Jennifer Kanine is the Pokagon Band Department of Natural Resources director.
Kanine is originally from Clare, Michigan, and grew up spending a lot of time in the upper peninsula. After high school, she went on to get her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in conservation biology from Central Michigan University. She also has a forest resources doctorate from the University of Georgia — Warnell School of Forestry and National Resources.
Do you think living in Michiana has changed you in any way?
Since I was born and raised in central Michigan, I really didn’t think that Michiana would be as biologically diverse. I also didn’t think that there would be such large areas to hike and enjoy nature. That definitely has opened up my eyes. There are so many parks, preserves, lakes and streams that are close and accessible, more than I thought possible. Being from northern Michigan, you have a bit of a mindset that southern Michigan is agriculture as far as the eye can see. There are no places where you have nice wafts of forests or nice rivers and streams. That is definitely not the case.
What is your favorite time of year?
I like all the seasons because there are certain activities that you get to do in the different seasons. You get to see different plants and different animals in the different parts of the year. You can go swimming in the summer, which I wouldn’t be able to do in the winter. I can see the colors of the trees when they change in the fall, and I can go sledding in the winter, but I guess I would have to say that spring is my favorite. I would say the main reason is because everything is coming to life after the winter. It seems like all the plants and animals are happy and lively and growing and thriving. There are a ton of beautiful spring and summer flowers on the forest floor and I also like to look for morel and other edible mushrooms, so mushroom harvesting season starts in the springtime.
If you were to meet someone planning a visit to the Michiana area for the first time, what places would you tell them not to miss?
I think if you have never been to the Great Lakes region, first off, one of the first things you have to do is go to the beach and you have to see the lakes. A lot of people think of a lake, “Oh, I can see across the lake.” When people come to Lake Michigan and look out at it and they do not realize how large it is until they are standing in front of it. One of the things I would encourage them to see is Indiana Dunes National Park. That is a huge park and you can do everything there. You can swim, you can hike, you can bird watch and you can bike. Most of all, I just encourage people to get out into nature and visit any of the state, county or city parks, as well as any of the reserves that are held by the land trusts and land conservancies in southwest Michigan.