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Michigan Nature Association

Recognizing Outstanding Volunteers in 2018

Cover photo by Heike DeWolf 2018 Photo Contest Overall Winner

Thank you for all that you do! People

Thank you for joining us on this very special occasion. Tonight we celebrate the accomplishments and commitment of those who helped make MNA what it is today and recognize those making outstanding contributions to our continued success and to conservation in Michigan.

. Land . Legacy

Photo: Paddling to Palmer Memorial Nature Sanctuary in Kalamazoo County by Dan Burton. On the cover: 2018 Photo Contest Overall Winner: Cedar waxwing. Photo Š Heike DeWolf.

2018 Annual Fall Recognition Dinner

Evening Program Special Musical Guest Root Doctor Keynote Speaker Dr. Dave Ewert 6:30 p.m. Cocktails [ Silent Auction Begins ] 7:00 p.m. Dinner is Served 7:30 p.m. Program Begins Garret Johnson, Executive Director Aubrey Golden, President SPECIAL RECOGNITION Race for Michigan Nature Photo Contest HONORING OUTSTANDING SERVICE Good Neighbor Awards Youth Service Award Youth Volunteer of the Year Award Volunteer of the Year Awards [ Silent Auction Continues ] Frederick W. Case, Jr. Environmental Educator Award Mason and Melvin Schafer Distinguished Service Award Richard W. Holzman Award Edward G. Voss Conservation Science Award Closing Remarks [ Silent Auction Closes ]

Special Musical Guest

Root Doctor

We are honored to present a distinct group of musicians whose specialty lies in their unique dynamic and soulful tone. What started as local performances in the Lansing open mic scene has evolved into nationwide tours and a series of albums receiving critical commendation. Founded by vocalist Freddie Cunningham and bass guitarist James Williams, Root Doctor has built a reputation around their specialty of producing a deep soul-blues style.

In addition to being three-time Lansing Top of the Town best blues band winners (20112013), Root Doctor’s fifth and latest album New Attitude has received positive critiques from around the world and earned them the 2014 WYCE Jammie award for best blues/soul album of the year. Root Doctor is a group with true passion for the music that they create and present, and we hope that you enjoy their authentic soul and sound during tonight’s performance. Thank you, Root Doctor, for your contributions to a great evening, including a silent auction prize!

Silent Auction to Benefit the

Environmental Education Fund Stop by the silent auction tables to place your bid on unique items like weekend getaways, event tickets, or an exciting trip up north! With the holidays coming up, there are plenty of items that would make excellent gifts. Your generosity will benefit the Environmental Education Fund and help MNA connect with and inspire the next generation of conservation leaders. MNA’s Environmental Education Fund aims to connect kids to nature with outreach efforts like our mini-grants to teachers for nature field trips. Other education programs include opportunities for the whole family, including guided hikes and tours, youth volunteer projects, educational publications, and more.

All proceeds from the Silent Auction will go to MNA’s Environmental Education Fund.

8th Annual Photo Contest MNA is pleased to announce the winners of the 2018 Photo Contest. With hundreds of photos submitted from around the state, the judges had a difficult time choosing just four winning photos in each category! Congratulations to this year’s grand prize winner, Heike DeWolf, for her photo “Cedar Waxwing,” presented on the cover. Through photography, we can better promote the beauty of nature to the greater community, spreading the conservation mission of MNA farther each year. Thank you to all the talented photographers who submitted entries.


People in Nature

First Place

Flora & Fauna

Landscapes - First Place “Mission Creek” by Paul Mrozek

People In Nature - First Place “Gotcha!” by Mary Zednik

Flora & Fauna - Second Place “Got an itch!” by Mary Zednik

Landscapes - Second Place “Pancake Ice” by Deb Traxinger

People In Nature - Second Place “Capture the Sun” by Greg Bodker

Flora & Fauna - Third Place “Knit Craft” by Dani Weng

Landscapes - Third Place “One Golden Morning” by Ellen Stevens

People In Nature - Third Place “On the Edge” by Dustyn Blindert

Flora & Fauna - Honorable Mention “Goodnight Tom Boy” by Dustyn Blindert

Landscapes - Honorable Mention “On the Black River” by Michael Crawford

People In Nature - Honorable Mention “Couple on Icy Beach” by Nancy Pokerwinski

Honorable Mention

Third Place

Second Place

Flora & Fauna - First Place “Beetle” by Nancy Pokerwinski

Race for Michigan Nature Hundreds of people joined MNA for the Race for Michigan Nature in 2018, a statewide series of Family Fun Runs & 5Ks stretching from Belle Isle in Detroit to Marquette in the U.P. Each race spotlights one of Michigan’s rarest species and helps promote the importance of protecting Michigan’s remaining natural areas.

Congratulations 2018 Winners! Location Grand Rapids Kalamazoo Rochester Detroit Marquette Ann Arbor

Grand Rapids

Top Male Runner Pete Van Conant Rained Out Isaiah Winters Darrell Lahey Nikolas Thomas Nicholas Budzyn


Top Female Runner Sheila Huseby Rained Out Rachel Ryan Rachel Ryan Kathy St. Germain Rachel Ryan




Ann Arbor

Good Neighbor Award The Good Neighbor Award recognizes landowners (individuals, businesses or local governments) who own property adjacent to or near an MNA sanctuary and who help to protect and maintain the natural areas on or around that sanctuary. Good neighbors are vital to the organization by supporting MNA’s volunteer Stewards in their work, alerting and updating MNA of their field observations, advocating for MNA in the local community, and much more.

Barb McCulley and Duane Bastian Barb and Duane donated the McCulley-Bastian Nature Sanctuary in late 2016 and since that generous donation they have gone above and beyond by being delightfully accommodating hosts for groups helping out at workdays. They create a magical and welcoming environment for visitors, and the volunteers love going there to work. Duane has been controlling the bittersweet on the property for years prior to MNA acquisition. They have also taken on the role of Stewards at the sanctuary. Visit MNA nature sanctuaries in Rose Township.

Rose Township

Volunteer Workday at McCulley-Bastian Nature Sanctuary.

Big Valley, Calla Burr, and Rose Center Nature Sanctuaries are all found in Rose Township, which has been an outstanding neighbor and partner for decades. Without Township assistance and volunteers, it would have been extremely difficult to clean up old dump and garbage sites found on newly acquired parcels, including one with 120 tires. The Township recognizes the value and ecological importance of the fen found at Big Valley, often patrolling for illegal dumping to keep areas clean, and providing firefighting volunteers to assist with prescribed burns. Always willing to promote MNA’s conservation work, this year the Township partnered with MNA on an event to build awareness of the special natural features found at Big Valley and surrounding areas.

Youth Volunteer of the Year Each year, MNA is fortunate to partner with students and other young people around the state of Michigan who have an interest in preserving the natural environment. These future conservation leaders make a difference in their communities, and MNA is pleased to present them with the Youth Volunteer of the Year Award:

Caitlyn Noyes This year’s Rattlesnake Run in Rochester and Turtle Trot in Ann Arbor featured a fun, new face painting activity for our youngest runners thanks to Caitlyn’s initiative. She conceived of the designs, recruited friends to help, and promoted her booth at each of the races. Caitlyn has a strong interest in art and was looking for a way to volunteer and give back to the community, so face painting at the Race for Michigan Nature series was a perfect fit!

Caitlyn’s friend, Luiza Martins, face painting at the Rattlesnake Run.

Caitlyn Noyes and friend Melanie Pherne at the Turtle Trot.

Youth Service Award Tyler Leverenz Tyler completed his Eagle Scout Service Project this year by building 11 wooden boardwalks at Wilcox Warnes Nature Sanctuary with the help of volunteers. He raised funds, sought donations, and oversaw the construction and installation of the boardwalk. Thanks to Tyler’s leadership and over 124 hours of volunteer help, the completed boardwalks protect the sanctuary from damage to tree roots and surrounding plant life, and, after it rains, they keep visitors’ feet clean from muddy trails. Tyler Leverenz and his volunteer crew at Wilcox Warnes Nature Sanctuary.

Volunteers of the Year Every year hundreds of volunteers contribute thousands of hours to MNA completing a variety of jobs. By attending volunteer workdays, reviewing files at the MNA office, monitoring nature sanctuaries, or helping out in another manner, volunteers are vital to MNA and their impact can be seen in every aspect of the organization. We would like to thank each person who dedicates time to volunteering for MNA, and are pleased to present the following recipients with the Volunteer of the Year Award:

Tom Jones Tom is a retired logger and has worked all over the US as a sawyer and heavy equipment operator. After retirement, he moved to Copper Harbor and is known as a good neighbor who always helps out. He likes to paddle, hike, and enjoy nature and willingly lends his logging skills to help maintain hiking trails in the Keweenaw as well as trails in Iron County. Neighbors sing his praises and the Keweenaw community values Tom as an always-willing volunteer. Tom, with his expertise with a chainsaw, has worked tirelessly to help maintain the MNA trails throughout the Keweenaw.

Tom Jones receiving his Volunteer of the Year Award at the Keweenaw awards ceremony.

Brad and Jan Foxen Brad and Jan have endured very early mornings, high winds, hot days, and thunderstorms to help out with MNA’s Race for Michigan Nature series of Family Fun Runs and 5Ks. Brad helps haul equipment and assists with course marking. Jan covers numerous duties from setup/takedown, registration, assisting volunteers, photographing the events, handing out medals, and cheering everyone on. The Foxens are residents of Ada, Michigan, just east of Grand Rapids, and at least one or both of them have made long trips across the state to Detroit and Marquette to help with the races. Brad has even run in a few of them! Their volunteer support has been instrumental in making the Race for Michigan Nature series a great success. Jan Foxen volunteering at the Turtle Trot in Ann Arbor.

Brad Foxen running in the Sturgeon Sprint on Belle Isle in Detroit.

Volunteers of the Year Our outstanding volunteers give plenty of reasons why they choose to support MNA. They include protecting rare, threatened and endangered species and Michigan’s most special natural areas; gaining a sense of ownership in projects they undertake; learning new skills and abilities; making a lasting difference; and having fun. Congratulations and thank you to our Volunteers of the Year, not only for their contributions, but for inspiring others to volunteer for MNA!

Liz Gannon

Liz Gannon leading a volunteer workday at Wilcox Warnes Nature Sanctuary.

Liz has been actively involved with MNA since graduating from the MSU Conservation Stewards Program in 2015. She leads regular buckthorn removal workdays at Wilcox Warnes Nature Sanctuary and puts in many days beyond that of her own time on invasives removal, trail and parking lot cleanup, and maintaining good neighbor relations. She helps out at other neighboring sanctuaries including Big Valley, Calla, and Lakeville, and makes a point to help on swallowwort and phragmites spraying projects when it is normally hard to find willing volunteers. She independently got her pesticide license, made her own herbicide wands, and even recently modified a backpack harness to better fit her for the backpack spraying projects! She has also converted much of her own yard to native landscaping, is active in trying to get a local homeowners association to adopt more sustainable grounds maintenance, and she’s an avid animal rescuer.

Sarah Pregitzer and Randy Butters Sarah and Randy are Stewards of the Karner Blue Nature Sanctuary, help out at Newaygo Prairie Nature Sanctuary, and are very active in the conservation efforts happening around Newaygo County. Sarah and Randy have helped cultivate our long-term relationship with teacher Deb Iwema and our School to Sanctuary partnership with her class. This year, Sarah helped Deb obtain additional grant funding that allowed the kids to plant native plugs. Sarah and Randy are available to help on workdays, as well as on their own time, often on short notice. They are wonderful allies in this area with their focus around restoration/ conservation and a need for greater interest from local community members.

Sarah Pregitzer and Randy Butters on a summer workday at Karner Blue Nature Sanctuary.

Frederick W. Case, Jr. Environmental Educator Award The Frederick W. Case, Jr. Environmental Educator Award recognizes educators whose passion and dedication for natural sciences inspire future teachers and conservation leaders. Established in 2017, the award is named for Fred Case, who was an outstanding and honored high school biology teacher, a respected Michigan botanist, and a dedicated conservationist through his work with the Michigan Nature Association and other statewide organizations.

Aaron Wesche Aaron has been teaching science at Addison High School for 18 years and also finds time to coach track for Addison and Siena Heights University. Recognizing that even his relatively rural students rarely go outside to experience nature, he established a School to Sanctuary partnership with MNA in 2014. The relationship unlocks new opportunities for hands-on and service learning at Goose Creek Grasslands and Lefglen Nature Sanctuaries. It also opens his students’ eyes to new careers in science. Aaron strives to overcome the limited background knowledge his high school students have about nature. He spent three years working with the school’s Education Foundation to raise money to purchase and construct a greenhouse, integrating biology with physics and other sciences. The greenhouse was followed by outdoor garden beds that will be expanded into community gardens. He also organizes a Family Science Night for students and their families to explore science. Aaron not only teaches science, but life lessons as well, especially for students whose families struggle financially. Aaron’s students make maple syrup as a way to study the function of tissues in trees. But, more importantly, he uses the lesson as a way to show students they can make their own food, which may help them when they are older. An inspiring teacher who looks for new ways to reach his students, Aaron is an outstanding educator who instills a conservation ethic in future generations.

Mason and Melvin Schafer Distinguished Service Award The Mason and Melvin Schafer Distinguished Service Award recognizes exceptional volunteer contributions to MNA over a minimum of 10 years. The award was established in 2011 and is named for Mason and Melvin Schafer, brothers from southern Michigan who provided exemplary services to MNA over multiple decades dating back to the 1970s.

Ted and Alice Soldan Ted and Alice ‘retired’ this year from their 20 year role as Stewards of Estivant Pines Nature Sanctuary. They have been visiting “the Pines” for decades and have been MNA members since 1989. During their tenure as Stewards, they have worked tirelessly at Estivant, hosting workdays, rerouting trails, and adding boardwalk. Ted even manufactured from scrap a steel donation pole. Since its installation in 2015, annual donations have averaged $1,000 a year. Both Ted and Alice have also assisted with numerous volunteer days throughout the Keweenaw. As their final accomplishment, they recently completed an 84 foot bridge and boardwalk at this muchvisited sanctuary. Recognized for their outstanding dedication, they were given MNA’s Volunteer of the Year award in 2011. When he gave word that they were retiring as Estivant’s Stewards, Ted wrote: I want you all to know that the MNA has meant a great deal to us over the years. We’ve been hiking in the pines since the 70s, and the experience of frequenting that place has been an important part of our lives. We’ll never forget our times there. We both feel we’ve left it in better condition than we found it. Best to you all, and may you continue the good work.

Ted and Alice Soldan receiving their award at the Keweenaw ceremony.

Ted and Alice Soldan completing their last project as Stewards at Estivant Pines Nature Sanctuary.

Richard W. Holzman Award The Richard W. Holzman Award was established in 2010 to recognize and thank volunteers who have selflessly served MNA over an extended period of time, typically in a variety of roles including on the Board of Trustees. Holzman Award recipients are selected by the President after consultation with the Board of Trustees and senior staff. This award is named for Richard W. “Dick” Holzman, who served 14 years as MNA President, longer than any other President, and 20 years as an MNA Director or Trustee.

Ruth Vail Ruth has been a member of MNA since the mid 70s, and her volunteer and leadership roles have touched all aspects of the organization, from sanctuary Steward to office volunteer to the Board of Trustees. In 2007, Ruth joined a team of MNA staff and volunteers to tackle the project of national accreditation through the Land Trust Alliance’s (LTA) Land Trust Accreditation Commission. She worked primarily on the sanctuary files (all 178 of them) to ensure they met LTA requirements. Because of her work and others, MNA achieved accreditation in 2014. Ruth received MNA’s Volunteer of the Year award in 2009 and to this day she continues to make a near weekly trek from Ann Arbor to MNA’s office in Okemos to volunteer as organizer/archivist for our library and files. Appointed to fulfill a position on the Board of Trustees in 2012, Ruth was elected in 2015. Her Board service included time as chair of the Governance Committee, chair of the Sanctuary Committee and Secretary of the Board. Balancing her commitment to the business operations of MNA, Ruth also manages to get outside as a volunteer Steward for the Beaver Dam Nature Sanctuary. Although a geologist by training, Ruth doesn’t miss an opportunity to use her pocket Newcomb’s field guide to identify a new plant while participating in MNA field trips. Ruth is also an ambassador and advocate for MNA. Her outreach actions led to MNA’s engagement as a founding member of the Eliza Howell Park Partnership, a group dedicated to building awareness of and support for protection of conservation values at this City of Detroit park. She is an MNA’s President’s Council member, and her annual donation of a one week stay at her cottage is always one of the top attractions at our annual silent auction. Ruth received her BS and MS in Geology from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and she worked for the Illinois Geological Survey, Boeing, Environmental Consultants in Rochester, and Barrett Paving Company in Ann Arbor. She served as a member of the Plan Commission for the City of Troy and is currently a member of several conservation organizations. Ruth’s leadership, dedication to conservation, and outstanding volunteer service has truly made a significant difference for MNA and our mission.

Ruth Vail presenting at a field trip in Alpena.

Edward G. Voss Conservation Science Award The Edward G. Voss Conservation Science Award recognizes those individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the scientific understanding of Michigan’s biological diversity and its conservation. Dr. Edward G. Voss was an internationally renowned scientist, dedicated educator, and committed conservationist who spent his lifetime working to protect Michigan’s natural heritage.

Dr. Dave Ewert Dave Ewert is the Kirtland’s Warbler Program Director and Conservation Specialist for the American Bird Conservancy. He primarily works to define and implement science and conservation programs for the Kirtland’s Warbler range-wide, especially in The Bahamas. Prior to his current position, he focused on protection of stopover sites for migratory birds in the Great Lakes region, and Great Lakes coastline and island protection in his role as Avian Conservation Scientist of the Migratory Bird Program of The Nature Conservancy. Dave also once led the Science and Stewardship Programs of the Michigan and Iowa Chapters of The Nature Conservancy where he worked on fire management, invasive species, forest management and other issues. He was an Assistant Professor at Central Michigan University prior to working with The Nature Conservancy and currently is a lecturer at the University of Michigan Biological Station.

Above: Dr. Dave Ewert speaking at a workshop in the Bahamas. Below: The Kirtland’s warbler is on the road to recovery, thanks to scientists like Dr. Dave Ewert.

A well-regarded scientist with numerous peer-reviewed publications, Dave has also served as a reviewer for several scientific journals, including Animal Behavior, The Auk, Conservation Biology and the Wilson Bulletin, and was a contributor to The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds. He is a Fellow of the American Ornithological Society and other awards include the President’s Award for outstanding contribution to bird conservation in the Bahamas from the Society for the Conservation and Study of Caribbean Birds; a national award from Partners in Flight for his contributions to bird conservation (Kirtland’s Warbler Research and Training project); and a Research and Management Partnership award from the U.S. Forest Service, also for the Kirtland’s Warbler Research and Training Project. Dr. Ewert received his BS from the University of Michigan, and MS and PhD from the City University of New York. He has conducted research widely throughout the West Indies, Central and South America.

Photo: Fall colors by Randy McKenzie.

“The work MNA has done is simply irreplaceable... MNA is protecting the soul of Michigan” - Dave Dempsey Award-winning author, Ruin & Recovery: Michigan’s Rise as a Conservation Leader

Michigan Nature Association 2310 Science Parkway, Suite 100 Okemos, Michigan 48864 (866) 223-2231 www.michigannature.org

Profile for Michigan Nature Association

Recognizing Outstanding Volunteers in 2018  

Thank you to our volunteers, donors, and supporters!

Recognizing Outstanding Volunteers in 2018  

Thank you to our volunteers, donors, and supporters!


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