Dept. of Natural Resources: Invasive species council announces 2023 invader crusader award winners

Contact: Tara Bergeson, DNR Invasive Species Team Leader or 608-516-0487

Individuals And Groups Honored For Work To Control Invasive Species

MADISON, Wis. – The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) congratulates the winners of the 2023 Invasive Species Council Invader Crusader Awards.

The Wisconsin Invasive Species Council selects the Invader Crusader award winners as part of Invasive Species Action Month in June. The governor-appointed council advises the DNR and the state legislature on invasive species issues.

Each year, the council honors Invader Crusaders, individuals, groups or organizations who have made significant contributions to prevent, monitor or control invasive species that can harm Wisconsin’s ecosystems, economy and, in some cases, public health.

Nominations come from residents and organizations, and awards are given in several categories. 2023 Invader Crusader Award winners and the organizations they volunteer or work for are listed below.

Professional Individual Category

  • Jaime Osterom: Jaime has taken an active approach to preventing the introduction of aquatic invasive species through her dedication to education, innovative species control and leadership at the Ace Hardware Pet Department in Wausau. She promotes a learning environment for both staff and customers, and effectively communicates regulations to both audiences.
  • Matthew Wallrath: Through Matt’s work with the Upper Sugar River Watershed Association and the South Central Invasives Partnership, he has helped inform thousands of people about the impacts of invasive species, control methods and ecology in general. He works tirelessly to make a difference on the ground and in the classroom, and his impact has reached throughout the state.
  • Mic Armstrong: Through Mic’s work for the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Monroe County Invasive Species Working Group, he has brought together many local, regional and state agencies and organizations for the purpose of controlling and monitoring invasive species. His knowledge of ecology, invasive species and the nursery industry has been an invaluable asset to all who work with him.

Volunteer Individual Category

  • Jim Giffin: Jim has made a lasting impact on Lake Minnesuing, a 432-acre lake with 6.6 miles of shoreline in Douglas County. He has secured 12 different grants to fund invasive species control efforts on the lake and garnered cooperation from neighboring landowners and organizations. He has brought together a community around the lake to promote invasive species control and monitoring, as well as native landscaping and restoration.
  • Nancy Gloe: For over two decades, Nancy has reared and distributed Purple Loosestrife biocontrol beetles to great effect. She has eradicated this species at one site and documented substantial reductions in her new work area along the Glacier Drumlin Trail at Scuppernong Creek. Her enthusiasm and experience have made her a knowledgeable teacher and partner.
  • Richard “Dick” Ballou: As founder of the Cedar Lake Buckthorn Project in Barron County, Dick has spent the last 15 years securing grants, organizing workshops, and spreading the word on how and why controlling buckthorn is important. He has been an effective and motivating teacher, inspiring many local landowners to take action on their properties.

Professional Group Category

  • Melinda Myers, LLC: Known across the state and beyond for gardening education, Melinda and her team have reached thousands with their webinars, blogs and more. Melinda goes above and beyond to educate gardeners on invasive species and promote an interest in further learning in those she reaches.
  • Mequon Nature Preserve: The Mequon Nature Preserve reaches tens of thousands of people each year with its outreach and educational efforts. They teach others about native and invasive species and other ecological information that fosters curiosity and further learning. Their seven staff members make the most of their efforts by recruiting volunteers and interns to manage nearly 500 acres of native habitat.

Volunteer Group Category

  • Friends of the Manitowoc River Watershed: The Friends of the Manitowoc River Watershed hosts events every year that bring in hundreds of attendees. In addition, they coordinate invasive species removal projects and beach clean-up days, which have led to the removal of thousands of pounds of invasives and garbage each year.
  • Silverwood Park Volunteers: The Silverwood Park Volunteers have demonstrated outstanding dedication to removing invasives. Since 2018, they’ve worked together to nearly eradicate buckthorn, honeysuckle, and burning bush on 57 acres. Through their weekly workdays and hosting Operation Fresh Start crews, they’ve made a difference in the park and in the lives of students.
  • Wehr Nature Center: Through weekly volunteer days, local school outreach, and workshops, Wehr Nature Center has educated hundreds of individuals on invasive species management. Their work has positively impacted critical habitats for rare species and brought local community members into nature.

Special Recognition Category

  • James Hughes: James is recognized for his service as a representative of the Wisconsin Dept. of Transportation (DOT) on the Wisconsin Invasive Species Council. His appointment to the council began in 2015 and lasted until his retirement in 2022. James was a State Highway Maintenance Engineer who oversaw the management of the State Highway Roadsides Network and DOT’s Invasive Species Program.
  • Julie Fox: Julie is recognized for her service as a representative of the Wisconsin Dept. of Tourism on the Wisconsin Invasive Species Council. Her appointment to the council began in 2016 and lasted until her retirement in 2023. Julie was a Regional Tourism Specialist who served as a field representative to connect, assist and support the tourism industry. Previously, she worked as a Natural Resources Educator for the DNR and informed the public on various topics, including invasive species.

Congratulations to this year’s award recipients and nominees for their dedication to the prevention, control and eradication of invasive species in Wisconsin. More information about invasive species and resources for helping to prevent the spread is available on the DNR website.