Editor’s note: This is part of a series of stories about how COVID-19 derailed the research of many aspiring Great Lakes scientists. It is edited for length and clarity.
By Amelia Cole
Megan Mader grew up around water in northern Wisconsin. Now she studies aquatic biology and is a first-year graduate student in the Annis Water Resources Institute at Grand Valley State University.
She researches the impact of human activities such as shoreline development on fish that live in drowned river mouths on Lake Michigan.
Mader describes her work as “putting in another piece of the puzzle.” However, coronavirus-related shutdowns might prevent her from adding her piece.
“One of the goals of my project is to be able to set the foundation for other projects in the future. So, whether or not I can sample, I just, I don’t know how that will impact what comes next. Because not much has been done with what I’m looking at in these systems. So, it’s pretty much just the first step of documenting what human impacts are to these drowned river mouths, and then there’s a lot of work that can be done from there with other grad students. But I’m pretty much counting on having this one summer of sampling. If that doesn’t happen then I kind of have to take fish out of the picture, which is a bummer.
“There are dangers that you work with every day out in the field, and the coronavirus being one of them just adds a whole bigger piece to the picture that I don’t feel comfortable dealing with, if it comes to that. Being able to sample at some point this summer would be great, whether it’s June or August, just so long as it falls in line with people and the community being safe.
“Right now, there’s just a lot of uncertainty. I might be able to sample fish in the summer, I might not. I might be able to have undergrads work for me, I might be only able to just do water sampling, might have to drive in separate cars to get there. So, it’s just not knowing. I’m in an okay place because I could do a project with remote data instead of sampling the fish, but I know a lot of other people are pretty much out of luck. They can’t sample this summer. Just not knowing what’s gonna happen.
“I left Michigan for home in Wisconsin. I’m in very rural, northern Wisconsin, so it’s difficult to know the full scope of things when you’re not living in a big city in the middle of all this. But I’m just hearing what’s going on, and my mom is an ER nurse, so just hearing, you know, what she’s preparing for in a small northern Wisconsin hospital already, and the hours that she’s put in really hits home.”