GVSU and MCC Collaboration Assessing Ecology of the Kasey Hartz Natural Area

Dr. Partridge and her students conducting research in the Kasey Hartz Natural Area

Dr. Partridge and her students conducting research in the Kasey Hartz Natural Area

The Grand Valley State University (GVSU) Annis Water Resources Institute is collaborating with Muskegon Community College (MCC) to complete ecological research in the Kasey Hartz Natural Area. Students of Dr. Charlyn Partridge, an associate professor at GVSU, are studying the degradation of environmental DNA in the natural area, which is located on MCC’s main campus. 

“What’s really exciting about this project is that two of Dr. Partridge’s students are recent MCC graduates, Carly Thayer and Jim Switzer-Moe,” explained Dr. Matt Cooper, an MCC life sciences instructor.   

“Having Grand Valley researchers utilize Kasey Hartz Natural Area for this project makes perfect sense.  And it’s really wonderful to see former MCC Environmental Science students take an active role in this research,” Cooper commented. “Kasey Hartz Natural Area is a special place here on campus. While it’s an important place for quiet reflection, for exercise, and as an outdoor classroom, this project shows the benefit of the natural area for scientific research.” 

Student researchers set small plastic trays that contain mock insect communities on wooden stakes throughout the Kasey Hartz Natural Area, which is on the north side of the main campus. They are measuring how the amount of DNA from these communities changes each week, allowing students to study how DNA degrades over time. The collection sites are not visible from any of the hiking trails but are tagged with information in case any hikers are off trail. 

“I think the collaboration between MCC and GVSU, particularly Annis Water Resources Institute, is natural given our location in Muskegon,” said Partridge. “We currently have a summer AWRI internship position established specifically for a MCC student, where students can spend up to 40 hours per week during the summer doing research. This project strengthens the collaboration between GVSU-AWRI and MCC even more by allowing us to take advantage of some of the unique assets, such as the Kasey Hartz Natural Area.” 

The Kasey Hartz Natural Area is accessible to community members from the Stevenson Center parking lot off Quarterline Road. It is a wooded tract which has been shaped by natural processes, weathering, and glaciers. The natural area includes trails and benches. Four Mile Creek flows through the area on its way to Muskegon River.  

MCC offers over 80 areas of study including environmental science, geology, and other sciences. In addition, the college provides a variety of community resources including a planetarium, natural area, science museum, health and wellness center, art gallery, and golf course. Visit www.muskegoncc.edu to learn more. 

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