Past, present and future of fisheries management in the Apostle Islands

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Fish are an important part of the local culture and fisheries management has faced many challenges over the past 50+ years.

Declines in fisheries due to invasive species and over-harvest began in the 1950’s and by the formation of the Apostle Island National Lakeshore in 1970 the fish populations were at historic lows.

Fisheries management successfully focused on Lake Trout restoration goals thorough cooperative management of all users in Wisconsin waters of Lake Superior.

Current management is focused on monitoring and setting safe harvest limits for fisheries through fisheries management activities and has been shown to be successful. However, new challenges are emerging and will direct fisheries management for the future.

Brad Ray, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

Presenter biography

Brad Ray

Brad Ray is the WDNR Lake Superior Team Supervisor working as part of the team where he started his career as an intern 20 years ago.

Originally from Omaha, Nebraska, Brad earned his B.S. from Northland College, where his passion for fisheries began.  

He continued his education at the University of Minnesota-Duluth with research focused on the spatial and temporal trends in lake trout diets in Lake Superior from 1986-2001. He later received a Ph.D. from Virginia Tech studying largemouth bass recruitment issues in trophy reservoirs. Prior to his return to the shores of Lake Superior, Brad served as an Associate Professor of Fisheries at the University of Tennessee at Martin.


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The Earth is not flat – and neither is the Lake! Underwater landscapes of the Apostle Islands

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In the upper Great Lakes region, the NPS protects diverse coastal environments in Lakes Michigan and Superior. Until recently, very little information existed with respect to the bathymetry, geomorphology, or benthic habitat features of these areas. Since 2010, NPS and partners have developed high resolution benthic habitat maps for six coastal parks in the Great Lakes, using a novel combination of LiDAR, multi-beam sonar, and satellite imagery.

In addition to high resolution bathymetry, we collected photo and video imagery to validate substrate and benthic features documented in our mapping efforts. In 2018, we began a pilot project at Apostle Islands using tools such as the Benthic Terrain Modeler to further describe lake floor habitat in several areas of the Apostles.

With this work we show features of the underwater landscape with detail previously not shown in bathymetric maps of the area. In pilot study areas, we use these details to further describe specific habitat features in an attempt to estimate areas that may be suitable for invasive dreissenid or native mussels.

Our goal is to ultimately use these tools for habitat descriptors of other species or to show habitat quality and suitability in areas where changes may be occurring due to impacts from coastal and upland erosion or other stressors. Importantly, this effort provides new opportunities for the NPS to engage with partner agencies and participate more fully in Great Lakes habitat assessment initiatives and coastal management and restoration efforts.

Jay Glase, National Park Service (NPS)

Presenter biography

Jay Glase

Jay has been the NPS Midwest regional fishery biologist since 2002. Jay has been stationed in Ashland since 2011 and before that at Isle Royale headquarters in Houghton, Michigan.

Jay works primarily with parks in the upper Great Lakes area but also occasionally works with other Midwest region parks or on national fisheries issues within NPS.

Prior to his time at NPS, Jay was with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for 10 years where he worked on salmon and steelhead restoration efforts in Northern California. He’s a long-time-ago graduate of Northland College and Humboldt State University and is one of those affected by the Lake Superior bungee effect.


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Our changing lake: emerging water resource issues in the Apostle Islands

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Unique among the world’s waters, Lake Superior lays an impressive foundation for our collective experience of the Apostle Islands. The lake is big, omnipresent, and seemingly resistant to change. However, a closer look reveals a variety of emerging issues and threats.

High lake levels and increasingly intense storms have caused significant coastal erosion and damage to coastal resources. Historic rainfall events have delivered excess nutrients and sediments to the lake, affecting its clarity and interacting with warming water temperatures to cause unprecedented blooms of harmful algae.

Discoveries of invasive mussel infestations and microplastics pollution have underscored the lake’s susceptibility to more widespread Great Lakes stressors.

During the last 50 years, challenges to Great Lakes’ health (e.g., species invasions, water quality degradation, water quantity threats, etc.) have been met with a mix of policy improvements and sustained management actions. The emerging water resource threats identified here emphasize Lake Superior’s continued vulnerabilities but also present new opportunities for its protection.

Brenda Moraska Lafrancois, National Park Service

Presenter biography

Brenda Lafrancois

Brenda Lafrancois is a regional aquatic ecologist with the National Park Service.

Although she works with parks throughout the Midwestern U.S., she is fortunate to be stationed along the shores of Lake Superior.

Brenda received her BS in Biology/Aquatic Sciences from UW-La Crosse and her PhD in Ecology from Colorado State University. She’s been working for the National Park Service since 2002, and lives in greater Cornucopia with her husband, daughter, and dog.

Co-authors and contributors (alphabetically): Jon Barge, Harvey Bootsma, Sandra Brovold, Anne Cotter, David VanderMeulen, Joshua Delvaux, Jay Glase, Sarah Grosshuesch, Chelsea Hatzenbuhler, Joel Hoffman, Mark Hove, Toben Lafrancois, Shania Leask, Roselynd Lin, Michael McCartney, Christy Meredith, Elizabeth Minor, Greg Peterson, Sara Okum, Erik Pilgrim, Kaitlin Reinl, Robert Sterner, Anett Trebitz, Benjamin Turschak, and Barry Wiechman.


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Past, present and future of fire in the Apostle Islands

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Part 1 with Damon Panek, Apostle Islands NL “For generations, Native people in the Great Lakes region utilized prescribed fire to improve habitat, increase blueberry production, and clear the understory of vegetation.

These frequent, low-intensity fires promoted fire adapted and dependent ecosystems. The medicines, species abundance and diversity, and foods created are what our Anishinaabe culture is rooted in. Our way of seeing the world was developed here around this lake and with fire,” said Damon.

“Damon integrates Ojibwe culture, language, and history into the park’s education and interpretation curriculum to provide visitors with a unique way of experiencing the islands,” said lakeshore superintendent, Lynne Dominy. “He is also the fire management coordinator for the park and has been able to integrate the traditional cultural practice of landscape burning into the park’s priorities. The overall goal of this integration is to restore a cultural practice and connection to the landscape of the islands.”

Part 2 with Kurt Kipfmueller, University of Minnesota We reconstructed fire history from fire-scarred red pine stumps collected on Stockton Island tombolo to better understand the fire history of the landform. The mean interval between historical fires was ~31 years, though there were many short interval fires detected across the tombolo, particularly in the barrens portion of the landform.

Widespread fires occurred in 1827, 1854, and 1868 and impacted much of the tombolo forest. Additionally, a fire in 1925 burned much of the tombolo forest and the barrens. The barrens appears to have experienced more frequent, but patchier fires, than the pine forests over the 1800s that may have contributed, in part, to the lower density of current trees.

Increment core sampling indicated most red pine trees established following the fires of 1868 or 1925, although there are older trees that predate these fires scattered across the tombolo forest and within the barrens. Fires on the tombolo are contemporaneous with Anishinaabeg use of the landscape and are attributed here to fire maintenance of blueberry habitat. The high frequency of fires in the barrens likely reflects these historical land use practices and is supported by place-based knowledge held within the local Anishinaabeg community.

Presenter Biographies

Damon Panek, Apostle Islands NL

Damon Panek is an enrolled member of the Mississippi Band of White Earth Ojibwe and works as a park ranger for the National Park Service at Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.

There, he integrates Native cultural ideas, values, and language into the park’s education and interpretation curriculum to give park visitors a unique way to connect with the resources.

Damon Panek

While serving as the Fire Management Coordinator he spearheaded an effort to reintroduce prescribed fire to an island landscape that Native Americans had managed for centuries. At home, he’s usually busy with cultural life ways such as ricing, fishing, sugaring, hunting, lacrosse stick making, and Ojibwe language revitalization efforts. He has amazing kids and grandkids that inspire him every day.

Kurt Kipfmueller, University of Minnesota

Kurt Kipfmueller

Kurt Kipfmueller is an Associate Professor of Geography, Environment, and Society at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. His research focuses on the reconstruction of forest dynamics and disturbance using tree-ring analysis techniques (dendrochronology).

He is particularly interested in developing a better understanding of the relationships between fire, climate, and people in Great Lakes red pine forests. He received a bachelor’s degree in Geography and Earth Science from Central Michigan University, a master’s degree in Geography from the University of Wyoming, and a Ph.D. in Geography from the University of Arizona.


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Apostle Islands flora

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Situated at the transition from northern hardwoods to sub-boreal forest, the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore’s vegetation is a signature of both broad-scale physiographic processes and localized coastal and maritime influences.

A variety of human uses and stewardship is also key to the natural history and vegetation patterns in the park. Diverse physical landforms and a variety of habitats contribute to the high total plant diversity of 810+ species documented within the Lakeshore.

In this talk, I will provide a virtual tour of the predominant or unique plant communities and species in the park, and I’ll share insights about some of the changes that have occurred, as well as stories of resilience.

Dr. Sarah E. Johnson, Northland College

Presenter biography

Sarah Johnson

Sarah Johnson is an Associate Professor of Natural Resources, the Sigurd Olson Professor of Natural Sciences, and faculty affiliate with the Mary Griggs Burke Center for Freshwater Innovation at Northland College. Sarah received a PhD in Botany from UW-Madison and has worked in the Great Lakes region or in coastal systems for 20 years, starting with an internship with the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.

She is a plant ecologist who researches vegetation change and teaches field botany, wetlands, and other natural history courses.


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Traditional Ecological Knowledge

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Traditional Ecological Knowledge is all around us. In some circuits it’s a trending buzzword. What is TEK? How does it relate to scientific knowledge? Traditional knowledge is embedded within the very fabric of our existence as Anishinaabeg.

Come learn a little about Ojibwe history in the upper Great Lakes and how these knowledge systems have been both maintained and revitalized to help many tribal nations with environmental relationships and environmental decision-making.

Recording of this presentation is not available.

Presenter biography

Dylan Jennings, Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission

Dylan Jennings

Dylan Bizhikiins Jennings is a member of the marten clan. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin Madison with degrees in Anthropology, Archaeology, Environmental Studies, and American Indian Studies.

Jennings is set to complete his Masters degree from the University of Wisconsin Madison Nelson Institute in spring 2021.

Jennings is a Bad River Tribal Member and a former Tribal Council Member for the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe, where he served two consecutive terms as an elected official. He served as an appointed representative for the EPA region 5 Tribal Operations Committee (RTOC). Currently Dylan resides in Odanah, and works as the Director of Public Information for the Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission.

The job requires him to be fluent and up to date with tribal news and issues. He also serves as a writer, photographer and editor for the Mazina’igan newspaper. Bizhikiins presents at many public engagements and schools throughout the Midwest on topics ranging from: traditional subsistence, sovereignty, tribal environmental perspective, cultural immersion, Ojibwemowin, Tribal Historic Preservation, food sovereignty, Ojibwe curriculum, and cultural identity. Bizhkiins is also an adjunct instructor at Northland College in the American Indian Studies Department where he teaches Introduction to Ojibwe language and culture. He also serves as an appointed member of the Wisconsin Governor’s Task Force on Climate Change.

Bizhikiins has been a recent recipient of the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development “40 under 40” award and a recipient of the UW Madison Nelson Institute Rising Star Alumni award.

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Human presence on the landscape: 50 years of archeology at the Apostle Islands

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Archaeological investigations at the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore started in earnest shortly after the Lakeshore was designated in the early 1970s. Investigations have continued in the intervening years. This talk will share the stories of human use of the islands that archaeological work has illuminated for us thus far.

The archaeological record at the Apostles is diverse, including sites related to fishing, logging, farming, and occupation from 5000 years ago to the mid-20th century. The information gained through archaeological excavations helps us appreciate the many ways in which people have shaped the natural environment throughout the past.

As we look to the future of the Lakeshore, this knowledge will inform preservation planning and further study for the archaeological treasures of the Apostles.

Presenter biography

Dawn Bringelson, Midwest Archaeological Center

Dawn Bringelson

Dawn worked for the NPS Midwest Archaeological Center from 1998 to 2019 as an Archaeologist, providing support to parks across the region.

She has worked closely with Apostle Islands National Lakeshore since 2007, both as a field researcher and compliance advisor.

Her work in the Apostles has been especially valuable to her, highlighting the intersection of natural and cultural resources and the joy of collaborating with park staff on management issues.

She moved to the NPS National Historic Landmarks program in 2020 and has recently joined Yosemite National Park’s resource management division. She is taking lessons learned in the Apostles with her. Dawn earned degrees in Anthropology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the University of Washington.


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Fifty years of cultural resource research at Apostle Islands NL

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The earliest evidence of human presence on the Apostle Islands dates to approximately 5,000 years ago when seasonal fishers utilized the cluster of islands that we call the Apostles and that the Ojibwe people call the Wenabozho Islands.

From these early peoples to the park visitors of today, successive generations have left their imprint on the islands, resulting in a rich tapestry of cultural resources and human experiences.

This presentation will look at the Lakeshore’s half century of efforts to study, understand, and steward these resources as well as the constant interplay between the island landscape, Lake Superior, and the islands’ human inhabitants.

David Cooper, Apostle Islands NL

Presenter biography

David Cooper

David Cooper is Apostle Islands National Lakeshore’s cultural resource manager and archaeologist.

He has also served as archaeologist and Chief of Resource Management for Grand Portage National Monument, ten years as State Underwater Archaeologist for the Wisconsin Historical Society, and Underwater Archaeologist for the US Navy.

He has done archaeological work across the United States, as well as in Great Britain and the Caribbean. His academic training includes undergraduate work at UWMadison and University of Warwick (UK), and graduate work at East Carolina University. He has worked for the National Park Service for 22 years and lives in Bayfield, WI.


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A retrospective – research and resource management at Apostle Islands NL

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The Apostle Islands are a homeland, a place of adventure, solace and beauty, a
fascinating natural laboratory, habitat for diverse plant and animal communities, a refuge for those that are rare, and a place of national significance. Over time there have been many who have worked tirelessly and passionately to learn, understand, and uncover secrets of this “special collection of islands.”

During this presentation, I will provide an overview of the history of natural resource management and research at the national lakeshore over the past 5 decades – highlighting changing issues and needs; the collaborative relationship between the park, researchers, and partners; explain how technology has transformed our ability to read the pulse of the resource; share a few stories not told by other presenters; and to say thank you to all who have cared for and will continue to steward our Apostle Islands.

Julie Van Stappen, Apostle Islands NL

Presenter biography

For more than 30 years, Julie has had the great honor to work with dedicated and passionate staff, researchers, and partners in the resource management and stewardship of Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. Prior to her current position as Chief of Resource Management, she was the Branch Chief of Natural Resource Management and prior to that, the park’s Natural Resource Management Specialist.

Her first NPS job was as a seasonal at Glacier National Park. This is where her dream of working for the National Park Service in resource management began. She’s also worked at the Pacific-West Region, Olympic National Park, the NPS geologic resource division, and the Midwest Regional Office. She received her MS in Natural Resources from the University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point and BS in geology from the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh.


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Welcome to the Symposium

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Welcome to the Apostle Islands 50th Anniversary Resource Stewardship Symposium. We’re pleased to present the web edition, which follows our 2-day live virtual event, celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.

To kick off the event, Alan Brew and Lynne Dominy deliver opening remarks on how this event came to be and what “resource stewardship” really means, as we celebrate the past and plan for the future of this national treasure.

Symposium Program in PDF format

Coverage of Lynne Dominy’s opening remarks

Presenter biographies

Lynne Dominy, Superintendent, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

Lynne Dominy

Lynne became the superintendent of Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in Wisconsin, on the southern shore of Lake Superior in 2019.

As a steward of this great lakes landscape, Lynne supports an exceptional team of managers and staff focused on operating and stewarding this national lakeshore. Her 30 years in the NPS includes various positions held at Acadia NP, Little Bighorn NM, Bandelier NM, Point Reyes NS, Grand Canyon NP, and Carlsbad Caverns NP.

Lynne loves working with skilled and passionate NPS teams and park partners to communicate the importance of our sites and to engage communities and visitors in their stewardship. She enjoys creative problem solving and working with staff to find real solutions to management issues.

Lynne cares deeply about Tribal and community relationships and values the importance of creating the next generation of park stewards through youth engagement. Lynne has a deep passion for our nation’s water resources- our relationship to them for navigation, survival, recreation, and relaxation. She is an avid kayaker, photographer, and swimmer so she spends as much time as possible in and on the water.

Alan Brew, Executive Director, Sigurd Olson Institute, Northland College

Alan Brew

Alan Brew is director of the Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute and an English professor at Northland College.

He was introduced to the Apostle Islands twenty years ago while co-leading a nature writing program for high school students that included paddling to Oak and Stockton Islands in a 36-foot birch bark canoe. Paddling among the Islands is now an integral part of his life on the Big Lake.


This online event is supported by Friends of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Northland College, the Apostle Islands Historic Preservation Conservancy, the National Park Foundation, the National Park Service and the Bayfield Heritage Association.

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