The Annual Invader Crusader Awards

Each year, the Wisconsin Invasive Species Council honors Wisconsin citizens and organizations for their significant contribution to prevent, control or eradicate invasive species that harm Wisconsin’s lands, waters and wetlands.

Congratulations to the 2021 Invader Crusader Award Winners!

PROFESSIONAL INDIVIDUAL CATEGORY
  • Eric Boettcher – Eric Boettcher is the Director of Parks and Recreation for the City of Whitewater, and has been working on restoring Whitewater’s lakes since his hiring. After extensive research and consulting with the Wisconsin DNR, Eric came up with a plan to drain Trippe Lake and Cravath Lake in order to eliminate the invasive plants that had taken over. After Eric’s tireless work to educate the community through providing resources and hosting meetings, the lakes were drawn down for two winters in order to deep freeze harmful invasive plants. Dredging will begin in fall 2021 and is to be followed by revegetation and fish restoration. Thanks to Eric’s efforts, these lakes will be restored to their former glory after which the city of Whitewater was named. 
  • Anne Pearce – Anne Pearce is the coordinator of the Wisconsin First Detector Network (WIFDN) as well as an outreach specialist and lab manager with the UW-Madison Agronomy Department. Anne develops resources and trainings that allow members of the WIFDN to educate on, manage, and report invasive species. Anne reviews an average of 10,000 invasive species reports from the WIFDN a year. She is an active member of the Invasive Plants Association of Wisconsin and spends her free time volunteering with invasive species management efforts in Madison. Anne is a skilled educator, communicator, and leader. Her efforts have resulted in the speedy reporting and managing of invasive species across Wisconsin. 
  • Bret Shaw – Bret Shaw, a professor with the Department of Life Science Communications at UW-Madison, offers a unique social science perspective on aquatic invasive species control. His projects have been utilized at the state, national, and even international level. His work includes the Wisconsin Boater Aquatic Invasive Species survey, the Bait Shop Initiative, Aquatic Invasive Species songs, and StopTheSpiny.com. Additionally, Bret led a project to learn about the pathway of Buddhist life release, a practice that involves saving animals condemned to death and releasing them in order to gain good karma. Through this research, variations of the practice were able to be recommended to reduce the spread of invasive species. These programs have informed thousands of boaters and anglers about the dangers of aquatic invasive species in a way that is shown to change behavior for the better.
VOLUNTEER INDIVIDUAL CATEGORY
  • Anne Mawicke – As a retired IT professional, Ann Mawicke is used to communicating and organizing. Ann is the invasive species control champion of the Natural Lakes Private Preserve (NLPP), which is 3600 acres of land and four lakes stretching from Boulder Junction to the border of Upper Michigan. Ann created a control program for terrestrial invasive species by working with the DNR, the Wisconsin Headwaters Invasives Partnership, NLPP homeowners, and an Invasive Species Committee of volunteers that she formed. Her projects have focused on coordinating volunteer groups for removing and applying herbicide to invasive honeysuckle, thistles, and other invasive plants. She already has plans for planting native species and restoring the areas that invasive plants are removed from. Thanks to Ann’s dedication, hundreds of volunteer hours have been logged in invasive species removal and hundreds of NLPP landowners have been educated on the effects of invasives. 
  • Timothy Richert – Tim Richert is a volunteer with Humboldt Park Friends, a group that cares for one of Milwaukee’s oldest parks. One of the park’s most beloved aspects is the Lagoon, whose health was declining due to invaders like cattails. A previous attempt to stop the spread of the cattails, a chemical treatment, actually resulted in new growth and a larger problem. Tim researched alternative methods and came up with a volunteer based removal program. A Lagoon Restoration committee was formed and a restoration plan was developed. Due to COVID19, the plan is still under review. Without Tim, the Lagoon would have become overrun with invasive plants. 
  • Jeff Steele – Jeff Steele is a co-chair of Friends of Starkweather Creek. Starkweather Creek isn’t seen as a beautiful natural area by all of Madison’s residents, but Jeff is working to change that. In summer, Jeff leads a volunteer program that removes invasive plants like reed canary and garlic mustard. Additionally, Jeff developed a native plant growing project to keep volunteers involved year-round. Each of Jeff’s 100 volunteers receives three or four milk jugs filled with native seeds. Each milk jug can give five to twenty plants which results in about 1000 native plants that can be planted along the creek. Jeff recognizes that natural areas must be valued in cities and continues to educate the community on the value of restoring Starkweather Creek. 
PROFESSIONAL GROUP CATEGORY
  • River Revitalization Foundation (RRF) – The River Revitalization Foundation is a local group dedicated to conserving the Milwaukee River Greenway, a stretch of about 45 acres bordering the Milwaukee River. The RRF coordinates volunteers to remove massive amounts of numerous invasive plants from the Greenway. In 2020, they hand pulled almost 5,500 pounds of Garlic Mustard. The RRF even adapted their volunteer efforts to COVID19 protocols: individual volunteers were provided with toolkits of maps, photographs, equipment, and protective gear. The RRF also works to increase biodiversity of the Greenway by planting native species and selling them to the community. The Greenway is already showing progress: the number of bird species present has increased from 8 to 85 over the last six years. 
  • Wild Rivers Invasive Species Coalition (WRISC) – The Wild Rivers Invasive Species Coalition serves four counties in Northeastern Wisconsin and part of Upper Michigan. They have located 4,600 invasive species on the 955 acres of land they manage. Through their Clean Boats Clean Waters Program, they have educated over 15,300 people about preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species on watercraft. Additionally, they coordinate a Strike Team: a group of volunteers that assist with invasive species management tactics like pulling garlic mustard and cutting wild parsnip. These volunteers learn management techniques that they can use on their own properties. By connecting two states and having numerous local, state, federal, and tribal partners, the WRISC is able to educate thousands of people about invasive species prevention and natural resource management.  
VOLUNTEER INDIVIDUAL CATEGORY
  • Chiwaukee Prairie Preservation Fund (CPPF) – The CPPF cares for the Chiwaukee State Natural Area which is located south of Kenosha near the Wisconsin/Illinois border. The volunteer organization utilizes hand removal and herbicide application to control invasive plant species like glossy buckthorn, garlic mustard, sweet clover, queen anne’s lace, and more. They also aid DNR efforts involving the prairie and lead field trips to educate locals. Their restoration efforts include a native plant sale and propagating native seeds for transplanting. All members of the CPPF are incredibly involved and understand the importance of protecting the prairie and the endangered and threatened species it contains. 
  • Friends of Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge – The Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge is located in both Wisconsin and Illinois. The Friends of Hackmatack Wildlife Refuge have focused primarily on an area near Genoa City. The Friends have spent about 480 volunteer hours hand pulling invasive garlic mustard in order to preserve the mesic, or moist, woodland found there. Thanks to their efforts, native species are beginning to rebound including the rare snow orchid. The Friends host volunteer days in order to pull garlic mustard before the plants are able to grow seeds and spread. They work to educate the community through their volunteer involvement and public meetings, which were adapted to Zoom to maintain engagement. Thanks to the Friends, garlic mustard in this area of the Hackmatack Refuge will eventually be eradicated. 
YOUTH CATEGORY
  • Peter Dargatz & his Nature Kindergarten Class – Peter Dargatz is a kindergarten teacher at Woodside Elementary School in Menomonee Falls. Peter has created an outdoor classroom, trail, and family nature club at Woodside Elementary. By educating his students about invasive species management, Peter is educating the entire community. Peter’s class and the volunteers they recruited even won the Southeastern Wisconsin Invasive Species Consortium (SEWISC) Garlic Mustard Pull-A-Thon by pulling over 2,000 pounds of invasive garlic mustard. Peter’s students are able to teach their parents about what they’ve learned and everyone is able to get involved by volunteering with the Ice Age Trail, local nature preserves, and county parks. By teaching how to identify and control invasive species, Peter is ensuring that his students will be caring stewards of the environment for life. 

2020 Invader Crusader Award Winners

PROFESSIONAL INDIVIDUAL CATEGORY
  • Bob Wakeman – Bob has been the leader of the DNR’s Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) program for 10 years and has influenced these programs at the local, state, regional and national levels. Throughout his time in this position, Bob has transformed the Wisconsin AIS program into one of the best in the country. He oversaw the completion and approval of Wisconsin’s new AIS management plan, in addition to guiding AIS coordinators statewide with projects such as Landing Blitz, AIS Snapshot Day and Drain Campaign. Bob’s efforts have limited populations of some of Wisconsin’s most problematic invasive species and led to the eradication of other populations of new invasive species. Bob has been described as a natural leader with a strong affinity for communicating his detailed knowledge of invasive species to all.
  • Natalie Dutack – Natalie joined the Wisconsin River Alliance team in March 2018 and quickly found ways to improve AIS programming, especially Snapshot Day. On Snapshot Day, volunteers help identify new populations of restricted and prohibited species. Natalie improved training materials that coordinators, site leaders and volunteers use to prepare for a successful event, increasing their participation and confidence in this program. She also created an interactive map to publicize the results and local stories from past Snapshot Day events, motivating new volunteers to join each year. Natalie is a dedicated, tireless advocate for protecting Wisconsin’s natural resources.
  • Cisco the Dog & Chris Hamerla – Cisco, the dog, and his human Chris, of Golden Sands Resource Conservation & Development Council, have been working tirelessly together on AIS education, outreach, monitoring, mapping and control focused on Marathon, Portage, Taylor and Wood Counties but also statewide. They have ensured consistent messaging to all anglers, boaters, trappers and hunters to prevent invasive species from spreading throughout Wisconsin. The two have done multiple TV interviews, taken photos for outreach and created training materials in addition to posing for AIS boards at cleaning stations statewide. Cisco also starred in two outreach videos aimed at waterfowl hunter AIS Education. Thanks to Cisco, their message has reached a wide audience of all ages.
  • Marian Farrior – Marian has been the restoration work party manager at the UW-Madison Arboretum since 2002. In this role, Marian trains, supervises and schedules a group of volunteer Restoration Team Leaders who lead other work party volunteers in conducting restoration work focused on invasive species management. Over the past 18 years, Marian has made an enormous visible impact not only on Arboretum lands, but also on the thousands of volunteers she has educated and mentored.
  • Michele Jasik – Michele has worked and volunteered for multiple organizations including the Invasive Plants Association of Wisconsin (IPAW) as Program Assistant, the Wisconsin Prescribed Fire Council (WPFC) as administrative support, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) as a volunteer and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) in efforts to map and conduct land owner contacts to allow for control of porcelain berry in Madison. Throughout her work, Michele’s commitment to conservation and stewardship efforts in Wisconsin are strong. Michele has worked both in an administrative role and at the grassroots level to educate and empower countless Wisconsinites in the effort against invasive species.
PROFESSIONAL GROUP CATEGORY
  • Golden Sands Resource Conservation & Development Council – Golden Sands RC & D is a nonprofit organization that was established in 1972 by the 12 counties it serves. They work with lake districts, lake associations, friends groups, citizens, private landowners, local government, business, and schools to educate them about AIS and motivate them to take action. Their leadership on educating waterfowl hunters about how to prevent the spread of AIS inspired the DNR to develop a statewide waterfowl hunter outreach campaign. Golden Sands also coordinates two Wisconsin Cooperative Invasive Species Management Areas (CISMA). By organizing volunteers, holding council meetings and providing information and outreach to the public, Golden Sands plays an integral part in informing local landowners and boaters about invasive species and in coordinating organizations in the region to work together on critical issues.
VOLUNTEER INDIVIDUAL CATEGORY
  • John Eron – After learning of the threat presented by wild parsnip both as an invasive plant and as a hazard to human health, John initiated a public education effort that included his being appointed weed commissioner of both Portage and Wood Counties in 2017. John ensured that wild parsnip was also designated as a noxious weed in both counties. John leads the work against wild parsnip in his communities not only by continuing to act as weed commissioner, but also through extensive education efforts that have reached county officials, county Extension and Land and Water Conservation staff, state legislators, over 500 school students and countless other citizens.
  • Margaret Smith – Margaret has been involved with invasive species for many years, but over the past two years she has worked tirelessly in Pierce and St. Croix Counties on efforts to control wild parsnip. Instead of allowing her township to blanket spray ditches containing this harmful invasive species, potentially harming local wildflowers and pollinators, Margaret instituted a mapping project utilizing local volunteers to report the plant on roadsides. With this map, Margaret changed the local town board’s approach to controlling wild parsnip by educating and mobilizing volunteers, empowering them with knowledge and skills related to its control. Margaret acts as a bridge between local organizations and community members, ensuring that all can work together for the benefit of her community.
  • Georgia Gomez-Ibanez – Georgia retired from her job working with students at Cambridge Elementary School, but she continues to work tirelessly even in her retirement. Thanks to Georgia’s efforts, students have been mobilized to reduce the impacts of invasive garlic mustard and buckthorn in the school woods. Her innovative ideas include repurposing large cans from the lunchroom to block out sunlight from buckthorn plants to curb their growth and volunteering to water native bushes at 4:30 am during hot dry summers so that they can stand a chance against invasive species. She also maintains paths and plant identification stations in both the school forest and prairie so that students can connect with their natural surroundings. Georgia’s passion is inspiring to countless students and teachers.
  • John Moyles – John has worked hard in the Fox Valley and Green Bay areas to provide alternatives to release for exotic pet owners who are no longer able to care for their pets. Through his efforts, over 450 pets have been re-homed instead of released into the wild. In addition to this work, John has been instrumental in educating the public about the negative effects that aquatic invasive species can have on Wisconsin’s ecosystems through news and radio interviews and by talking to locals in communities. John is passionate about this work and hopes to continue to expand these efforts in the future.

Previous Award Winners

2019

  • Maureen Ferry – Wisconsin DNR
  • Emily Heald – North Lakeland Discovery Center
  • Aldo Leopold Foundation
  • Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa
  • Wisconsin DATCP Nursery Inspector Team
  • Rod Sharka
  • Douglas Frazer
  • Michael Vahldieck
  • VanBuecken
  • Woodland Dunes Barberryans
  • Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration

2018

  • Katelin Anderson
  • Tim Gerber
  • Brad Herrick
  • Johnson’s Nursery – Menomonee Falls
  • Ruth Marshall
  • Milly Thissen
  • Jim Reinartz and Jill Hapner
  • Friends of Festge Park

2017

  • Christa Schaefer
  • Jeff Epping
  • Jared Urban
  • Robert and Dorothy Moe
  • Pam Nelson
  • Daniel Pawlak
  • Mark Acherman
  • Friends of the Eau Claire Lakes Area (FOTECLA) and the Town of Barnes Aquatic Invasive Species Committee (TOBAISC)

2016

  • Debra Feirer
  • Fritz Funk
  • Fred and Mary Kueffer
  • Valerie Stabenow
  • Tim Campbell
  • Michelle Nault
  • Brock Woods
  • Lower Chippewa Invasive Species Partnership
  • Mequon Nature Preserve Restoration Rangers
  • Sauk Prairie Conservation Alliance
  • Mike Fort

2015

  • Sherry Speth
  • Paul Molzina
  • Jamie Kosloski
  • Christal Campbell
  • Kaycie Stushek
  • Friends of MacKenzie Center
  • Florence County Lakes and Rivers Association

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