As the threat of aquatic invasive species (AIS) becomes greater and greater, Wisconsin and the nation have seen an increase in the number of resource professionals with the title of AIS coordinator. Federal, state, tribal, county and local AIS coordinators each perform a strategic role in slowing the spread of AIS and protecting water resources in their jurisdiction. Seem like overkill? Aren’t they all doing the same thing? What do they do in winter?
These questions are often asked of me. Many citizens are often surprised by the answers I give while in my role of Oneida County AIS Coordinator. Just as my job revolves around educating the public about AIS, sometimes I find myself explaining to the public what my position is all about! If you care to take a walk on the dock with an AIS county coordinator, please read on.
In a nutshell, my job is to protect the water resources of Oneida County from AIS. Simple, straightforward. But from that simple and straightforward statement stems an array of AIS projects, governmental and private entities, personalities, time and money constraints, number of lakes, type of AIS, lake associations, chemicals, biocontrols-the list goes on and on. An AIS coordinator must know who’s on first, what’s on second, and who to ask about third base!
County coordinators are typically the most accessible and locally recognizable AIS resource professionals. Additionally, they should have intimate knowledge of both local and state AIS issues. While it might be difficult for a citizen to get in touch with a state AIS coordinator, any county coordinator worth their weight will have an answer handy or get one from the state. Likewise, if the state needs local contacts or information, the county coordinator is an invaluable contact. Just as valuable to me are the paid or volunteer coordinators for local lake associations or lake groups. When I need detailed information, contact names or wish to know what is happening on a certain lake, those coordinators are priceless.
Speaking of priceless, the winter season for me is extremely important and beneficial. Winter is the time to build and strengthen partnerships, create new projects, write grants, work with students, schools and libraries, analyze and disseminate data that was collected during open water and work on professional development. This time of year can be as hectic, busy and crazy as the summer season! Workshops must be scheduled, presentations written, logistics decided and research methods studied. Each county coordinator’s personality might dictate what they wish to focus on, but their county AIS program gives some framework to the madness.
With winter slipping away, projects that have been in the making for months start to materialize and take on a life of their own. The multiple emails and conversations with a teacher begin to take the form of presentations, field trips and field work. Lake associations start to crawl out of dormancy and the scheduling of board meetings and annual meetings abound. Outreach material must be finalized, printed and planned for distribution. Earth Day is coming! Opening of fishing season is coming! The boating season is almost upon us! Memorial Day!
I now try to stay afloat. During the summer, the Oneida County AIS program will hold more than seven workshops, spend over 700 hours inspecting boats, meet with more than 15 lake associations, distribute stickers, placemats and other outreach material, and monitor lakes with and without AIS, and that is just a start. Our AIS team (this year a crew of four) will be holding a student photo/poster contest, collecting research data on our native milfoil weevil, raising purple loosestrife (PL) beetles as a biocontrol for PL, snorkeling high-risk landings for AIS invasions and working with Rhinelander Charter School students on a Manson Lake Project. It will take everything we have to keep our heads above water. Throughout summer, there will be at least two AIS team members working every day of the week. Whew!
As fall musky fishing and tournaments settle into my calendar, a sense of accomplishment will have settled in also. Autumn is best for reflection; what projects went well, what needed more work, which partnerships shone and which ones needed more attention. Just like students headed back to school, I hit the books with excitement, hope and hard work. The next season of fighting AIS begins here, not in summer. I once again begin to build and strengthen my AIS partnerships, because without them I truly am not the best I could be. Without them, I lose my eyes, my ears and my voice on our waterways. Indeed, it takes a village to raise a child, and it will surely take a state and its people to keep our waters healthy and clean for future generations. Let’s carry on!
Michele Sadauskas is the Oneida County AIS Coordinator and can be reached at (715) 365-2750 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Please contact her to arrange AIS presentations and/or workshops, report any suspicious plant behavior, or find out more about any of the above mentioned projects. She welcomes all questions.