by Sass Havilar

On Sunday August 8, a dozen alumni and family members (ages 5 to 65) traveled west by ferry from the eastern shore of Lake Michigan and disembarked at Beaver Island. There they met Associate Professor of Biology Binney Girdler and four "K" students for a few days of exploration, discovery, and study. After dinner in the Beaver Island Lodge that evening, Girdler described their ecological research on the island and prepped the "apprentices" for the next day's work.

Rain intervened, but didn't dampen anyone's spirit. After a quick rearrangement of schedule, the group toured (by van) the northern portion of the island and the Central Michigan Bio-Station, where the "K" students explained their individual research projects. The rain cleared and sun appeared, nature's invitation to take a dip in Lake Michigan, and the group enthusiastically accepted.

That evening alumni and family members were joined by the students, Girdler, and her family for dinner. Conversations included comparisons of "K" days, past and present, and much talk of study abroad and SIPs.

Next morning, the alumni got down to some hands-on science, dividing into teams to record the variety of plant species in a randomly selected plot and to count ratios of indigenous and invasive species. Lunch took place at the Beaver Island home of Barbara Lucas, daughter of the late Laurence Barrett, professor emeritus of English, administrator, and chief architect of the College's K-Plan. Other guests included Barbara's daughter Alison '09, Barbara's brother, Tim Barrett, and his wife Jodie Plumert '85.

The afternoon was more exploration, with a hike to see the subjects of Girdler's research: insect-eating pitcher plans and sundews. After the walking, recording, and the heat, the group was ready to return to the lodge for some rest. Final dinner was casual and fun, marked by many a toast to the intrepid dozen and their research hosts, with most enjoying a glass of Bell's beer (courtesy, indirectly, of Bell's Brewery founder Larry Bell, Class of 1980).

Day Three's morning provided time for a final walk through the woods, a patio breakfast, and a couple of hours to wander the street and browse through the shops before boarding the
"He's already planning his matriculation to 'K' as a member of the Class of 2019."
ferry. Max Thompson, aged 13, had the delight of steering the ferry on the return trip.

"He's already planning his matriculation to 'K' as a member of the Class of 2019," said his mother, Amy Thompson '91, "and is seriously considering biology (with Binney!) as a major."

Girdler enjoyed the alumni visit and found the species census assistance of great value. "Our combined crew completed Little Sand Bay in a morning, and it would have taken us at least a long day to do that," said Girdler. "They gave me and the students an afternoon off!"

The data has been entered, and after Girdler works up the analyses, she plans to send her new found field assistants a brief synopsis.

The 2010 Beaver Island Alumni Adventure included (l-r): Amy Thompson '91, Jody Timby Rhames '92, Max Rhames, Frank Rhames '92, Claire Rhames, Associate Professor of Biology Binney Girdler, Max Thompson, Bruce Bolin '68, Vance Kincaid '76, Janet McClelland Bolin '68, Lisa Presley, and Amy Courter '83.

View more photos online

Back to Front Page

Amy (Smith) Thompson, K'91 on September 15, 2010 at 10:21 pm
Great write-up Sass! Thanks for making the whole thing possible...
Bruce Bolin '68 on September 16, 2010 at 12:09 am
More photos of our fun Beaver Island excusion can be viewed at
Add Your Comment

Please give us your name (required) and class year if applicable

Email (required but not shared)

Please enter the letters and/or numbers appearing below