close up of artist Josie Quack's artpiece for the Wing Haven project.

Posted by: Elijah Stewart

  • 09/26/2023

Documenting Wing Haven: Year 6 of 200

ACRES launched the Ecological Reflections project in 2017 at Wing Haven with the goal of compiling a body of work to better understand how a particular place changes through time. This 200-year-long project seeks to inspire people to see land and its protection in a new way.

Trees of Wing Haven Art Piece

Artist Josie Quack
Artist Josie Quack

In 2021, ACRES partnered with local artist Josie Quack to create a piece inspired by the land. I am an illustrator, designer and herbalist working under the name Tenderheart Studio. My work, spanning across media (my primary modes are pen and ink and printmaking), serves as an opportunity to help connect people to the natural world. As a student of the earth, I use art and illustration to encourage reciprocity with the land, rather than extraction and dominance; practicing that reciprocity is central to my process.

Wandering through woods, splashing in rivers, growing a garden and making plant medicine all inform my process of making artwork that serves as evidence of those experiences. What might not look like art from the outside is essential to cultivating an intentional relationship with the land that can then be spoken through my work.

Lying stylistically between scientific illustration and folk art, my work seeks to bridge the gap between the magic and the mundane, between humans and our earthly cohabitants. While accuracy is important to me, so is story, and drawing things as we remember them. When we connect emotionally with the material, we’re able to create sustainable change.

My primary motivation is to share the magic of the natural world and advocate for its proper stewardship while hoping to eradicate human supremacy. We are not just part of nature: We are nature. Lasting change can happen only through recognizing that we are a crucial part of the whole.

About The Artwork

I was struck by the variety of trees that are found throughout Wing Haven. I tend to work on tree identification in winter, a time when trees turn inward, shedding leaves and turning their energy toward their root systems. I use bark and arrangement of limbs as indicators. This lends a sense of hope in the dark times, an idea of what foliage is to come, and also offers an idea of where mushrooms might appear come spring.

Quack's pen and ink rendition of various branches of trees found in Wing Haven.

My contribution to the 200-year study documents the most common tree species found on the preserve with the hopes that in 200 years, we can check the progress of conservation and see if there’s been any change in the tree population, and celebrate our arboreal kin.

Thank you, Josie Quack, for sharing your talents with ACRES! To learn more about the Ecological Reflections project and to view previous commissioned work, head to acres200er.org.

Scientific Study at Wing Haven

Researcher aims to better understand wetland species

Wing Haven’s three major ecosystems—glacially-carved kettlehole lakes bordered by a wetland fen system, upland forests and rolling grasslands—support a rich diversity of plants, birds, mammals and aquatic species.

Grad student Olivia Ruppert
Olivia Ruppert

Olivia Ruppert, a graduate student at Michigan State University, is looking at the nature preserve as a part of her project to learn more about threatened and endangered reptile and amphibian species of the wetlands across the Great Lakes region.

“Wetlands are relatively threatened systems across the world and in the Midwest. Due to human impacts, habitat fragmentation and degradation, we’ve lost many of the historic wetlands that once occurred here,” Ruppert said.

As a result, many herpetofauna species (reptiles and amphibians) are losing crucial habitat to subsist in these areas. The best way to support these species is to protect wetlands, she said.

Ruppert is using environmental DNA (eDNA) to take stock of threatened and endangered reptiles and amphibians in wetlands across southern Michigan and northern Ohio and Indiana. eDNA can be extracted from the environment through water, sediment or air samples. The samples will be analyzed in a lab using metabarcoding, a process that allows for the simultaneous identification of many species within one sample.

Red-backed salamander
Red-backed Salamander
(Plethodon cinereus)

“I hope to use the data collected from this project to characterize where these species are occurring, what habitat requirements they have, and how this information has the potential to be used by biologists and decision-makers at sites they manage,” she said.

Wing Haven is one of 50 wetland sites in the region where she and her team collected samples at two different time periods.

In the field, they also recorded environmental variables such as water and air temperature, salinity of the water sampled and canopy cover. They used observational and audible identifications to see if they can identify species at these sites that can potentially show up in the DNA samples.

Water samples from Wing Haven revealed the presence of 13 species of frogs, toads and salamanders, including one species of special concern in Indiana.

Thank you, Olivia Ruppert, for sharing your work with ACRES! This wildlife survey and others like it help ACRES become better-informed stewards of the land.