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Blugold AND Environmentalist

| Lucy Grogan-Ripp

There’s an epidemic spreading across our lakes and invading our beloved landscapes right under our noses. The problem: aquatic invasive species (AIS). The answer: well, we aren’t quite sure. In essence, the fact that nobody knows much about AIS is a large part of the overall problem. UW-Eau Claire junior, Kalle Johnson set out to answer this problematic dilemma and earned her service-learning while doing so. This past summer, Kalle worked with the Beaver Creek Reserve as a clean boat clean waters watercraft inspector. As a watercraft inspector, Kalle was able to make a community impact through data collection [AND] as a public informant. Her duties with the Beaver Creek Reserve served as great experience in her field of study, as she majors in environmental and ecology Biology. “Invasive species are destroying natural ecosystems, specifically within lakes. There is an extreme lack of public knowledge about the growing problem with aquatic species,” says Kalle.

But why, exactly, is the general public seemingly so uninformed on such an important ecological issue? At first glance, the issue of aquatic invasive species in our lakes seems inherently bigger than us, and solutions seem greater than anything a single person could do. However, this is simply not the case. Kalle explains, “[I spent time] informing the public and letting them know about the laws placed in the state to prevent the spread of AIS. I spent numerous weekends during the summer, the busiest time for boating, talking and informing the people going in and out of Lake Wissota about how to prevent the spread of invasive species by doing simple things like cleaning off their boats.”

Previous to her summer with the Beaver Creek Reserve, Kalle performed similar work through UW-OshKosh. Kalle earned this honor immediately after graduating high school, and was able to live in Vilas County for an entire summer, observing invasive species before starting her college career at UW-Eau Claire. Attending biology classes as a Blugold enlightened Kalle in ways she never imagined and brought her an awareness that was not present in her initial experience through UW-OshKosh. “Although I’ve done this work in the past, now that I’m older and have taken classes towards it, I know so much more about AIS. Going into it, when I did it the first time, I actually wanted to be a virologist. However, my time with the Beaver Creek Reserve put me more on the AIS/environmentalist path,” Kalle explains.

Kalle’s selfless service experience with the Beaver Creek Reserve serves as yet another reminder of the vast opportunities we have as Blugolds, opportunities for the expansion of knowledge and scientific awareness. She entered her initial experience with an idea of her future aspirations, but, as a Blugold, she soared above and beyond. Blugolds fly together, so don’t forget to do your part and inform your fellow Blugolds about the dangers of AIS. Next time you take your boat out for a summer cruise, make sure to scan it for any lingering invasive species before you hit the water.