Our People

Doug Pearsall, Ph.D.

Senior Conservation Scientist, Michigan

Lansing, MI

Doug Pearsall headshot.

Doug Pearsall Doug Pearsall headshot. © Laura Henschke

Areas of Expertise

Biodiversity, Coastal Wetlands, Conservation Planning, Forest Ecology, Great Lakes

Resources

Media Contact

Ryan Hermes
ph. (517) 999-7745
Email:

Biography

Doug joined The Nature Conservancy in 1995. As a Senior Conservation Scientist, Doug manages the science team for TNC in Michigan and coordinates research and monitoring projects in support of conservation strategies for Michigan and the Great Lakes. He is a co-leader of the Saginaw Bay Monitoring Consortium, developing and initiating a coordinated water quality monitoring approach for Saginaw Bay and its tributaries. He is a trained Conservation Coach and serves on the core team of the North American Regional Network of the Global Conservation Coaches Network, an international organization applying, promoting, and advancing the Conservation Standards. 

Doug co-led the development of biodiversity conservation strategies for Lake Michigan and Lake Erie and contributed to similar strategies for each of the other Great Lakes. He also managed the development of the Coastal Wetland issue for the Blue Accounting initiative—working closely with the Great Lakes Coastal Assembly—developing metrics and progress dashboards to support more effective conservation of coastal wetlands. Doug earned a Ph.D. and M.S. degree in Natural Resource Management from the University of Michigan, and a B.S. in Environmental and Forest Biology from the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry. Outside of work, he enjoys hiking and puzzles.

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July 2022

North Point Peninsula: Connecting with Great Lakes History, Culture, and Ecology

Nestled along the shore of Lake Huron in northeast Michigan is an area bursting with biodiversity. From the elusive dwarf lake iris to the federally listed endangered Hine’s emerald dragonfly, the North Point Peninsula is a haven for a variety of species and habitats. 

 

The Connection

As a scientist and conservation planner with The Nature Conservancy (TNC), I have long known of the importance of the Northern Lake Huron shoreline for birds, rocky and sandy beaches, and rare, highly diverse ecosystems such as Alvars, dunes, and coastal fens and the rare species that inhabit them.

Around 20 years ago, when I first learned that a large property had come up for sale on the tip of North Point, I had to check the map to locate that peninsula as it was new to me. I soon visited the site with colleagues and was struck by its surprisingly remote feel, along with the quality of the shoreline and adjacent wetlands and boreal forest. The point had not been well surveyed for rare species, but a few were known and we confirmed their existence, including dwarf lake iris and Pitcher’s thistle, both endemic to the Great Lakes region.

Two TNC staff members walk through a field of tall grass at North Point.
Trip to North Point TNC Staff visit the North Point Peninsula to learn about the ecological health of the area. © Rebecca Hagerman/TNC

History of the North Point Peninsula

North Point extends about five miles into Lake Huron from just east of Alpena, Michigan. Its limestone bedrock core is overlain by sands deposited by Lake Huron as the land surface rebounded from the weight of the glaciers over thousands of years and undulating old beach ridges are still visible on the forest floor.

Map of the North Point Peninsula that notes local preserves, forests, shipwrecks and trails.
Map of North Point Map of the North Point Peninsula that details local lands.

Thousands of years before Lake Huron existed as we know it, when waters were at their lowest point in the Great Lakes basin, a land bridge extended from North Point southeastward to what is now Amberley, Ontario. Herds of caribou migrated along this ridge, and the people living here roughly 9,500 years ago exploited that physiography by constructing drive lanes and hunting blinds to funnel the animals for easier harvest.

This close relationship between people and the Great Lakes coast continues to this day, though the caribou have largely vanished from the basin; the Great Lakes and its tributaries sustained people with clean water, fish, and transportation routes, among many other benefits for millennia.

The shallow, rocky coast that was formerly part of the Alpena-Amberley Ridge became a particularly treacherous area for ships navigating Lake Huron, and over 100 shipwrecks are known within the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, the largest such sanctuary in US Great Lakes Waters.

The wooden frame of a shipwreck rests on the shore. The calm waters of Lake Huron in the background.
Shipwreck at North Point Nearly 200 of Great Lakes shipwrecks are within “Shipwreck Alley”—a treacherous section of Lake Huron. © Rebecca Hagerman/TNC

Ecology and Importance of the Area

Boreal Forests cover much of North Point and extend almost 15 miles northward along the coast, representing one of the southernmost, large chunks of boreal forest in Michigan. Hundreds of acres of rich conifer swamp occur in low-lying areas and swales between the ridges. On the northern shore of the peninsula lies a coastal fen of over 200 acres, as well as Great Lakes marsh that in low-water years extends across portions of Misery Bay to nearby Crooked Island, providing critical habitat for fish and water birds.

In addition to the rare plants, the USFWS has also identified habitat for the Federally Endangered Hine’s emerald dragonfly, one of a handful of places it is known to persist. Finally, peninsulas such as North Point are very important for migrating birds seeking food and rest after crossing the Great Lakes and for concentrations of Monarch Butterflies that form surreal, tremulous clouds of orange and black.

A Hine’s emerald dragonfly rests on a branch.
Hine’s Emerald Dragonfly The Hine’s emerald dragonfly is an endangered species that can only be found in Illinois, Missouri, Ontario, Wisconsin and Michigan. The species has been impacted by loss of habitat, particularly the loss of wetlands. © Emily Mills/TNC

Partnering to Protect North Point

TNC recognized the importance of the shoreline between Alpena and Mackinaw City more than 20 years ago. When the large parcel at the tip of North Point came up for sale in the early 2000s, TNC began to build relationships and negotiate for protection of that property. Unfortunately, we did not reach an agreement with the landowner, though we remain interested in protecting the property.

Subsequently, the adjacent landowner that owned the even larger, neighboring property knew of our interests and when they sought to sell their land we worked with the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary (TBNMS) and several generous donors to negotiate a sale. Huron Pines—a local land trust—has management responsibility, with assistance from the Friends of TBNMS, and we will eventually transfer the property to Huron Pines.

These collective efforts have ensured conservation of some of the peninsula and surrounding waters of North Point, and I look forward to additional conservation to benefit future generations.

Sullivan-Stack, J., Aburto-Oropeza, O., Brooks, C. M., Cabral, R. B., Caselle, J. E., Chan, F., Duffy, J. E., Dunn, D. C., Friedlander, A. M., Fulton-Bennett, H. K., Gaines, S. D., Gerber, L. R., Hines, E., Leslie, H. M., Lester, S. E., MacCarthy, J. M. C., Maxwell, S. M., Mayorga, J., McCauley, D., … Pearsall, D.R., ... Grorud-Colvert, K. (2022). A Scientific Synthesis of Marine Protected Areas in the United States: Status and Recommendations. Frontiers in Marine Science, 9(May), 1–23. https://doi.org/10.3389/fmars.2022.849927

Jurjonas, M., May, C. A., Cardinale, B. J., Pearsall, D., & Doran, P. (2022). A Synthesis of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative According to the Open Standards for the Practice of Conservation. Journal of Great Lakes Research, In press (January). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jglr.2022.01.008

Liberati, M., Sowa, S., May, C., Doran, P., Kyriakakis, S., Pearsall, D. (2022). Planning for people and nature: Identifying quality-of-life indicators to inform conservation programs for agricultural soil health, Great Lakes coastal wetlands, and urban green infrastructure. Conservation Science and Practice. In review (February).

Jurjonas, M., May, C., Cardinale, B., Kyriakakis, S., Pearsall, D., and Doran, P. (2021). The Perceived Ecological and Human Wellbeing Benefits of Restoration. People and Nature. In review (December).

Weinstein, C. B., Bourgeau-Chavez, L. L., Martin, S. L., Currie, W. S., Grantham, K., Hamlin, Q. F., Hyndman, D. W., Kowalski, K. P., Martina, J. P., & Pearsall, D. (2021). Enhancing Great Lakes coastal ecosystems research by initiating engagement between scientists and decision-makers. Journal of Great Lakes Research, 47(4), 1235–1240. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jglr.2021.04.018

Lishawa, S. C., Dunton, E. M., Pearsall, D. R., Monks, A. M., Himmler, K. B., Carson, B. D., Loges, B., & Albert, D. A. (2020). Wetland Waterbird Food Resources Increased by Harvesting Invasive Cattails. The Journal of Wildlife Management, 1–12. https://doi.org/10.1002/jwmg.21912

Barton, E. M., Pearsall, D. R., & Currie, W. S. (2020). Human appropriated net primary productivity as a metric for land use planning: a case study in the US Great Lakes region. Landscape Ecology, 35(6), 1323–1339. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10980-020-01017-5

Ricart, R.D., Pearsall, D.R., & Curtis, P.S. (2019). Multi-decadal shifts in forest plant diversity and community composition across glacial landforms in northern lower Michigan, USA. Canadian Journal of Forest Research, 135(November 2019), 126–135. https://doi.org/10.1139/cjfr-2019-0138

Pearsall, D.R. 2019. Review of The Death and Life of the Great Lakes, by Dan Egan. Michigan Historical Review. 45(1):129-131, Spring 2019. https://www-jstor-org.proxy.lib.umich.edu/stable/10.5342/michhistrevi.45.1.0129?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

Pearsall, D.R. 2017. Review of Saving Arcadia: A Story of Conservation and Community in the Great Lakes, by Heather Shumaker. Michigan Historical Review. 43(2):104-105, Fall 2017. http://www.jstor.org.proxy.lib.umich.edu/stable/10.5342/michhistrevi.43.2.0104

Allan, J.D., N.F. Manning, S.D.P. Smith, C.E. Dickinson, C.A. Joseph, and D.R. Pearsall. 2017. Ecosystem services of Lake Erie: Spatial distribution and concordance of multiple services. J. Great Lakes Res. (2017) http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jglr.2017.06.001

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Shoppers and vendors in view.","articleDate":"Apr 29, 2019","articleAuthor":null,"contentTypeTag":"Project Overview","geoLocationTag":["Michigan","United States"],"topicTag":["urban conservation","cities","conservation work","partners","stormwater","green infrastructure"],"placesWeProtectTag":[],"businesstags":["Michigan","United States"],"pageImage":{"small":"https://natureconservancy-h.assetsadobe.com/is/image/content/dam/tnc/nature/en/photos/24.EasternMarket_dlp.jpg?crop=222%2C0%2C3556%2C2667&wid=300&hei=225&scl=11.853333333333333","default":"https://natureconservancy-h.assetsadobe.com/is/image/content/dam/tnc/nature/en/photos/24.EasternMarket_dlp.jpg?crop=222%2C0%2C3556%2C2667&wid=300&hei=225&scl=11.853333333333333","medium2x":"https://natureconservancy-h.assetsadobe.com/is/image/content/dam/tnc/nature/en/photos/24.EasternMarket_dlp.jpg?crop=222%2C0%2C3556%2C2667&wid=800&hei=600&scl=4.445","large":"https://natureconservancy-h.assetsadobe.com/is/image/content/dam/tnc/nature/en/photos/24.EasternMarket_dlp.jpg?crop=222%2C0%2C3556%2C2667&wid=800&hei=600&scl=4.445","small2x":"https://natureconservancy-h.assetsadobe.com/is/image/content/dam/tnc/nature/en/photos/24.EasternMarket_dlp.jpg?crop=222%2C0%2C3556%2C2667&wid=600&hei=450&scl=5.926666666666667","medium":"https://natureconservancy-h.assetsadobe.com/is/image/content/dam/tnc/nature/en/photos/24.EasternMarket_dlp.jpg?crop=222%2C0%2C3556%2C2667&wid=800&hei=600&scl=4.445","large2x":"https://natureconservancy-h.assetsadobe.com/is/image/content/dam/tnc/nature/en/photos/24.EasternMarket_dlp.jpg?crop=222%2C0%2C3556%2C2667&wid=1600&hei=1200&scl=2.2225"}},{"title":"Caring For Lake Herring","description":"Lake herring, a small native fish of the Great Lakes, play a big role in the food web.","link":"https://www.nature.org/en-us/about-us/where-we-work/united-states/michigan/stories-in-michigan/caring-for-lake-herring/","target":"_self","desktopImageCrop":"center-middle","mobileImageCrop":"center-middle","pageImageAlt":"Underwater view of silver fish swimming upstream.","articleDate":"Aug 20, 2018","articleAuthor":null,"contentTypeTag":"Feature","geoLocationTag":["Michigan","United States"],"topicTag":["sustainable fisheries","fisheries","conservation work","fish","animals","Species"],"placesWeProtectTag":["Great Lakes","Landscapes"],"businesstags":["Michigan","United States"],"pageImage":{"small":"https://natureconservancy-h.assetsadobe.com/is/image/content/dam/tnc/nature/en/photos/Lake-Herring.jpg?crop=324%2C0%2C2396%2C1797&wid=300&hei=225&scl=7.986666666666666","default":"https://natureconservancy-h.assetsadobe.com/is/image/content/dam/tnc/nature/en/photos/Lake-Herring.jpg?crop=324%2C0%2C2396%2C1797&wid=300&hei=225&scl=7.986666666666666","medium2x":"https://natureconservancy-h.assetsadobe.com/is/image/content/dam/tnc/nature/en/photos/Lake-Herring.jpg?crop=324%2C0%2C2396%2C1797&wid=800&hei=600&scl=2.995","large":"https://natureconservancy-h.assetsadobe.com/is/image/content/dam/tnc/nature/en/photos/Lake-Herring.jpg?crop=324%2C0%2C2396%2C1797&wid=800&hei=600&scl=2.995","small2x":"https://natureconservancy-h.assetsadobe.com/is/image/content/dam/tnc/nature/en/photos/Lake-Herring.jpg?crop=324%2C0%2C2396%2C1797&wid=600&hei=450&scl=3.993333333333333","medium":"https://natureconservancy-h.assetsadobe.com/is/image/content/dam/tnc/nature/en/photos/Lake-Herring.jpg?crop=324%2C0%2C2396%2C1797&wid=800&hei=600&scl=2.995","large2x":"https://natureconservancy-h.assetsadobe.com/is/image/content/dam/tnc/nature/en/photos/Lake-Herring.jpg?crop=324%2C0%2C2396%2C1797&wid=1600&hei=1200&scl=1.4975"}},{"title":"Conservation Where Soil and Water Meet","description":"In Michigan, farmers are stewards of the land and Saginaw Bay Watershed","link":"https://www.nature.org/en-us/about-us/who-we-are/how-we-work/working-with-companies/companies-investing-in-nature1/conservation-where-soil-and-water-meet/","target":"_self","desktopImageCrop":"center-middle","mobileImageCrop":"center-middle","pageImageAlt":"Lying within Lake Huron, the Saginaw Bay is located on the eastern side of Michigan. It is between Michigan's Thumb region and the rest of the Lower Peninsula.","articleDate":null,"articleAuthor":null,"contentTypeTag":"Feature","geoLocationTag":["Michigan","United States"],"topicTag":["sustainable agriculture","agriculture","conservation work","soil health","water quality","water conservation"],"placesWeProtectTag":[],"businesstags":["Michigan","United States","Corporate Partnerships"],"pageImage":{"small":"https://natureconservancy-h.assetsadobe.com/is/image/content/dam/tnc/nature/en/photos/SaginawBay.jpg?crop=503%2C0%2C2993%2C2245&wid=300&hei=225&scl=9.977777777777778","default":"https://natureconservancy-h.assetsadobe.com/is/image/content/dam/tnc/nature/en/photos/SaginawBay.jpg?crop=503%2C0%2C2993%2C2245&wid=300&hei=225&scl=9.977777777777778","medium2x":"https://natureconservancy-h.assetsadobe.com/is/image/content/dam/tnc/nature/en/photos/SaginawBay.jpg?crop=503%2C0%2C2993%2C2245&wid=800&hei=600&scl=3.7416666666666667","large":"https://natureconservancy-h.assetsadobe.com/is/image/content/dam/tnc/nature/en/photos/SaginawBay.jpg?crop=503%2C0%2C2993%2C2245&wid=800&hei=600&scl=3.7416666666666667","small2x":"https://natureconservancy-h.assetsadobe.com/is/image/content/dam/tnc/nature/en/photos/SaginawBay.jpg?crop=503%2C0%2C2993%2C2245&wid=600&hei=450&scl=4.988888888888889","medium":"https://natureconservancy-h.assetsadobe.com/is/image/content/dam/tnc/nature/en/photos/SaginawBay.jpg?crop=503%2C0%2C2993%2C2245&wid=800&hei=600&scl=3.7416666666666667","large2x":"https://natureconservancy-h.assetsadobe.com/is/image/content/dam/tnc/nature/en/photos/SaginawBay.jpg?crop=503%2C0%2C2993%2C2245&wid=1600&hei=1200&scl=1.8708333333333333"}}]

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