I had been thinking/dreaming/stressing about arriving in Menomonie to begin working with the LAKES REU program for weeks and was so thrilled to FINALLY make it here! I have never visited the northwest and couldn’t help but obsessively google images or ask my (surprisingly plentiful) Wisconsin friends what it is like, but Menomonie has certainly exceeded my expectations. When imagining the northwest, my mind conjured up pictures of wide open expanses filled with corn and cows, few people meandering about, and certainly no conveniently located grocery stores. I was pleasantly surprised to find a very similar college town to the one where I live in Massachusetts, if not better because the influx of students has dwindled.
My favorite finding about Menomonie is that everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, is extremely kind and willing to strike up a conversation. A lot of people are familiar with the LAKES REU program and are very encouraging and enthusiastic about the work that we do, and those who aren’t familiar are sincerely interested in hearing more about it and giving input on what they have noticed about the watershed. I’m excited by the meetings I have been able to attend thus far, including the Red Cedar Watershed Quality Partnership meeting and the Tainter Menomin Lake Improvement Association, Inc. meeting. I am so impressed and charmed by the dedication community members have taken in caring for their resources, and I felt extremely welcomed by both groups. I had yet to witness such a close-knit and caring community as the one I have found in Menomonie.
The lake itself has been surprisingly beautiful since I have arrived, which I’ve been told is due to the extreme amount of rain that Menomonie has been receiving. I think it will benefit my research to be able to see the transition from the lovely and clear blue lake today to the algal and smelly lake as the summer progresses. Lucky for me, a fellow REU student and I had a quick swim the other day and were able to fully enjoy the clean lake time that we have been given! A person walking by to go fishing jokingly told us we were crazy, but the water is so beautiful these past few days that it’s hard to say no! I was definitely surprised by the lack of lake recreation, but I suppose for locals who have experienced the lake in all of its smelly glory have been turned off swimming for good. It will be an interesting progression to witness for sure!
In terms of the LAKES REU project itself, I am very happy so far! All of the students and mentors are friendly, dedicated, and passionate about their fields. I can tell that we are all going to produce some wonderful research this summer and I am beyond excited! My mentor, Nels Paulson, is very encouraging and patient with the development of our independent research questions, and has been very thorough with catching my partner Elise and I up on the research that has been done so far and on teaching us about the software and theories we will need to have a successful summer. I was expecting to perhaps feel a bit more overwhelmed during this first week, but it goes to show what an amazing team I will be working with that I feel pure excitement and anticipation to get working! I am extremely grateful to have been given this opportunity and I plan on getting as much out of it as I can! Thank you for the amazing welcome, Menomonie!