views of the estuary area

New Staff at the Lake Superior NERR!

Gail Epping Overholt, Coastal Training Program Coordinator

Gail comes to us from southeastern Wisconsin where she worked as a Natural Resource Educator with the University of Wisconsin-Extension for nine years servicing the Milwaukee River Basin.  Her expertise in water resource management, wetlands, citizen engagement, citizen science, and community engagement and education provide a perfect foundation for the Reserve’s Coastal Training Program. 

In her previous work, Gail facilitated watershed restoration and strategic planning efforts and was the key contact for communication with local decision-makers. Gail fostered development of a uniquely integrated and diverse network of professionals and citizens working on a watershed restoration plan.  She coordinated the Wisconsin Ephemeral Pond Project, a citizen-based monitoring program, organizing and leading the recruitment and training of over 200 citizen volunteers and more than a dozen local partners in  six counties throughout southeastern Wisconsin in its first 3 years.  This volunteer-based project trained citizens to identify, inventory, and monitor the ecology of ephemeral ponds and led Gail to coordinate the effort to create “Eyes on the Water”, a web-based Guide for Building an Ephemeral Pond Citizen Monitoring Program.

A cornerstone of Gail’s work has always been a keen desire to connect with stakeholders through networking and consistent communication.  She brings a strong background of Great Lakes issues and Wisconsin’s Areas of Concern Program on a statewide level.  Gail served on the Board of Directors for the Friends of Cedarburg Bog, the Wisconsin Wetlands Association and the Wisconsin Association of Environmental Education.  She enjoys developing programs designed to inspire and engage citizens in natural resources issues that matter to them. 

Formerly the Director at the Aldo Leopold Nature Center, she is looking forward to exploring the vast natural resources of the greater Superior/Duluth region.  Gail also enjoys gardening from seed to table and visiting places rich in water and wildlife!  Gail, along with her husband Pete and dog McPhee, will likely be seen exploring wetlands and “surfing” in Lake Superior.


Em Westerlund: Administrative Specialist

Em joins the Reserve’s team with a diverse background in social science and natural resources.  She has an applied associate’s degree in Natural Resource Technology – Forestry/Wildlife from Vermilion Community College, a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and Gender Studies from Smith College, and a Master’s in Advocacy & Political Leadership from University of Minnesota-Duluth. 

Em’s professional experience includes serving several years as leadership director for Camp Roundelay with the Girl Scouts of Minnesota and Wisconsin Lakes and Pines Council.  She also served as the statewide network support specialist for the Minnesota Alliance With Youth AmeriCorps program.  Em gained further administrative experience as the multi-disciplinary team coordinator and community educator for four years at the sexual assault crisis center, Program for Aid to Victims of Sexual Assault, in Duluth.  Additional professional experiences include an adjunct teaching position in sociology at Vermilion Community College in Ely, Minnesota as well as summer forestry experience with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. 

In her spare time, Em volunteers as a trail maintenance section leader for the Superior Hiking Trail Association, is involved with the Minnesota Master Naturalist Program, and volunteers as a conservation easement monitor for the Minnesota Land Trust.  She has also been involved in the Western Great Lakes Owl Monitoring survey, the MN DNR spring frog and toad survey, and MN DNR BioBlitz programs. 
Em’s idea of a perfect day is a long hike with her family and their two dogs, Laramie and James Dean.  In the winter, Em enjoys playing ice hockey and cross-country skiing.


Lake Superior NERR Overview

The Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR), the most recent addition to the National Estuarine Reserve System, is one of 28 areas across the country designated for long-term research on coastal resources and the human populations those resources support. The Lake Superior NERR is located along a river-to-lake gradient at the confluence of the St. Louis River and Lake Superior, the largest and most pristine of the Great Lakes.The Superior-Duluth harbor is one of the largest ports in the U.S. The Reserve works in partnership to improve the understanding of Lake Superior freshwater estuaries and coastal resources and to address the issues affecting them through an integrated program of research, education, outreach, and stewardship. The Reserve is comprised exclusively of public lands and waters and contains ~16,000 acres of repesentative terrestrial and aquatic habitats, including riparian and riverine habitat; riverine islands; emergent freshwater marshes, interdunal wetlands and scrub swamp; aspen, dry and hardwood forests; and open sand beach and dunes. The Lake Superior NERR land-owner partners are Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, City of Superior, Douglas County and the University of Wisconsin. Several other partnering agencies, from both Minnesota and Wisconsin, and the Fond du Lac Band of the Lake Superior Chippewa also sit on our Reserve Advisory Board.

For current weather and water conditions logon to the SWMP page (Pokegama Weather, Oliver Bridge Water Quality, Barkers Island Water Quality). Follow us on Facebook for up-to-date information on our programs.

Updated: 2/03/2014