This story was collected as part of a collaborative effort to record the state of American lakes, rivers, and waterways as well an attempt to uncover what water means to Americans. Listen to other stories recorded for the Be Here: Main Street project, a collaboration with the MuseWeb Foundation to record stories from rural America.
“My name is Moriyah Rufer and I am an Aquatic Ecologist at RMB Environmental Laboratories in Detroit Lakes. I got into this field from growing up in the summers on a family cabin at Leech Lake in northern Minnesota. When I was a young kid, I loved fishing, catching leeches, minnows, crayfish and that love of those animals led me to a career in biology and now I get to work with and protect the same lakes that I was working on when I was ... living with, when I was a kid.
Right now, one of my most fun and rewarding projects that I work on is the volunteer lake monitoring program, through RMB Labs, and this program is a way to gather data on as many lakes in Minnesota as possible. Professional staff, such as myself and state agencies don't have the time and funding to collect samples on every lake in the state, so we rely heavily on volunteers who live on these lakes to collect the water quality samples. Every spring we train the volunteers in the methods on how to collect the water sample.
Another good reason to keep volunteers involved in this program is because it creates an informed constituency on the lakes. It involves the people that live on the lakes, and they can see changes in the lakes and enjoy the lakes, and so now they have the data to back that up.
We train the volunteers in the spring and then each summer, once a month, they collect a water sample and bring it to our lab for analysis and then we analyze the water samples for chemistry such as phosphorous and algae concentration. Then we post that data online on our website and one of the other big pluses of the program is that at the end of the summer, we send all this data down to the state's database, which is house at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, called EQuIS. So all this data that the volunteers collected throughout the summer is used by the state for statewide reports, assessments, it's also used by the counties for county water plans, and it's used by the lake associations.
This valuable data that the lake volunteers are collecting is not just sitting in a drawer somewhere. It's actually being used for decisions and plannings in the counties and states.
My overall goal in my career, just growing up in Minnesota and falling in love with Minnesota lakes, my overall goal in my career is just to help monitor, protect and restore lakes in Minnesota for us Minnesotans to enjoy. I feel like, as part of that bigger picture in what I do at my job, and I'm working with other people and state agencies and counties, and watershed districts who share that similar goal, and so I feel like we're all working together to make Minnesota's lakes and rivers and streams as enjoyable as possible for us and for our future generations.”
Asset ID #3904