 pm. Includes fields trips to locations within a 5 minute drive. Course continues through the summer! Course dates and tentative topics listed below.

  • Feb 9: Jesse Lincoln, Ecological Surveys of Southern Michigan (free)
  • Feb 23: Fire dependent plant communities (free)

Registration required for March – June classes

  • March 23: Winter woody plant ID and family overview
  • April 27: Spring wildflowers
  • May 25: Early summer blooms
  • June 22: Grasses, sedges, and rushes

Protecting Michigan’s Rare Amphibians and Reptiles – including the Massasauga Rattlesnake!

  • David Mifsud, Herpetological Resource Management
    From the HRM website: David Mifsud “Turtle Dave” is a certified professional wetland scientist through the International Society of Wetland Scientists and a certified professional ecologist through the Ecological Society of America. He has worked for over fifteen years in wildlife biology, wetland ecology, and habitat conservation and management, with an emphasis on herpetofauna. He is an authority in Michigan on conservation and management of amphibians and reptiles. David administers the Michigan Herpetological Atlas project, sits on the State of Michigan Amphibian and Reptile Technical Advisory board, and chairs the Michigan chapter of Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (MIPARC). He serves as an expert on Great Lakes turtles for the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group. He has also served on the board of the North Central Chapter of the Society of Wetland Scientists and currently serves as a co-chair for the Michigan Wetland Association Research and Science Committee.
  • Thursday, January 19, 6:30 pm at the Paint Creek Cider Mill

 Michigan is home to over 60 species of reptiles and amphibians (called “herpetofauna”). More than half are designated as “Species of Greatest Conservation Need” by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR). In 2016 the Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake was elevated to Federally Threatened by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This designation has significant impacts on the conservation and management of these snakes in Michigan. This presentation will focus on rare amphibians and reptiles in Michigan, with emphasis on the Massasauga Rattlesnake, and discuss the basic natural history, threats, and conservation needs for these species.

Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake. Photo by Andrew Hoffman, used under Creative Commons license CC BY-NA-ND 4.0. No changes were made to the photo.

Ecological Surveys of Southern Michigan: The Importance of Public Land

  • Jesse Lincoln, Ecologist, Michigan Natural Features Inventory
  • Thursday, February 9, 6:30 pm at the Paint Creek Cider Mill.

 Through oak savanna, floodplain forest, and prairie fen, Jesse Lincoln traverses southern Michigan to document the condition of its public lands. These surveys reveal both the natural beauty and imperiled state of our public natural areas. Jesse will share his observations of these treasures, concerns for their future health, and the shared responsibility to care for our natural heritage. Jesse has been conducting ecological surveys on public lands across Southern Michigan for past 7 years as an ecologist for the Michigan Natural Features Inventory. Don’t miss this great opportunity to learn about our natural heritage!

Controlled Fire: Why and How Do We Use Prescribed Burns?

  • Ben VanderWeide, Natural Areas Stewardship Manager, Oakland Township Parks and Recreation
  • Thursday, February 23, 6:30 pm at the Paint Creek Cider Mill

Regular prescribed fire benefits many of our forests, meadows, and wetlands. Learn more about reasons for using controlled fire in our natural areas, preparations for controlled fire, and how a controlled fire crew conducts a burn. We will also review the Oakland Township parks scheduled for controlled fire in 2017.

Volunteer Fire Crew

Volunteer Fire Crew Training

  • 9 am to 2:30 pm on Saturday, February 25 at the Paint Creek Cider Mill

If you are interested in volunteering with our prescribed fire crew, join us for this training workshop. We will cover reasons for using prescribed fire, preparations for conducting a fire, necessary tools, roles of each burn crew member, and ignition patterns. Weather permitting, we will do a small demonstration burn after lunch. New crew members are required to attend; past volunteers are encouraged to attend as a refresher. Snacks provided, but please bring your own lunch. RSVP required to bvanderweide at oaklandtownship dot org or 248-651-7810 ext. 401 by Thursday, February 23.

Watch the Woodcock Dance: an Earth Day Observation

  • Ben VanderWeide, Natural Areas Stewardship Manager, Oakland Township Parks and Recreation
  • Friday, April 21, 7:30 pm at Cranberry Lake Park south parking lot


We’ll savor s’mores and watch “timberdoodles” do their cool aerial mating dance! While we wait for sunset, we’ll enjoy snacks, a spring evening, and some cool facts about woodcock biology. As the light fades we will watch with hushed anticipation for this avian spectacle. Bring a comfortable lawn chair, binoculars, and layers to add as the night cools down.

American Woodcock. Who wouldn’t want to see a cool bird like this? Photo by Flickr user guizmo_68. Used under Creative Commons License cc-by-2.0



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