Celebrating the Champions of Wisconsin’s Streams: Winners of the 2023 Stream Monitoring Awards

By: Lily Butler, WAV and AIS Programs Student Assistant

The Wisconsin Stream Monitoring Awards recognize individuals and groups for their exemplary efforts in volunteer stream monitoring and related activities, such as their support of stream stewardship, commitment to developing partnerships, and/or sharing their skills and water quality data to benefit Wisconsin streams and rivers. Let’s celebrate the 2023 winners and their remarkable contributions!

Karen Doyle (second on left), Carl Nelson (third on left), and Bob Jozwowski (fourth on left) are recognized at the Wisconsin Lakes and Rivers Convention on April 11. Also in the photo, Katy Bradford (UW Extension), Emily Heald (UW Extension), and Tim Asplund (Wisconsin DNR) presented the awards.
Katy Bradford (right) presents Jessica Orlofske (left) with her award!

Bob Jozwowski – “Outstanding Coordinator”

Bob Jozwowksi is a true leader in WI stream monitoring. He has been a member of Trout Unlimited for about 25 years and has been a WAV stream monitoring volunteer with his wife Deb since 2008. In 2010,  he took over as a team leader, monitoring 3 sites near Wautoma. John Tucker, a Board Member of Central WI Trout Unlimited (CWTU), reflected on Bob’s leadership, explaining that in 2015, when the need suddenly arose, Bob stepped up and took on the role of coordinator of the CWTU. He quickly expanded membership and the number of monitoring sites to safeguard local waters. For the last 8 years, Bob has supported over 100 stream monitoring volunteers and 30 monitoring teams annually across 5 counties, and he has tirelessly worked to provide ongoing communication, training sessions, fall “wrap-up” meetings, and guidance for the CWTU teams. His nominators wrote that he works year round planning and fostering valuable partnerships, including reviewing monitoring plans with the local DNR stream biologist.

Bob and Deb travel a lot and the one thing they always notice is that no other place has rivers and streams so crystal clear as Waushara County. Bob said, “We are so lucky and we need to do everything possible to protect our water.” We thank Bob for his remarkable leadership and dedication to protecting Wisconsin’s rivers and streams.

Bob (second from right in yellow) leading a WAV stream training.

Jessica Orlofske – “Outstanding Coordinator”

Dr. Jessica Orlofske was initially inspired to volunteer as a WAV Coordinator because of a macroinvertebrate monitoring workshop she attended in high school. In 2023, when she saw that Kenosha County did not have a WAV Coordinator, she was inspired to sign up, hoping that she could contribute to the program that had initially inspired her research and career. As a professor and researcher at UW-Parkside, Jessica has ignited a passion for stream monitoring in countless students and encourages people of all ages to explore the wonders of freshwater ecosystems. “Since becoming a WAV Coordinator, Jessica has put the same earnest effort into this program as she does with all her commitments…”. Her students who submitted her nomination said, “She wants nothing more than to see everyone around her succeed and flourish just like the freshwater systems she loves and studies.”

To grow stream monitoring in the local community, Jessica connected with local organizations including Root Pike Watershed Initiative Network and the Hawthorn Hollow Nature Sanctuary and worked with Kenosha County Parks to add more monitoring sites in the Pike River watershed. She also started a project with her students to take high quality photos of macroinvertebrates to develop teaching and identification tools that can be used by stream monitoring volunteers and freshwater sciences students for years to come. Her mentorship of her students in freshwater conservation and dedication to community education and monitoring projects inspired her student, Farron Bussian, to remark,  “Dr. Orlofske has committed her life to freshwater conservation, with both action and education”.

Karen Doyle – “Outstanding Volunteer”

Karen Doyle has been a WAV volunteer since 2021 and supported WAV for 15 years prior to retiring from her job with Waukesha County. Karen volunteers over 6 hours every month, monitoring over 15 stream sites year-round, including sites on the Fox River and the Pewaukee River. Analiese Smith, a supervisor in the Land and Resources Division of Waukesha County said, “With Karen’s expertise and positive attitude, her volunteer efforts have saved the department an abundance of staff time and has ensured the WAV program continues to go on strong.”

Her dedication to the WAV program extends beyond monthly baseline, nutrient, and conductivity monitoring, as she regularly assists with school field experiences, giving kids from Eagleville Elementary an opportunity to experience water monitoring and macroinvertebrate identification in Jericho Creek. This is one of Karen’s favorite parts of her work with WAV, saying “I especially enjoy seeing the kids get excited about the cool bugs that live in our streams & rivers. And teaching them what things they can do to help protect water quality.”  

Karen also regularly conducts outreach at local events, and helps with WAV training in the spring as well as Waukesha County’s annual volunteer appreciation event. Karen helps new WAV volunteers with their first site visit and participates in Snapshot Day each year to search for aquatic invasive species. Jayne Jenks, her nominator and a Conservation Specialist who is the WAV Coordinator for Waukesha County, said “I would like to shine the spotlight on her in appreciation for all she has done for the stream monitoring program in Waukesha County.”

Karen Doyle (right) with Waukesha County WAV Coordinator Jayne Jenks

Rush River Macroinvertebrate Team – “Outstanding Volunteer Group”

The Rush River Biotic Survey volunteers, including Carl Nelson, Clarke Garry, David Drewiske, Kent Johnson, Mark Peerenboom, Matt Klein, Mitch Abbett, James Sauter, and Cindy Nelson, are this year’s Outstanding Volunteer Group. In 2022, Carl, the project coordinator, noticed the lack of in-depth information about aquatic macroinvertebrates in the Rush River watershed, a beloved trout stream that spans St. Croix and Pierce counties, so he began working with the DNR and put out a call for volunteers. After the local team of volunteers familiar with the river and its tributaries was assembled, they sought out information on proper macroinvertebrate collection, preservation, and indexing methods to best characterize the watershed. In 2023, the team visited 16 stream sites, collected macroinvertebrates and shipped samples to UW-Superior for analysis.

As an added component of the project, the team also worked with DNR stream ecologist Mike Miller to test two different methods of the WAV program’s volunteer biotic index to compare to the lab analyzed samples. Not only does their work contribute to the long-term data for the Rush River, but it also helps examine the effectiveness of current citizen science methods compared to the intricate Hilsenhoff Biotic Index scores produced by a lab.

Retta Isaacson, Water Quality Planner and WAV Coordinator for the Pierce County Land Conservation Department, said “I am amazed by this group, for the fun community of insect identification, for the stakeholders they’ve involved, and for the professional level of data they dedicated the time to create.” The group’s efforts will provide a wealth of new data on invertebrate species in the watershed, for the supporting Trout Unlimited chapters and for all those who care deeply about the future of the Rush River.

New this year, we were excited to present our winners with a special ceramic award plaque, designed and crafted by WAV volunteer Heidi Hankley with the Crimson Artist Collective in Verona, WI.

The plaque features water flowing over a hand to represent the stream monitors as well as our connection to and dependence on clean water. Silhouetted against the sun is a twelve-spotted skimmer dragonfly. The pebbly stream is fringed by grasses and a marsh marigold.  In the stream you can find a damselfly larva, a caddisfly larva in a stick casing, and a crayfish.