Those who know me, or who have read my column, know that I am a big fan of citizen science and citizen scientists. I think it is great that so many people are into learning more about the world around them, or maybe just one specific species or land type. Or maybe they just want to help with population determinations that shape management decisions.
Citizen-based monitoring is important in Wisconsin. It allows people to not only support their passion, but it also allows for the compilation of information on a scale much broader than would otherwise be possible. Long story short, these people are not only passionate, but important to the future of so many species from bears to bees.
Nominations for citizen-based monitors is open, but the deadline is coming up soon on Feb. 16. There are four categories in which someone may be nominated. The first category is Outstanding Achievement in Citizen-based Monitoring. Another category is based on youth: Achievement in Youth Citizen-based Monitoring. There is also a Citizen-Based Monitoring Program of the Year category as well as the David N. Redell Award for Lifetime Achievement in Citizen-based Monitoring.
Of course, my favorite category to follow will be the youth category, as I believe the young truly see the world with new eyes, while many of the rest of us have become jaded or clouded by our own preconceived notions. Kids are great at questioning the world around them, and they are sponges for knowledge in the right environment. I always thought that was the great part about being a kid - there was so much to learn. As an adult, lifelong learning is still a passion (and a great part about this career as well!).
This is not take anything away from the adult categories, however. These people pour their hearts and souls into a cause, and do everything they can to help us all learn more about various species. I would think most people reading this column could think of one person who has gone above and beyond in the area of citizen-based monitoring somewhere in the Northwoods.
There have been some great nominations and truly worthy recipients over the years. Last year, Barbara Duerksen won the Outstanding Achievement in Citizen-based Monitoring award for bird monitoring. She has been at it for 35 years and is Richland County's Crane Count coordinator. She is the longest serving individual in that program. Duerksen is also the Richland County coordinator for the Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas.
Jim Hess of Lafayette County also received the Outstanding Achievement in Citizen-based Monitoring award last year. He started volunteering in 2001 and has been involved in many projects including the Christmas Bird Count. He has also counted bats at summer roosts, and monitored and managed both bluebird and kestrel nest boxes and surveys of rare plants. Hess is also active in recruiting new volunteers into citizen-based monitoring.
Last year's youth winner was Ansel Brenneman, who is a Viroqua High School student.
Brenneman was involved in bat monitoring and promoting that activity. He was also involved in the project in 2016, through an eighth grade project. He has kept up his monitoring since then, and has even given talks to youth and adults. According to the Wisconsin Aquatic and Terrestrial Resources Inventory (WIATRI) website, those groups have, at times, included over 100 people.
The Citizen-based Monitoring Program of the Year last year went to the Yahara River Watershed Clean Lakes Alliance in the Greater Madison area. The program involved 70 volunteers who collected information on water temperature, chemistry, clarity and other metrics related to the water in their lakes. They concentrated on parts of the lakes where fishing, swimming and paddling take place.
The WIATRI website has information on winners in every category dating back to 2005.
There are some great people in this group. But I also know there are some great people in our own backyard doing great work. In my years at The Times and River News I have met some truly inspiring people. I have met people who have discovered a passion late in life, and I've also worked with kids who learned early on that they would spend time restoring shorelines for the rest of their lives.
That has been one of the best things about this job - meeting people and learning about their passions.
I think it would be great if we could all think of one person who deserves one of these awards. There is an online form on wiatri.net, where nominations can be sent in, which gives us all time to send in our recognitions.
"All nominees should be members of the citizen-based monitoring community who go above and beyond to monitor Wisconsin's natural resources," the website states. "Volunteers, educators, researchers, land managers and others involved in citizen-based monitoring are all eligible."
I would also love to hear who everyone is nominating. Shoot me an email or give me a call and let me know who you believe should be recognized. I will do what I can to put together a story. But, first and foremost, go to the wiatri website and fill out the nomination form.
So many people work so hard in so many areas in citizen-based monitoring, let's bring all these awards home to the Northwoods this year!
Beckie Gaskill may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
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