Kalamazoo, MI
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Fairchild Foundation Grant Makes Arboretum Updates Possible

(Courtesy Photo)

During this past spring and summer, a new boardwalk was constructed in the wetlands of the Lillian Anderson Arboretum; Kalamazoo College’s 131 acres of natural, deciduous forest, 6 miles west of campus.

The project cost a total of $60,000, which came from a $500,000 grant awarded by the Sherman Fairchild Foundation in 2011.  The grant supports various projects that aim to enhance K equipment in the Biology, Chemistry, and Physics department. The construction started in the spring of 2013, and the dedication and ribbon cutting took place on August 28, 2014.

The main purpose of the boardwalk is to enable the continued observation and study of the arboretum without impacting the natural habitat of its inhabitants. The boardwalk will also prevent Poison Sumac species from harming students and faculty when they are studying the wetland. Poison Sumac informational signs are being constructed to further help prevent any toxic encounters.

“The boardwalk has been a long time coming—the idea of it is at least six years old,” said Professor of Biology Dr. Binney Girdler.

The need arose especially after Dr. Girdler’s ecology classes focused their study on the wetland. Professor of Chemistry Jennifer Furchak also uses the wetland for water chemistry analysis for her instrumental analysis classes. The frequenters of the arboretum hope that the boardwalk will facilitate the navigation of the wetland.

“When 40 students trump through wetland, you can tell,” said Girdler.

During the construction process, vegetation was growing around and into the boardwalk; this surprised Dr. Girdler.

During the summer, Riley Lundquist ‘16 worked on a mobile application for Arboretum visitors. The app will help users to travel around the Arboretum by using special maps that include points of interest and personalized tours.

With more development on the app, users will be able to post any sighting they observe in the Arboretum into a public space on the app. It will also show users what species they can expect to observe during the different seasons.

Girdler hopes that the new construction and app will help the arboretum become more frequented by more people.

“It’s a great place to watch birds and frogs,” she said.

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Fairchild Foundation Grant Makes Arboretum Updates Possible