I write as interim director of the Biological Station for 2016-2017, serving this year while Knute Nadelhoffer is on sabbatical, and am happy to report to you that the State of the Station is strong! Student enrollment in 2016 was high, and course evaluations from the summer were stellar. Many, many students reported that the summer had been the best educational experience of their life and, as usual, didn’t want to leave; we had to kick them out of there.
The past summer was also a banner year for research. We had a collection of researchers from 20 universities around the world join together to study air quality – specifically the interactions between the biosphere (forest ecosystem) and the atmosphere. We continued our successful conservation biology efforts for the piping plover, whose population is severely threatened in the Great Lakes region. We tracked the continued transition of the regional population to dominance of the white footed mouse, which carries Lyme Disease, pressed ahead with research to elucidate the relationship between monarch butterflies and the milkweed they feed upon, and expanded our work in water quality and conservation biology in the lakes and watersheds of Northern Michigan.
This past year the Station also was awarded a Third Century Initiative (TCI) grant from the University’s Provost office of $1.5 million over five years to bring a more inter-disciplinary group of students and researchers to the Station, not just to expand its level of utilization, but to create the broader community of scholars, practitioners, and experts needed to solve the “wicked” environmental problems that we face. We are developing six great-looking new short courses under this program for the coming spring and fall “shoulder” season at camp.
However, the Station also faces serious financial challenges, with significant infrastructure and maintenance needs along with rising tuitions challenging many students who wish to attend.
On the infrastructure side, the Station is over 100 years old and is showing its age. We need to outfit the dining hall with a new water well and backup generator, for example. We need to renovate the bathrooms in Blissville and Manville. We need to line the sewer pipes running down the road of central campus to keep them from leaking into the lake. As well as other projects.
Moreover, our student scholarships have never been more important, given the extraordinary costs of college tuition today. Even the most affordable of our courses – a 4 week spring session for a Michigan in-state undergraduate – costs nearly $4000. It is heartbreaking to us to have students every year be forced to withdraw their applications once they receive our financial aid award and find it is not enough. Certainly only a very small handful of our students can afford to come back to the Station for a second time, which undercuts our impact in shaping the next generation of environmental professionals.
We need your help! Please consider a gift to our Development Fund, which lets us use your gift where we need it most. Or, review a list of our scholarship and other funds if you prefer to more specifically direct your contribution.
On behalf of the University of Michigan Biological Station (aka “Bug Camp”), I invite all of you to return for a visit when you are able. And thank you for supporting the Station in any way you can.
Linda E. Greer