The 11th Annual
Thursday, March 16th, 2023
2023 Keynote Presentation
A Watershed Management Approach to Declining Mussels in the Fox River Watershed
Native freshwater mussel species are undergoing rapid changes in the Fox River watershed in Illinois and Wisconsin. Evidence of enigmatic mussel declines highlight the need for reliable, integrated information to guide and assess conservation actions aimed at managing and sustaining species viability. In 2020, a project funded by a US Fish & Wildlife Service State Wildlife Grant was initiated to survey and assess mussel populations throughout the Fox River watershed. To date, 75 sites were sampled which confirmed the presence of 24 live species in the watershed. Several actions to prevent regional extirpation of the last known populations of Rainbow (Cambarunio iris), in this watershed have also been initiated. Efforts to advance species recovery include targeted species inventory and monitoring, host research, genetics research, and captive rearing, where over 3,400 juvenile Rainbow are currently maturing at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Genoa National Fish Hatchery. Once developed, subadults will be tagged and released at predetermined locations in the watershed. Data collected from this project will be used to update the focus of conservation efforts in the watershed, which may include continued rearing of rare mussel species or the development of projects that identify, protect, and enhance mussel habitat, as well as ongoing monitoring efforts. Improving our knowledge of the status, trends, and conservation strategies will help managers prioritize imperiled species for future conservation practices in a changing environment.
Lisie Kitchel is a Conservation Biologist for the Wisconsin DNR in the Bureau of Natural Heritage Conservation where her work focuses primarily on our native mussels. She has been chasing our native mussels around the state for 20 years. Conservation of mussels is her passion and one which she enjoys sharing with others.
Jesse Weinzinger is a Conservation Biologist for the Wisconsin DNR in the Bureau of Natural Heritage Conservation and coordinates activities for the Wisconsin Mussel Monitoring Program. Outside of work, he enjoys being outdoors, even when getting outwitted by fish and game.
Todd Levine is a faculty member at Carroll University and directs Prairie Springs Environmental Education Center and Greene Field Station. He grew up on North American rivers and was introduced to their exceptional biodiversity as an undergraduate. He and his students have been contributing to our understanding of mussels in southeastern Wisconsin for 8 years.
2023 Featured Speakers
Bureau of Water Quality
Risks Posed by Neonicotinoid Insecticides to Wisconsin’s Streams and Rivers
Neonicotinoids (“neonics”) are the most widely used class of insecticides globally. In the Midwest, the primary use of neonics are as seed coatings for many crops including corn, soybeans, and other grains. There is an increasing number of studies reporting environmental harm caused by neonics to both terrestrial and aquatic insect populations. In 2022, with support from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and in collaboration with the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission and the River Alliance of Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources initiated a study to collect water column grab samples at randomly-selected and fixed-station sites, to characterize neonic contamination in Wisconsin’s wadeable streams. Preliminary study finding will be presented reporting the spatial extent and levels of neonic contamination in Wisconsin.
Mike is a stream ecologist for WI DNR, a lecturer at UW-Madison, and co-author of Field Guide to Wisconsin Streams. When not thinking, studying, or writing about streams, he can often be found getting out-witted by animals with pea-sized brains while fly fishing in Wisconsin’s Driftless Area.
Full-Length Fox River Trippin'
Jenni had always wanted to paddle the entire length of the Fox River, and in celebration of It's Our Fox River Day 2022, she did just that. Growing up on its banks in Algonquin Shores, the river was foundational in her upbringing. Now it is her job to lead joyous experiences to help children understand and value the river and their role in protecting it. From portaging around the Fox River’s 16 dams, crossing one of the most heavily used powerboat recreation areas at the Chain O’Lakes, and guerrilla camping when necessary, the 200 mile paddling trip was no easy feat for Jenni and the friends that accompanied her. But challenges were balanced by majesty and firsthand Fox River education that she will carry with her in her role as Director of Education Programs Operations with the Friends of the Fox River. Hear all about it and bring your nostalgic Fox River stories for a presentation and talk about this impactful voyage.
Jenni has a B.S. in Environmental Studies from Northland College in Ashland, WI and a Masters of Public Health from U.W. Madison. After 22 years of involvement with Friends of the Fox River, she currently directs watershed education for the organization. Previously she worked as an environmental toxicologist at the Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene, education coordinator at the Wisconsin Energy Institute and in ecological restoration. She is the proud mother of two young environmental protectors and cultivators of joy, Greta (11) and Scarlet (5).
Where were you for It’s Our Fox River Day 2022?
To effectively protect and restore a watershed, we must act on a watershed scale. The Fox River Summit and Our Fox River Day (IOFRD) are two events that embrace that concept.
IOFRD is designed to be a unifying watershed-wide event to provide awareness and action in celebration of the Fox River. Born as a clean-up, it has morphed into a diverse celebration. IOFRD 2022 was significantly larger than in the past. Learn what happened, lessons learned, and get ready to celebrate IOFRD 2023 on Saturday September 16th.
Gary Swick used his BS in Natural Resource Mgt. from the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point and a MSEd in Outdoor Teacher Education as the foundation for developing a field-based High School Environmental Science suite of eight courses. Under his direction, students planted thousands of trees, restored acres of natural areas, generated files of research, and accomplished many other acts of environmental stewardship that have become local history. Many of those students are now professionals in the environmental field. In addition, he also invested 10 years at Northern Illinois University as an instructor, and 18 summers as a raft guide on the Snake River in Wyoming.
Gary serves as the President of the Friends of the Fox River and is a board member on several other non-profit conservation groups. He is an avid outdoor recreationist.
Fox Chain O’Lakes Watershed Plan Update
The Fox Waterway Agency, along with a volunteer, citizen-led committee is leading creation of a new watershed plan for the Fox Chain O’ Lakes. Technical aspects and plan compilation are being led by Northwater Consulting. We will give an overview of the plan’s purpose, issues that the plan will address and progress to date. We will share opportunities to be involved throughout the planning process and ways learn about the issues and their potential solutions.
The Agency News .... Fox Waterway Agency 2023 Publication
Ted Kratschmer works with diverse clients across the Midwest helping to monitor and understand water quality conditions and issues. Much of the past 10+ years of his career has been spent working on understanding nutrients in the Mississippi River Watershed and he has worked closely with state and federal agencies in support of the Gulf Hypoxia Task Force. Ted is a lifelong outdoorsman, spending much of his free time recreating on and around rivers. He lives in St. Louis, Missouri with his wife and daughter, making frequent trips to northern Illinois to visit family who live along the Fox River in McHenry County. Ted has a BS in Environmental science from the University of Notre Dame and a MS in Environmental Management from Webster University.
Karen Ann Miller
Marketing Fabulous Fox! Water Trail
GMCI Creative, Inc
The Kane County Board recognizes the economic development potential of the Fabulous Fox! Water Trail (FF!WT). In 2022, the Kane County Development Department contracted with Gilmore Marketing Concepts, Inc. (gmci) to develop a marketing plan for the FF!WT in Kane County with hopes it could become a model for the other counties along the Fox River. Kim Gilmore, President of gmci, and Karen Ann Miller, Executive Planner with the Kane County Development Department and Illinois Co-Chair of the Fabulous Fox! Water Trail, will walk attendees through the process and what implementation may look like.
Respect and love for nature inspires and motivates Karen Ann Miller to regularly explore local open spaces and plan longer trips that include hiking and paddling while learning about local culture. She has been fortunate to be employed as a Land Use Planner by Kane County, a county that values its natural resources, for over 22 years. Karen is the Illinois Co-Chair of the team developing the Fabulous Fox! Water Trail. She is a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners, a commissioner for the Brookfield Plan Commission and active in the Brookfield Historical Society. Master of Urban Planning and Policy, University of Illinois at Chicago; Bachelor of Arts, Psychology, Northern Illinois University
Kim is a dynamic, highly motivated artist and creative business owner with a strong record of achievement combining skills in diverse areas of advertising design, customer service, organizational development, vendor/staff leadership, market analysis, information systems, and project management, while building partnerships and community relations. Kim is experienced in the operation of a successful small business, GMCI Creative, Inc. since 1991. Plus the creation and management of capillary small businesses and corporations. Plus, she administers several non-profit organizations, including the inception, proposal, writing and winning of National & State grants. She is highly motivated and intuitive, effective at human relations, and able to manage both time and resources to maximize productivity. She founded Gilmore Marketing Concepts in 1991 as a creative, energetic design house and advertising, marketing firm. Her corporation employs freelance and full-time writers, designers, advertising and marketing professionals, digital and contemporary ad placement specialists and a PPC expert. Ms. Gilmore oversees all aspects of operations, billing, purchasing, training, design, copywriting, publishing, sales, comprehensive marketing campaigns and daily business. Kim Gilmore got her first degree, an Associates of Applied Sciences in Graphic Design from Elgin Community College. She went on to get her BFA in Graphic Design and a BA in Marketing at Northern Illinois University. Kim then was awarded her Master of Business Administration from Northwestern Kellogg School of Management. Kim is Google Ad Words Certified, an Adobe Certified Expert, (ACE) a QuarkXpert and a Facebook Authorized Ads Certification Holder. Her company is a Certified Women’s Business Enterprise.
Overcoming barriers to cover crop adoption: carrots, sticks and many little hammers
Cover crop use lags in Southeast Wisconsin despite demonstrated agroecological benefits and ample cost-share support. Major barriers to adoption include economic/ financial drivers, both real and perceived as well as farm operational and managerial challenges. This session will examine the barriers, provide example on-farm performance data which counter economic arguments, and offer some programmatic suggestions for improved cover crop advocacy.
Stute is a farmer-member of the WPCRC and an independent research agronomist. His research and outreach focuses on developing best practice recommendations for Climate-Smart agricultural systems to maximize financial returns, encouraging adoption by farmers. This work is conducted entirely with cooperating farmers in Southeast Wisconsin and focuses on the Climate-Smart cornerstone practices of no-till and cover cropping. Past affiliations include UW-Extension and the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute, and he’s spent the last 30 years working to increase cover crop use.
UW - Whitewater
Amphibian and Reptile Conservation in Wisconsin: Case Examples
Joshua M. Kapfer (Professor and Certified Wildlife Biologist ®) has lived most of his life in southern Wisconsin. He was born in Stoughton, just south of Madison. He earned his B.S. and M.S. degrees from the University of Wisconsin–La Crosse (1999, 2002) in Biology and a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee (2007) in Ecology and Evolution. His doctoral research investigated numerous aspects of Gophersnake ecology and conservation in Sauk County. After earning his doctoral degree, Josh worked for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, NRC Environmental Consulting (now Stantec), and Elon University in North Carolina. Since 2011, Josh has been with the Biology Department at the University of Wisconsin–Whitewater, where he teaches various lecture and field-based ecology courses and conducts research with undergraduate students. He is broadly interested in vertebrate ecology and conservation, with publications centered on amphibians, reptiles, fish, and mammals (although he will admit to a particular fondness for Wisconsin’s reptiles). He currently lives in Walworth County with his family.
Oconomowoc Watershed Protection Program
Nuts and Bolts of a Successful Adaptive Management Program
Darrell Smith is the Watershed Program Manager for the City of Oconomowoc’s Watershed Protection Program. Darrell guides the City’s Adaptive Management program to reach compliance with Phosphorous water quality standards in the Oconomowoc River. The program, started in 2015, focuses on watershed-wide P reduction strategies, including land management practices, lake improvements and stream restorations. Darrell also helps to coordinate the Farmers for Lake Country producer-led group, which fosters peer to peer learning about farming practices that promote soil health and preserve water quality. Darrell assists with on-the-ground identification of resource concerns, helps farmers and other landowners implement conservation measures, models P load reductions from BMPs and coordinates watershed monitoring efforts.
Forest Preserve District
of DuPage County
Freshwater Mussel Propagation
Keeping common species common
Freshwater mussels are one of the most imperiled animal groups in the U.S. Known as the “livers of the rivers” freshwater mussels provide numerous ecosystem services. In addition to this Freshwater mussels can act out as an indicator species whose presence or absence tells ecologist in general about water quality and the environment. At the Urban Stream Research Center (USRC), staff work to propagate Freshwater mussels with the hope to keep common species common. However, this is no small task with a complex lifecycle and dwindling habitat USRC staff need to overcome these challenges in order to produce mussels for stocking in streams and rivers in DuPage County and beyond.
Everett has B.S. in biology from Dominican University in River Forest, IL and is currently working towards a Master’s of fisheries and Aquatic science with the University of Florida. His professional, and academic interests include aquaculture, specifically integrated multi-trophic aquaculture systems. He currently works as an aquatic technician with the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County, where he works to propagate Freshwater mussels for reintroduction into the Des Plaines, Fox, and Chicago River watersheds.
Fox Illinois River Basin TMDL for TP and TSS
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has commenced work on a Total Maximum Daily Load study for total phosphorus and total suspended solids in the Fox Illinois River Basin. The study area includes the Upper, Lower, and Middle Fox River, the Des Plaines River, the Mukwonago River, Sugar and Honey Creeks, the White River, Nippersink Creek, North Mill Creek, and Channel Lake watersheds. This presentation will a brief overview of the current status of the Fox Illinois River Basin TMDL.
Eric Hettler is a Water Quality Modeler working for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Eric has been with the DNR for over four years and has worked on the development of TMDLs and watershed-related projects. Prior to his time at the DNR, he worked in private industry as a civil engineer focused on water resources engineering. He received his bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering from of Colorado State University and his master’s degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Minnesota.
Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge: An Urban Model for the National Wildlife Refuge System
Hackmatack NWR is a designated urban refuge. The people and the technical knowhow on how Hackmatack came to fruition is truly an inspiration and a blueprint for future conservation efforts.
Cassandra Skaggs works for the US Fish and Wildlife Service as the new refuge manager for Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge and Kankakee National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area. Cassie grew up in Albany, Georgia and received a Bachelor of Science in Forest Resources from the University of Georgia and a Master of Science in Renewable Natural Resources from Louisiana State University in 2019. Cassie has worked in seven states on nine different national wildlife refuges. Some highlights include banding threatened piping plovers, catching and implanting transmitters into bufflehead ducks, prescribe burns at Merritt Island NWR (NASA’s Kennedy Space Center) as a wildland firefighter, nest dragging for ducks in the prairie pothole region with ATVs, counting alligators at night from an airboat, and as a helicopter crewmember taking water samples in the Everglades.
Kane County Development & Community Services Department
Women Trailblazers, African American Freedom Finders and Immigrants getting the job done
…following the Fox River
Julia has been the Preservation Planner for Kane County since 2001. Her work focuses on the documentation of historic structures in the county and assisting Kane County residents with the County’s Historic Preservation program with land marking and rehabilitating their historic buildings. Prior to that she worked for Landmarks Illinois as the Advocacy Coordinator after completing the Master of Science in Historic Preservation program from the School at the Art Institute of Chicago. Mostly recently she has worked on documenting historic aspects of the Fox River for inclusion in the Fabulous Fox Water Trail application to the National Water Trails program. Currently, she is working towards earning a Kane County Naturalist Certification through the Forest Preserve District of Kane County.
2022 Update of the Fox River Study Group's Fox River Implementation Plan (FRIP)
In 2015 the Fox River Study Group (FRSG) developed its first Fox River Implementation Plan (FRIP) to address nutrient-related water quality issues in the southern half of the Fox River watershed, a watershed area encompassing 1405 square miles from the Stratton Dam in McHenry, IL to the mouth of the Fox River in Ottawa, IL. Making use of improved computer modeling to evaluate different management options, the FRSG recently completed a 2022 FRIP update. Skrukrud will discuss the watershed improvement projects the 2022 FRIP prioritizes for implementation over the next decade. These include continued reductions in phosphorus loadings from wastewater treatment plants, removal of dams from the Fox River mainstem and the adoption of state-of-the-art watershed management practices.
Cindy Skrukrud has chaired the Fox River Study Group for the past 20 years and has lived in the Nippersink Creek watershed for 35 years. She holds a BS degree in bio-agricultural sciences from Colorado State University and a PhD in biochemistry from the University of California at Berkeley.
US Army Corps of Engineers
Fox River Connectivity & Habitat Study: ecosystem restoration and dams assessment on the Fox River (IL)
Ryan will give an update on this study now underway looking at the ecosystem restoration potential in the reach of the Fox River from Algonquin, IL to Montgomery, IL. There are 10 low head dams in this stretch of the Fox River.
Ryan received his Bachelor’s in Geography from Augustana College in Rock Island, IL in 2011. He went on to earn a Master’s from the Department of Geographical and Sustainability Sciences at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, IA in 2014. Following graduate school Ryan worked as a Project Manager for an ecological restoration firm in the Chicago Region for six years. In 2020, Ryan began working for the USACE, Chicago District as a Biologist in the Planning Branch. Ryan provides planning and environmental compliance support for a wide variety of projects in the Chicago District including various ecosystem restoration studies and projects.