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A Sense of Place: The Past, Present, and Future of Southwest Michigan’s Characteristic Natural Communities

Tyler will discuss the defining features of southwest Michigan's natural landscape, as well as how this landscape influenced and was influenced by European settlement. Historically, the vegetation of southwest Michigan was a mosaic of prairies, savannas, and wetlands integrated within a matrix of more densely wooded forests. 10,000 years of post-glacial vegetative development, combined with Native American land management practices such as fire, created the landscape that European settlers encountered in the 1800s. The distribution of timber and fertile agricultural soil in that landscape determined where that settlement occurred. Today, the sparse remnants of the historical landscape that remain are irrevocably shaped by the way settlers and their descendants (e.g., you and I) utilized those resources and managed that landscape with widespread logging, tillage, grazing, urban development, and fire-suppression.  


Tyler Bassett has a deep love of the plants and plant communities of southwest Michigan. He earned a B.S. in Biology from Western Michigan University in 2000, and a PhD in Ecology from Michigan State University in 2017. In between, he cultivated his skills as a botanist and ecologist, informing conservation and management of natural habitats through work with the Kalamazoo Nature Center, Michigan Natural Features Inventory, and ecological restoration firm, Native Connections. He is currently a research associate at Michigan State University, studying the conservation and restoration of native plant species, and how they support the functioning of ecosystems and the services they provide to humans.