“I’ve always had a love for being outdoors. Several family members of mine work in the environmental field, so that helped spark my interest in biology and environmental science. A relative of mine mentioned the IISG internship program to me last summer, but I was away at school and unavailable. I was very thankful that this internship was offered again this year as I finally got the chance to get involved with Sea Grant.
I worked with the Aquatic Invasive Species Outreach Team in Glencoe, IL. Specifically I worked with fishing tournament anglers and organizers, helping that group prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species. Anglers are a large and crucial audience when trying to reach recreational water users, as they are dependent on healthy water for fishing. However, little information was available on this audience and what they do in terms of AIS prevention. I conducted a survey with tournament organizers to better understand what their role was in AIS prevention, and I attended several fishing tournaments throughout the summer to conduct public outreach.I’ve gained so much more experience with public outreach and education through this internship. Going to events throughout the summer has provided me with experience explaining complex environmental issues to the public. I’ve always had an interest in ecology, but this internship has really fueled an interest in aquatic ecology, especially in the Great Lakes region. The Great Lakes are an important natural resource for us, and my internship gave me an opportunity to help protect the Lakes in a meaningful way.At this point, I want to continue working in the environmental field before going back to school for any graduate work. At the moment, I’ve just been hired to continue with IISG as an outreach assistant. I’m obviously extremely excited to stay on board with the AIS team and continue working with recreational water users as well as other audiences critical to preventing the spread of these species.”
“It has been a busy week for me at the AIS office. This summer I am primarily working with fishing tournament organizers and anglers to better understand their attitudes and practices in AIS prevention. Last weekend, I attended my first fishing tournament and had a great time. Although the weather was less than ideal at North Point Marina, Clean Boats Crew and I were able to reach out to the salmon and trout anglers in the Geoffrey Morris Memorial Tournament. Sarah and I attended the rules meeting Friday evening to talk about simple steps tournament anglers can take to prevent the spread of AIS. Then on Saturday I went to the weigh-in to speak with anglers one-on-one and hand out educational material. There were around 70 boats participating in the tournament, with multiple anglers per boat. The audience was receptive and I really enjoyed speaking with them about the importance of AIS prevention. I’ll be attending another tournament in Indiana next weekend, and I’m hoping for nice weather and lots of fish so I can reach as many anglers as possible! Overall I’m really enjoying working with this audience over the summer as I’m getting lots of experience with outreach.”
While parents, coaches, and friends gathered around to watch high school anglers show off their catch from a fishing tournament held early this week, IISG’s Sarah Zack was onsite to introduce competitors and on-lookers to simple practices that can prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species (AIS). Hosted by the Illini Bass Fishing Club, the event brought high school clubs from across Illinois to Clinton Lake on April 7 to see who could catch the most and the biggest bass. The tournament, one of few held at the high school level each year, gave IISG’s AIS outreach team an important opportunity to talk with young anglers about the threat of AIS to local waterways.
During the few hours that IISG was onsite at Clinton Lake, Sarah talked with dozens of anglers and boaters from across Illinois. Frequent announcements from the tournament emcee also reminded the audience of the negative impacts AIS can have on the health of aquatic environments. Many of the people who visited the IISG booth had heard about Asian carp. But fewer people knew about the need to remove, drain, and dry all equipment after a day on the water. Most were also interested in learning about a new Illinois law that makes it illegal to drive with plants or mud still clinging to boats and trailers.
“These anglers want to make sure they’re doing their part to prevent the spread of AIS because they know that is an important part of preserving the sport of fishing for the future,” said Sarah. “It is encouraging that the message is being embraced. I was especially excited to work with the Illini Bass Fishing Club because of their commitment to AIS prevention.”
“We started this because we wanted to show kids in high school that if they care about fishing enough, and work hard enough, they can take it somewhere,” said Luke Stoner, executive administrator for the club. “What we really like to see are smiling faces and big old bass.”
This year, 134 students fought to catch the most and biggest fish. For many of the teams, the tournament marked their first day on the water this season. But after months of casting practice and learning how to “flip and pitch” the lure to trick the bass into biting, the student anglers were prepared.
Three teams brought in bags of fish weighing more than 17 lbs, and three fish came in at over 6 lbs. Their successes at this event will help students qualify to compete in sectional and state competitions slated for later this year.
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