Wisconsin residents honored for their work to collect information about natural resources

Wisconsin's Ozaukee County’s fish passage program and a key volunteer in documenting how fish are
responding to efforts to restore their migration routes along Lake Michigan tributaries were among the groups and individuals recently recognized for outstanding achievements in citizen-based monitoring of Wisconsin’s natural resources.

Other honorees for the Citizen-based Monitoring Awards include two volunteers with Milwaukee’s Urban Ecology Center, a key volunteer in surveys to collect data about dragonflies, and Dave Redell, the late Department of Natural Resources bat ecologist, who built the Wisconsin Bat Conservation Program.
Separate Wisconsin Stream Monitoring Awards were given by the University of Wisconsin-Extension and DNR to recognize volunteers, employees and teachers for their commitment to monitoring, collecting data, raising awareness and sharing knowledge about Wisconsin streams.

Recipients of those awards included a leader of the Central Wisconsin Trout Unlimited Riverkeepers, a Racine high school student, a teacher at Menominee Indian High School in Keshena, a Crawford County stewardship group and the coordinator of stream monitoring for Milwaukee Riverkeeper.

“Wisconsin is fortunate to have so many people who care so deeply about our natural resources,” says Owen Boyle, who coordinates the Citizen-based Monitoring Network for DNR.

“We appreciate the efforts of each and every one of those volunteers. Our conference offered us a chance to honor in particular some of the groups and individuals who have provided outstanding service and leadership.”

Kris Stepenuck, volunteer stream monitoring program coordinator for DNR and UW-Extension, says the recipients were “inspirational.” It’s a pleasure to be able to learn from these leaders in volunteer stream monitoring,” she says.

The awards were given out during the Citizen-based Monitoring conference in Wisconsin Rapids on April 5-6, which was jointly hosted by the Water Action Volunteers and the Citizen-based Monitoring Network. More than 135 people from nature centers, schools, colleges, friends groups, and state and county agencies attended the convention.

A list of award winners and short descriptions of their work follows.
  • Ozaukee County Fish Passage Program was named the Citizen-based Monitoring Program of the Year. Ozaukee County’s Parks and Planning Department has procured nearly $8 million in federal, state, local, and other funding since 2006 to carry out fish habitat restoration work. That department has worked with municipalities, consultants, conservation corps, non-profit organizations, and volunteers to remove 180 impediments to fish migration in the county and restore habitats, and to document the effects of their work and provide information that can be used in future planning decisions by state and local governments.
  • Rick Frye received the Outstanding Achievement in Citizen-based Monitoring award for his leadership role within the Ozaukee County Fish Passage Program’s fish surveys. He has volunteered almost 30 hours at five electrofishing survey events and helps guide new volunteers into the labor intensive process.
  • Robin Squier received the Outstanding Achievement in Citizen-based Monitoring for her work with the Urban Ecology Center bird banding program, donating more than 150 hours of her own time in 2012 alone. She also led the effort that made Milwaukee the largest city in Wisconsin to receive the Bird City designation.
  • Dan Jackson received an Outstanding Achievement in Citizen-based Monitoring for his work as a citizen volunteer participating in dragonfly surveys and helping build the Web presence of the new Wisconsin Dragonfly Society. Since 2009 he has contributed 4,051 Odonata records to the Odonata Survey, including a first state record of a striped saddlebags (Tramea calverti).
  • Ethan Bott received an Outstanding Achievement in Youth Monitoring for his volunteerism with the Urban Ecology Center. Now 17, the White Fish Bay High School senior has volunteered more than 300 hours since joining the organization at age 12. He has devoted most of his time to the center’s bird banding project but has also collected information for monarch, snake, and turtle monitoring surveys.
  • David Redell posthumously received a Lifetime Achievement in Citizen-based Monitoring for his work to build the Wisconsin Bat Conservation program after becoming DNR’s first bat ecologist in 2004. He worked to enact vanguard regulations to protect Wisconsin bats and developed a plan that will guide the state’s response to white-nose syndrome, a disease devastating hibernating bat populations in North America. Redell also helped created citizen-based monitoring efforts that now involve nearly 500 volunteers. All future lifetime achievement awards will be named the “David N. Redell Award for Lifetime Achievement in Citizen-based Monitoring.”

Wisconsin stream monitoring awards
  • John Gremmer of Winneconne was recognized as the outstanding adult monitor for the Wisconsin Stream Monitoring program. Under his leadership, Central Wisconsin Trout Unlimited Riverkeepers has grown to support 25 teams who monitor across a six-county area including Waupaca, Waushara, Winnebago, Green Lake, Fond du Lac, and Marquette counties. Gremmer does media outreach about Riverkeepers’ activities, seeks funding to support the group’s efforts, and participates in stream improvement work days.
  • Crawford Stewardship Project, based in Crawford County, was recognized as the outstanding group. They began in 2007 to address concerns about the effects of land use on water quality in rural Crawford County and the lower Kickapoo River Watershed. Their monitoring has identified some stream sites with runoff pollution issues. The group started a statewide network to foster clean water and organized a community educational workshop about potential impacts of sand mining on surface and ground waters.
  • Joe Rath was recognized as the outstanding employee of the year. He has been the monitoring coordinator for Milwaukee Riverkeeper since 2010. By 2012 this network had grown to support 63 volunteers monitoring 100 sites. He was instrumental in pilot testing a volunteer phosphorus monitoring effort in streams across the watershed, the largest volunteer phosphorus monitoring initiative ever carried out in Wisconsin.
  • Maya Dizack of Racine was recognized as the outstanding student monitor. Dizack is completing her freshman year at The Prairie School in Racine and began testing a site near her home seven years ago. Today, she and her family monitor three different locations and Maya is an integral member of the Prairie Stream Consortium – a local alliance of community members, She has made presentations to local officials and at the statewide Volunteer Stream Monitoring Symposium.
  • Dan Hannen-Starr was recognized as the outstanding teacher. A high school science teacher at the Menominee Indian High School in Keshena, he worked with tribal elders and community members to bring his students to the streams to monitor them and to assist with sturgeon rehabilitation efforts. In 2011 he and the Menominee Indian High School received a technology grant that allowed students at the high school to increase their participation in volunteer stream monitoring.