Monday, June 23, 2014

Isn't this lake supposed to be green?

Being in Menomonie is a completely new experience for me in a lot of ways: this is the place where I will be experiencing my first professional gig as a biologist, where I get to work with new people from different places and academic disciplines, and I get to spend 8 WEEKS in a state I've never been to before. I have so much to learn...

 I’ve never been to Wisconsin nor have I spent much time in a small town setting. Currently, I live in Kansas City and attend school in Cedar Rapids, Iowa so this sparsely populated area is quite foreign to me. I have never seen a city like Menomonie with such an ideal small town attitude.  I am quite amused by the friendliness and the unique downtown area around the university. I can honestly say I didn’t quite expect this, though I was fully anticipating how beautiful it would be here based on the ravings I heard from friends and family when I told them of my summer plans. I knew I would fall in love with the environment right away, but the pleasantness of the people was an added bonus. 

Taking in the beauty of the lake on our first day
             Coming here, knowing that my mission would be to gather knowledge about these infamous algal blooms and possibly help discover some solutions to cleaning up the waters, I really expected the lake to be quite unpleasant, but it sure doesn’t look that way right now. It’s beautiful and the way that this city wraps around the lake doesn’t surprise me at all. I know that’s all going to change in a few short weeks and there is definitely plenty of chatter around town about the changes that will come. People are very aware of the situation and I’ve already had many conversations with people around town concerning the polluted water and dissatisfaction with the way things are. Already, quite a few supportive 'thank you’s' just for the work we plan to do have been thrown my way. So, it’s kind of upsetting that so little has been done thus far in gathering information and implementing solutions. But then, that’s where the excitement begins for us.

                Although there is this unfortunate deficiency in research about the Red Cedar Watershed, it is kind of thrilling for us as the first group of LAKES REU students tasked with doing this research. We get to be the ones to get it started and that’s kind of amazing. At this point, having just finished our first week, we are getting to influence where we would like to start our research and learning just how important it is that we are all here from different academic disciplines to work together on this issue.

Getting to know each other on a VERY long bike ride
                 Because I am a biology major, my research will be biology and chemistry focused. I am so excited to get out there, get dirty, and discover what is happening with on a microscopic level to the life in the lakes. I think the community here will be quite surprised to discover what’s happening in their lakes even when these dreadful algal blooms aren’t as obvious. 

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