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 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
- 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
- Woodland Dunes Barberryans
- Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration
- Katelin Anderson
- Tim Gerber
- Brad Herrick
- Johnson’s Nursery – Menomonee Falls
- Ruth Marshall
- Milly Thissen
- Jim Reinartz and Jill Hapner
- Friends of Festge Park
- 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)
- 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
- Sherry Speth
- Paul Molzina
- Jamie Kosloski
- Christal Campbell
- Kaycie Stushek
- Friends of MacKenzie Center
- Florence County Lakes and Rivers Association