February 28, 2018 brought together two schools and 14 students to learn more about aquatic invasive species (AIS) and solar energy. The day started out with a presentation from Allison Gamble, Invasive Species Specialist with the Minnesota DNR. Allison explained that there are non-native organisms and there are invasive organisms and the difference between the two.
Many AIS have been introduced from the unloading of ballast water from large cargo ships. People have also brought in AIS on purpose without realizing the problem they could cause. Plants to beautify a yard, fish to clean aquaculture ponds, and people letting go of pets they no longer want are some examples of these actions.
People are also the solution as we can monitor our boats for AIS, clean off water gear before entering another water body, educate others on the risks of careless actions, and monitor water bodies to deal with AIS issues as early as possible. There are not enough “Allisons” in Minnesota so we can help catch issues during our water adventures.
Next on the agenda was Briana Baker who is the Southern Minnesota Organizer of Minnesota Interfaith Power and Light. Technology is continually changing causing the cost of solar to decrease, while there is an increase in job opportunities and ways to get involved. Briana showed the group multiple videos describing the array of ways solar energy is being harvested. She ended her presentation with having the students see if their house would be a good site for solar panels using a special University of Minnesota website.
We completed the day with a tour of the local community solar garden on the School Sisters of Notre Dame property with Facilities Director Bill Ward. There are currently two groups of panels, one being new enough to not even be connected to the grid yet. Combined, the garden will be able to generate enough electricity to power 253 homes. Surrounding the panels is pollinator habitat so there is a two-fold benefit of this community solar garden.
The students received a wide range of education and made new contacts to help them in their future project endeavors. Solar energy and AIS are topics of the present and these students will do their part to make a difference.
“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.” – John Muir