November 2019 Edition of the
Michigan Soil and Water Conservation Society

The official newsletter of the Michigan Chapter
of the Soil and Water Conservation Society

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Fall Field Trip: Fruit Production and Organic Farming in Northern Michigan
Chapter Awards and Scholarships
Call for Abstracts to SWCS International Annual Conference



Technology Spotlight: Climate Planners turn to Virtual Reality and Hope Seeing is Believing
Book Feature: "Camera Hunter: George Shiras III and the Birth of Wildlife Photography" by James McCommons


"One of the many possible ways to describe a life would be as a series of encounters with various bodies of water. Time spent in, on, under, or near water interspersed with the periods spent thinking about where, when, and how to reach it next." 

- from Blue Mind, by Wallace J. Nichols


Soil and Water Conservation Society (SWCS) Field Trip: Fruit Production and Organic Farming in Northern Michigan

Tour Guide: Dan Busby, SWCS member and MAEAP verifier
As part of the 2019 MACD Fall Conference, the Michigan Chapter of SWCS hosted a field trip to the Cherry Ke fruit production and organic farming site near Kedawin, MI. Nels and Bruce Veliquette hosted the group and offered a broad overview of the challenges facing fruit producers in northern Michigan – from hiring and maintaining staff, to nutrient management and production compliance, to foreign market pressures that are especially difficult for northern Michigan fruit producers to deal with in recent times. The tour included an inside look at the custom-made vehicles and tractors used for a variety of tasks on site, and a sampling of Cherry Ke food products.
Participants also had a chance to tour a cherry processing plant operated by Great Lakes Packing Company. The plant manager, Scott Pryde, discussed the various steps involved in cherry processing: sorting, inspecting, washing, pitting, and processing into different forms (e.g., cherry concentrate).  The group learned about the proper disposal of wash water and waste material, which includes a number of cost-saving re-use applications. Norm Veliquette, one of the important early figures in our nation’s cherry industry, offered insights into the environmental monitoring and protection plans in place at the plant and discussed innovations he has been a part of over the past few decades. 
The field trip helped to highlight – in the specific context of cherry production – the importance of system-based perspectives and new technical solutions when managing our land and water.

Zach Curtis
Region 2 Director
Members and guests enjoy the SWCS Fall Field Trip to Cherry Ke farm near Kedawin, MI

Chapter Awards and Scholarships

To All Michigan Chapter SWCS members:
As you all should know, the Michigan Chapter of the Soil and Water Conservation Society has an Awards Program.  You can find information and forms on our website at  There are people working in conservation across our State who are worthy of recognition for their hard work.  All it takes is a dedicated Michigan Chapter SWCS member to make sure one of those dedicated workers gets recognized.
Because this is a Michigan Chapter Program, one requirement is that the award nomination be supported by a Michigan Chapter member.  Non-members can help prepare an award nomination, but the nomination form itself should be submitted by a Chapter member.  Award nominations are due by December 15.

 The Scholarship offered for the Fall 2019 - Spring 2020 Academic Year is $500.  This Scholarship is for Sophomore, Junior or Senior students majoring in an appropriate environmental or conservation major at any College or University in the State of Michigan.  Students who are SWCS members get extra credit in the ranking system.
You may know of a student who might be eligible, so we would encourage you to forward this information to them.  And, you might also consider forwarding this information to your favorite past college professor or academic advisor.  Chapter member Dr. Zachary Curtis, who is chair of the Scholarship Committee, has already sent the announcement to many College and University contacts that we are aware of, but a reminder from you, an SWCS member, wouldn't hurt.
Guidance and application forms are available on our Chapter website at
Dan Kesselring, Sec
Michigan Chapter SWCS

Call for Abstracts: SWCS International Annual Conference

The Soil and Water Conservation Society is seeking oral presentations, posters, symposia, and workshops for the 75th SWCS International Annual Conference, taking place in Des Moines, Iowa, July 26-29, 2020.



*Poster submissions received after January 17, 2020 will not appear in the Preliminary Program

This year's conference features five submission tracks:
• Applied Data in Agriculture
• Back to the Future
• Edge-of-Field Practices and Monitoring
• The Producer and the Plot
• 2020 General Conference Theme Submissions
       • Adaptive Management of Conservation Efforts
       • Conservation Economics and Policy
       • Conservation Models, Tools, and Technologies
       • Conservation in Organic, Specialty, Small-Scale, or Urban Agriculture
       • Outreach, Education, and Community Engagement
       • Social Sciences Informing Conservation
       • Soil Health Resources, Indicators, Assessment, and Management
       • Water Resource Assessment and Management

Visit for more information and to submit your proposal.


Do you have some conservation-worthy news to share?  Upcoming events or topics of interest to the SWCS Professional Development Committee?  Please feel free to share them with newsletter editor, Rebecca Bender at


Technology Spotlight: Climate Planners Turn to Virtual Reality and Hope Seeing is Believing

An excerpt from Nathan Rott, NPR, November 24th

Connie Monroe clicks a button, flicks her wrist and watches as her neighborhood floods.

The reed-covered shorelines are first to go. Then, the baseball fields at Fleming Park. By the time seawater reaches the senior center, it has inundated streets, flooding more than a dozen multiunit brick homes that she can see.

Monroe moves her head up and down, side to side, taking in the sobering simulated view. This is what could happen to Turner Station, a historic African American community southeast of Baltimore, as sea levels rise.

"Everything's underwater. The school is underwater. Our house is underwater," Monroe says. A frown forms below the bulky gray virtual reality headset covering her eyes. "Is the water really supposed to get that high?"

Climate change presents many challenges to coastal communities and to those trying to prepare for its impacts, but one of the most basic is also one of the most vexing: How do you show people — and convince them — of a possible future?

It's one thing to hear or read that sea levels could rise as high as 7 feet in Maryland by the end of the century under worst-case scenarios, but it's another "to imagine what that will look like in your own backyard," says Jackie Specht, the coastal science program manager for The Nature Conservancy's Maryland/DC Chapter.

"And if it's hard to imagine, it's hard to face and prioritize, especially when there are so many tangible issues that [people are] facing in the day-to-day."

Communicating the realness and immediacy of the climate threat is hugely important to climate researchers and those aiming to mitigate its causes. But it's also paramount to communities faced with coming changes that are already unavoidable.

Climate resiliency projects need public support and input.

That's why Monroe and other residents at this recent community meeting are being directed to sit in metal chairs, put on virtual reality headsets and watch their homes flood...

Read full article and see simulation images at

The cover of Northern Michigan University journalism professor James McCommons new book “Camera Hunter: George Shiras III and the Birth of Wildlife Photography” is seen. The book details Shiras’ life as a pioneer of nature photography and influencer of the conservation movement of the 20th century. (Photo courtesy of James McCommons)

A racoon foraging at night was captured by George Shiras III in one of the earliest wildlife photos.

Book Feature "Camera Hunter: George Shiras III and the Birth Of Wildlife Photography" by James McCommons

an excerpt from Tinity Carey, The Mining Journal, October 10, 2019

MARQUETTE — You may have spent some time in the Shiras Room at the Peter White Public Library, gone to the Shiras Planetarium or looked out at Lake Superior from Shiras Park, but the full extent of George Shiras III’s work often goes unnoticed.

Not only was Shiras a frequent visitor and eventual resident of the Marquette area, he was one of the world’s first nighttime photographers and a crucial influence on legislation written to protect wildlife.

Shiras’ adventures as a boy, experimentation with photography and push for the preservation of wildlife is recounted in detail in James McCommons’ new book “Camera Hunter: George Shiras III and the Birth of Wildlife Photography.”


“My desire was to look at George Shiras’ contributions as a photographer, an environmentalist in the context of his time; so the progressive era, early 20th century was an extremely active period for government going out and doing things to save wildlife and pass laws in order to do that and to secure land for habitat,” said McCommons, a journalism professor at Northern Michigan University.


Shiras served just one year as a U.S. representative for the state of Pennsylvania, but he was a political leader in the movement for wildlife preservation.


During his time as a legislator, he pushed for the conservation of migratory birds, which were being shot in large numbers for sport, animal feed and for the use of feathers on women’s hats, McCommons explained. In 1913 the Weeks-McLean law was put into effect and prohibited spring hunting, the importation of feathers for women’s fashion and created hunting seasons. This law eventually became the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.


“It literally made birds, unless it was a game bird and it has a season on it, protected birds,” McCommons said. “It’s illegal today to go shoot a bird, to shoot an owl, a robin. That to me is really his amazing act.”


While Shiras’ political position gave him the opportunity to create such movement, he left because “after studying the law of men, (he) wanted to study the law of nature,” a line from Camera Hunter reads.

He then focused his life on his first passion — wildlife.


Shiras’ love for wildlife started as a boy in the Marquette woods. Born in Pittsburgh, his father brought the family to the area for the summers. Here he learned to hunt and through fire hunting, a popular method of the 1870s, changed photography forever.


“They would shoot deer year round, this was in the 1870s and they would do this by fire hunting,” McCommons said. “They would fill up a skillet with really combustible sap and stuff and they would go around the lake and that would help light up the deer on shore. The deer would kind of freeze like it does in headlights and then they would shoot it.”


This sort of hunting eventually became unsportsmanlike and Shiras turned to a more ethical way of appreciating wildlife with photography. After three years of trial and error he and his Marquette assistant John Hammer captured their first photograph using camera traps...

Visit the full length article at "The Mining Journal" or read a book review and summary in the National Park Traveler.



International SWCS

July 28-31, 2019 SWCS International Annual Conference
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
SWCS is seeking oral presentations, poster presentations, symposia and workshops for the 74th SWCS International Annual Conference

Other Organizations

2020 Introduction to Lakes Online Course
Introduction to Lakes is a nationally recognized six-week online course designed for lake enthusiasts interested in learning about ecology, aquatic plants, watersheds, shorelines and more. Course instructors include MSU Extension educators and state agency personnel.

The 2020 course runs January 14th to March 13th. The cost of the course is $115 per person. Register by December 20th to receive an early-bird discount of $95 per person. Registration is open now through January 8th.

April 28-20, 2020 Great Lakes Water Infrastructure Conference
Novi, MI
The 2020 Great Lakes Water Infrastructure Conference, a first-of-its-kind regional conference hosted by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE), will identify the water infrastructure challenges faced by the Great Lakes region and discuss solutions to those challenges. Key topics will include funding and finance mechanisms, water affordability, environmental health, water infrastructure planning and reinvestment, innovative water quality solutions, green infrastructure techniques, cybersecurity strategy, and communications practices.  

MDEQ Calendar:

MDNR Calendar:

MSU Extension Calendar:
Copyright © 2019 Soil and Water Conservation Society: Michigan Chapter, All rights reserved.

This newsletter is a monthly compilation of news stories of interest to Michigan SWCS members and stakeholders. The opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect official policy of the Soil and Water Conservation Society unless so stated.

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