The Ecosystem Preserve & Native Gardens and Flat Iron Lake Nature Preserve are living classrooms for Calvin faculty to be inspired to teach creatively and for students to learn in an interdisciplinary way. They also provide Calvin students with practical experience conducting scientific field research; this in turn greatly enhances our knowledge of the ecology and improves our management of the land. Teaching and research is strongly encouraged in the preserves.

Public use policies

While exploring the preserves, please be mindful of our policies:

  • Guests must stay on trails and out of water bodies.
  • Trails are for hikers only. No running, biking, cross-country skiing or motorized vehicles.
  • Dogs are not welcome-leashed, carried, or otherwise.
  • The removal, disturbance or introduction of any plant, animal, or mineral is prohibited.
  • Avoid interfering with research projects and educational programs.
  • Smoking, consuming alcoholic beverages, and littering in the preserve are prohibited.

Teaching in the Ecosystem Preserve

Faculty and teaching staff who would like to visit the Ecosystem Preserve & Native Gardens with his/her students and will be following the public use policies above are required to self-register their visit at least 2 business days in advance. You may proceed with your visit without any approval - your registration is for our records, and in case we need to inform you of any considerations regarding your visit.

Self-register a Visit

Research in the preserves

Faculty and teaching staff whose work requires exceptions to any of the above public use policies are required to follow the protocols below and submit an application.

Researcher protocols

In addition to filing a research application, researchers are responsible for obtaining any and all appropriate university, state or federal permits required for their research.

Researchers should use proper personal safety equipment when handling dangerous tools or chemicals. Research equipment (i.e. boots, waders, watercraft, water sampling equipment, etc.) that has been used outside of the Ecosystem Preserve & Native Gardens must be properly cleaned before being introduced into the preserve.

  • Ideally, all research equipment should be cleaned at the location of last use before being moved to a new location. If this is not possible, equipment should be cleaned in the Field Closet on the south side of the Bunker Interpretive Center BEFORE being introduced to the preserve’s natural areas.
  • To properly clean equipment, remove all debris (soil, mud, plant particles, etc.) and disinfect equipment with a 10% bleach solution and allow to completely dry before using in the preserve.
  • Research equipment borrowed from the preserve must not leave the preserve without written consent from the Preserve Director.

Before conducting research, researchers are expected to know which taxa are locally rare and protected and avoid collection of species that are endangered (E), threatened (T) or probably extirpated (X) in the state of Michigan. Refer to Michigan Natural Features Inventory for more information.

  • Researchers are asked to take proper precautions to minimize damage to rare species, the associated soil and vegetation during field work.
  • Researchers should use catch and release sampling as much as possible and must be mindful of suitable weather conditions and time of confinement to minimize animal discomfort/fatality when trapping.
  • Whenever feasible, photography (instead of collection) should be used to document vertebrate and invertebrate characteristics.
  • Researchers are asked to collect only a single sample when obtaining scientific voucher specimens.
  • Researchers may not collect from plant populations with fewer than 10 plants at the site (within a 30 meter radius) and should avoid collecting entire plants (including root systems) when plant leaves or shoots are sufficient for identification.

Researchers are expected to remove all flags, marking tape, and research equipment at the end of their data collection period.

To conduct research

Calvin faculty and students interested in conducting research at one of our preserves must first submit an application at least 5 business days prior to your proposed start date.

Upon completion of a research project, the following must be submitted to the Preserve Director:

  • Summary of research
  • Raw data in Excel (each spreadsheet must be labeled with project title, location of research, research dates, and researchers' names)
  • Final reports or publications in Word/PowerPoint
  • Other items including photos, interview transcripts, maps, drawings, etc.