The Kalamazoo Nature Center works with local, national, and international partners to conduct scientific research that supports the restoration and conservation of native habitats and species. Our projects range from short-term actions that address critical conservation needs to multi-decade population studies. KNC’s research program aims to deepen our collective understanding of Michigan’s natural communities and provide information to guide the activities of land managers, policy makers, and others who care for nature.

Conducting Research at the Kalamazoo Nature Center

Researchers who are interested in conducting research at KNC should contact Holly Hooper at  for information about the application procedure. Researchers who are interested in collaborating with Kalamazoo Valley Bird Observatory should contact Rich Keith at .


Contact Us

Holly Hooper
Pronouns: she/her/hers
Biological Research Director

Rich Keith
Pronouns: he/him/his
KVBO Director

Kleinstuck Survey 2021

2021 Kleinstuck Preserve Bird Survey

KNC has surveyed Western Michigan University’s Kleinstuck Preserve daily during the spring migration since 1973. By doing the same survey method every day, we can track the movements of migrating birds as they make small and large pushes northward. The 2021 survey ran March 22 – May 25, 2021.

See the 2021 survey here.

Special acknowledgement and appreciation goes out to Giving Well Family Foundation and Stewards of Kleinstuck. KNC is grateful for the generous support and contributions of these local partners. The 2021 Kleinstuck Preserve bird survey would not have been possible without their support.

Mitchell’s Satyr Butterfly Propagation

Captive rearing is a critical conservation measure that can supplement and support declining populations of animals, such as the federally endangered Mitchell’s satyr butterfly (Neonympha mitchellii mitchellii). Only 10 Mitchell’s satyr butterfly populations remain of the 30 that previously existed across the northeastern United States, 9 of which are located in Michigan. The Kalamazoo Nature Center is home to one of just two Mitchell’s satyr propagation facilities in the country that is permitted to rear Mitchell’s satyr. Wild-caught butterflies are briefly held in our propagation facility to lay eggs, which metamorphose in captivity before augmenting dwindling populations. Additionally, the Kalamazoo Nature Center began a long-term study in 2020 that monitors temperature and humidity at multiple strata within occupied Mitchell’s satyr habitat. Data from this study will help to synchronize captive Mitchell’s satyr development with that of wild populations within our propagation facility, and has potential long-term applications considering that their globally rare, prairie fen habitat is highly vulnerable to human and environmental pressures.

MSB Field Research 2021
Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake

Population and Habitat Monitoring

KNC monitors populations of imperiled plant and animal species and their associated habitats across our 1,500 acres. A focal species of our monitoring efforts is the federally threatened eastern massasauga rattlesnake (Sistrurus catenatus). These snakes have been observed in KNC’s wetlands and adjacent upland areas. Massasaugas use both of these areas for different parts of their life history. Wetland habitats offer perfect sites for massasauga hibernacula, or hibernation areas. As they emerge from their hibernacula in the spring, they will search for a mate and eventually make their way to nearby upland areas to give birth. Finding massasaugas in KNC wetlands implies that a population lives and reproduces on site opposed to them visiting from other locations. Regular monitoring of this population tracks the species’ health, growth, and distribution, which allows KNC to prioritize restoration activities in vital patches of suitable habitat and increase connectivity between populated patches of suitable habitat. If you are lucky enough to spot a massasuaga while out on our trails, please contact Holly Hooper at  with the date, time, and location of your observation!

Kalamazoo Valley Bird Observatory

The Kalamazoo Valley Bird Observatory (KVBO) is a program of the Kalamazoo Nature Center that is over 30 years old! Collaborative research between KVBO and government agencies, universities, and non-governmental organizations allows individual birds to be tracked as they move throughout North America. Surveys, banding, and parasite sampling allows researchers at KVBO to examine how environmental changes, pests, and diseases impact the distribution and demography of bird species.

Fall Migratory Bird Banding

Banding birds allows researchers to track and monitor migration patterns and population fluctuations. Birds make ideal research subjects for looking at changes in the environment, such as climate change, because their biology and life history has been extensively studied. The banding process involves recording physical data about the bird, such as weight, wing length, age, and sex, and placing a small, lightweight band with a 9-digit code on the bird’s leg. If a banded bird is recaptured, researchers gain valuable knowledge about where it has traveled. The KVBO shares this data with many different banding programs and institutions, which allows individual birds to be tracked across state and international borders.

KNC’s bird banding efforts are part of the national Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship (MAPS) program coordinated by the Institute for Bird Populations.

Learn more >

Motus Wildlife Tracking System

The Kalamazoo Valley Bird Observatory works with bird observatories around the globe to gather data on bird migration routes using the Motus Wildlife Tracking System. Led by Bird Studies Canada, this system uses networked receiving “towers” to detect specialized radio tracking devices on wildlife from up to 15km away and shares these reports with researchers worldwide. A new 2021 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service grant will fund the installation of 59 new Motus receivers across 8 Midwestern states, Columbia, Costa Rica, and Mexico. KVBO staff will lead Michigan’s efforts in this partnership, coordinating the installation of up to six grant-funded receivers. Additionally, the KVBO team is also installing 4 privately-funded receivers on partner properties and 7 receivers on state lands this year. This expansion of the Michigan Motus network will dramatically increase researchers’ abilities to track bird migration across the state. See the power of the Motus system in action and find reports from KNC’s own receiver at:

Please note:  The Kalamazoo Nature Center is a private nature preserve.
Dogs, camping, drones, and firearms are not permitted. Bicycles and motorized vehicles are not permitted on the trails.

Plan your visit