The Annual Meeting 2020, virtual and live online, long delayed and much anticipated, attracted close to 100 participants. Drawing points were Gary Brown, director of the Lakeshore Nature Preserve, and our keynote speaker John Lyons, Curator of the fish museum at the UW-Madison zoology department. At the meeting, Friends president Steve Sentoff and vice president Seth McGee also introduced the new slate of candidates for the Board of directors and conducted an online poll election. New to the Board are Nancy Breden, Kelley Kearns, and Will Wuyk. Also, Tom Bryan, Matt Chotlos, Paul Quinlan and Steve Sentoff began their second terms. Sarah Congdon departed from the Board after a three-year term as newsletter layout specialist. The entire event was organized by Doris Dubielzig, and Tom Bryan ran the online meeting.
Gary Brown reported on essential maintenance work in the Preserve during COVID-19 and presented a summary of the new Strategic Plan for the Preserve. Garlic Mustard was pulled by a cadre of dedicated volunteers, and some of the plantings sponsored by the Friends were completed. But all community events and the summer intern program had to be canceled. The new strategic plan presented the new Preserve mission statement as: The Lakeshore Nature Preserve shelters natural environments and cultural resources through active learning, research, and outreach in a place of respite and well-being. New strategic priorities include
• develop and implement a communication plan,
• grow resources to support the mission,
• build strategic partnerships,
• update the 2006 Preserve Facilities Master Plan.
For more details see the Preserve website.
John Lyons, who has researched the lake and adjacent shores for the last 40 years as part of his work with the Wisconsin DNR, presented “Little fish – big impact: 100 years of change in the small-fish fauna of Lake Mendota.” A century ago, Lake Mendota, famous for its game and trophy fish, had a healthy small-fish population of 23 species. These small-fish, feeding on aquatic vegetation, small crustaceans, zooplankton and more, are the main food source for game fish, and thus are crucial to a healthy lake. Small fish live in shallow shore waters, mid-water and on the lake bottom.
Over the years, the number of species has decreased to about half, due to shoreline development eliminating spawning and feeding grounds for species relying on plants, and most prominently, the invasion of destructive Eurasian water milfoil during the 1960s. Treatment of milfoil with herbicide added to the death of small fish populations as well as sensitive native plants. Because of decrease in biodiversity and complexity, the food web has become less stable and the lake now has boom and bust years for small fish which directly impact big fish populations.
The good news is that as the invasive milfoil has declined over the years to almost one third of the initial extent, there is a good chance that restocking the lake with various missing little fish species will be successful. Lyons emphasized that this restocking could become a community project also involving Friends volunteers. The key is providing the habitat for the little fish that they need. The long shoreline of almost 4 miles of the Lakeshore Nature Preserve, as well as University Bay, are important refuges for small fish.
Screen photos and report by Gisela Kutzbach.