Farewell Sawyer, Aquatic Invasive Species Intern
by Ellen Voss, La Crosse Area AIS Manager
Fall is in the air, which means we must say so long to Sawyer Rubeck, our 2020 La Crosse Area Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) Intern. Sawyer and I teamed up this summer to tackle AIS issues on the Mississippi River and its major tributaries in La Crosse, Trempealeau, and Buffalo Counties.
Sawyer’s internship experience was anything but typical due to pandemic restrictions and the advice from experts to minimize contact with the public. Although Covid managed to slow down almost everything else this summer, there was seemingly more interest than ever in spending time in and on Wisconsin’s lakes and rivers! And luckily, thanks to some creative programming tweaks, Sawyer was still able to educate those folks about AIS by spending the majority of his internship conducting watercraft inspections at boat landings. Sawyer was a truly exceptional outreach pro, personally inspecting over 1,300 boats and talking to over 3,100 people (while wearing a mask!) about the basic steps they can take to prevent the spread of invasive species. Sawyer also played a key role in Snapshot Day in La Crosse by recruiting volunteers and leading his team to look for invasive species at key bridge crossings on the Mississippi and La Crosse Rivers.
When asked to reflect upon his AIS Internship this summer, it was obvious that Sawyer is passionate about preventing the spread of AIS and that his internship experience changed the way he looks at water:
My favorite part of the internship was that every day was enjoyable. I felt like I was helping people understand the importance of the Clean Boats Clean Waters program. Every day, people were happy to listen and have a discussion with me about the importance of stopping AIS.
One of the most memorable interactions I had was getting to meet Jacob Wheeler, a professional bass fisherman, at a boat landing and see a guy I watch on TV in real life.
After this internship, I feel confident in my ability to talk to people about the general prevention steps and have an increased ability to identify invasive species. I not only know the prevention steps but how to articulate them in a meaningful way to various boaters.
I think I’ll always be on the lookout for invasive species whenever I’m on or near the water. I know now that AIS prevention is a community effort, and I want to continue to do my part to keep our waters clean and healthy. This internship has made it clear to me that in my future careers, I want to continue to help make a sustainable planet and future for myself and others.
Thanks for having a positive impact on western Wisconsin’s water resources and the greater La Crosse community, Sawyer, and best of luck in your future endeavors!