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Volunteer stewardship

bird's eye view of tree canopy with trail

Volunteer stewardship

The Volunteer Stewardship Workday program engages volunteers, students, scouts and park users to help protect these special places through hands-on restoration and education. Each month, volunteers roll up their sleeves and assist with natural resource conservation activities at several volunteer stewardship workdays in state parks across southern lower Michigan.

Since 2003, volunteers have put in more than 120,000 hours of work helping to enhance and restore hundreds of acres of habitat that support endangered, threatened and rare plant and animal species. Volunteers will learn plant identification, see rare ecosystems, connect with others, get some exercise in and much more.

No experience is necessary, and all equipment and instruction are provided. Find the projects that interest you on our volunteer stewardship workday calendar below or contact:

*Please include your name, phone number, and the date and location of the workday you would like to join!

What to wear / bring

Please wear appropriate clothing for outdoor work, including long pants and work boots, and bring drinking water, work gloves and eye protection (especially prescription safety glasses). Waterproof boots, either knee-high rubber boots or hip waders, are recommended for fen and other wetland sites. If you don't have waterproof boots and would like to borrow a pair, please note that when you register and we will try to provide them.

* Be sure outerwear, gloves, and boots are free of mud and hitchhiking seeds, so you don't inadvertently spread invasive plant seeds into these high-quality natural areas.

Youth and groups

All minors (under 18) must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. The accompanying parent/guardian must sign a volunteer release and waiver of liability form for the minor. If participating with an organized group (i.e. scouts, school groups), the group leader may sign instead.

Workday activities often can accommodate groups, but advanced registration is strongly encouraged for groups larger than five. This helps us plan for equipment and ensures that all participants are suited to the day's task. All youth groups must have an age-appropriate adequate ratio of adult to youth participants. Volunteer steward workday leaders reserve the right to deny participation to unaccompanied minors or anyone due to misconduct or unsafe behavior. Please feel free to contact your regional natural resource steward if you have any questions. We welcome service learning opportunities, but the emphasis and the majority of time will be spent on hands-on projects in the field. Classrooms and student groups interested in an interpretive experience should contact the park visitor center or explorer guide.

Workday cancellation

If a workday must be canceled due to inclement weather (or any other reason), you will receive an email at least two hours ahead of the scheduled meeting time.

Other opportunities

Some training and coordination is required before you can volunteer on your own. Once you are trained, these activities can be preformed whenever it is convenient for you! If you are interested in these opportunities, please email Kelsey Dietz or call 517-388-8517.

Bird surveys

Are you an avid birder and know how to identify grassland birds or rare bird species? If so, we need your help to gather baseline bird data or monitor known populations of rare birds in select areas of certain parks. (spring and summer)

Learn to identify the early stages of forest diseases and pests like oak wilt, beech bark disease and Asian long-horned beetle so that we can detect and treat cases early on. (spring and summer)

Galerucella beetle redistribution

Want to combat purple loosestrife? You'll collect Galerucella beetles, purple loosestrife's natural enemy, and redistribute them to wetlands within state parks. (late May - mid June)

Insect monitoring

Help us determine whether we have rare insects in some of our highest quality ecosystems. No prior insect identification experience is necessary. All information and equipment will be provided. (July - October)

Invasive plant mapping

Help map patches of invasive plants. This data will be incredibly helpful as we plan where to focus our restoration efforts. Map reading skills are helpful, but no experience is necessary.

Invasive plant removal

Help pull herbaceous weeds like garlic mustard, sweet clover and more. These non-native plants out compete native plants and can reduce complex ecosystems to very simple ones with low biological diversity. (spring and summer)

Kirtland's Warbler census volunteer

Experienced birders are needed to help complete the Kirtland's warbler census.

Native planting

In May, June and September, native plants are planted at select parks. Some of this will be done at workdays, but additional help is always needed. 

Native prairie seed collection

Hand collect native prairie seed at several state parks and recreation areas throughout the month of October and in early November.