Coastal Dunes Across the Globe
We tend to think there’s nothing like our Lake Michigan coastal dunes. Not so. Coastal dunes are found throughout the world, providing a wide variety of dune forms, shapes and ecosystems.
This summer, faculty and students from the Departments of Geologic and Environmental Sciences and Mathematics at Hope College, will be examining coastal dunes in the United Kingdom, including the Sefton coast dunes near Liverpool, England, and coastal dune complexes in North Wales. Two of the faculty members involved, Brian Yurk, mathematician, and Suzanne DeVries-Zimmerman, geologist, have connections to the Land Conservancy of West Michigan. Brian’s ongoing study on the federally-threatened Pitcher’s Thistle (Cirsium pitcheri) – takes place in part on our own Flower Creek Dunes Nature Preserve. Suzanne is a member of the Land Conservancy’s Board of Directors, a regular stewardship volunteer on our nature preserves, and our 2016 Volunteer of the Year.
Brian and Suzanne will join colleagues from Hope College and the Geography and Environmental Sciences Department at Liverpool Hope University in the UK to initiate collaborative coastal dune research projects between the two institutions. Liverpool Hope University has been very active in researching and managing coastal dunes in the UK and the Geography Department hosts the Sand Dune and Shingle Network. This joint research venture was launched after a visit in September 2015 by Ed Hansen (Hope College) and Brian Yurk to Liverpool Hope.
Coastal dunes are not a geologic feature unique to the Great Lakes. However, our coastal dunes constitute the largest collection of freshwater dunes in the world. Making connections between UK and Lake Michigan coastal dune science is how science broadens its “knowledge footprint,” and how the geological sciences at Hope College and in the UK help us better understand and manage dunes here along Lake Michigan.
Want to know more? Here’s a terrific short booklet on coastal dunes; Borne of the Wind: An Introduction to the Ecology of Michigan Sand Dunes.
The homepage for the Sand Dune and Shingle Network can be found here.
Want a firsthand, toes in the sand experience one of the tallest coastal in Muskegon County? Don’t worry. There are stairs to the observation deck at the top! Join us for a hike at the Flower Creek Dunes Nature Preserve on May 17, 6:30 pm.