In Nature’s Service
A bat sanctuary at a silicone plant? This is now a reality in Adrian, Michigan. The Wacker Chemical Corporation there is set to become the new home for the nocturnal flyers. Ten newly built bat enclosures are now awaiting their guests. Each one can house up to 600 of the animals, whose population is threatened by the deadly White Nose Syndrome.
Hugh Flack (left), Bryan Alexander and Sharon Nicholson are dedicated members of the Wildlife Habitat Team that looks after the flora and fauna on the site in Adrian.
It’s the latest project to be run by the Wildlife Habitat Team, that has looked after the plants and animals on the site's 240 acres since 1999. Around 30 employees volunteer every year, planting gardens, observing insects or building nest boxes.
Technical Service Manager Lucy Oldfield was one of the very first to volunteer. She implemented the program that supports the indigenous eastern bluebird population. “Sparrows and starlings compete with the bluebirds for food and nesting sites,” explains Oldfield. “Sparrows behave extremely aggressively and even kill the bluebird chicks.” The wildlife team has built 25 nesting houses for the bluebirds.
From April to September around a dozen volunteers check the boxes, remove any unwanted intruders and clear out abandoned nests. The bird enthusiasts recorded a total of 887 bluebird chicks over the last 14 years with the data being reported to the ornithological institute at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York state. Sharon Nicholson, a technical employee at WACKER who lives near the site is thrilled with the success of the project: “Ten years ago you hardly saw a single bluebird, now they’re everywhere.” In the meantime Nicholson’s enthusiasm has also rubbed off on her family: Her 14- and 16-year-old sons look after two nesting houses in their own garden. “This year was the first time for a family of birds to breed in our garden,” she says, “that was really exciting for the boys.”
Professor Jim Martin (left), Jill Lindeman and Chris Smith work with the Insect Team at the site in Adrian.
Other employees plant gardens with flowers like butterflybush, black-eyed susans and beebalm, which attract humming birds and butterflies such as the Giant Swallowtail and Monarch. There is also a group that observes insects in cooperation with the local college. Another team maintains the site’s 2.4 kilometer long nature trail, set in an idyllic location running along the river Raisin complete with information boards along the way. Many WACKER employees take advantage of the trail to go for a walk or run during their lunch break. As does Bryan Alexander. The environmental manager’s main job is taking care of the nature project, for instance recertifying the “Wildlife at Work” certificate which remains valid for three years and is issued by the Wildlife Habitat Council. WACKER Adrian was awarded the certificate for the first time in 2000.
The wildlife initiative was born out of the desire to show that chemistry and ecology can go together. At its open days WACKER presents the initiative to the public. The last event was held on October 4 this year when the Adrian site celebrated its 50th anniversary. The bat project also proved a big attraction.