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Lake Conservation, Wild Rice, and Duck Hunting

Young Government Leaders (YGL) and GovLoop present the NextGen Public Service Awards for superior public service and achievement. The 5th Annual NextGen Public Service Awards will be given at the 2015 NextGen Award’s Ceremony, which will kick of the NextGen Training Summit on July 20th and 21st in Washington, DC. This year we have 30 finalists – the NextGen 30. Over the next month we will introduce you to our finalists through this blog series.

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Meet the finalist:

Who: Ann Geisen, Wildlife Lake Specialist, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ (MN DNR) Shallow Lakes Program

Achievement: NextGen Public Service Finalist, Exemplary Leaders Category

“Ann’s example of dedication and accomplishment serves as a model for all wildlife professionals. What sets her apart is that she goes above and beyond her own professional achievements to mentor the next generation of conservationists and wildlife professionals.”– Ray Norrgard, Wetland Management Program Leader, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Norrgard nominated Geisen for NextGen Exemplary Leaders.

Minnesota, also known as the Land of 10,000 lakes, in actuality has close to 15,000 lakes that are more than 10 acres in size. Of these 15,000, about 4,000 are shallow lakes that receive special focus from a statewide program. Ann Geisen is proud to be part of that team.

As a Wildlife Lake Specialist, Geisen conducts lake surveys, which require determining the current condition of a lake’s habitat and what needs to be done improve it. Management of these lakes is necessary to protect the welfare of the lake’s wildlife as well as the people that enjoy them.

“Normally these lakes would go through wet and dry cycles, and Mother Nature would kind of reset them every so often and that would keep them in good condition. With all the human changes on the landscape, these lakes need management to provide good habitat,” says Geisen.

To manage these shallow basins and maintain high quality habitat, Geisen has to utilize strategic planning skills while coordinating with several stakeholders such as Ducks Unlimited, Minnesota Waterfowl Association, and the Native Tribes. Working with so many groups while taking on diverse responsibilities has led Geisen to constantly develop her abilities. When asked for tips about improving one’s skills, Geisen explained that she often seeks advice from people who are advanced in skills she lacks to improve the overall quality of her public service.

But what drew Geisen to public service? The lake specialist says knew she wanted to work with natural resources since she was in 5th grade. However she ultimately became a public servant because it gives her the opportunity to “manage and protect natural resources for the benefit of everyone.”

Minnesota is a prime location for Geisen to perform that work. Besides the abundance of shallow lakes, the state has roughly 2,000 lakes and rivers with wild rice that she also helps manage and maintain. Though natural wild rice has disappeared from most of its historic range, Minnesota is one of the last strongholds of this ecologically and culturally important aquatic plant.

Geisen values her wild rice work. “I take a lot of pride in being able to help manage that resource for wildlife and people, and help Minnesota maintain this part of its heritage,” she said.

In addition to protecting the quality of Minnesota lakes, Geisen also hunts ducks. She first went waterfowl hunting in her late 20’s by random chance. She happened to mention to a retired wildlife manager that she wanted to learn to duck hunt, and to her surprise, he said he would teach her.

In an effort to pay it forward, Geisen volunteers every summer at a waterfowl hunting camp, teaching teens skills they will need out in the field such as orienteering, night-time navigation, boat and water safety, and plant identification.

We will be talking to all the NextGen Public Service Award finalists in the upcoming weeks. See the full list here. Finally, register to attend the Awards Ceremony to get to know the NextGen 30 in-person!

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