Tag: Environmental sciences

2 Minutes With … Summer Kopitzke: Wading deep into nature research

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.

2 Minutes With … Phoebe Eisenbeis: Proudly connected to the earth

Phoebe Eisenbeis works in the SLUG garden and orchard on campus.

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

Phoebe Eisenbeis ’21 is an advocate for the natural world both in and out of the classroom. As an environmental science major and a gardener in SLUG (Sustainable Lawrence University Gardens), her life at Lawrence University is deeply rooted in the earth.

Phoebe has always been intrigued by gardening and the environment. She recalls visiting farms on school field trips and going to farm camp in her home state of Minnesota, where she got to experience typical farm chores.

A new hobby blooms

It all came together at the outset of her freshman year at Lawrence when she learned about SLUG. The campus organization’s beliefs in inclusivity and sustainability were a good fit for her.

“I felt a really immediate connection to it.” says Phoebe. “Like, this is so cool that this is on campus and that it’s kind of open to everyone.”

SLUG encourages all Lawrence students to come to garden hours to help out regardless of their gardening experience. It’s all about the community effort to sustainably and interactively grow food and learn more about the earth in the process.

Phoebe started going to SLUG meetings and soon signed up for garden hours. It wasn’t long before her academics in environmental science began to nourish her gardening interest.

“The thing I feel almost drawn to about environmental studies in general is the aspect of sustainability and self-reliance, and a tight-knit understanding and relationship with the natural world,” Phoebe explains. “I feel like they’re really correlated for me to go deeper into my understanding of how the garden works.”

SLUG is also a place for personal growth. The garden supports Phoebe’s personal beliefs in sustainability and living connected to nature.

“As it is right now, the garden embodies a lot of my beliefs of getting people outside and interacting with the food, and how the food they eat grows and how to harvest it.”

Growing her passion

For Phoebe, the key is to strengthen her understanding of gardening with her knowledge of environmental science.

“I feel like if you just want to garden and be outside and do all those things, that’s wonderful and great in its own way, but I also want to supplement it with academics.”

As Phoebe continues to work with SLUG, she hopes to ensure the garden’s future with more students getting involved and in touch with their food and their world.

“I feel really passionately about making sure the garden continues for generations,” she says. “Something I want to bring out about it more in my time, as I maybe will get to be a leader in the garden, or just as I get older and know the garden more, is to make it more accessible and more widely known. Just that anybody can do it and be a part of it.”

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