Project Highlight: Eimy Quispe

By: Megan Zeiher, Recruitment Coordinator—July 20, 2018

Eimy Quispe serves as a Conservation Apprentice with the Carlton Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD). She recently learned how to check groundwater monitoring wells, a project that happens mid-month in order to evaluate the status of the aquifers they feed from. Through this process Eimy is able to report on the water table levels.

“We uncap the well and chalk up the measuring tape (this is done so that we have a better reading on where exactly the water level is). From there we pay attention to where we believe the tape has reached the water and record the number to which the top part of the well is at and then start to reel in the tape until we observe the water mark and record this number as well. Afterward, the tape is cleaned up and the well capped to move on to the next one. There are four locations within Carlton County where we do this.”

Eimy’s schedule is always changing and no two days are structured the same—she is currently working on several different projects! They include: culvert inventory, community outreach, event planning, well-monitoring, stream water quality checks, working with partner organizations, helping her site supervisor lead an intern and any tasks that come up on a daily basis.

The Kettle River Watershed Tour is one of outreach events Eimy has been a part of this summer. She helped prepare materials, assisted with planning the tour and is currently working on a virtual tour using Arc Story Maps so the information is available to the general public, in addition to the event attendees. She is also looking forward to an upcoming BioBlitz at one of the stream restoration sites.

“This event will engage the public on the relationship between macroinvertebrates, plants and stream health—while explaining why the stream was restored.”

Although having multiple projects happening at the same time can be a challenge, Eimy believes it has taught her time-management and prioritization skills. Her favorite part of being a Conservation Apprentice is being exposed to the variety of natural resource management planning aspects and learning what it takes to get projects started.

“I think this is something the general public is not usually exposed to, and I’m very happy to be a part of it. I also love to see the relationship between several factors in the natural world. For example, how water quality can be affected by zoning regulations, forested areas, species living in a stream, etc. I think this is extremely interesting and important to learn about.”

Mission Log K32.J4: Underwater Escapade

By: Caroline Fazzio—July 2, 2018

The date: June 15, 2018. The location: an undisclosed water-body in east central Minnesota. The mission: investigate the mussels invading the lake.

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The bleak sun bled through a film of grey clouds as we loaded the boat with the field gadgets needed to complete the day’s assignment: scuba vests, air tanks, breathing regulators, flippers, wetsuits, snorkels and masks, life vests, a dive flag, quadrant samplers, and other gizmos such as sunscreen, water bottles, and a data log sheet.

The humid air whipped our faces as the boat sped across the churning expanse of the great lake. Its green-tinted waters swirled around us in a ceaseless tango with the gusting wind of the morning. When we arrived at the site of our mission, we began prepping for the dive. We activated the dive gear, located the starting GPS coordinates, laid 300 feet of transect tape underwater, and anchored the dive flag. Lastly we decoded the data log sheet (from meters to feet). Decoded, the sheet informed our dive team where to conduct their searches—the crux of the day’s mission.

Once set with their individual assignments, our two divers plunged fearlessly into the waters below. After ensuring they were set, I geared up myself, grabbed my underwater digital recording device, bid farewell to our watercraft pilot, and plunged after them on a sub-mission of my own.

The foreign landscape beneath the water’s surface stretched out in all directions. My heart pounded and my breaths came in sharp, quick gasps as I adjusted to the shock of the cold water. Through the swirling sand and algae I could see our primary target encrusted to the lake bottom—the invading zebra mussel. I prepped my recording device, paused to control my breathing, and then swam towards the closest diver. Approaching, I could see my companion crouched over a quadrant sampler, meticulously counting the number of zebra mussels within a section. I quickly began capturing photographic evidence of my team’s work. After a few snapshots, I turned and began following the trail of the transect tape as it disappeared further into the water. The lake floor began dropping out from below me as I progressed until I eventually saw the form of our second diver, and prepped myself for more picture-taking.

We continued like such until the zebra mussel counts were complete along two transects. By then it was mid-afternoon and storm clouds were brewing on the horizon. Dripping wet and tired, yet content in our success, we collected our gear and raced the rain-clouds back to the boat access. The data collected will further our understanding of the dynamics between zebra mussels and Minnesota lakes, and guide future management. Mission status: Accomplished.  

 *All pictures are courtesy of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, 2018.

*All pictures are courtesy of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, 2018.

Project Highlight: Matt Rassett

By: Megan Zeiher, Recruitment Coordinator—June 22, 2018

Matt Rassett serves as a Crew Member based out of Andover/Anoka, Minnesota. A typical day on this crew starts with members groggily sipping coffee at the shop location before the jokes start flying. They go over their plans for the day of work, gather their tools and then head to the work site. Recently Matt’s crew completed a rewarding project on Coon Lake in Anoka County.  

“We learned how to lay sod, we learned a lot about each other and we learned how to utilize our specific backgrounds to make a solid team.”

Matt and his crew worked alongside Anoka Parks & Recreation staff to create a Veteran’s Memorial site to honor the service of the United States Armed Forces. The site provides space for families to remember those who have served and gather around a paver with the name of a loved one.

“It was pretty cool to see the two teams working together so seamlessly. The county workers even took the time to chat with us as we worked and gave us advice on the next steps in our careers.”

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Soggy noodle camping trip

By: Kelsey Brock—June 20, 2018

Our crew is finishing our first camping trip in Redwood Falls. During this trip we worked for the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Fisheries Department on Aquatic Management Areas (AMAs). We got to break out the backpack sprayers and spray thistles that were invading some reclaimed prairie lands.

The method to take out this invasive species was to line up with our backpack sprayers and do grid patterns through the prairie, pivoting at the end of each transect, and repeating back down to the other end. This could get repetitive after awhile, but we made sure to have music playing so we could dance and spray at the same time to keep ourselves entertained. We also had a few good scares from snakes and pheasants jumping out at us! To keep things interesting, we even got to meet a baby fawn that was taking a nap nearby—which made my day.

On the days it was too rainy to spray chemical, we removed parsnip instead, and found out that the Corps boots can also double as swimming pools for your feet.

These rainy days made our first camping trip a very soggy one to begin with but by midweek, it stopped raining long enough for us to hammock, cook s’mores, and start to feel a little bit less like soggy noodles and a little bit more like happy campers.