Tag Archives: conservation

My last Taper Week + Conservation Lobby Day

I love spring. Sure, my allergies “reappear” after a winter of hibernation, but it’s worth it. There is nothing like opening my windows to let in some fresh air!

I started spring cleaning in my office, too. As our business has grown, my office space gets more and more cramped. It’s fun to reorganize my photography gear, though… I always find props I’ve forgotten I own and, inevitably, a few spare memory cards. 🙂

 Abbie has loved the warmer weather, too- we’ve been out running a bunch!

   I’ve taken her along a lot lately, because I won’t be running as much after the marathon. 🙂

I spent my last taper week busy with both work and play, and a little of “doing my civic duty.”

Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters hosts an annual Conservation Lobby Day, where they gather conservation-minded citizens together, teach us how to lobby our legislators, and let us loose on the capital. Actually, “let us loose” doesn’t exactly describe it- they made appointments for all of us with our respective senators and representatives, and gave us our personalized schedule when we checked in. Thanks for being awesome, WLCV!

My friend, Jen, spent some time behind the podium…

 …and Matt joined her to show us how to demonstrate effective lobbying.

There were a lot of people who came to the event, which was held at Monona Terrace. I love that facility, though I think I’ve only been there for music conventions and weddings, so this was a nice change of pace!  Trout Unlimited had a good showing, too!  The WLCV staff gave presentations on the main topics that we were going to share our passion about with our legislators. It always helps to have some facts in your back pocket when going into a meeting. The topic that resonated the most with me was from Helen.

 I’ve see Helen at many different water events, and I love her approach. This issue also really matters to me… as most of you know, my degrees are in music and education. I don’t have a background in science or natural resources- no hydrology, geology, soils, fisheries, or anything related to conservation. I heavily rely on our DNR scientists to tell me what is needed and necessary regarding having a sustainable and healthy ecosystem here in Wisconsin. Sure, I know how to catch a trout, and I have a few ideas regarding how to make things better environmentally, but I don’t know enough to make big decisions on my own. I’m continually surprised when some politicians think that they can make big decisions in other fields while knowing minimally the subject at hand. In that case, maybe I should be the head of the fisheries department? I’ve seen a few deer on the side of the road, does that make me qualified to make decisions about deer hunting licenses? I love that Wisconsin has lots of opportunities for people to make their opinions heard, and gives experienced anglers and hunters a chance to weigh in on issues (like though the Conservation Congress), but we still need professionals to help us make educated decisions and set guidelines. I don’t think there is weakness in asking for help from experts- I think that is a sign of an intelligent leader, and it is definitely a better fiscal idea to have your own staff than to contract out to other scientists.

Anyway, we reviewed the main issues, ate lunch, then I ran rampant all over Madison. 😉 Our Capitol is a beautiful place!   


     My first stop was at Rep. Katrina Shankland’s office.


The assembly was in session…

 …but Katrina’s staff met with us. I was excited to meet Annika, since I’d emailed back and forth with her many times! Annika took us down to see if Katrina could pop out to check in with us, and she did!

Thanks for taking time out of your busy day to see us, Katrina (and thanks for taking our picture, Annika)! 

 I had a short break before my next meeting, which was filled with an interview for a new organization called Love Wisconsin. I’ll share more about that collaboration when I have it! It was fun to be on the other side of the lens.  I was taking pictures inside of the Capitol building and had a couple TU photobombers…

…and before I knew it, it was time for my meeting with Sen. Julie Lassa.
 We crammed a whole lot of water-lovers into her office, and she was very kind and receptive to our concerns. Thank you, Julie! Thank you for organizing such a great event, WLCV! I hung out with my conservation friends for the night, then stopped at my accountant (my Aunt Tina!), and made a quick stop at Bloom Bakery on the way home. Bloom is in Middleton, and they specialize in gluten-free and vegan pastries. Gorgeous and delicious.  

 On Friday afternoon, I took my boat out for the first paddle of the year, and it was every bit as fabulous as I remembered.  I spent Friday night shooting the awards banquet for the School of Business and Economics here at the University.   



       I love shooting this event. Those SBE people sure know how to put on a beautiful banquet and an efficient awards ceremony. Congratulations to all the award winners!

Saturday morning was a haircut and blowout…  …and final prep for Sunday’s race.

Up next? My ninth marathon recap. Thanks for reading, friends!

Miles this year: 232.65

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How did I get into conservation and fly fishing, anyway?

It’s a pretty simple story, and a perfect example of the butterfly effect. A couple years after I graduated from college, our photography business was growing and we were making a name for ourselves in our small college town. I was very close with my professors in our department as a student, and our department chair’s husband is an active Trout Unlimited (TU) volunteer. He knew of our photography, so he contacted me and asked if we could meet for coffee- he had a request for me.

To be honest, I kind of put it off. I didn’t know what TU was, and I was busy! Thankfully, he was persistent, and we eventually met at my favorite local coffee shop. He talked to me a little bit about what Trout Unlimited does in conservation, and asked me if I’d be willing to donate my time and take before, during, and after photos of their local stream restoration projects. 

Of course, I thought this was really interesting. I didn’t fish, and I didn’t spend much time in small streams. As a sea kayaker, I’ve spent lots of time on the water in a very non-intrusive way, but this was something totally new. I immediately agreed to help them out, and before I knew it, I was out on their streams with my camera. 




I brought the photos to their board, and asked them what their plans were for these images. I thought they were very powerful, and wanted to see how big their reach is. As it turns out, they had an outdated and not-maintained website, so I offered to build them a new one and run it. Shortly after, they created a position for me on their board, and I started learning more about what Trout Unlimited does in our community.

On those stream outings, the guys were always picking up rocks to look for bugs. They talked to me about the bugs that trout eat, and what different bugs indicate about the ecosystem below the water surface. In fly fishing, the “bait” is called flies. Some of the guys tie their own flies, out of special feathers, thread, and various materials. Some of the guys had flies with them, so they showed me which bugs the flies are supposed to imitate. I used to make a lot of jewelry, and I’m a crafty person, so I was quickly interested in fly tying, and went to several TU-hosted workshops.


In the winter, my chapter gets together to build lunker structures that we install when the weather is warmer. They even let me help! I kind of think of building lunker structures as Habitat for Humanity for trout. The structures go into a stream bank (or we create a new one) and give the fish a place to hide and safe places to hang out.  I have met some awesome people through my work with TU. Our university has an incredibly intelligent and approachable hydrologist, who worked diligently with me to help me understand groundwater in a more accurate way. It’s a pretty complicated system! The university even sent me out with them when they tested water flow on some of our local streams, and explained to me the different variables that make a difference in the health of a stream. That led to me being invited along with the DNR on some of their fish shocking outings. Fish shocking is the casual way to refer to their fish survey techniques. They basically put an electrified probe in the water, and the current causes a little muscle spasm on the side of the fish that is the closest to the probe. It causes them to swim toward the probe, and the fisheries guys net them up, measure them, then let them go.  




 They’re so efficient- the fish are hardly out of the water, and they seem to be totally unharmed. It’s not like a tazer kind of shock! Being such a soft-hearted girl, I was worried about hurting the fish, but they reassured me that the fish continue on their merry way. These surveys help the DNR learn the diversity of fish in a stream, the age of the fish, and the health of the stream… if there aren’t any young fish present, it probably means that the fish can’t naturally reproduce in that section of stream. It’s so interesting, and I got to see some of the prettiest (and tiniest!) fish in some of my home water. 

I learned more about the threats to water in my area, and in the Central Sands area of Wisconsin, where I live, high-capacity well pumping is the problem. Well, specifically, over-pumping. A lack of DNR’s ability to effectively judge cumulative impact in the past has caused major problems. I became active with the Central Sands Water Action Coalition and met many folks from river and lake associations who are watching their streams and lakes dry up, quite literally. 

 I’ve found it a good challenge to raise awareness of groundwater problems since we can’t see the problem until it’s too late, and it manifests itself on our surface water, or in dried up streams like in the photo above.

After a couple years of volunteering, my local TU chapter gave me a fly rod and reel at their banquet, as a gift for helping to bring them more up to date with media. Here’s a very cute picture of me holding the rod awkwardly after the presentation, because I’d never held one before!  

They also gave me a scholarship to their Fly Fishing School, so I could learn how to use it. I waited anxiously for a few months until the school, then I learned about casting, the gear for fly fishing, the knots we use, some of the bugs, and how to read a stream. 



Those TU guys in my chapter really know their stuff! Most of them have been playing in the water since before I was born, and they were surprisingly eager to share their knowledge and passion for fly fishing with me. We went fishing after the school, and I caught my first trout, a beautiful little brookie.


The hot pink spots just blew my mind. I didn’t touch her, I was afraid I was going to hurt her! That’s when I knew that I wanted to spend my time helping to protect these gorgeous creatures and the bigger environment that they represent. Our beautiful “canary in the coal mine,” if you will… 

TU isn’t necessarily a fishing organization, but there is a strong connection between trout and stream health. Trout are a very delicate fish, and they can’t survive in warm water. When the water becomes warmer for a variety of reasons (erosion, less cold water coming in, warming air temperatures, etc…) trout cannot thrive. Our only native local fish, the brook trout, is the most sensitive of all trout. A perfect example of this is on the Tomorrow River in Amherst. It’s about a 15 minute drive East of my house, in a tiny little town. In Amherst, there is a dam on the river, and a big mill pond above the dam. On the river upstream of the dam and the pond, brook trout are living happily and healthily in nice, clean, cold water. When the river widens for the pond, it is stagnant, and wide, and shallow, and the water warms up several degrees. There is also poisonous blue-green algae thriving in the pond. Don’t kayak in there! Below the dam, there are no brook trout. The water is too warm for them to survive! The pond has totally changed the ecosystem of that stream, and fish are no longer able to swim up and down that river naturally. It’s a manmade problem. 😦 Fly anglers, due to the nature of the sport, often spend time in their waders (waterproof pants), standing in the water. They go back to the same places again and again, and can see changes over time. That’s why there are so many fly anglers concerned about the health of our streams! 

So, I learned what TU does, and I learned to fly fish, and I learned more about the environment and cold water conservation, then I learned the key players in water in our area. The Wisconsin State Council of TU asked me if I would be willing to help them get more women involved in TU and get more of our current female members engaged at the state level. I jumped at that chance, and I became the first women’s initiative chair on the state council. I started learning more about the challenges to water in our state, rather than just my region, and I started connecting with lots more like-minded women. One of the big challenges to healthy water in our state was the Penokee Hills and the impending Gogebic Taconite mine. Our Wisconsin NLC rep (leadership within national TU), Bill Heart, took me up on a tour of the proposed mine site, took me through the Native American camp on the land, and showed me first-hand the beauty of that area.  After a couple years of being the Wisconsin Women’s Initiative chair, I found myself working as a contractor for national TU, continuing to further the women’s initiative- getting women involved, engaged, and helping to encourage and lift women up into leadership. Those of you who have known me for a while know that I’m a big advocate for empowering women and diversifying leadership in our country. I grew up with an incredibly awesome and strong single mother, and I’m a girl from the “Girl Power” generation. 

I’ve even gotten a couple photography gigs from the folks that I’ve met through TU. A couple guide companies and a few articles, and I’ve gotten to travel and hang out with some very cool people.


             I have gotten more and more involved with politics, as well. I didn’t realize, until spending time volunteering for TU, that there are a lot of politics in conservation! I wanted my opinions known, so I’ve taken advocacy trainings from the River Alliance and befriended folks at the Wisconsin League of Conservation voters, and I’m working to make sure that my legislators know that I’m here, and I’m speaking for the fish. It’s not just the fish, though… healthy, cold water for the fish means healthy, cold water for us. For our kids. For our drinking water. The water is all the same, and someone needs to look out for it. 😀

So… that’s my story. How a girly-girl turned into a serious conservationist, fly angler, and educated advocate for water. My involvement with Trout Unlimited has changed my life, and I wouldn’t have it any other way! 🙂

Thanks for reading and following me on my adventures!

Miles this year: 217.45

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Riverfront Jazz Festival, Justiceworks 1/2, and fish shocking! :)

I love running. So every year, when fall rolls around, I find myself signing up for the Justiceworks 1/2 marathon on Labor Day weekend, since it’s practically in my backyard. It apparently doesn’t matter if it fits in my training schedule, I just can’t pass it up. So this year, I rode my cruiser over to the park to pick up my race packet on Friday night, and settled in for a good race on Saturday morning.
I fueled normally, drank a cup of coffee, and ran the 3/4 mile to the start line. I saw Robert, and we hung out and chatted until the trumpet began to play, and we were off!
The first miles go through downtown, then campus, and around Lake Joanis in Schmeekle Reserve. Imagine my surprise when I saw Ray around mile three, manning the water station!
I chatted with a mom of three from Rapids for a few miles, then our entertainment started! This sweet choir was singing for us around mile 5.
Miles, oh, 5-10ish are an out-and-back, and I love those. I get to say hi and smile at everyone both coming and going! I saw a couple friends, Eric and Lauryn, and met a lot of strangers. I danced at all the end-of-driveway boom boxes, made jokes with spectators, and basically had fun. Around mile nine, the humidity was starting to get to me, and I was feeling a little cranky!
I did what any logical person would do- I ran faster, caught up to the guy in yellow ahead of me, and started talking. Turns out, it was his first half marathon! I gave him a couple mile pep talk, then zoomed off. Drank some water…
…and ran into my friend, Heather, who was guarding the cross-street around mile 12. She saw me coming and snapped these two 🙂
I came in all happy and smiley, and got my medal. Then, I looped back around about a half mile to cheer on my new friend in yellow to his first half finish. 🙂 He looked like he was having a hard time, so I was happy to lift his spirits for the final stretch.
I found Robert…
…and Eric and Lauryn. 🙂
All in all, it was a good race. A lady pulled me aside at the finish line, and told me that running behind me is miserable. She smiled, but said that suffering for 13.1 miles behind someone who is laughing, smiling, singing, dancing, cheering on strangers, and making jokes… well, that just adds insult to injury. She laughed, and I gave her a hug! I ran home, showered, then got ready to head over to Riverfront Jazz Festival to do some work!
Here is some of my favorites from both days, along with some of the friends who joined us for live music along the Wisconsin River. 🙂
Riverfront Jazz Festival is free to the public, and they sell raffle tickets and take donations to support jazz scholarships at the university. It wasn’t that long ago that we were selling tickets, hoping for a scholarship! We drank lots of wine, ate delicious food, and laughed, sang, and danced. ❤
On Labor Day Tuesday, I went night fishing in waders for the first time, pretty much unsuccessfully. I've been hex fishing in a kayak, and I've fished up until dark before, even fishing until I had to walk out in the dark, but I've never tried wading and casting in the dark before. I didn't even care that I didn't catch a fish because the fly we used was sooooooooooooooooo cute…

Adorable, right?!
I also took my annual trip out with the DNR fisheries guys on a shocking expedition. We went on a section that has been heavily repaired by our local TU chapters, so I was anxious to see the results of the work that we’ve done.
The crew…










…other awesome stuff…





…and, of course, the fish!








It was pretty much the best field trip ever! Fish are awesome! I felt a sense of personal pride when trout came out from under structures we’ve built for them. That river is mine, and yours, and I am glad that we’re taking care of it. ❤

Since my blog readership is so widespread and growing, the likelihood that a congressman is reading this is pretty high, right? In that case, I wanted to share a quote I heard directly on a call this morning.

“Outside of Washington, D.C., conservation is not a partisan issue.”
-Lynn Scarlett

Dear Congress, I’m begging you, for all of the previously mentioned reasons… Please let us get back to our work.

Miles this year: 337.4

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Love, hops, the Twin Cities, a race, fitness, and something REALLY important.

So much is going on in my mind lately. I’m reeling!
I’ll start with some love… Katie and Royal had a beautiful late July wedding, complete with a line-up of classic cars 🙂














Katie’s hair was one of the most stunning bridal styles I’ve ever seen, and the parade of cars brought me back to a classier time, before wedding parties traveled by stretch Hummers.
The first week of August, I attended a banquet held by the Girl Scouts of the Northwestern Great Lakes. It recognized women of courage and character, and when I arrived, the ladies gave me the patch that we designed for Stream Girls.

I cried a little tear of joy and pride when I saw this. So much work and planning went into this project, and seeing the final patch brought it all home 🙂
I “hopped” over to Fencerow Bounty, a hops farm up in Northern Wisconsin, near the Eau Claire River water basin, for a photo shoot. David is the farmer, and Mitchel does the brewing.

It was a beautifully sunny day, and the guys were getting ready for their harvest party, a time where all their friends come over, eat, drink, be merry, and collect some hops.





I was educated on everything even remotely related to hops… did you know that you can throw a couple hop cones in a cheap beer ahem, Miller Lite and it will improve the taste?
We drank beer, and ate cheese made from the milk produced by the farm’s dairy cows.


These happy, friendly cows are on a strict diet of greens 🙂



Thanks for having me out, guys! See you next year for the harvest party…
I used that cheese and beer to fuel me for my weekend trip to the Twin Cities to visit the Weisses and run. Pack up the dog and the husband…


We arrived Friday night, and Curtis and Mo greeted us at their beautiful new home. I took it pretty easy, since I was getting up pretty early on Saturday morning to run the Minnesota Half Marathon. It was sort of a spur-of-the moment race, since I rarely get a Saturday off, and I can’t pass up an opportunity to run a race.
Saturday morning arrived all warm and wonderful, and I headed to St. Paul for the start.

Good morning, sleepy girl.

This race was very unique in that it also had an inline skate half at the same time. I loved seeing those guys on the double out-and-back course.

I made a new friend around mile four when I laughed at his shirt…

So true. America, put down the drugs, and get off your ass. This guy actually had a small knee procedure a few months before the race, so he probably should have been resting, but we all know that runners have a few screws loose can be a little ridiculous.


It was a beautiful day for a race, though this course was pretty hilly. I wasn’t prepared for it at all! I was a very smart runner and thought, hey, if I add a minute or two per mile, I’ll finish this race feeling great, still be able to help my friends move, and won’t walk like a peg-legged toddler. I took it easy, at least when I could. I wanted to sprint down those hills!

The uphills? Not so much.

I spent the last three miles chatting with the 2:20 pacer who had no one running with him! The 2:30 pacer had on a sparkly skirt, I’m sure that’s why everyone else held back 😉 I strolled my way across that finish like I’d just walked back from the kitchen with a cold beer.

Back to Curtis and Mo’s new home for a shower and breakfast, then a hard day of moving. I’ll skip right to the fun part- the housewarming ice cream cake 🙂

I love seeing my Delta Omicron sisters and brothers. We’re a tight knit group. Thanks for the fabulous weekend, friends ❤
I returned home with a couple new wine racks from IKEA, and hung them next to my very first start-to-finish photoshop project. Yay!

It’s kind of ironic, since I wasn’t old enough to drink wine when I did that project. 🙂
I’m flying through these fitness photos for you- but it’s safe to say that I spent quite a bit of time at Adventure 212 that week…



Body pump…





Core Wx…



Body flow…


One of the senior pool classes… Joints in motion?


Feeling inspired to move yet?
Because I want you to be inspired when I tell you about my current stressor with the government shut down. I’m sure most of you know someone who isn’t working because of the shut down. Runners who train in national parks in big cities (I’m looking at you, DC) are SOL. My Olivia act winner, the Soba family, told me that some children with experimental cancer treatments aren’t receiving it during this shut down. (Remember this cutie?)

Yeah, that really sucks.
Do you know what else sucks?
People who make their living as fishing guides losing access to their lakes and streams because they’re shut down. They don’t have unlimited days to reschedule.
The Wild Trout Symposium, which meets every three years with top scientists, fisheries managers, biologists, and anglers… had to be cancelled this year. Yes, let’s waste all that talent, and all the fabulous ideas that would have come out of that conference.
How about all the stream work nationwide that is halted, either due to holding back government funds, or newly restricted access? The field season is almost over, dear congressional buddies. This stuff can’t wait a year. Those locally contracted workers will go find work that is more “stable and consistent.” Growl, my claws are coming out.
Government websites are shut down, restricting access to important data about water, soil, etc… and don’t even get me started on the financial impact this has on all the communities that border national parks.
There is telemetry equipment used to track the movement of lake trout in Yellowstone that needs to be removed. Good luck sneaking in there.
And families with vacations ruined.
There isn’t anyone in this country that is unaffected by this shutdown. Please, Congress, get your shit together.
Since I can’t leave you on a note like that here’s some happy cows to brighten your day.

Thanks for reading. Be awesome, friends. Do something amazing. ❤

Miles this year: 332.7

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