Reane Loiselle of Dousman, Wisconsin was first introduced to Northland College during a backpacking trip in the Porcupine Mountains in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. It was her sophomore year of high school, and she had been traveling with her family to the north woods. To find a college in that setting was appealing. She was also drawn to the programs at Northland, specifically water science and freshwater research. Northland is located on Lake Superior, the largest body of fresh water in the world.
The Wisconsin Grant played a major factor in making her dream possible. “This financial aid is allowing me to attend Northland and participate in research that I would otherwise probably not be able to participate in,” she said.
Now entering her junior year, she’s majoring in natural resources and water science and has been hired as a research technician by the Mary Griggs Burke Center for Freshwater Innovation to collect data on Fish Creek, a tributary from which massive amounts of sediment flow into Lake Superior.
Northern Wisconsin has experienced three floods in the last six years — floods that caused millions of dollars in damage and resulted in federal disaster declarations. The region is seeing more frequent, intense rainfalls.
The Burke Center focuses on scientific research, communication, and thought leadership on water issues in the Great Lakes region — with an emphasis on training students. They currently employ sixteen student researchers including Reane.
For the last several years, Burke Center water scientists have been monitoring and working on projects to slow the flow of stormwater running off the landscape, as well as reduce the amount of sediment washing into Lake Superior. Reane and the small crew she works with take discharge measurements and water level measurements, downloading pressure loggers and compensators and uploading the data.
“. . .[these techniques] allow us to develop a way of estimating discharge for every fifteen-minute interval for every stream or tributary in the area we are currently monitoring,” she said. “That’s a pretty cool feeling.”
“Getting this kind of hands-on research experience is typically not something that many undergraduates get to have, and I think having this kind of experience in the field that I’m interested in is almost as important as what I am majoring in,” she said. “Northland is the only college where I can study water science and natural resources in such a research-based environment.”
Reane says she loves working in the rivers with the buzzing of dragonflies and damselflies or on Lake Superior surrounded by water as still as glass (some days). “If I’m honest though, some of the most satisfying moments are really when you finally see what all the data collection is creating,” she said.