By Amanda Dow, MLSA Intern
I recently attended the Michigan Inland Lakes Convention, where the topic was “Conserving Lakes in a Changing Environment,” a topic I find very relevant to our current times, with both climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead of cancelling the convention, the organizers got creative and moved it all online. This must have been a huge undertaking and I am very impressed with how it all turned out. Many of the sessions and workshops I attended went smoothly and any technical difficulties the organizers did encounter were fixed quickly. The online format worked really well. I attended sessions on an array of topics: algae and herbicides for harmful algae, fish, mollusks, other wildlife, natural shorelines, flooding, and climate change in relation to our lakes and streams.
I was most excited to build my previous knowledge of swimmer’s itch. It was great to see what advancements the scientific community has made, such as expanding the species of waterfowl and snails that the parasites will take as hosts. I also enjoyed learning about the actions people have made in attempts to manage the itch on their own properties, adding baffles in the water to section off an area to reduce the amount of parasites or using machines (with creative names such as the “Smasher” and the “USS Dragnet”) that destroy the parasites in their area.
I also attended a session about dragonflies. I learned some awesome facts, like how they can move each of their four wings separately and that 350 million years ago their wingspan was three feet long, and I learned how to tell the difference between a damselfly and a dragonfly.
There were two keynote speakers, Dr. Robert Thorson and Dr. Kendra Spence Cheruvelil. Dr. Thorson (who wrote Beyond Walden) told us about how Michigan’s inland lakes had a variety of origins and why understanding this and what makes an ideal lake system is important for lake managers. Dr. Cheruvelil (founder of LAGOS) taught us about how collecting and looking at lake data on a population scale is important.
One of the most valuable sessions I attended was the student and professional networking session. I was able to talk to four different mentors in different careers, and I learned more about their jobs and their passions. Most importantly for me, as a college student still trying to find a course in life, they gave some good life advice, like the importance of internships and traveling.
It was interesting and exciting to see a few familiar faces in the virtual crowd. While attending the session on swimmer’s itch I saw Glen Lake’s local watershed biologist Rob Karner, someone who I have had the privilege to work with in the past and whom I had learned a lot about swimmer’s itch from in Glen Lake Association meetings. At the student mixer I saw a past professor of mine, Constanza Hazelwood, the Freshwater Studies program coordinator at Northwestern Michigan College. It is strange what a small world we live in, especially when you are involved in freshwater environmental studies!
If you want to learn about some of the many topics presented but were not able to attend the conference, you are in luck! Many of the sessions and workshops were recorded and will be made available on the convention website. We will announce in this newsletter when those sessions are available. The MLSA workshop from the convention: The Best Conservation Tools – You and Your Lake Association, slides and recordings are available now.