For some, being stranded on Lake Superior in a boat with two broken motors is reasonable cause for alarm. However, for graduating senior Jordan Welnetz it was “just another day at the office” and a prime opportunity to enjoy the lake she loves.
“We didn’t know what we were going to do,” Welnetz laughed. “It was a gorgeous day on the lake. First, one motor died, then another.”
Having spent the morning collecting water samples for the Mary Griggs Burke Center for Freshwater Innovation, Welnetz said she was in her element and enjoying every second of it. The boat was eventually towed to shore, and her work with the Center continued the very next day.
Originally from Conover, Wisconsin, Welnetz was attracted to Northland College for the Superior Connections program. She continued for her remaining college career to immerse herself in Lake Superior research.
“Learning about the area was super important to me,” said Welnetz, who majored in natural resources and minored in outdoor education. “And in my research with the Burke Center, so many things would go wrong—like the boat example—that I had to start thinking about all situations in a new way.”
According to Watershed Program Coordinator Matt Hudson, Welnetz quickly developed the ability to take on new and unfamiliar tasks at the center to “produce meaningful results with minimal supervision.”
“This is a critical skill that we hope our students will develop through their research with the Burke Center—Jordan stands out as a shining example of how great Northland students can be and how they will be the next great generation of problem-solvers,” Hudson explained.
For the past two years, Welnetz has collected water samples from the region and monitored Lake Superior temperatures and wind events to see if costal upwelling has an effect on the ecosystem.
Combining her research with a fellow Northland College student Joe Fitzgerald, the two determined that coastal upwelling is indeed occurring in the Chequamegon Bay and may have an effect of plankton communities.
Welnetz and Fitzgerald presented their findings at the Chequamegon Bay Area Partnership Symposium this spring.
“The research is preliminary, but we’ve discovered that coastal upwelling is and may have an impact on plankton communities in the Chequamegon Bay,” Welnetz said.
Early on at Northland, Welnetz noticed that there are many opportunities to perform scientific research in the backcountry, and selected outdoor education as her minor.
Having immersed herself in the sciences for the past school year, Welnetz will pursue her interests in outdoor exploration this summer.
Welnetz has already started working for the Colorado Outward Bound School as a Rocky Mountain field intern. For the first half of the summer she will work in logistics, and expects to spend at least twenty-two days in the field as an assistant guide.
Welnetz is leaving the future open-ended, however she hopes to work for a cause that allows her to utilize her combined knowledge of outdoor education and natural resources.
“I want to work with scientific research in a backcountry setting,” Welnetz explained. “It would be pretty incredible to work for an organization like Round River. So, grad school might be in my future, but we will see.”
Hudson believes Welnetz’s “interest in outdoor education, coupled with her science and communication skills, give her a unique opportunity to do great things to improve our collective need to understand and use science to our advantage as a society.”
“I don’t know—and I don’t think she knows yet, either—where these skills will take her and how she will manifest them, but she’s going to be a person who will make a difference in society.”
Amber Mullen ’12, a graduate of Northland College and a freelance journalist, is the author of this article.