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New MSU research center focusing on natural resources

In 2018, the Muck Soil Research Farm in Laingsburg, Michigan, which housed vegetable research for Michigan State University and closed in 2012, was being considered for sale.

Around the same time, Jen Owen, an associate professor in the MSU Department of Fisheries and Wildlife and the Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior Program, was looking for housing for her research field crew and learned of the property while meeting with Doug Buhler, MSU AgBioResearch director, and other leadership.

Owen took the roughly 13-mile drive to Laingsburg to check out the buildings and began to explore the rest of the property. Her mind began to race. While the land proved challenging for farming, Owen saw it as an ideal spot for natural resources and ecological restoration research.

“The expansive wetlands and surrounding habitat contain an abundance of plant and animal life,” Owen said. “More than that, it contained a unique opportunity for the MSU community to further both our natural resources research, academic programs and outreach efforts. When I came back to campus, I asked for the whole property.”

Some may view the overgrown wetlands, stocked with invasive plant species, as something not worth the investment. Owen sees it differently. She said this location presents an opportunity to conduct long-term ecological wetland restoration research and share knowledge with many stakeholders.

In November 2018, MSU AgBioResearch leaders announced the opening of the Corey Marsh Ecological Research Center (CMERC).

“Some really important work was done at the Muck Soil Research Farm,” Buhler said. “But as the facilities were aging and flooding was becoming more prominent, which made farming there much more difficult, we saw an opportunity to save some money by continuing that work elsewhere.”

Owen, who serves as the center’s coordinator, seeks to position CMERC as an invaluable training opportunity for students to participate in research close to campus, as well as a conduit to community engagement.

Read more at CANR and MSU Today.