Each summer Calvin students apply and are hired for specific research positions that advance our research and restoration work. These students have proven to be invaluable to our work as researchers, hard workers, educators, and volunteer site leaders throughout the year.

2018 Summer Projects

Urban Habitat Restoration with Green Team High School Students

These three college students will help supervise and work alongside the Plaster Creek Stewards and Rogue River Watershed Summer Green Team, a program that employs high school students to gain experience learning how to implement and maintain green-infrastructure development projects. Responsibilities will include greenhouse and nursery management, off campus project installations, seed collecting, and planning and guiding the high school student activities. This position will afford opportunities for coordinating efforts and promote mutual understanding between high schoolers from urban Grand Rapids (Plaster Creek Green Team) and suburban and rural northern Kent County (Rogue River Watershed Green Team). Besides helping to educate high school students this work will also provide opportunities to cultivate cross-cultural relationships and practice their Spanish.

Ecological Restoration in the Plaster Creek Watershed

These two students will work closely with Ms. Deanna Geelhoed in the preparation and installation of a variety of restoration projects from small residential rain gardens to large-scale habitat restorations and bioretention basins. Additionally, these students will assist in maintaining areas that were restored in years past, and will become involved in all aspects of plant propagation from seed collecting to out-planting. This work will provide students with practical, hands-on opportunities to learn about low-impact development and green infrastructure best practices.

Experimental Approach to Restoring Native Habitats in Urban Landscapes

In this project, the student will work in Calvin’s greenhouses, tree nursery, and at sites on and off campus investigating the reintroduction of native plants and native habitats into urban areas. Part of this work will involve assessing the relative evapotranspiration success of different native plants used in urban restoration plantings. This student will also assist with other restoration projects done off campus by Plaster Creek Stewards, with particular focus on developing sampling protocol to monitor the success of these projects over time.

Geographic and Taxonomic Sourcing of Bacterial Contamination in Plaster Creek

E. coli levels in Plaster Creek consistently exceed state standards for total and partial body contact (some samples from 2014 revealed levels 50x higher than what is considered safe for partial body contact). Most of these samples were collected from the main channel of Plaster Creek, and this sampling shows large fluctuations over time. Therefore, it has been difficult to specify the primary source(s) of bacterial contamination. The goals of this project are:

  1. to understand the relative contributions of E. coli loading into Plaster Creek from 10 major tributaries and prioritize the five most egregious contributors;
  2. to identify primary taxonomic sources within the highest 5 sub-watersheds using molecular markers;
  3. to pinpoint E. coli loading locations in the highest 5 sub-watersheds using molecular markers and using scent-trained canines in sub-watersheds where human E. coli has been identified.

Students will also help to assemble, organize, and interpret the resulting dataset of E. coli concentrations (CFUs/100 ml), under both wet and dry conditions, from the main tributaries of Plaster Creek. An additional objective of this project will be to consolidate all known bacterial sampling data that has been done in Plaster Creek (from work done by MDEQ, WMEAC, Health Department, and Calvin University) into one cohesive data set. This standardized data set will be useful for understanding long term fluctuations and for identifying seasonal and weather-related patterns in E. coli abundance, as well as helping to identify the major entry points of bacteria into Plaster Creek.

Post-grad Interns

Interns assist with watershed restoration and native habitat restoration projects in/around the Plaster Creek Watershed. Their field work includes native plant propagation and greenhouse work, seed collection, planting, and other landscape and landscape maintenance responsibilities. Additional responsibilities may also include web-design, social media outreach, watershed research, and assisting with presentations, and volunteer work days.

Student Research Posters and Papers


Green Team-Urban Ecological Restoration

Aracely Eikenberry, Stephanie Praamsma, Dr. Gail Heffner, and Dr. David Warners, Calvin College
View poster

Stormwater Capture via Green Infrastructure in the Plaster Creek Watershed

Skyler Fish, Ben Johnson, Deanna Geelhoed, Dr. Dave Warners, Calvin College
View poster

Plant Performance in Curb Cut Rain Gardens

Max DeYoung, Gregory Manni, Dr. Dave Warners, Calvin College
View poster


Curb-Cut Rain Garden Research

Patrick Jonker, and Dr. Dave Warners, Calvin College
View poster

The Green Team and the Restoration of Plaster Creek

Leira Lew, Micah Warners, Dr. Gail Heffner, and Dr. David Warners, Calvin College
View poster

Runoff Volume Reduction from SubBasins in Plaster Creek Watershed, Kent County, MI

Professor Julie Wildschut, Engineering; Dena De Kryger, Biology
View poster

Mapping Mayapple Growth in Restored Forest

Jonathan Walt, Stephanie Praamsma, Tanner Vincent, Dr. Dave Warners, Calvin College
View poster


The Green Team and the Restoration of Plaster Creek

Deanna Geelhoed and Micah Warners, Calvin College
View poster

Installation of Rain Gardens in the Alger Heights Community

Wesley Dykstra, Dena De Kryger, Mike Ryskamp, and Dr. Dave Warners, Calvin College
View poster

Hydrologic Modeling of the Effects of Stormwater Runoff in Plaster Creek Watershed

Ryan DeGroot, Professor Julie Wildschut and Professor Robert Hoeksema, Calvin College
View poster


Assessing a Reconciliation Ecology Approach to Suburban Landscaping: Biodiversity on a College Campus

Christopher Bouma, Emily Huizenga, and David Warners, Calvin College
View poster