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CLC participates in unique partnership

Central Lakes College natural resources work-study student Owen Scherping (right) from Little Falls, helps study a water sample with Gallaudet University student Giovanna Vazquez late last week at Crow Wing Lake. 1 / 2
Gallaudet University associate professor Daniel Lundberg (left) signs to Central Lakes College natural resources instructor Kent Montgomery late last week at Crow Wing Lake.2 / 2

A unique partnership at Central Lakes College is bringing together two cultures - the deaf and the hearing - while giving college students a lesson in water quality.

In its second year, the partnership between CLC and Gallaudet University, a Washington D.C.-based university for the deaf and hard of hearing, has brought students from across the world together for one cause: water.

It all started with two educators and one shared vision. Gallaudet associate professor Daniel Lundberg, who owns a home in Lake Shore, used some classrooms at CLC for a different project in 2013. That's when he met Kent Montgomery, one of the natural resources instructors at CLC.

"We both shared a vision of our students—from both CLC and Gallaudet—working together on limnology-related projects," Lundberg said.

The project got its first kickoff through some research-grade equipment worth thousands of dollars funded through grants and donations pulled in by Lundberg and Montgomery.

Late last week, the group of students took samples from seven spots on Crow Wing Lake.

It was the third time being out on the cool waters for CLC natural resources student Owen Scherping, from Little Falls. He operated the GPS for the group.

With him from Gallaudet were students Giovanna Vazquez, Florida, Jeronimo Ocampos, Argentina and Brandon Call, California. To communicate on the water, the students texted.

"It's cool to get hearing and deaf students together," Montgomery said. That access to a new group of people helps CLC students understand the deaf culture better, all while learning more about watershed, he said.

The Brainerd lakes area is perfect for the project, Lundberg said. Besides being home to hundreds of bodies of water, it is also a great opportunity to bring Gallaudet students, who come from all over the world, to Minnesota to see how different lakes can be, he said.

In their 10 weeks in Brainerd, the group did most work on Agate and Crow Wing lakes, as well as some work on Sylvan, Margaret, Nisswa, Roy, Bass and Upper Gull lakes.

The students presented their findings to both the Agate Lake Association and Crow Wing Lake Association.

"It is a great experience for them, because instead of presenting to an academic audience, they are presenting to actual lake association members who have a genuine interest to know what's happening in their lakes and watersheds," Lundberg said.

They'll also share the information through posters at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County Undergraduate Research Symposium in the Chemical and Biological Sciences this October and at Gallaudet University this fall, among other venues.

Pat Altrichter, a member of the Crow Wing Lake Association and Lake Improvement District, said the data the students provided is vital for the future of the lake.

"We want to explore the watershed and what causes the not-so-healthy stuff," she said. Eventually, lake officials will develop a watershed management plan for the lake. The work by CLC and Gallaudet students will help them do just that.

The project helps several lake associations and also shows CLC is a resource for water research and other areas surrounding natural resources, Montgomery said.

The partnership between CLC and Gallaudet is something both instructors hope continues and grows. Most of all, though, they hope each student gets something bigger out of the experience. Lundberg wants the students to understand how sensitive lakes are to the environment and how different they can be, both naturally and from human impact.

"I also hope - actually I already have seen this - that they apply what they learned in the classroom to real work," he said.

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