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Staff Mix with Water On and Off the Clock

Program analyst Dee Angradi with the dragonboat team Wikiwiki Wahine. Photo by Adam Moren.

Program analyst Dee Angradi with the dragonboat team Wikiwiki Wahine.

Having a love for water and water recreation seems to be an unwritten job prerequisite for the people who work at Minnesota Sea Grant. Not only do they work on water-related issues during the day, most spend time on or in the water during their off-hours. Their combination of professional and recreational pursuits benefit the audiences that Sea Grant serves and have contributed to the slew of awards they’ve racked up over the summer.

Take Dee Angradi, Minnesota Sea Grant's program analyst. She is a member of a national championship women's dragonboat team that has won an opportunity to compete in China. When she's not working as part of the communications team to get water-related information into people’s hands, Angradi might be found training as one of Wikiwiki Wahine’s (Hawaiian for speedy women) "rockets" that supply power near the back of a dragonboat.

Like other Sea Grant staff members, Angradi has spent time in the mountains and on rivers, but says it's just not the same as being close to big bodies of water like Lake Superior. Dale Bergeron, Sea Grant's maritime extension educator, echoes that sentiment.

"There's something about the infinite horizon you get on large water bodies," Bergeron said. "There's a kind of spirit or presence that’s so powerful. Living by water makes life as rich as it can be."

Kayaking is Bergeron's favorite off-hours activity. He paddles three to four times a week, almost year round. He has paddled around Lake Superior and many other places including Vancouver Island, Canada, and the Sea of Cortez in Baja, Calif. He finds a philosophical connection between his affinity for water and his job, which involves dealing with Great Lakes international shipping issues.

"There's a great opportunity for improving the environment through wise use of high-quality shipping," Bergeron said. "Water is the most important element we have. We need to respect it, understand it and take care of it."

Bergeron, along with Sharon Moen, Minnesota Sea Grant's science writer, earned the Great Lakes Sea Grant Network's Outstanding Project Award for their work in helping the Great Lakes Ballast Water Collaborative tackle aquatic invasive species and associated challenges with regulations, technology, and shipboard realities.

Jesse Schomberg, Sea Grant's coastal communities educator and program leader, also had summer that included spending time in Lake Superior and awards. Schomberg likes to swim with his family along the Park Point shoreline in Duluth, Minn. During one of these family outings, he arrived to find emergency personnel helping a group of people. His wife, Sizzarie had arrived earlier with the children. She beckoned him over.

"Sizzarie told me she and some others had been out in a rip current rescuing several people," Schomberg said. "My wife had grabbed an inner tube and brought it out to three people to make sure they could stay floating. Then a very tall young man who could touch bottom came out and was able to pull the imperiled swimmers to safety. It's always dangerous when you try to rescue someone, but the rescuers knew from the signs and our education program what needed to be done."

Schomberg heads Minnesota Sea Grant's rip current education program. He was able to get an impromptu videotape of the rip current, which was still visible when he arrived, to help further that educational message. "We haven't had a death on Park Point since the rip current and flag warning system went into effect," Schomberg said. "There have been a lot of rescues, but no deaths."

Adding to the 2011 Dairyland Surf Classic award for rip current education that Minnesota Sea Grant shared with Wisconsin Sea Grant and Michigan Sea Grant, Schomberg, environmental quality extension educator Cindy Hagley, and water resource management and policy extension educator John Bilotta*, brought back a Bronze Award for Innovative Programming from the Association of Natural Resource Extension Professionals. The award recognized the trio's work to extend the Watershed Game train-the-trainer program to national audiences. The watershed game is a tool supporting Non-point Education for Municipal Officials efforts to bring sustainable development concepts into community planning.

Sea Grant's aquatic invasive species program coordinator, Doug Jensen, is often fishing when he's not working to slow the spread of non-native animals and plants. Ice fishing is a particular passion. "I like going out on a crisp winter morning and enjoying our northland lakes and rivers," Jensen said.

Jensen is a dedicated sportsman. He's been fishing the January trout opener with the same group of men each year for 20 years. "We haven’t missed a year even though sometimes it's been about 25 below," Jensen said. He's also dedicated to Sea Grant. His commitment earned him the Great Lakes Sea Grant Network's Mid-Career Award for the extensive collaborations and funding he has generated to combat the spread of aquatic invasive species. Proving the award is well deserved, Jensen recently garnered a Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Grant for $400,000 on behalf of the Great Lakes Sea Grant Network. The money will be used to extend national campaigns like Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers!TM and HabitattitudeTM to thousands of people every year.

Rounding out the season, communications designer Chris Benson, Moen, and Hagley report that their trips to the Boundary Water Canoe Area Wilderness included paddling, swimming, and fishing. Their summers also included an APEX Award of Excellence for communications (Benson and Moen), and a Lake Superior Binational Forum Environmental Stewardship Award for outstanding educational programming for youth and teachers (Hagley). Hagley earned this honor through her work with the Shipboard and Shoreline Science workshops and COSEE Great Lakes (see Educators Experience Shipboard Science article).

*Bilotta's off-hours include sunrises and sunsets from the porches of his shoreland home. On weekends and days off, he fishes for bass and romps in the water with his son and nephews.

By Marie Zhuikov and Sharon Moen
October 2011

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