The Ridges Sanctuary

Preservation, Education, and Research

A Collaborative Celebration of Citizen Scientists

Posted on Oct 6, 2023 by Jackie Rath   No Comments Yet | Posted in Articles · Featured · In the News

Published by Peninsula Pulse, Craig Sterrett – October 5th, 2023

Citizen science volunteer Steve Krzyzanowski (left), prepares to monitor the sucker run along with Karen Murchie from Shedd Aquarium.

Door County has an amazing wealth of natural areas and hundreds of volunteers for multiple organizations who work individually and in teams to aid in ongoing and large-scale research projects and help protect, enhance and monitor dozens of sites.

This month, for the first time on the peninsula, some of those organizations will band together to collaborate and simply celebrate the accomplishments and opportunities for residents and visitors to volunteer.

The inaugural Citizen Science Symposium on Saturday, Oct. 21, at The Ridges Sanctuary in Baileys Harbor will allow citizen scientists from The Ridges Sanctuary, Door County Land Trust, Climate Change Coalition, and Crossroads at Big Creek – along with members of the public – an opportunity to celebrate Citizen/Community Science programs in Door County.

The Citizen Science Symposium will take place on Saturday, Oct. 21, at 9 am, at The Ridges Sanctuary Cook-Albert Fuller Nature Center located at 8166 State Highway 57, Baileys Harbor.

“The goals of this symposium are to celebrate the work of our citizen scientists and provide the opportunity to communicate this crucial work with others in our scientific community,” said Tony Kiszonas, Director of Research for The Ridges Sanctuary.

The morning symposium will begin with a time for refreshments and conversation, and then citizen scientists representing programs that happen throughout the year will give presentations.

A Look at Some of the Projects and Collaborations

The groups already work together or simultaneously each spring with the Climate Change Coalition for The Big Plant – a massive, coordinated public and private tree-planting effort. The symposium should further help staff members and volunteers understand how the organizations can coordinate efforts or share resources.

“We’re starting to see some crossover. We have the same goals,” Kiszonas said. “We felt it was time to get people together and celebrate that collaborative effect.”

The Ridges and Land Trust volunteers and staff members have been working together in some cases and training together for stream-monitoring work on Land Trust, Ridges, state and private properties. Those monitors, such as the Ridges’ Gretchen Schmelzer and Land Trust staff members Paige Witek and Thomas Stasiak, are doing work or other volunteering for more than one of the organizations as well as state and county parks. Citizen scientists are monitoring Three Springs Creek north of The Ridges, and The Ridges has monitors doing monthly work on its property for Hidden Brook, where it flows through the Ridges Inn area and in the wetland near the creek mouth in Baileys Harbor.

Each stream has a team, but a couple of people have two different streams with different teammates.

The Ridges volunteers don’t test Logan Creek on Ridges property near Clark Lake, since the creek at that location is wide, muddy and treacherous for wading. Instead, a gracious landowner upstream allows citizen scientists onto the property.

Stream monitors – all who have trained on a University of Wisconsin Extension system for monitoring – look at dissolved oxygen, water clarity, vegetation along the creeks, proximity to roadways and how much water is flowing in the streams. They also look for tiny creatures such as scuds and dragonfly larvae living in the creek, which are indicators of water quality.

They monitor Whitefish Bay Creek; Hibbards Creek; Logan Creek; Land Trust-owned sections of Heins Creek; Peil Creek north of Kangaroo Lake; two different spots on Reiboldt’s Creek; plus Stony Creek in the southern part of the county.

The Ridges alone has 70 citizen scientists for 10 different citizen-science programs at this time, plus 130 more volunteers who help with trail maintenance, bridge and boardwalk construction and guests at the nature center.

At Crossroads at Big Creek, volunteers in the Crossroads Wetlands Survey Team (CWEST) are performing many of the same tests. But Crossroads differs in that it has less pristine history than the multitude of other sites countywide, and much of the work involves baseline monitoring to establish norms that will guide their research and stewardship.

“Crossroads has been around for about 30 years but those 30 years have been spent fighting tooth and nail to restore land that was, essentially, abandoned orchard,” said Corey Batson, who is in his second year as program director at Crossroads at Big Creek. “We’re just getting to a point now where some of those baseline data sets are going to help us in managing and monitoring for future management decisions, like, ‘Do we need to focus on planting specific plants along the creek to support specific species that we are hoping to see there, or are starting to see there, or do we need to adjust our management a little bit to ensure that the forest doesn’t overgrow the prairie?’”

Also at Crossroads, a team of eight citizen scientists come out between April and the end of June to monitor everything from frog and toad species, to egg masses, to aquatic funnel traps, Batson said. The citizen scientists did not find many salamanders, but he, hikers and volunteers have made incidental reports of amphibian findings, such as the common blue-spotted salamander. Their presence is a good indicator of a healthy habitat, and not finding them in surveys means Batson and the team need to alter their monitoring strategies.

“When the wetland monitoring team went out in one of the first weeks of training, we were right in the middle of the pike run,” Batson said. “Northern pike run through Big Creek and spawn pretty far north, beyond Crossroads, so it’s wonderful and fascinating to go to look at some of the wet mesic forest and wetlands that are attached to Big Creek and find full-grown pike in the middle of them.”

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