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June 15, 2019

Jacob friede/lakeland timesPictured is fourth-grader Caiden Strominski, who studied the sea lamprey and titled his presentation “Don’t let the sea lamprey get in your way!”
Jacob friede/lakeland times

Pictured is fourth-grader Caiden Strominski, who studied the sea lamprey and titled his presentation “Don’t let the sea lamprey get in your way!”

6/1/2019 7:30:00 AM
natural reaction: A fresh look at AIS
Jacob Friede
Of the Lakeland Times

Last Wednesday, Arbor Vitae-Woodruff School (AV-W) hosted a lakes convention featuring some local researchers on aquatic invasive species (AIS). The gymnasium floor was filled with presentations on a variety of invasive species and the impact they have on both the Great Lakes and local waters.

The presenters were well researched, well spoken, and very enthusiastic about their subject matter. And they were in the fourth grade.

This school year, the fourth graders at AV-W conducted an intensive study of AIS and the Great Lakes, which culminated in an April field trip to Duluth. There they got to see Lake Superior up close and visit the Great Lakes Aquarium. They also hiked Knob Rock and toured the Great Lakes Visitor Center and Railroad Museum.

In addition to their study of the Great Lakes this year, each fourth grader created an AIS awareness poster which was the centerpiece of their research displays. The posters were entered into the 2019 Northwoods Invasive Species Poster Contest hosted by the Oneida County Land and Water department. Accompanying the students' posters were stats, figures, and facts about the various species they studied.

One of the displays I visited had the slogan "Don't let the sea lamprey get in your way." It was created by fourth grader Caiden Strominski. He had done research on the sea lamprey and he explained not only their origin, but how they got to the United States and the devastating effect they have on fish.

"The sea lamprey lives in all of the Great Lakes," Strominski said. "The sea lamprey kills other fish by leaving a nasty scar and it comes from the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. It got here from ballast water and it lives in Europe. And it came here."

The eel-like lampreys are parasites and they attach themselves to fish and suck out their blood and fluids.

"They're called the vampires of the deep," Strominski said. "It has a lot of rows of teeth. When it sucks on the fish it leaves a big scar."

As if a blood-sucking parasite is not frightening enough, across the gym I learned about an ultra-growing mega weed, or, what fourth grader Victoria Kopack properly referred to as Eurasian water milfoil.

"The plant is green and the stem is like reddish brownish," Kopack said. "Even the tiniest piece of it can grow up to 10 feet. And boats actually get caught in it."

Kopack explained that Eurasian milfoil dominates the area it's introduced to, which leaves native species struggling to compete.

"They take up a lot of room," she said. "They spread all over."

To stop that spreading, Kopack said boaters need to be responsible.

"People need to start washing their boats before the go into other lakes or they could drag invasive species, any type around here, to another lake. These things are very invasive," she said. Her poster slogan was "Don't let the Eurasian Water Milfoil Spoil Our Lakes."

Over 500 posters from across the state were entered into the Northwoods Invasive Species Poster Contest, and many of those entered from AV-W won awards for their slogans or artwork, which is no surprise because the amount of work and research put into them was evident by the clarity, confidence, and enthusiasm with which the students spoke about their posters and displays.

Unfortunately, future generations in the Northwoods, like the fourth graders at AV-W, will inherit a tough, ongoing fight against invasive species in their local lakes. But thankfully, as was made clear from the presentations I saw, the future will definitely be ready for that challenge.

Jacob Friede may be reached at

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