2018-02-08 / Outdoors

Sleeping Bear Dunes names new chief of natural resources

—Story by Jay Bushen


JULIE CHRISTIAN is the new chief of natural resources for Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. JULIE CHRISTIAN is the new chief of natural resources for Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Julie Christian’s first day as the chief of natural resources for Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore ended early. The government shut down.

“I polished my shoes and got them ready for winter,” Christian said of her free afternoon. “Nothing too exciting.”

Prior to the promotion, the Green Bay, Wisc. native had spent the previous two years as the park’s plant biologist, focusing on projects pertaining to the federally protected pitcher’s thistle or invasive threats like the emerald ash borer and beech bark disease.

The new gig entails overseeing the plant division in addition to the wildlife and water programs — anything that deals with the natural environment.

“I have a responsibility to make sure we’re managing it in a way that’s consistent with Park Service ethos,” said Christian, who earned a master’s degree in botany at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Since her arrival, the park has posted the two highest annual visitation marks since its inception — so what does the increase in guests do to the park?

She said one of her responsibilities will be just that, assessing the visitor-use impact to the park.

“We’ve put in some proposals for project funding with hopes of looking at the dunes through satellite imagery for social trails,” she said. “At the time, that hasn’t gotten picked yet.”

If it does, the park will likely work with Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, which has done “quite a bit of research” in that department.

Christian is no stranger to Park Service operations.

She spent years in the Chihuahuan Desert Network of southern New Mexico, working behind the scenes for a branch unknown to most, the Inventory and Monitoring Division. She was responsible for plant community monitoring, exotic plant monitoring and rain monitoring.

“The Park Service’s mission is to preserve and protect our natural resources for future generations,” Christian said. “To do that, you have to know what you have.”

Return to top