Vimont among panelists at WSF event

November 6, 2017

Outdoor enthusiasts and naturalists alike gathered to hear an expert panel discuss what changes in Wisconsin weather patterns will mean for hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities in their talk “Not Like It Used to Be: Outdoor Recreation in a Changing Wisconsin.” In partnership with the Wisconsin Science Festival, the Nelson Institute event included working professionals from climate, wildlife habitat, fisheries, winter sports and mosquito-borne illnesses.

Panelists included Jack Sullivan, recently retired head of the Bureau of Science Services at the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Catherine Techtmann, Environmental Outreach State Specialist, Kristy Maki, Sport Development & Operations Manager for the American Birkebeiner, Andrew Goyke, fisheries expert at Northland College, Lyric Bartholomay, expert on mosquito-borne diseases in the School of Veterinary Medicine, and notably, Nelson Institute’s Daniel Vimont, director of the Center for Climatic Research and avid trout fisherman.

Patrick Durkin, outdoors columnist and event moderator, kicked the night off by reminiscing about his past, recollecting his high school years fishing for perch on Lake Mendota. He fondly remembered his late-night ice fishing on the lakes each Christmas Eve, but as time went on he saw firsthand how declining lake ice coverage affected his ice fishing. His observations made it personal for him and it motivated him to check the historical records on the Wisconsin State Climatology Office. By cross-checking his observations with scientific data, he was able to gain an understanding of the seasonal changes happening in our state.

Ultimately, Durkin wants people to make the realization he did and see for themselves how their love for the Wisconsin outdoors are being affected by a warming climate.
“When someone asks me ‘Well, where’s the proof for global warming?’ you start wondering what more [could] they want,” Durkin questioned.

For Vimont, however, data and research are the primary ways of understanding global climate change. Vimont set the stage for his discussion by establishing three key facts of climate change: global temperatures are increasing, carbon dioxide is increasing in our atmosphere due to human activities, and no one alive today will experience a carbon dioxide concentration below 400 parts per million. But he also understands that facts alone cannot compel people to consider how the climate is changing. “It’s kind of meaningless for us because it’s hard for us to make a connection on a global scale,” Vimont said. So Vimont tried to localize these effects by focusing on warming winters, hotter summers and intensified rainfall events, which in turn affects lake ice durations and declines in brook trout habitat in Wisconsin.

And Durkin agreed that making the changes personal and local was the best way to show people why things aren’t like they used to be in Wisconsin. “You start looking in your backyard… you start putting these numbers in front of people, and I think the logical person says ‘Well, this is worth talking about.’” Durkin said.