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Lake Superior Pathfinders:

Watershed Warriors
Addressing Issues of Invasive Species and Habitat Impairment of Aquatic and Terrestrial Communities

boy swimming

Pathfinder Program Goal:
To empower youth to perform leadership roles in the protection, maintenance, and restoration of high-quality habitat sites in the Lake Superior basin and the ecological processes that sustain them.

Activity Goal(s):

  • to immerse learners in a freshwater estuary and associated watershed within the Lake Superior Basin
  • to heighten learner awareness of existing or potential threats to estuarine and other critical habitat sites within the Lake Superior basin
  • to provide a balance of stewardship and sustainability perspectives from public agencies, tribal members and agencies, non-profit organizations, and private citizens
  • to engage learners in the process of strategizing and carrying out combat and protection operations against invasive species and other agents of impairment to coastal wetlands, freshwater estuaries, and associated watersheds

pathfinder logo

Significance: The protection, maintenance, and restoration of high-quality habitat sites ... and the ecological processes that sustain them ... are crucial to the health and future of the Lake Superior basin, its ecological communities, its natural resources, and its people.

Experiential Learning: team stream, culvert, and terrestrial and aquatic species assessment; habitat restoration (i.e. control of invasive species, planting of native species, etc.); conversations with resource agents, tribal members, and private citizens; on-the-water edventures in a Lake Superior freshwater estuary.

Curriculum Integration: Science, Social Studies, Environmental Education, Language Arts (see p. 2 of this activity for Correlation to State/National Standards.)

Time: 15 hours (4 hrs pre-study, 8 hours field experience, 1 hour reflection, 2 hours integration into team projects)

Pre-Pathfinders Preparation: Students learn about issues on Connecting the Coast (CtC) website, _________________ (habitat, aquatic communities, and terrestrial wildlife communities, invasive species and habitat impairment are addressed in all three). Students also view String of Pearls II and Culverts: Not Just Something to Pass Over (available on CtC in DVD).

Site(s): monitoring points on streams within the Bad River watershed (i.e. Potato, White, Marengo etc. rivers); Kakagon Sloughs; classroom

Equipment/Materials: waders, water testing kits, nets, pans, tweezers, field magnifiers, aquatic insect and plant guides, data forms, boats, PFDs

LaMP Glossary (words in bold italics are defined at end of activity, with permission from Lake Superior Binational Program)

Learner Objectives:
Students will gain...



Personal Development:

Correlation to State/National Standards:

Issues Background:
Extensive research accumulated over ten years by agency members of the Lake Superior Binational Work Group has resulted in the creation of the Lake Superior Lake Management Plan (LaMP). By studying related chapters of LaMP 2004 and other sources of environmental knowledge, participants in the Pathfinders program will expand their knowledge of issues identified and progress accomplished in the Lake Superior Basin. (Chapters include 6: Status of Habitat in the Lake Superior Basin; 7: Terrestrial Wildlife Communities; 8: Aquatic Communities; and 9: Aquatic Nuisance Species.)

For the purpose of the Lake Superior Youth Pathfinders in Wisconsin, participants will be asked to focus on portions of the LaMP most relevant to the Chequamegon Bay region. They will also be asked to view two videos online on CtC: String of Pearls II and Culverts: Not Just Something to Pass Over.

To further focus participants in deepening their knowledge, study tips have been provided on the Connecting the Coasts website.

Instructors will find additional background information on the issues and experiential teaching techniques in related activities included in the Appendix. All are part of UW-Extension's Estuary Edventure Curriculum. Activities include: Allies and Aliens (invasive plants), Fish Paradise? (benthic invertebrates as food and bioindicators), Go With the Flow (water quality and stream velocity testing), and The Food That Grows on Water (ecological and cultural importance of wild rice).

For participants able and eager to further estuary education in their own communities, UW-Extension's Adopt an Estuary program is available. See CtC website for more information.


Logistical Planning

  1. In the months prior to the Pathfinders program, work closely with Tracey Ledder, coordinator of the Bad River Watershed Alliance, to line up one Bad River Watershed volunteer monitor or resource person per five or six students participating. It will be the job of these volunteers or resource persons to initiate and involve students in the monitoring and/or restoration activities they perform in their sub-watershed. Ideally, each week, four teams of six students would investigate a different sub-watershed Week one, four teams could be dispersed throughout the Potato River watershed; week two four teams of six would study the White River watershed; week three four teams of six would cover the Bad, etc.
  2. Plan logistics of transporting teams to meet their watershed mentor(s) and perform morning work on site. This will necessitate speaking with each of the volunteer/resource people to ascertain how they contribute to the overall monitoring and rehabilitation of the Bad River watershed.
  3. Lunches should be planned for each team. (plan time, place, facilities, if any)
  4. Confirm rendezvous dates and times with instructors at Bad River Fish Hatchery (1:00 pm).
  5. Make sure all safety equipment and materials needed are on hand.
  6. Confirm transportation details for each day (six days in total).

Pathfinders Itinerary and Procedure:

  1. 8:30 Students fill out pre-assessment; depart Northland College.
  2. 9:30 teams meet watershed warriors (mentors) — citizen volunteer members of Bad River watershed — at their river site.
  3. Teams conduct water quality tests and macroinvertebrate sampling (see attached curricula for protocols and procedures). Teams also assess one or more culverts, if feasible, in terms of their effectiveness in providing fish passage and preventing erosion. Teams also learn about any invasive species of concern at the site or within a short distance. Time is spent either removing, planting, or monitoring the site for plant and animal diversity. "Special guests" would lend great interest, if possible to arrange. Example. a fish shocker from DNR or Bad River or someone working on eradicating or controlling an invasive plant could teach by involving students in their work.
  4. Teams eat lunch.
  5. After lunch, all teams are picked up again and transported to the Fish Hatchery at Bad River. Meeting time with instructors, Tom Doolittle and Dana Jackson, is 1:00 pm.
  6. Students share results of morning investigations and experiences.
  7. Instructors introduce students to Kakagon/Bad River Sloughs, facts, and stories.
  8. Instructors and students take boat ride into the Sloughs. A stop is made to learn about the importance of wild rice, both ecologically and culturally. The biology and ecology of the Sloughs is discussed in terms of invasive species, changes, monitoring, protecting, needs for citizen action. (A sense of place is developed here as well.)
  9. What do the studies and activities taking place within the watershed have to do with the Sloughs. With people. With the economy. With Lake Superior?
  10. 3:30 Students journal and complete post-assessment.
  11. Vans depart Fish Hatchery at 4:00.
  12. Optional. An hour could be set aside one evening after the second day's trip for teams to compare experiences, ask questions, think of how what they learned can be applied to their week's presentations and to their own community's issues.

Supplemental Materials for participants:

String of Pearls II, video, UWEX
Culverts: Not Just Something to Pass Over, UWEX
"Wild Cards" of invasive species, WDNR
-Round Goby WATCH
-Ruffe WATCH
-Rusty Crayfish WATCH
-Eurasian Watermilfoil WATCH
-Zebra Mussel WATCH
-European Frogbit WATCH
-Spiny and Fishhook Waterflea WATCH
"Target Leafy Spurge"
"Plants Out of Place"
"Purple Loosestrife"
The Facts on Eurasian Water Milfoil
"Help Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers"
"Out of Place"
Wild Rice (GLIFWC publication, get name)
Fish Friendly Culverts (get name)
Bioindicator Chart (aquatic invertebrates associated with water quality — get name)

Additional learning opportunities:
See Connecting the Coasts content and links for help in designing a service-learning project in one's local community.

Reflection, Assessment, and Evaluation:
Reflection: Integrated reflection is the purpose of the afternoon meeting with instructors. Students will also reflect as they journal, prepare for team presentation, and participate in talking circles.

Assessment: A brief "pre-test" and "post-test" will assess knowledge growth of each student (see Learner Objectives, Knowledge). A rubric will also be used by team members to assess individual participation and team success in achieving the goals of the activity (see Learner Objectives, Skills).

In addition, a rubric will also be used at the conclusion of the week to assess individual participation and team efforts in preparing and delivering their issues presentation. Teams will be expected to integrate invasive species and habitat impairment issues knowledge, skill, and personal development in their presentations.


Results comparing student pre-tests and post-tests will be analyzed. Written evaluations will also be obtained from students, instructors, and mentors at the end of each Pathfinders week. The evaluation will include comments and ratings related to this activity.

Summary—Helping Students Make the Connections:

The following LaMP excerpts provide a rationale for the focus of this activity (threats to high-quality estuaries and associated watersheds), as well as summaries of accomplishments and work to be done. This information may be useful in helping students apply Pathfinders experiences to actions they can facilitate in their local communities.

Chapter 6: Wisconsin has perhaps the most abundant and richest coastal wetlands on Lake Superior. Most are associated with the Lake Superior Clay Plain where estuaries and barrier beaches offer shelter from waves and wind (Epstein and others 1997). The greatest threats to Lake Superior's wetlands are water level regulation and site-specific stresses such as shoreline development (Chow-Fraser and Albert 1998). Other threats include invasive species and diminished water quality (Epstein and others 1997).

Nutrient enrichment and toxic contamination of waters and sediments and modified water level fluctuations are other potential threats to Lake Superior wetlands (Wilcox and Maynard 1996).

Thumbnail of relevant accomplishments in the basin from the LaMP 2004 Executive Summary (see Chapter contents for details, including locations of projects):


The above list hints of projects participants could apply to their local communities.

Terrestrial Wildlife

Accomplishments include:

Next Steps include:

Aquatic Communities

Accomplishments include:

Next Steps include:

Challenges ... (additional excerpts from LaMP Executive Summary)

Future accomplishments will be dependent upon commitments by governments, NGOs and individuals to support the science, resource management and legislative activities that will protect and restore the basin.

Habitat challenges include educating the public on important habitat and ecological resources in the Lake Superior basin, integrative work is necessary to inventory, monitor and manage terrestrial wildlife. The development and implementation of a biological community-based monitoring program remains a long-term goal.

Throughout the (LaMP) process improper land use has consistently been identified as an important contributor to environmental impairment. A method by which land use change can be monitored over time and used to track progress is needed.

Stresses and their impacts on aquatic ecosystems continue to be a challenge in the Lake Superior basin. Challenges include establishing agency support for and maintenance of long-term biota and habitat monitoring programs; ensuring the maintenance of healthy aquatic communities on rivers with, and those identified for hydro power development; completing around the lake mapping of nearshore fish habitat; preventing invasion and transport of non native species; funding continued monitoring efforts for invasive species and fish community changes and status; protecting critical lake and tributary habitats; and expanding knowledge of aquatic systems and the human induced perturbations that may have changed or limited their productivity.

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