By Sean Devlin, ’15
Northland College forestry student Tim Koski is on his way to making the campus Bay City Creek ravine look like it should.
Since March, Koski has been working on his senior project identifying and removing invasive species that pose a threat to the native plants in the ravine. The Renewable Energy Fund awarded Koski $12,650 for the project and the Northland College Student Association assisted with the contribution of $500. The funding covers two summers worth of work.
“Tim is a dreamer and doer,” said Assistant Professor of Natural Resources Sarah Johnson. “Tim applies creativity, ingenuity and a genuine passion for sustainability initiatives, all while staying well-grounded.
This first summer, Koski has been close to the ground clearing invasive species — mostly buckthorn — in preparation to plant native species next summer.
“The trees are not in good shape, aesthetically or biologically,” said Koski. “The effects will not be noticed in the next year or even in five years. But 10 to 20 years from now, native trees will fill the space I have made for them.”
Koski initiated this project to fight invasive plants, including applying some of his own techniques like “brush mattressing” and “wattles,” using woody debris piles perpendicular to the slope of the Earth so when it rains the water slows causing sediments to build and leave more organic materials to seep into the soil and reducing sediment water runoff into the Bay City Creek.
Koski is also interested in educating the public about the environment they live in. “Allowing visitors and students to understand this landscape is crucial,” Koski said. “One of the reasons we have so much environmental degradation is because people don’t understand —which leads them to not care.”
The ravine is more than just pretty a part of campus, it is a natural classroom for the college, Koski said.
In addition to removal and planting, Koski plans to create a more “edible landscape by emphasizing fruit and nut producing trees and shrubs of the Great Lakes region.”
“Tim is part old-school natural historian and thinker and part modern-day college student with a lot of motivation to make a difference in the world, starting right here in Northland College’s ravine,” Johnson said.
Koski distributed a survey to students asking them if they would support a project like his in the ravine.
Students were asked if they felt as though the project would benefit the Northland community and the surrounding area.
Some seventy students responded, mostly with positive comments. Koski sees this as a good sign that he is on the right track and that the Northland community will continue the work.
Koski is already looking to turn this project into a work-study position after he finishes next summer.
“After I’m gone I trust that people will be committed working on this project,” he said. “Future students will have to care and I know those students will be at Northland.”