Long Lake Property Lends Well to ResearchOn 134 acres where lakeshore, prairie and woodlands intersect, Concordia College students are already conducting field research, with plans for more underway.
The college recently constructed an eco-friendly classroom/lab building on its Long Lake property near Detroit Lakes, Minn., a donation to the college back in the 1970s. After years of renting some of the land for farming and then opening it up to college employees as recreational space, Concordia is focusing its efforts on turning the property into a multi-purpose research and retreat center for students, faculty and staff.
“It’s a great place for students to do research projects and for other classes to get out,” says biology chair Gerry VanAmburg.
This summer, Ellen Sobieck ’11, Grand Marais, Minn., and Kyle Czech ’12, Little Falls, Minn., were the first to take their research skills to the Long Lake property. On site at least a couple days a week, the students painstakingly mapped out the property’s plants, grasses and trees with GPS. Returning to their lab on campus – because the Long Lake research building was still under construction – they entered their findings into a computer to generate an electronic species map.
“It’s been a productive summer for us,” Czech says. “We’ve been given certain tasks to do and we’ve been turned loose to do them. As a first-year student, this is a great opportunity to do research in the field, to get into science-related work immediately. I will be able to apply what I’m learning here to my science classes.”
The students worked under the mentorship of Dr. Michelle Marko, an aquatic biologist, and Dr. Bryan Bishop, an entomologist, who were both involved in the development of the Long Lake property. Marko says this early research provides valuable baseline data about the ecotypes on the property, which will open up the research possibilities to other student groups. She looks forward to a variety of student groups using the building and property, including those from the sciences, environmental studies, art, languages and more. Long-term projects include developing interpretive trails, managing the invasive plant populations and a prairie restoration project.
“It’s really exciting to see this property developing,” Marko says. “At less than one hour away, Long Lake provides a terrific opportunity for students and faculty to learn more about the natural world.”
The classroom building, scheduled to open its doors in October, will accommodate about 25 students. Designed to be environmentally friendly, it faces the lake for cool breezes, rests in the forest for shade and has high ceilings and large windows for natural light. In addition to hosting retreats, art and writing workshops, and classroom discussions, the building will enable science students to bring in samples from the land and water for examination. A pontoon boat and dock will make water research even easier.
In early July, volunteers from Concordia assisted Department of Natural Resources professionals and Long Lake’s Lake Association members in reshaping and protecting the shoreline with natural plants. The newly landscaped area will serve as an example to the community what can be done naturally to prevent erosion, while maintaining a beautiful shoreline.
It’s another example of how the property can be used for learning.
"This is our own little slice of heaven that we will be able to use and develop as educational and research tools for the Concordia and local communities,” Marko says. “We have lake, wetland, prairie and forest communities that can serve as sites for student research projects, hands on learning, community service and sustainability. We hope the vision for the classroom and property continue to grow and enrich our lives at Concordia.”
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