Reporter honored for work examining aquatic invasive species

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  • Whitefish Lake Institute Executive Director Mike Koopal honors the Averill family with its Stewardship Award during the Whitefish Chamber of Commerce Awards Gala Feb. 7 at the O'Shaughnessy Center. Brian and Fabienne Averill accepted the award, which the institute gave in recognition of the family’s commitment to protecting water quality through the Viking Creek Wetland Preserve and donations targeted to protecting Whitefish Lake from aquatic invasive species. (Whitefish Pilot photo)

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    Montana Public Radio reporter Nicky Ouellet accepts the Chris Ruffatto Excellence in Education Award from Whitefish Lake Institute executive director Mike Koopal during the Whitefish Chamber of Commerce Awards Gala Feb. 7 at the O’Shaughnessy Center. (Daniel McKay/Whitefish Pilot)

  • Whitefish Lake Institute Executive Director Mike Koopal honors the Averill family with its Stewardship Award during the Whitefish Chamber of Commerce Awards Gala Feb. 7 at the O'Shaughnessy Center. Brian and Fabienne Averill accepted the award, which the institute gave in recognition of the family’s commitment to protecting water quality through the Viking Creek Wetland Preserve and donations targeted to protecting Whitefish Lake from aquatic invasive species. (Whitefish Pilot photo)

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    Montana Public Radio reporter Nicky Ouellet accepts the Chris Ruffatto Excellence in Education Award from Whitefish Lake Institute executive director Mike Koopal during the Whitefish Chamber of Commerce Awards Gala Feb. 7 at the O’Shaughnessy Center. (Daniel McKay/Whitefish Pilot)

The Whitefish Lake Institute honored Montana Public Radio reporter Nicky Ouellet last week for her contribution to water quality education through a podcast series she created.

The institute presented her with the Chris Ruffatto Excellence in Education Award during the Whitefish Chamber of Commerce’s annual awards night at the O’Shaughnessy Center.

Ouellet’s podcast, SubSurface: Resisting Montana’s Underwater Invaders aired in five episodes during November and December of last year. Ouellet is Montana Public Radio’s Flathead Valley-area reporter.

The podcast educated the public on scientists’ and resource managers’ efforts to understand and combat aquatic invasive species, the institute notes.

In presenting the award to Ouellet, Mike Koopal, the institute’s executive director, said education can take on many forms.

“Her work to closely examine and describe for Montanans the increasing threat of AIS constitutes a breakthrough in public education on water quality issues,” he said. “We hope you know how much your work means to the scientists, who work to understand and prevent aquatic invasive species, and to the Whitefish community.”

In SubSurface, Ouellet examines how invasive mussels changed the Great Lakes region and what those implications could mean for Montana’s future, as well as what the state already is doing to detect and prevent their spread.

She traveled to Minnesota and Wisconsin, which decades ago faced challenges with the same invasive species that Montana is facing, to report on the issue. Each 20 minute segment delves into lessons learned from communities where zebra mussels exist and discusses the challenge now faced here.

Founded in 2005, the Whitefish Lake Institute is a nonprofit organization committed to science, education, and community stewardship to protect and improve Whitefish Lake and Whitefish area water resources today, while providing a collective vision for tomorrow.

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