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September 2023

It’s now sweater season as I write to you along Douglas Lake, thinking about our connection to 115 years of history and how lucky we are to be the stewards who keep the beautiful mission of UMBS alive.

This fall we are focused on forging our future at our remote field station in northern Michigan.

After more than a year of preparation, we welcomed to both the Pellston and Ann Arbor campuses from Sept. 17-20 four outstanding scientists and field station experts from across the country who serve as the external review team examining and analyzing UMBS operations through the U-M College of LSA self-study process — our first in more than 10 years.

Dr. Aaron Ellison, a retired ecologist at Harvard University who spent 20 years at Harvard Forest, serves as committee chair. He is joined by Dr. Corinna Gires, co-director of the Wisconsin Environmental Data Initiative; Dr. Nick Haddad, a professor and senior terrestrial ecologist in the Department of Integrative Biology and the W. K. Kellogg Biological Station at Michigan State University; and Dr. Bill Schuster, senior ecologist and former executive director of Black Rock Forest, a field station in New York.

I am grateful for the time, care and expertise the team is putting into this critical report that will help inform the future of UMBS as we advance efforts to take UMBS carbon neutral, expand to year-round programming and address new cabin and facilities needs for our next 100 years.

All of us at UMBS had a wonderful time getting to know the external reviewers and answering their questions. We look forward to their feedback and findings.

We hope you and your family can carve out time to visit UMBS next year too if your travels take you to northern Michigan. The calendar is starting to fill up.

New this month, UMBS is proud to announce two events in 2024 featuring Melissa Sevigny, the author of the “Brave the Wild River” about Drs. Elzada Clover and Lois Jotter, U-M botanists who mapped the botany of the Grand Canyon in 1938. The book includes both of their close ties to UMBS. The late botanists spent time teaching, researching and living at UMBS, just like us. We have great respect for the people who tended and enriched this special place throughout its history.

Sevigny will visit us in Pellston next year to give a talk as part of the Summer Lecture Series. Her event at UMBS is Wednesday, June 5, at 7 p.m. Plus, while she’s in town, we’re partnering with Charlevoix Public Library to co-host a talk featuring the author on Tuesday, June 4, at 6 p.m., followed by a reception, at Charlevoix Public Library, located about an hour away from UMBS. It’s a great opportunity for UMBS to engage with more people in the community and expand our outreach footprint. We hope you can join us.

Our intent is to evolve into the field station of the future. And you can’t think about the next year, decade or century without contemplating resiliency in the face of global change.

We believe that it is critical for students — the next generation of scientists — to directly do research and engage in extraordinary experiential learning opportunities, like the Eco-Evo-Devo course at UMBS. Read this month’s feature story and watch the video about how undergraduate students used CRISPR, a gene-editing tool, on mesmerizing monarch butterflies this summer to explore nature’s beautiful biodiversity and help understand the resiliency of our natural world.

Alongside our renowned courses like botany, we aim to expand and enrich cutting-edge educational programming opportunities like Eco-Evo-Devo. The pursuit of scientific discovery is awe-inspiring and urgent, and we’re gearing up to lead the way, in the spirit of the Michigan botanists on the Colorado River nearly a century ago.

Something special happened earlier this week: I saw the Northern Lights for the first time in my life. I stood outside along Douglas Lake and gazed in awe. (From the bottom of my heart, I apologize for not taking a photo that could do it justice.) I then did something I’ve wanted to do for three years. I rang the bell outside the dining hall to wake everyone to get out of bed and witness the phenomenon! Unfortunately, there was only one other person at the research station on Sunday night. We enjoyed the view together, but I look forward to sounding the aurora alarm again when all of the cabins are filled.

Read our full September 2023 Newsletter for what's happening right now and updates for 2024. 


Dr. Aimée Classen

UMBS Director