Nature trail provides ‘in-field’ educational resource

Greg Vaclavek speaks to a group

The Sustainability Literacy Task Force at WCC held a nature and conservation walk led by Greg Vaclavek the owner of the Native Plant Nursery in Ann Arbor. Gray Bancroft | Washtenaw Voice

 

 

By RYAN PRESTON
Contributor
AND SOFIA LYNCH
Managing Editor

 

Hosting a variety of native and nonnative plants, the nature trail at Washtenaw Community College is like a biology classroom that winds around the campus for 1.3 miles. The trail itself is not natural, but rather has been brought up around two retention ponds that were dug in order to facilitate the parking lot. However, after several years, the trail was eventually constructed into what is seen today.

Hosted by the Sustainability Literacy Task Force, a tour through the trail was guided by Greg Vaclavek on Sept. 29. Vaclavek is the owner of the Native Plant Nursery, a local company in Ann Arbor that provided the seeds for the variety of wildlife plants utilized on the trail.

Emily Thompson, a biology instructor and a member of the Sustainability and Literacy Task Force, has plans to organize many more events centered on the nature trail. She hopes that through events such as the nature walk, students can learn more about, and connect more to, the natural world.

“My goal is to teach students about sustainability and encourage students to care about the environment in which they live in,” Thompson said.

Attendees of the nature walk learned about some of the 150 species of plants with Vaclavek. The trail has 10 signs throughout it that describe some of the diverse wildlife that is present within the trail, for those interested who weren’t able to attend the tour.

One of the topics Vaclavek discussed regarding nonnative plants is that not all of them are invasive – that is to say threatening the native plants – but rather they provide less resources than those native to the region would.

An example Vaclavek used was Queen Anne’s Lace. He explained that while it doesn’t harm the other plants, it can only provide for about 10 species of animals, while a plant natural to the region can support upwards of 40 species.

“People often confuse nonnative and invasive plants. Just because a plant isn’t native to a region doesn’t mean it’s going to necessarily harm the native plants, ” Vaclavek explained.

Dave Wooten, a WCC biology instructor, is one of the people who originally helped spearhead the development of the trail. Wooten’s class was in attendance for the nature trail tour. He plans on using the trail frequently for his classes and to further the idea of sustainability in a modern setting.

“I just want my students to be educated about wetland ecology and reinforce what I’m teaching in the classroom,” Wooten said.

 

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