Big Sky Watershed Corps Members Continue to Make an Impact at FLBS
For the past four years, Big Sky Watershed Corps (BSWC) Members have partnered with Flathead Lake Biological Station researchers and educators to conduct meaningful work in the areas of watershed research, education, and outreach. These yearlong collaborations have helped BSWC Members gain first hand skills and real-world experience, and FLBS research, monitoring, and education programs have all made significant strides in the Flathead Watershed as a direct result of our partnership with the BSWC program. We are proud to introduce our growing list of BSWC Members who continue to better the work and world around them at FLBS and beyond!
Current Big Sky Watershed Corps Member at FLBS
Site Supervisor: Rachel Malison, FLBS Assistant Research Professor
A local Montanan, Keaton Martin is the 2021 Big Sky Watershed Corps Member at FLBS. Deeply invested in Montana’s waters, Keaton is currently assisting with the Monitoring Montana Waters program (MMW), which launched in spring of 2021 to offer scientific expertise and guidance to citizen-led watershed monitoring groups. Keaton has played an integral part in making the program operational, and remains greatly involved in many aspects of the program’s continued development, which includes coordinating sampling and lab shipments for all MMW funded citizen-led watershed monitoring groups for the 2021 sampling season.
“Keaton has made an immediate impact for MMW. He has greatly increased our capacity to build the program and provide resources for volunteer monitoring groups in Montana. He also has been great to work with and has been very flexible in providing assistance with many different aspects of the MMW program.” ~ Rachel Malison
Site Supervisor: Monica Elser, FLBS Education Liaison
Current Position: Big Sky Watershed Corps Member at Lake County Conservation District in Ronan, MT
2020 Big Sky Watershed Corps Member Abby Schmeichel joined the Bio Station’s Flathead Lake Aquatic Research Education (FLARE) K-12 Program for the 2020 season. When the arrival of an unprecedented pandemic disrupted initial plans for Abby to share FLARE K-12’s Be Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) Aware curriculum, which would have included her participating in many in-person field trips and community outreach events, Abby quickly and effectively transitioned her approach. Instead of connecting with Flathead area classrooms primarily through in-person activities, Abby helped create innovative new virtual programs to bring FLBS research to local K-12 students and teachers. These programs included the implementation of an online Earth Day Art Project competition, and the development of an educational AIS sampling video.
Abby also created new AIS lessons for future Mussel Walk events, and developed an interactive FLBS campus nature walk that will continue to be part of the educational programming at FLBS for years to come. She also shared FLARE educational material with a variety of small groups of students of different ages, participated in a teacher workshop, assisted with AIS sampling on Flathead Lake, and provided important AIS information with local Plein Air artists.
“Abby did an excellent job with educational programming at FLBS, especially with the changing COVID environment, and successfully met the variety of unanticipated tasks that were part of the very challenging year of 2020.” ~ Monica Elser
Site Supervisors: Erin Sexton, FLBS Senior Scientist
Current Position: CMP Conservation Priorities Coordinator and Secretariat & FLBS Research Assistant
Natalie first joined FLBS in 2019 as our second Big Sky Watershed Corps Member stationed at the Flathead Lake Biological Station, bringing important capacity to work on behalf of the Crown Managers Partnership (CMP). CMP is a voluntary collaboration across natural resource managers in the Crown of the Continent Ecosystem in northwest Montana, southwest Alberta and southeast British Columbia. Natalie assisted with monitoring for Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) in Flathead Basin lakes and rivers, brought our AIS work to the indoor and outdoor classroom, inspiring the next generation, and assisted the CMP with telling our story through website communications and a new AIS story map, building on the initial work of our first Big Sky Member, Maggie Burnham.
Natalie brought creativity and enthusiasm to her work, bridging people and projects as she contributed to work across our federal, state and tribal agencies, and FLBS. Natalie excelled at working with people of all ages and communicating the importance of protecting our Flathead fresh waters in innovative ways. Natalie did such an amazing job that she stayed on with the CMP and FLBS, and is presently coordinating work on important conservation priorities across the Crown of the Continent Ecosystem.
“Natalie’s Big Sky Membership with FLBS and the CMP was a win-win-win. In working with experienced scientists and mid-level agency managers in this region, Natalie added value to everything she worked on, and brought fun new ideas to on-going projects. She incorporated all of her Big Sky Corp Member training from volunteer monitoring to creating maps and interactive outreach and communication tools like story maps, which are still being shared widely today.” ~ Erin Sexton
Site Supervisor: Phil Matson, FLBS Research Specialist
Current Position: Montana DEQ Water Quality Technician
Hailing from Missoula, MT, Maggie was our Big Sky Watershed Corps Member through the Crown Managers Partnership. Maggie was instrumental in recruiting 10 other BSWC members, Salish and Kootenai College students, and FLBS student intern volunteers to help sample Flathead Lake for zebra and quagga mussels. Sampling 31 different sites on three separate occasions, Maggie used her field based experience, passion for educational outreach, and GIS skills to foster awareness of Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) throughout the Flathead Valley as she helped collect over 1,000 samples!
Maggie assisted with the 2018 CSKT Mussel Walk, which engaged roughly 150 middle school students with hands-on AIS prevention lessons and activities. Maggie also taught AIS curriculum at two Boys and Girls Club events, gave a boat inspection presentation to Glacier High School students, and produced maps showing the areas of Flathead Lake that were most vulnerable to AIS. She attended four Upper Columbia Conservation Commission meetings, gaining valuable insight into the political and scientific side of AIS, and networked with over 20 AIS professionals.
“Maggie was my first experience with the Montana Conservation Corps, and she taught me lot about the impassioned and brilliant future leaders who serve in the Big Sky Watershed Corps program. Maggie has a bright future ahead of her, and will continue to do a world of good wherever she goes.” ~ Phil Matson