Passion for her work, commitment, compassion, and above all, kindness: These were just a few of the things for which Concordia College Associate Professor Dr. Michelle Marko was known.
From the day she first started work at Concordia in August 2008, until her death 12 years later, Marko was a frequent visitor to, and active advocate for Concordia's Long Lake Biological Field Station, located on the shore of Long Lake at the western edge of Detroit Lakes.
"Michelle's research was all about science done in service to our planet," said Concordia College Provost Susan Larson on Wednesday, June 23. "She was proud of the work her students did."
One of those students, Detroit Lakes native Connor Haugrud — who graduated from Concordia in May — talked about how Marko's passion for her work inspired him — enough to follow her on a field trip to Tanzania and "all the way to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro."
"We bonded over our love of lakes," he said, adding that they spent many hours together, doing research in and about Long Lake.
But above all, Haugrud said, he would remember Marko for her kindness. "She chose to care . . . to be kind," he said, noting that she continued to mentor him even after being diagnosed with cancer.
Bryan Bishop, Marko's co-director at the field station and head of Concordia's biology, environmental and sustainability studies department, talked about how he got to know her during their time at Concordia together, and the planning they did for the field classroom, which first opened in the fall of 2009.
"She envisioned a place that could utilize as many 'free' resources as possible," Bishop said, noting that the field station used solar power where possible, and took advantage of the natural shade provided by the surrounding trees to help keep the interior cool during hot summer days.
"She also had a vision for community," Bishop said, adding that Marko "wanted this field station to be a party of the local community of Long Lake."
Marko not only opened the gates and doors of the field station to the lake community's residents, but also lobbied to join the local lake association and attend its meetings whenever possible.
"It was always on her mind to make sure the community felt welcome here," Bishop said — but at the same time, Marko was also fiercely protective of its resources, having successfully lobbied to stop a gravel pit business from obtaining an operating permit from Becker County to move in next door.
"She loved this place," he added, from the lake on one side, to the prairie on the other, and the surrounding wetlands and woods.
Larson added that Marko's efforts at Long Lake helped to create "a field station that Concordia will be proud of for many years to come."
Larson, Haugrud, Bishop, and a group of about 50 of Marko's family, friends, colleagues and students were gathered at the field station that afternoon for a special ceremony, where the main education building at the field station was renamed the Michelle D. Marko Field Classroom.
The group was welcomed by Concordia College President Bill Craft, who introduced the speakers.
After the ceremony, attendees enjoyed refreshments inside the field classroom, and an opportunity to explore the field station on foot — or, as Bishop put it, "to see it the way she (Marko) did."
Remembering Michelle D. Marko
Michelle D. Marko, who died on Aug. 24, 2020, was an associate professor of biology at Concordia College, Moorhead.
A native of Minnesota, she earned her doctorate in water resources science and science education at the University of Minnesota and joined Concordia’s faculty in 2008.
Marko was co-director of environmental studies and was well known and admired for her research with students on aquatic ecology and invasion biology.
She also served as co-director of and a fierce advocate for the Long Lake Biological Field Station. Actively engaged in student research, Marko taught at the college until her death. More information can be found on her life tribute page at korsmofuneralservice.com.
Long Lake Field Station
The Concordia College Long Lake Field Station encompasses a 120-acre site on the shore of Long Lake.
Site features include:
- 1,800 feet of shoreline
- 0.2 acres restored shoreline
18 acres woodlands
- 12 acres wetlands
- 7 acres old field/green space
- 43 acres restored prairie
- 22 acres restored pollinator habitat
- 13 acres of other types of habitat.
The field station supports hands-on research in a variety of areas, including water quality, prairie restoration, and wildlife behavior.
Improvements at the Long Lake Field Station are focused on keeping the land and facilities sustainable. In 2009, the field station building was constructed, with many sustainable features. Projects have been completed to preserve the land and provide a home for wildlife to thrive, including a shoreline restoration project and the establishment of a high-density pollinator habitat.
For more information, visit the website at concordiacollege.edu/academics/research/long-lake-field-station.