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Siena Heights University Receives Grant to Study Nature Park and Develop Plan
Dr. Thomas Wassmer, wearing sunglasses,  kneels on the grass as he flies a drone in the park

By Madelyn Birmingham
Content Writer, Siena Heights University

April 12, 2023, Adrian, Michigan – Siena Heights University was awarded a $25,000 grant from the Oak Foundation to study Ramsdell Nature Park. The 180-acre Lenawee County park – with rolling hills, tallgrass prairies, and small ponds – is home to a rich variety of insects, amphibians, birds, mammals, and flora.

Although picturesque, the nature preserve is facing two environmental challenges, which the grant project will address. “The ponds are coated with algae and cyanobacteria, which indicate eutrophication from the influx of excess nutrients,” observed Thomas Wassmer, Professor of Biology and grant project leader. The grant project will study the quality of the water, investigate the source of the excess nutrients, and then develop a management plan.

Dr. Thomas Wassmer stands holding his drone. He has gray hair and a gray beard and is wearing a red and white plaid button-up shirt
Dr. Thomas Wassmer with his drone

“The second challenge facing the park ecosystems is the abundance of invasive shrubs, grasses, and forbs (non-woody plants) in the shrubbery and meadows,” he added. The grant project will use drones and GPS to create aerial maps of the preserve and the locations of buckthorn, honeysuckle, and other invasive plants. The data will then be used to develop a management plan to restore the natural state of the preserve.

The Oak Foundation commits its resources to address issues of global, social, and environmental concern, particularly those that have a major impact on disadvantaged lives. Through the grants it provides, the Oak Foundation supports others to make the world a safer, fairer, and more sustainable place to live.

In addition, the Oak Foundation has a rich history in Lenawee County, as Alicia Griffiths – the wife of the Oak Foundation’s president, Douglas – had a grandfather who was the local physician in Hudson, Michigan, for more than 60 years. Generations of their extended family have spent summers on Devils Lake, and simultaneously fell in love with Ramsdell Nature Preserve. The Oak Foundation heard of the University’s research on the water through the Lake Preservation League on Devils Lake and wanted to support the effort with a grant.

“I want to thank Douglas and Alicia Griffiths from the Oak Foundation in Geneva, Switzerland, for generously supporting our students to conduct research at the beautiful Ramsdell Nature Park,” Thomas said. “The grant will allow us to provide students with a moderate stipend and buy the equipment needed for their research, which will promote and safeguard the integrity and health of this outstanding nature park in Lenawee County.”

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