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Nature Center Summit

The Nature Center Summit was established in 2019 as an opportunity to connect nonformal educators to the science behind resource management. The goal is to provide our many nonformal partners with the latest and most scientifically accurate information about Michigan's wildlife, fisheries, forests and more. Our nonformal partners reach thousands and thousands of students and families with messages about Michigan's natural resources. We strive to find the top experts in these topics in our state so you will be the most informed.

Check back in December to register for 2024


The 2023 Nature Center Summit was held February 10 at the DNR's RAM Center. The session lineup included:

Carbon Credits: What Are They and How Do They Impact Conservation?
Scott Whitcomb, acting resource deputy director, Michigan Department of Natural Resources

The DNR initiated a first-of-its-kind pilot project exploring opportunities to produce carbon offset credits on state forest lands. The purchase of carbon credits generated through sustainable forest management is an emerging way for businesses to offset emissions that they cannot otherwise reduce. What does this mean for Michigan and our changing climate? Come learn about this, solar energy and the power of our public lands during this session.

The Mass Gathering Security Planning Tool
Mike Baker, protective security advisor, U.S. Department of Homeland Security Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency

A school recently requested an Active Shooter Plan for the field trip site students were scheduled to visit and canceled when there was none. The Security Planning Tool, designed by Homeland Security, is designed to provide a framework to begin, or continue, planning efforts for a mass gathering or special event. This session will provide information and federally approved templates to help you create a plan for your site.

Wildlife Health Update: CWD, Avian Influenza, Bovine TB and More!
Julie Melotti, DNR Wildlife Disease Lab

Wildlife disease is on everyone’s radar and something the public is extremely interested in. Get the latest on Michigan’s wildlife disease and what to look for in and on critters in your area. Stay informed so you can inform your visitors by attending this session.

Michigan’s Healthy Climate Plan
Denise M. Keele, Ph.D., director, Michigan Climate Action Network

No topic is in the news more than climate change, and no topic brings about as much division. What is being done in Michigan to educate and inform without building walls? This session will help your staff/center talk about climate change in a nonthreatening manner. Learn about efforts to step up Michigan education in this area.

Interpreting Invasive Species
Katie Grzesiak, DNR terrestrial invasive species coordinator

Join us to get the up-to-date scoop on new invasive species in Michigan, hear updates on current efforts and refresh on old frenemies (with a focus on terrestrial species). Then we'll brainstorm ways to get your target audiences involved with invasive species prevention and control and have a chance to share your struggles and successes.

Michigan’s Dam Dilemma
Patrick Ertel, DNR senior resource analyst, Fisheries Habitat Management Unit

We often dismiss the passing of time with a comment such as “another day older.” But what happens when those days add up and a dam on your favorite river is 25 years older than it was designed to be? We’ll explore a taste of river physics, how dams interrupt those processes and examples of us cleaning up messes created before our time.

Michigan’s Wildlife Action Plan
Tony Henehan, DNR Wildlife Action Plan coordinator

State Wildlife Action Plans, known as SWAPs, are guiding documents for rare species recovery across the United States. Michigan’s SWAP outlines management goals and recommendations for our 406 Species of Greatest Conservation Need. This session will go through the Michigan SWAP, how your organization can use it to strengthen outreach and education, and as way to empower grant opportunities. Finally, we’ll brainstorm ways to build partnerships between nature centers, zoos and the DNR, using the SWAP as a bridge between our organizations.

Michigan Fisheries Report
Randy Claramunt, DNR Lake Huron Basin Manager

Learn about progress on the restoration of sturgeon and Arctic grayling, how fisheries managers are handling Pacific salmon populations with the Great Lakes food web disruption caused by mussels and a plethora of other fish stories in Michigan. Don’t flounder! Get schooled about the DNR’s mission to provide world-class freshwater fishing opportunities, supported by healthy aquatic environments, that enhance the quality of life in Michigan. This session will reel you in.

Counting Critters
Shelby Adams, DNR wildlife biologist

It’s not uncommon for a citizen to question the scientific method at a DNR public meeting. “How do you know how many deer [or substitute nearly any species you can think of] we have?” In this session, we will explore the many methods the DNR uses to estimate the populations of several wildlife species. This is great information for you to relay back to your members/visitors/students.



2022 summit presentation recordings


2021 summit presentation recordings