Category: General

That Special Place

Otter River During my days at da Tech, I had my own “secret spot” down on the Otter River. I can close my eyes and visit it still, even after 53 years.Here’s an excerpt from my book, Stops Along the Way, which  I wrote several years ago describing it:

The Otter River is best described as a happy little stream. Its rapids didn’t roar, they cheerfully chortled. It didn’t resonate with power; it just hummed a pleasant tune. No need for mountain leveling heroics here, the Otter fit comfortably on the land. A little sun-warmed gravel bar here, a cool, shady stretch through the tag alders, a long, melodious riffle where it carved around the base of a balsam covered ridge.

Then there was the color of the water. The beer commercials would have you believe that Upper Michigan was part of the “land of sky-blue waters,” The Otter River was not blue. In the slower, deeper pools, it was the color of the clearest, finest tea you could imagine. Indeed, it was tea, steeped in the countless bogs that were the source of its waters. But it had clarity, without any trace of opacity. On the shallow riffles, where the water was tossed and aerated, it took on a distinct golden hue.

The Otter was almost a textbook trout stream. It had deep runs that held brook trout. There were deep, still pools with lots of woody debris where the big brown trout lay. The riffles held lively rainbow that rocketed skyward as soon as they felt the sting of the hook.

One weekend I looked ahead to where a sandbar stood high and dry, part way across the river. Even from a distance, it was obvious there were boot tracks crossing the bar. My heart sank; there was a trespasser in Eden. As I waded up to the bar, I cursed the gods for allowing this injustice. When I got there, I was pleasantly surprised. The tread pattern of the boots that made the tracks was clearly visible in a few locations, and I realized the tracks were mine made the week before. The world was right once more.

Ron Sadler
Forestry ’57

Warbler Woman

Amber Roth bands a golden-winged warbler captured in a mist net. Populations of the tiny migratory bird have fallen by half, and Roth is working with a team of scientists determined to find out why.
Amber Roth bands a golden-winged warbler captured in a mist net. Populations of the tiny migratory bird have fallen by half, and Roth is working with a team of scientists determined to find out why.
by Jennifer Donovan

Conservation could be Amber Roth’s middle name. She loves anything to do with nature. Birds, trees, grasses, ecosystems: she’s fascinated by it all.

So after tucking a BS in Conservation Biology and International Relations and an MS in Wildlife Ecology under her belt, the Green Bay, Wisconsin, native came to Tech to earn a PhD in Forest Science.

Roth researches how to manage aspen forests to produce the maximum amount of biomass per acre without harming wildlife habitat. But she was raised by a devoted bird-watcher, and a tiny songbird that is facing hard times has also captured her heart. She has become an active member of the Golden-winged Warbler Working Group, an international conservation organization that spans two continents.

Weighing only nine grams (equal to four dimes), the golden-winged warbler flies thousands of miles twice a year, migrating from its breeding grounds in the northern Midwest to its winter home in Central and South America. The tiny bird makes the long migration six to ten times in its lifetime.

“Its fuel efficiency is the equivalent of several hundred thousand miles per gallon,” Roth says with a smile.

But the far-flying warbler is in trouble. There used to be as many as half a million of the birds, and now there are fewer than two hundred thousand. “Its numbers are declining sharply, and we don’t know why. We don’t know where the patient is bleeding,” says Roth.

The Golden-winged Warbler Working Group received a small grant from the US Fish and Wildlife Service to try to determine what’s happening. Their research is a collaborative effort involving American, Canadian, and Latin American scientists.

They are spread thin. Some of the researchers are examining the bird’s, since they often crossbreed with blue-winged warblers. Only one genetically pure population has been found so far, in Manitoba. Others are studying the biochemical signature in the warbler’s feathers, which reveal where the young birds go after their first migration. And a third group is working to connect where the birds winter in Central and South America to where they breed.

“It’s a real skin-and-bones project,” says Roth. Michigan Tech has helped out by contributing twenty-one mist nets, used to safely capture birds for study before releasing them. And Roth helped the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin raise $520 by leading field trips to her research sites in Wisconsin. The foundation donated the funds to the international warbler research group in late 2009.

Like most of the other things she’s ever done, Roth says her work with the Golden-winged Warbler Working Group is helping prepare her for her dream career. With work experience in the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and her PhD from Michigan Tech, she’s looking forward to climbing what she calls her “career triangle”: research, education, and conservation management. “I like being involved in all three,” she says, “the research, the outreach, and the management on the ground.

Former Professor Robert L. Sajdak passes away.

Bob Sajdak, 79, a former faculty member of the school, passed away June 10, 2010. Bob was a 1959 alumnus of Michigan Tech’s forestry program.

Dean Peg Gale said, “For those of us who had Bob as a teacher, he was an amazing person. He taught dendrology, genetics and tree improvement courses, and because of his high expectarobert_sajdaktions of students (especially in dendrology), he was fondly nicknamed ‘Black Bob.’ He often had a sly smile on his face when students were trying to negotiate grades or just joking with him on field trips. He was one of the first faculty to receive outside funds for his work in herbicides and tree production.”

Bob was born in Bayfield County, Wis. on July 20, 1930, the youngest of nine children.

On November 4, 1950, he married Betty Boness of Milwaukee. They moved to Alaska where he served in the Army for several years.

In 1956, Bob returned to attend the College of Mining and Technology (Michigan Tech), the first from his family to go to college. He graduated in 1959 and worked as a U.S. Forest Service Ranger in Minnesota and as a forester for the State of Wisconsin. In 1962, Bob was hired as an instructor at Michigan Tech and in 1986, he retired as an Associate Professor of Forestry.

Bob enjoyed being a woodlot owner and working on numerous projects associated with the land.

He leaves behind his wife, Betty, and two sons, Pete and Paul. The 1973 Forester yearbook was dedicated toBob. See the pictures and story on pages 7-8 at

A Sweet Solution to Michigan’s Economic Problems

Michigan Tech Forestry and Environmental Resource Management (FERM) members tend the maple syrup evaporator, keeping the fire going, watching tap levels in the pans, making sure it does not boil over and drawing off the syrup.
Michigan Tech Forestry and Environmental Resource Management (FERM) members tend the maple syrup evaporator, keeping the fire going, watching tap levels in the pans, making sure it does not boil over and drawing off the syrup.
May 24, 2010— Dave Kossak, a third-year forestry student at Michigan Technological University, has a sweet solution to Michigan’s economic woes: maple syrup.  He’d like to see Michigan become the maple syrup capital of the world, and his proposal for accomplishing that goal has won him a $5,000 scholarship as the fourth-place winner of a college student competition called Motivate Michigan.

Motivate Michigan’s corporate, nonprofit and media partners contributed more than $48,000 to provide scholarships to the students with the top 10 innovative ideas for a better Michigan.

Michigan has more sugar maples than Quebec, which currently produces 70 percent of the maple syrup made in North America, and Michigan’s trees are of better quality, Kossak notes. “We could be producing more maple syrup than Quebec or Vermont—the top US producer,” he claims. “We could also become the production center for equipment used by the maple syrup manufacturers. This could be big for Michigan.”

Kossak, who plays on the offensive line for Michigan Tech’s football team, has always had a taste for maple syrup. He especially likes to eat it on ice cream. He got interested in its production when he joined Tech’s Forestry and Environmental Resource Management (FERM) enterprise program, which provides hands-on experiences for undergraduates in applied ecology and forestry. One of FERM’s projects is a small-scale maple syrup production operation, along with a series of workshops and field trips for K-12 students.

Mike Ross, a Rudyard, Mich.-based maple syrup wholesale bulk producer and equipment salesman, sold FERM some equipment for their maple syrup project, and he and Kossak started talking.  “In seven minutes, I had three pages of notes,” Kossak recalls.

He also had the beginnings of a provocative idea for helping Michigan turn its economy around. When Motivate Michigan put out a call for college students to submit their innovative ideas for improving their state, Kossak was quick to propose his maple syrup solution.

It quickly made the top 10 of 280 ideas submitted, and in a public online vote that followed, Kossak moved up into the top five. He and the four other finalists were invited to Livonia to make a personal presentation before Motivate Michigan judges on May 24.

“Only one-hundredth of one percent of the sugar maples in Michigan are tapped,” he points out. Quebec taps 34 percent of its trees.  “We could be producing 280 million gallons of maple syrup a year in Michigan.”

There are obstacles to that sweet future, of course, including access to land and a need for tax credits to enable large-scale development. But Kossak is convinced that these hurdles can be overcome.

As a forestry major at Michigan Tech, he is focusing on sustainable business and marketing aspects of forestry. He is also working to earn a certificate in industrial forestry. Kossak hails from Columbiaville, Mich., where he attended the Lapeer County Schools.

If his maple syrup dreams materialize, he’s hoping to work with Michigan Tech to develop a larger Sugarbush program and to consider offering a certificate in maple syrup production.

Michigan Technological University ( is a leading public research university developing new technologies and preparing students to create the future for a prosperous and sustainable world. Michigan Tech offers more than 130 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in engineering; forest resources; computing; technology; business; economics; natural, physical and environmental sciences; arts; humanities; and social sciences.