The 38th Annual Wisconsin Lakes Convention is Almost Here!

Dedicated lake lovers of Wisconsin: your week is almost here! The 38th annual Wisconsin Lakes Partnership Convention will be held on Wednesday, March 30 through Friday, April 1. It will take place at the Holiday Inn and Convention Center located at 1001 Amber Avenue in Stevens Point, Wisconsin.

The convention celebrates the work of the DNR, Wisconsin Extension, Wisconsin Lakes and volunteer groups along with water and environmental citizen scientists. It is held in conjunction with the 7th Citizen-based Monitoring Conference and the Water Action Volunteers Annual Symposium occurring on April 1-2.

Water quality testing on a Wisconsin stream done by the Wisconsin Action Volunteers.

Water quality testing on a Wisconsin stream done by the Wisconsin Action Volunteers.

As coordinator of the Water Action Volunteers Network (WAV), a program coordinated through a partnership between the Wisconsin DNR and UWEX, Peggy Compton couldn’t be more pleased to see these three meetings taking place at one convention.

“I’m excited for this year’s convention and bringing together volunteers from the Citizen Lake Monitoring Network, the Citizen-based Monitoring Network and the WAV Stream Monitoring Program. With this being the 20th Anniversary of the WAV Stream Monitoring Program, the timing is perfect to be ‘Celebrating Volunteers’,” said Compton.

The overarching theme is finding a way to help citizens become action-oriented to accomplish goals in their own communities around the state, and celebrating the ways they have already been able to do that.

Compton has seen this action first-hand during her time with the WAV. “Our volunteers often initially get involved to learn more about a stream or water resource that they have a connection with. They continue their stream monitoring because it is an opportunity to collect and report data that will make a difference in the management and ultimately the health of our streams and rivers,” said Compton.

She also notes that WAV programs have seen tremendous changes throughout its 20 year history, and the Stream Monitoring Program was home to more than 500 volunteers in 2015, and is still growing.

This year’s keynote speakers, Kris Stepenuck and Alyssum Pohl, will both share thoughts on getting involved in volunteer efforts.

Stepenuck, secretary of Citizen Science Association and the former WAV program coordinator in Wisconsin, will speak on volunteerism and the difference it can make in decision making processes and community improvements.

“The outcomes for natural resources policy and management that have been achieved by volunteer water monitoring programs like WAV are numerous – from identifying illicit discharges into waterways to helping to minimize the spread of aquatic invasive species. Volunteers in theses and similar programs are making their mark in their communities to protect and improve water quality for years to come,” said Stepenuck.

Pohl will recall her kayak trip down the entire length of the Mississippi River, taking water samples along the way to be tested for clarity and plastic content.

“I am delighted to represent those who care about our shared natural world and what we can do to keep it healthy for generations to come. I hope that my experience kayaking down the Mississippi will serve as an example of citizen science,” said Pohl. “I’m looking forward to sharing my experience and hearing about other citizen science projects from conference participants.”

Alyssum Pohl leaving Lacrosse, Wisconsin at the start of her solo kayaked the Mississippi River from source to sea, documenting plastic waste and water quality.

Alyssum Pohl leaving Lacrosse, Wisconsin at the start of her solo kayaked the Mississippi River from source to sea, documenting plastic waste and water quality.

Attendees can also participate in hands-on workshops that cover topics like communications and shoreland zoning, and get a chance to network with other volunteers.

Registration for the convention is $265. If you are unable to attend the entire conference, feel free to sign up for just the events you can make. The convention kicks off Wednesday morning with workshops starting at 9:00am.

For more information and to register, head here. See you in Stevens Point!

This post was written by Molly Sequin – UWEX student outreach assistant and Life Sciences Communication major at UW-Madison.

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Winter in the Underwater Forest

By Paul Skawinski

Gazing over a frozen lake, it’s hard to imagine a lush forest of green plants, especially under your boots, through the snow, and under a foot or more of solid ice. But believe it – there is a thriving ecosystem down there, even though its residents may be a bit more lethargic than last time you saw them.

While many plants are brown above the ice, it can be nice and green below it.

If you’re looking for greener pastures during some dreary winter weather, go no further than your local lake for some relief.

In an effort to understand what our aquatic plant communities look like beneath the ice, and which species are toughing it out during the long, dark winter, I have been working with a couple of fellow botanists to peer into this mysterious world. Bringing along a bunch of homemade equipment, some specialized camera gear, a lot of warm clothing, and some equally crazy colleagues, I set out to find some answers.

On a few weekends per year since 2012, we have visited fourteen lakes in Central and Northern Wisconsin, marking a few of the sites so that we could repeatedly visit them and watch how they change through the winter season. As of our last adventure on March 1st, 2015, we compiled a list of 30 species that are persisting as apparently healthy, green plants under the ice. We’ve also been delighted to see an abundance of animal life living in these miniature forests, especially caddisflies, large zooplankton like Daphnia and copepods, and fishes such as sculpins, bluegills, and bluntnose minnows. Beds of green plants appear to be serving as gathering places for animals at a time when other areas of the lakes are desolate by comparison. Old Man Winter brings us lakes that appear lifeless and frozen in time, but rest assured they are swimming with life! We have video of all that life that you can check out on the UWEX Lakes Youtube channel.

Fancy seeing you here, sculpin!

Fancy seeing you here, sculpin!

What started out as a one-day trip to a couple of lakes has turned into a Sunday tradition to explore additional lakes and seek out individual plant species. Each spring, we’re always excited to see which of our leafy friends powered through to see the light – the light of springtime, that is.

Paul Skawinski is the Statewide Coordinator of the Citizen Lake Monitoring Network, and teaches Aquatic Plant Biology at UW-Stevens Point. He is also the author of Aquatic Plants of the Upper Midwest.

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The Landing Blitz is Back!

Boaters will likely notice more boating activity on this 4th of July weekend; they may also notice more activity near the boat ramp. For the 7th straight year, the DNR and Clean Boats Clean waters volunteers across the state will be spending time helping boaters understand what they need to do to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species during the annual 4th of July Landing Blitz.

Clean Boats Clean Waters' Gary Harper inspecting a boat. Photo courtesy of Dane County Land and Water Resources Department.

Clean Boats Clean Waters’ Gary Harper inspecting a boat. Photo courtesy of Dane County Land and Water Resources Department.

“The Landing Blitz is always a great event for both boaters and our Clean Boats Clean Waters volunteers,” says Tim Campbell, aquatic invasive species specialist for UW-Extension and the DNR. “This coordinated effort makes it so volunteers are part of something big, while boaters learn what they can do to protect Wisconsin’s waters from harmful invasive species.”

The event is certainly something big – the number of boats inspected during the 2014 Landing Blitz comprised of over 10% of all the boats inspected during the 2014 boating season. Any other weekend during the 2014 boating season likely contributed about half the amount.

In addition to working with boaters unfamiliar with the prevention steps, Landing Blitz participants will be rewarding boaters seen already practicing the important prevention steps of “Inspect your boat, remove plants and animals, drain water from live wells and buckets and never move live fish.” The towel serves as a good reminder to take action to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species after a day of boating.

Inspect, Remove, Drain, Never Move!

Inspect, Remove, Drain, Never Move!

With a steadily growing base of Landing Blitz partners, the 2015 Landing Blitz could be the most successful yet. Whether you are a boater or a volunteer this weekend, take a minute to “Inspect, Remove, Drain, Never Move” and celebrate our state’s collective efforts to Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers!

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A Second Year for Lakeshore Habitat Restoration Training

As Wisconsin’s lakes start to become alive with activity, shoreline property owners start to think more about their lakefront and ways to maintain or improve what they have. Many of these property owners will be seeking the advice and services of professionals. How can a property owner know if who they are going to hire is knowledgeable in lakeshore restoration techniques? Luckily for Wisconsin’s lakeshores and lakeshore property owners, the “Lakeshore Habitat Restoration Training for Professionals” program taught by experts in habitat restoration will happen again after a successful first year.

An example of what good lakeshore restoration activities can do for your property! Credit: DNR

An example of what good lakeshore restoration activities can do for your property! Credit: DNR

“Research findings have shown that lakeshore habitat degradation and loss are key stressors to Wisconsin lakes,” says Patrick Goggin, University of Wisconsin Extension and Wisconsin DNR lakes specialist, who organizes the training session. “This training covers best management practices, state standards and tools available to assist anyone with dealing with those issues on their lakeshore. Any graduate of this program is certified to know the latest and best information on protecting and restoring lakeshore habitat.”

An enthusiastic group of more than 50 participants was in trained lakeshore rehabilitation techniques in 2014. The first event comprised of many small businesses, like nurseries, conservation consultants, and landscapers, as well as government partners. The diverse group helped attendees learn from the wide range of experience present and to develop a better network of lakeshore professionals focused on rehabilitation projects.

Nick Homan, a 2014 participant and owner of Lakescape Solutions LLC, found the lakeshore habitat restoration training a valuable experience. “This was a great opportunity to collaborate with peers and agency personnel in a situation that was noncompetitive,” he said. “We are a network of people interested in lakeshore restoration and together we can drive innovation in the industry. Overall, I felt that the experience was a very positive and a professional one.”

Given the success and positive reviews of the 2014 training sessions, Goggin is excited to offer them again this year. “We have begun to build a professional network of lakeshore habitat restoration professionals in Wisconsin that can utilize each other for information sharing, troubleshooting issues, and forming teams to tackle work together. I look forward to expanding this training to more of the state and to other stakeholders in coming sessions.”

Professionals will learn about many practices by seeing them at work in the field. Credit: NASECAWI

Professionals will learn about many practices by seeing them at work in the field. Credit: NASECAWI

The 2015 will be held on June 18th and 19th at The Lodge on Crooked Lake in Siren.  For more information on the training, visit the UW Extension Lakes website.

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