Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Bad River Tribal Chair Mike Wiggins, Dollar Bay students win Lake Superior Binational Forum Stewardship awards

ASHLAND, Wis. -- Bad River Tribal Chair Mike Wiggins was recently awarded the Lake Superior Binational Forum’s Environmental Stewardship Award in the category of U.S. Adult, while students from Dollar Bay High School’s Student Organization for Aquatic Robotics (SOAR) received the Youth Award.

Bad River Tribe's Mike Wiggins collaborates for water quality protection

Bad River Tribal Chairman Mike Wiggins displays the Lake Superior Binational Forum’s Environmental Stewardship Award, which he received recently at the Big Top Chautauqua, near Bayfield, Wis. (Photo courtesy Northland College)

"Mr. Wiggins represents the best in sustainable practices by an adult in stewarding the health of Lake Superior this past year," said Lissa Radke, coordinator of the Lake Superior Binational Forum, headquartered at the Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute at Northland College in Ashland, Wis.

Wiggins received high marks from judges in the category of U.S. adult for his collaborative relationships with tribal and nontribal individuals and groups across Wisconsin to try and protect the high quality of water on and off reservation, Radke noted.

"Mike’s role as champion for Lake Superior, the Kakagon and Bad River Sloughs and the rivers and streams of the Bad River Watershed inspired many people across Wisconsin to become active in water issues and actions," Radke said.

Mike Wiggins, Bad River Tribal chairman, talks about the importance of water quality and the need for dialogue with Wisconsin legislators in his speech at the March 23, 2012, Binational Forum, "Mining Impacts and Lake Superior: A Basinwide Approach," which centered on ferrous mining in the Lake Superior Basin. (File photo by Keweenaw Now)*

Wiggins has been a well-known voice and bridge-builder in his opposition of a proposed taconite mine in the Penokee Mountains, located off-reservation but upstream from the Bad River Band of the Lake Superior Tribe of Chippewa Indians Reservation.

"Mike helped develop collaborative relationships with tribal and nontribal individuals and groups across Wisconsin to try to protect the high quality of water on and off reservation," Radke said of the judges’ comments.

Wiggins' influence extends beyond Wisconsin, according to Jessica Koski, Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC) mining technical assistant.

"Wiggins has not only served as an incredible powerful voice and leader for his local community and waterways, but also as an important regional tribal leader recognizing the cumulative mining threat presently facing Lake Superior and tribal homelands throughout Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota," Koski said.

In May of 2012, Wiggins shared inspiration and support to mining issues in Michigan by serving as Keynote Speaker at a Tribal Mining Forum at Keweenaw Bay in Baraga, Mich.

Mike Wiggins was the featured guest speaker at the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC) Tribal Mining Forum in May 2012. Here, after speaking at the forum, he joins Jessica Koski, KBIC mining technical assistant, right, along with Philomena Kebec, left, Bad River Tribal member, and Shelly Parisien, second from left, also of Bad River, for a tour of the Sand Point stamp sand renovation project on Keweenaw Bay in Baraga, Michigan. (File photo by Keweenaw Now)

Dollar Bay students receive Youth Award for marine robots that detect invasive species

In 2009, invasive zebra mussels were documented in Isle Royale National Park for the first time. In 2011, students from the Dollar Bay High School’s Student Organization for Aquatic Robotics (SOAR), began working with park staff to develop and build remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) designed to monitor and inspect docks and boat hulls at the park’s two major visitor portals. These innovative ROVs also serve as ‘ambassadors’ that engage visitors in discussion about invasive species impacts.

Here are some video clips from a presentation the Dollar Bay students, with their science teacher Matt Zimmer, gave to children at Portage Lake District Library in Houghton, Mich., in May 2012, just before the students took their ROVs to Isle Royale.

Outside the Portage Library, following a children's activity on invasive species by Valerie Martin, Isle Royale National Park ranger, Dollar Bay High School student Victoria Kangas shows children how to use a remote control with a computer monitor to operate the robots, which are in a water tank several feet away. The object is to get the robot to pick up an item from the bottom of the water tank. On Isle Royale the ROV would be used to detect zebra mussels. (Video by Keweenaw Now)**

Through a Marine Robotics course offered at the High School, students engineered a functional ROV that can be used under or above water to spot mussels. Despite demanding deadlines, frequent technical failures, and frustrating setbacks, these students were responsible for successfully completing every project task -- design, engineering, onsite testing, budget decisions, tools procurement, outreach, and media relations. Over 1,000 hours of work went into the project, and the students have pledged a long-term commitment to continue to improve and refine the ROVs based on feedback from park staff.

As part of a presentation at the Portage Lake District Library in Houghton, Mich., in May 2012, Dollar Bay student Justin Rogan explains to parents and children some parts of the ROV destined for Isle Royale. (Video by Keweenaw Now)**

The ROVs have saved time and money for the park since rangers do not have to do as many dives to search for invasive species. This "early warning system" that allows for frequent monitoring of docks is crucial for detecting invasives. The success of the SOAR team ROVs has led to their now being developed to have the capability to inspect the hulls of recreational and commercial vessels.**

The Forum recognized 14 individuals, business, municipalities, organizations and youth groups this year around Lake Superior for exemplary acts of stewardship in Canada and the United States, Radke said. This is the 10th year the 22-year-old Forum has given environmental stewardship awards.

A binational panel of judges chose recipients that have demonstrated they have taken successful or innovative actions that minimize or eliminate negative impacts on natural environments in the Lake Superior basin, Radke explained.***

The Lake Superior Binational Forum for 22 years has been headquartered at the Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute at Northland College, a traditional liberal arts and science college with a unique focus on the environment and sustainability, located in Ashland, Wis., near the shores of Lake Superior. The College is broadly recognized as a leader in sustainability education having adopted the focus as its mission in 1971. Founded in 1892, Northland now enrolls 600 students from across the nation and across the world.****


* Click here for the Binational Forum video of Mike Wiggins' speech at the March 23, 2012, meeting in Ashland.

** See the May 28, 2012, Keweenaw Now article, "Updated: High school robotics project to help Isle Royale staff monitor invasive species."

*** Click here to read about all the 2013 awards.

**** Visit the Lake Superior Binational Forum Web site for more information about their work.

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