Summer Kopitzke, wearing waders, poses for a photo while kneeling along the Forget-Me-Not Creek in Manitowoc.
Summer Kopitzke ’20 does field work along the Forget-Me-Not Creek near Manitowoc.

2 Minutes With … is a series of short features to introduce us to the passions and interests of Lawrentians on and off campus. Find more 2 Minutes With … features here.

Story by Isabella Mariani ’21

While most of us spent our summer in shorts and swimsuits, Summer Kopitzke ’20 donned her waders for her summer job as a Great Lakes fisheries technician for the University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Program.

It was the latest step for the Lawrence University senior as she forges a path in ecology.

With the help of scientists, students and public outreach, the federal-university partnership program strives to maintain healthy coastal environments by educating coastal and Great Lakes communities about preserving and respecting American coastlines. The UW program is one of 33 Sea Grant university partnerships in the United States.

In the field

Kopitzke’s work was based out of the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay’s Manitowoc campus. Her primary task: Mapping Forget-Me-Not Creek, a two-mile stream that flows along the Ice Age Trail into Lake Michigan. This involved trekking back and forth along the length and width of the creek, recording each 100-foot mark with poles and measuring tape. Mapping the stream also consists of noting changes in substrate and depth, and using a seine to determine what species of fish call the stream home.

Despite frustrations with rainy days and pesky reed canary grass that often blocked her passage through the stream, Kopitzke knew she was doing important work.

“Doing this work, I felt a lot of love and it was a lot of fun to do,” she said. “I got to do research on things I really find interesting.”

Her findings at Forget-Me-Not Creek will be compiled and given to visitors at the nearby Woodland Dunes Nature Center and Preserve, an organization that recently restored the mouth of the stream to improve the fish habitat and water quality.

Kopitzke also recorded data from bycatch videos from a fishing boat in Two Rivers. The bycatch data will be sent to the DNR to help advise the fishing boat operators on adjustments to their net sizes so they can catch more whitefish, their target species.

A lifelong passion

Kopitzke fondly recalls hunting and fishing with her grandfather in Tigerton, where she grew up. Those experiences instilled in her a love for the land, inspiring her to double major in biology and environmental science. She discovered her love for field work upon taking an aquatic ecology class here at Lawrence.

The summer research tapped into those same interests, Kopitzke said.

“Where I’m from, it’s a big part of my life,” she said of the outdoors. “It’s always held a part in my heart.”

When she wasn’t walking around the stream or analyzing bycatch data this summer, Kopitzke took time to enjoy the scenery of prairie and farmland that surrounded her. Her Senior Experience project will focus on whitetail deer population ecology. She plans to further her involvement with aquatic ecology when she goes to work for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

Isabella Mariani ’21 is a student writer in the Communications office.