Five years after moving into a new home on Klawitter Pond in Lake Elmo, Bonnie Juran became concerned about the change of color and declining clarity of the nine-acre pond. The retiree decided to volunteer as a citizen scientist, tracking water quality data from her family’s small paddleboat.
But it was Bonnie’s passion for raising monarch butterflies as a Washington County master gardener that led to a significant mentorship and partnership with then 11-year-old Haley Jostes, a neighbor on the pond.
“I was out on a walk and discovered monarch butterfly eggs on some milkweed at the edge of Haley’s front yard,” Bonnie said. “I dropped a note in their mailbox, telling them I’d be happy to teach them how to raise the butterflies.”
Haley followed up, and had enough success in her first year that she got hooked. Her father built her a small butterfly house in their back yard. Every summer she collects eggs, feeds the caterpillars and watches as they move into the chrysalis stage and finally emerge as adult monarchs.
Haley’s enthusiasm sparked a question from Bonnie: Would you like to join me and a third neighbor, Pat Barrett, in tracking water quality on the pond?
“I love working with the environment, and I love being outside,” Haley said. “Why not?”
Council relies on residents to help monitor area lakes
The trio on Klawitter Pond is part of the Citizen Assisted Monitoring Program (CAMP) run by Metropolitan Council Environmental Services. With the help of 113 volunteers sponsored by 25 local organizations, including watershed districts, the Council tracked water quality on 166 lakes in 2016. Since 1993, the Council has enlisted citizen volunteers to bolster its own monitoring work on lakes in the seven-county region.
The network of CAMP lakes can shift over time as communities and watershed organizations identify lakes with local significance that may be experiencing water quality issues.
“The partnerships between the citizens that are part of our CAMP program and the work that the Council and our partnering agencies are doing is very critical,” explained Dan Henely, Assistant Manager of Water Resources Assessment at the Council. “It saves a lot of resources on the local side and our side to enlist these skilled and engaged and excited citizens. It also builds grassroots activism to address issues on the local level.”
Like other CAMP volunteers, when Haley paddles out on Klawitter Pond she is making both weather observations and taking specific measurements about the water quality. She collects a gallon of water from below the surface at the deepest point in the pond, and measures the water temperature. She uses what is called a Secchi disk to measure water clarity. She divides the sampled water into smaller containers and stores them until they can be picked up for further analysis at a Council laboratory.
“I care about the water in the pond because I am very interested in environmental biology,” she said. “I feel like water quality is something that’s very important around the world. We are very lucky to have the amount of water around us that we do and so we should take care of that water.”
Mentorship helps develop youth connection to local ecosystem
“It means a lot to me to be mentoring someone young, somebody who is up and coming in the world, and somebody who has an interest in pursuing this as part of her studies,” Bonnie said.
“When we moved out here in 1995 the land was bare, except for a few trees. I wanted to make sure we leave the land in better shape when it’s time for us to move, and that our efforts last. That’s where Haley comes in.
“I know that we have to get our young people interested in [water and the environment], because they are who is going to be living in this environment in the future,” Bonnie said. “That would include my own grandchildren. I do think they are the future for taking care of our water.
“I am proud of Haley, I talk about her all the time,” Bonnie said.
“I think that Bonnie’s played an important role in how I want to continue my life with my career and my studies,” Haley said. “I think that getting me involved in the pond and the monarchs and our ecosystem around just us - it was very important in opening my eyes to what work needs to be done and how I can affect the world and make a change.”
Last year, Haley decided to create an experiment about cleaning pond water with aquatic plants. Her project became first alternate for Minnesota at the International Science and Engineering Fair in Los Angeles earlier this year. In 2017, she is experimenting with using algae that has absorbed excess nutrients as a fertilizer.
Monitoring data used to evaluate effectiveness of actions to improve water quality
In addition to monitoring 166 lakes in 2016, the Council tracked water quality at 20 stations on the three major rivers in the metro area and 21 stations on streams in local watersheds.
Monitoring water quality is important for assessing current conditions, Henely explained. It also allows the Council to assess changes over time, and to evaluate the effectiveness of local and regional strategies to improve water quality.
“Water is essential to the quality of life and economic prosperity of this region,” he said. “We’re all Minnesotans, we love water, we love to recreate in and around it, we do many different things—swim, boat, canoe, kayak, we’ll even hike or bike long distances just to look at it. To make the use and management of that sustainable for future generations is something that I think we all cherish.”
Did you know?
The CAMP program has:
You can help
To become a volunteer monitor of a lake near you, contact Brian Johnson at the Met Council, 651.602.8743.