Youth Conservation Academy Session 3: Forest resources/Fisheries

Forest resources and fisheries were featured during the third session of the Detroit Youth Conservation Academy, held July 26 at Belle Isle Park in downtown Detroit.

Urban and community forestry (UCF), forest health and invasive species issues, forest fires and forestry jobs were some of the topics discussed by Kevin Sayers, UCF program coordinator, and Ryan Wheeler, invasive species biologist with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Forest Resources Division. Sayers said that careers within the division include foresters, forest health technicians, fire officers and forest planners.

In addition, the youth and young adults in the academy, ages 16-19, learned about the importance of the DNR’s forestry efforts not only in the state but also right here in Detroit.

From working with the city of Detroit on completing a citywide tree inventory to partnering with the Greening of Detroit to plant trees on Belle Isle, students learned of the many ways the DNR is positively affecting Detroit.

Next, Jim Francis, Lake Erie Basin coordinator with the DNR Fisheries Division, explained the process of utilizing fish hatcheries to stock fish in some area lakes. He said, however, that this isn’t the norm for the Detroit area.

“The St. Clair River, Lake St. Clair, Detroit River and Lake Erie make up 1 percent of the Great Lakes’ water surface area in the state, but these waters account for almost 40 percent of the fishing effort," Francis said. "These bodies of water are all self-sustaining, meaning we don’t need to stock them.”

He also offered examples of jobs within the division, including fisheries technician, creel clerk and hatchery biologist.

Next, the students learned about water quality and the need for clean water to support fish. The students observed and handled fish to learn about fish biology.
After lunch, the youth walked to the beach area of Belle Isle Park. Forestry staff toured with the students and discussed tree planting, hazard tree identification, woodlot management, invasive species and more. There, they had a chance to use a variety of forestry tools and techniques.

Following the interactive demonstration, student volunteers put on waders and – with one person at each end of a seine (a fishing net stretched between two poles) – they waded into the shallow shoreline waters of the Detroit River and corralled fish toward the beach. The fish, which were later safely released back into the river, were put into a holding tank for students to observe.

The participants also learned about the process of electrofishing (when fisheries biologists collect fish using electricity).
Students learned how invasive species accidentally can be spread by attaching to clothing and footwear. They were given boot brushes to remove dirt and other materials from their shoes, which helps to prevent the spread of invasive species. Students also had the chance to get hands-on experience using key features to identify several invasive species.

At 5 p.m., after a full day of learning, the students headed home. They will return Aug. 2 to Belle Isle Park to delve into wildlife and parks and recreation.
For more information on the DNR Detroit Youth Conservation Academy, call 517-284-6000 or visit and click on Conservation Youth Academy 2016 found under the Youth Programs heading. Past blogs and photos are found here.