Home Biologist Retired conservation biologists live a legacy at Goose Pond Sanctuary | Science & Environment

Retired conservation biologists live a legacy at Goose Pond Sanctuary | Science & Environment


Mark Martin and Sue Foote-Martin have worked for over four decades to protect, restore and share their passion for Wisconsin wildlife.

Both retired conservation biologists for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the Martins continue to volunteer their services as citizen scientists in the longest-running auditory survey of frogs and toads in North America. North.

Since 1979, they have been the resident managers of Goose Pond Sanctuary, Madison Audubon’s 730-acre nature preserve in Arlington, Columbia County, where they have led dozens of habitat restoration and wildlife education projects. public.

Gathering Waters, an alliance of more than 40 Wisconsin land trusts, honored the couple last year with a lifetime achievement award that cited their “passion and tireless commitment” for decades.

People also read…

“The Martins’ conservation legacy will last for generations,” the group said.

Sue, 74, is a self-taught naturalist with a business and marketing degree who joined the DNR in 1980 as education co-ordinator at the MacKenzie Environmental Education Center in Poynette. She then turned to conservation, designing endangered species license plates and the Great Wisconsin Birding and Nature Trail, a self-guided driving tour with five regional guides.

“Having a degree in marketing was really a shoo-in for me,” she said. “I was able to jump on these projects that none of the scientists would ever spend two minutes on.”

Mark, 72, grew up in Marshall and studied wildlife management at UW-Stevens Point before working for the DNR in 1971.

Although they followed different career paths, both were raised in families that embraced the outdoors – Mark hunting and trapping, Sue birdwatching and fishing.

“Getting out and exploring nature on our own terms, and just learning to be at home,” Sue said. “And that’s what we liked.”

Mark Martin: Goose Pond is a wet meadow in the middle of a 150,000 acre ancient mesic prairie. And now it belongs to Madison Audubon where we provide wildlife habitat, especially for the benefit of waterfowl, shorebirds and grassland birds and to restore the mesic prairie. And it’s a place where the public can go out and enjoy nature.

From a bird perspective, we have 270 species that have been seen here, which is a lot of birds.

It was purchased to stop duck hunting in the fall and so people could come from Madison and bird watch in the fall as well as the spring. They had no thought at all of planting grasslands for grassland birds.

Audubon didn’t have much money in 1969 and 1968. So they bought the house there and the farm for $30,000. But since then we have 730 acres and now we focus primarily on mesic prairie. It was like 800,000 acres in the state. There are less than 100 (native) acres left in maybe 15 different locations. And we’ve restored nearly 500 acres now. So people can go out and get a little idea of ​​what a prairie without trees looks like.

You mentioned it was part of the Empire Prairie. What is that?

Mark Martin: The topography was quite hilly. There were few wetlands. And there were no big elevation changes. So the Native Americans set the fire. They just moved around the area. So that’s basically all the treeless grassland we have here.

There were two woods in Dane County in 1830. Two. Maple Bluff on the east side of Lake Mendota. Westerly winds and the wetlands around there stopped the fires. And then Goose Lake between Marshall and Deerfield. There are these fields of drumlins, high drumlins with wetlands between them and it was a woods because the fires just didn’t get there.

Sue Foote-Martin: So when the settlers arrived, the fires stopped. They fought the fires, they kept the fires out. And now we have woods everywhere. It changed the landscape.

How did you end up living in Goose Pond?

Mark Martin: When I was at DNR, Madison Audubon decided to plant meadows – 8 acres. We started pre-planning research. And so we volunteered to help, get the seeds – they were from the Madison Arboretum. That’s how we got acquainted with Goose Pond here.

Sue Foote-Martin: We met at a meeting to set up the first sandhill crane count in the state. It must have been 1977. He was representing the DNR and I was with Audubon. We sat at each other’s tables and discovered that we liked the same things. Mark asked me to go snowshoeing with him on the weekends. He took me past Goose Pond. He said, “You see that little house at the end of that bumpy road on Prairie Lane? I will live there one day.

There was an opening for the position of Resident Director (in 1979), and he applied and got it. So when we got married, we moved in and have been here ever since.

What kind of threats do wildlife face?

Sue Foote-Martin: I would say climate change, because the earth is protected.

Mark Martin: Birds do no good if we have droughts. And if we have cold, wet springs, like the pheasant population, if you’re cold, they’re just not doing very well.

Sue Foote-Martin: It is also the encroachment of populations. If you come here on (highway) 51, you get to DeForest, and that’s all that’s going to be solid between Madison and DeForest. It will go all the way here, and it will go all the way to Poynette, then finally it will go all the way to Portage.

What are your plans for the future?

Sue Foote-Martin: Goose Pond is our heritage. I mean, that’s what we do. That’s what we’ve been doing for 43 years. And that’s what we will continue to do. We will keep moving forward and forward. The more you do, the more important it is.