By MARSHALL LEE WEIMER
Capital News Service
LANSING — Have any old photos of sand dunes collecting dust?
A new citizen science project has popped up in Michigan, and the managers are calling on you to help out by dusting them off.
The idea is to help researchers study the changes of sand dunes along Lake Michigan. The project is led by the Michigan Environmental Council, West Michigan Environmental Action Council and Michigan State University.
Michigan’s sand dunes are iconic features of the state. Conserving them has long been a priority of state and federal governments and of residents.
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is perhaps the best-known, but many other state and federally protected areas contain these precious and rare landscapes.
Tom Zimnicki, the agricultural policy director at the Michigan Environmental Council, said the first objective is to compare pictures of the same location at different times to look for changes. It’s the same method used when researchers study how glaciers retreat.
Comparing old photos with more recent ones allows the research team to better understand how sand dunes move throughout time, Zimnicki said. That will give them better insight into how dunes respond to environmental changes and what causes them to change.
The team wants to establish a large database from which sand dune changes can be more easily understood. MSU will use the photos for mapping data and geographical analysis.
The coalition also plans to hold a symposium in the fall to discuss its findings.
The research group is looking for anyone with photographs of Lake Michigan sand dunes that are at least 25 years old.
If you or anyone you know has such photographs, you can submit them at https://www.environmentalcouncil.org/historic-dune-photos
If possible, pinpoint the exact location on a map. You could win a prize at the end of the data collection.
For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 517-999-0411.
Marshall Lee Weimer is a reporter for Great Lakes Echo