One of the goals of Western Michigan University's Natural Areas Program is to promote and provide opportunities for research. WMU's nature preserves are used by students and faculty for various research projects. Some projects include:
- Assessing the water quality of Asylum Lake.
- Purple loosestrife monitoring.
- Entomology study on switchgrass.
- Influence of road salt on water quality.
Over the past two years, the Asylum Lake Policy and Management Council has contracted Wildtype Native Plant Nursery to remove invasive shrubs from high-quality wetland areas in Asylum Lake Preserve. Over the last winter, the brush piles that were created from this exotic plant material were burned under permit from the Kalamazoo fire marshal. The work took a full week and more than 40 brush piles were reduced to ash. The crew worked hard to clear the lake shore of Buckthorn, Honeysuckle and Privit among others. The results this spring are noticeable with better views of the lake and growth of native species such as milkweed and sedges. Wild type has been contracted again to continue work in other high-quality habitats in the preserve.
The Natural Areas Program recently took on a research project as well. Our research includes brewing compost tea and monitoring the effects on soil quality and grass regeneration. Compost tea is an organic microbial solution that acts as a fertilizer for lawns by increasing beneficial microorganisms in the soil, producing plant growth hormones and fixing nitrogen.; Eventually, we hope to replace synthetic fertilizers used on campus with compost tea.
The Natural Areas Program utilizes campus resources whenever possible. In recent years, we have begun growing native vegetation in WMU's Finch Greenhouse. Seed is often collected on WMU property, mostly at the Parkview Campus, which is maintained as a natural landscape with a variety of prairie plants present. The Natural Areas Program plants all of the native vegetation grown in the greenhouse at WMU natural areas with the help of volunteers. We usually grow around 5,000 native plants each year.