By Ranger Steve Mueller
A nature sanctuary has a primary purpose for preserving the native species that inhabit ecosystems evolved in a particular environment. A nature center’s focus provides education and human experiences in nature to help people understand the intricate workings of the natural world communities.
Sanctuaries and nature centers can serve both purposes to some degree. I receive calls and e-mails from people interested in exploring Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary. Visitors are welcome even though the sanctuary is a privately owned sanctuary. We appreciate groups and people to call or e-mail to request permission so we know when to anticipate use or schedule guided activities. Donations are welcome to support management. The trail system traverses native communities in various stages of plant and animal habitat succession.
We manage the oak upland forest ecosystem to include early succession field, shrub, and pioneer forest stages that attract and maintain the greatest variety of species as habitat communities develop to the mature forest. Similar management in the wetland forest community maintains areas in early stages of community development for more sun-loving wetland plants and animals within the forest.
The management helps more than 250 plant species, 24 mammal, 11 herps, 51 butterflies, and over 100 bird species thrive. We have not surveyed dragonflies, fungi, fish, or other taxonomic groups well but are in the process. Management focus provides suitable living conditions for the greatest biodiversity of native species. Part of the sanctuary focus is to help people learn about native communities so we welcome visitors to come and learn even though primary focus is ecosystem biodiversity preservation. Hopefully people will gain ideas for managing a portion of their property to enhance biodiversity.
Visitors should support safe survival of species that make Ody Brook their home. Create minimal disturbance when hiking Ody Brook. During the 20 years I was director at Howard Christensen Nature Center, our focus was experiential education for Kent Intermediate School District groups where we taught science, social studies, language arts, and mathematics core curriculum to support classroom education with real world experiential education. This was accomplished in native communities and their associated habitats. To teach in native habitats it was necessary to manage the nature center in a manner that preserves natural communities while providing exploratory activities. Both preservation and education were part of the vision for the nature center.
Guided hikes to explore nature niches at Ody Brook can be organized for fee-based programs tailored to personal or group needs. This spring consider an evening watching the woodcock mating display, wildflowers walk, tree identification, bird watching, or other ecological explorations.
Mickey Shortt Jr., a fellow naturalist from North Carolina, recently shared the vision for the role of naturalists and interpreters of our natural and cultural heritage. He said: “At our sites, we are the voice: of the place, of the life within our site, and for conservation and preservation of our natural and historic areas.” I encourage each of us take responsibility for our personal home sites to ensure healthy nature niches greet future generations.
Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at firstname.lastname@example.org Ody Brook, 13010 Northland Dr, Cedar Springs, MI 49319-8433 or call 616-696-1753.