The Most Viewed Stories of 2016 – A Year End Review

In March of this year, we launched Nature Change to offer educational short videos and photo-essays on how people are responding to on-going changes in our region’s forests, fields, wetlands, lakes and streams as well as the creatures that inhabit these places. We’ve already published more than 40 stories, including 30 videos enjoyed by over 10,000 visitors. This magazine is a cooperative effort involving six nonprofit organizations and three small foundations – all strongly committed to preserving, restoring, and wisely managing the region’s extraordinary natural resources. slide1a

For 2016, Nature Change’s Writers and Producers were:

  • Thomas Bailey
  • David D. Dempsey
  • Dr. Erwin (Duke) Elsner
  • Stephen Handler
  • Christopher Hoving
  • Anne-Marie Oomen
  • Miriam Owsley
  • Derek Shiels
  • Joe VanderMeulen
  • Jacob Wheeler


The stories published here as photo-essays and video-essays (or mini-documentaries) have taken a hard look at some very difficult challenges facing resource managers and anyone concerned about the natural beauty of our region. But most of the stories give us hope and show us ways that professionals and volunteers are working together to adapt and manage the changes brought about by development, invasive species and climate change.

Volunteer Tree Planters_2Looking back, you will also find commentary by some of our region’s best known authors like Jerry Dennis, Michael Delp, Stephanie Mills, and Anne-Marie Oomen. You will also meet naturalists, resource experts, and researchers in these stories, including: Bill Scharf, Tom Bailey, Jim Nugent, Sarah U’Ren,  Kim Balke, Kama Ross, Liana May, Duke Elsner, Elliot Nelson, and Dave Dempsey. From the invasion of a dangerous new fruit fly (i.e., the spotted-wind drosophila) to the creation of birding trails to diversify the local economy, these stories contribute to community discussions about the future of nature.

One of the first stories published on Nature Change celebrated the work of volunteer conservationists organized by the Grand Traverse Conservation District (GTCD). This is a story about just one of many work bees involving dozens of volunteers helping to restore habitat along the Boardman River near the site of the old Brown Bridge Dam. These volunteer conservationists have given contributions that will last.


Another of the very first stories published came from the Little Traverse Conservancy (LTC). This video essay shows how a group of dedicated volunteers are working with professional staff members to enhance the habitat for the American Kestrel – a small hawk in need of special attention.

The Conservation Resource Alliance (CRA) was at the heart of another very popular story about habitat restoration and natural resource protection. This video essay shows us how long-lost Bowen’s Creek in the Arcadia Marsh was re-habilitated as a high-quality trout stream thanks to cooperative efforts involving the CRA, the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy and others.

Burning Off Garlic Mustard SeedlingsSarah_URen_cropped






The Watershed Center Grand Traverse Bay gave us one of the most popular stories of the year – highlighting the system of rain gardens in Sutton’s Bay. Without a doubt, rain gardens and other green infrastructure encouraged and supported by the Watershed Center is helping to keep the bay clean even as the frequency of severe storms increase across our region.

#5 – The fifth most viewed story to appear in Nature Change this year was brought to us by the Leelanau Conservancy and the Northwest Michigan Invasive Species Network. Once again, volunteer conservationists played the hero’s role in this short video essay about the battle with an aggressive invader, garlic mustard. The fight to protect the special preserves of Leelanau County goes on.


#4 – The fourth most viewed story published by Nature Change in 2016 was also one of our first, Forest Blow Down on Alligator Hill – Which Path to Recovery? In this video, we took a hard look at the challenges presented by a massive storm and forest blow down in the Glen Arbor area that occurred in August 2015.

Leslie_Littlefield#3 – The story titled, A New Tick Arrives in Northern Michigan was the third most viewed story for 2016. In this video, we hear from three experts: veterinarian, Dr. Leslie Littlefield; Dr. Bill Scharf, a specialist in bird parasites; and small mammal zoologist and rodent specialist, Dr. Philip Myers. The spread of the ticks that carry Lyme disease and the arrival of other ticks from southern regions raises many questions about how our community can and should respond.

#2Discovering Lake Trout Secrets in the Deeps of Elk Lake is one of the most recent video essays published and already the second most viewed for 2016. This surprising story suggests that there are protected natural habitats providing refuge for rare and endangered creatures of all types. This video essay also gives us hope for restoring self-sustaining populations of wild lake trout in Lake Michigan along with the return of some long-missing genetic diversity.




#1 – For 2016, the most viewed story on Nature Change concerns the rapid and dramatic changes occurring in Lake Michigan’s ecosystem. Quaggas! Lake Michigan’s Ecosystem Disruptors shows us how nutrient cycling in Lake Michigan has been changed by the rapid and extensive spread of quagga mussels, a voracious invasive species. We are grateful to Dr. Harvey Bootsma of the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee for sharing his important research with us.

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We are looking forward to publishing many more engaging, challenging and educational stories in the coming year. Already several stories are in development, including stories on the challenges facing organic farmers, new techniques in forest management, special efforts to improve stream ecology, and a team of deep-water diving volunteer conservationists.

Please let us know about your ideas for story development. What would you like to learn about the work of biologists, engineers, botanists or climatologists? What would you like to learn from naturalists, poets and writers? Are there topics you would like us to investigate? Or maybe you would like to submit a photo-essay or video essay for possible publication?

Let’s get started!

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