Dr. Gerald R. Smith and Dr. Catherine Badgley marked the summer solstice this year by preserving 110 acres in partnership with Legacy Land Conservancy. The land, located in Sylvan Township, includes fen, grassland and a rare tamarack swamp and is a high priority parcel for the protection of the Huron River Watershed.
Gerald Smith and Catherine Badgley bought the property in 1990. Both had lived in the area for some time, and they were seeking a larger piece of land which offered a beautiful and diverse natural area. Badgley and Smith initially acquired 120 acres and now live in a timber frame home on the edge of the esker, overlooking the fields and the wetlands.
As naturalists and scientists, Badgley and Smith have been very active on their land, conducting experiments and observing birds and wildlife. They have documented over 80 species of birds and numerous species of mammals, reptiles, amphibians and fish. They have been photographing their land in all seasons to document ecological changes and have devoted numerous hours to eradicating invasive species, such as autumn olive and thistle.
As Professors at the University of Michigan, Drs. Badgley and Smith have shared their land with their students. Dr. Catherine Badgley is an Assistant Professor of the Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology and of the Residential College. She has taught classes on agriculture and has invited classes to visit to see how she and Dr. Smith have been working with their land. Dr. Gerald Smith is a Professor Emeritus of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and of Geological Sciences as well as a former Director of the Museum of Zoology. Both Badgley and Smith wish to continue to invite students and others to their land for educational endeavors and for the enjoyment of the land’s natural beauty and diversity.
Badgley and Smith have raised many animals on the land over the years, including chickens, geese, tumbling pigeons, bees, dogs, cats, a dairy cow, Daisy, and many horses. For a time, Badgley and Smith used the horses to plow areas for their home gardens and to cut hay. Today, they still produce a good portion of their own food with eggs from the chickens and produce from their garden and hoop house.