Camp is a place many would describe as “magical.” Surrounded by nature, friends and activities, it’s a place where girls learn to explore, make new friends and become self-reliant. Our council is fortunate enough to have great camps around the region that open Girl Scouts to a world of outdoor adventure. Camp Daisy Hindman, located in our Western Region, is a favorite among campers because of its history and location in the beautiful Flint Hills of Kansas. This is where students from K-State have been working on a project with us to determine the health of the lake on property and create a proposal for improvements as part of a capstone class.
When we began exploring options for making environmental changes to Lake Odanata at Camp Daisy, it seemed like an excellent opportunity to involve college aged women in a STEM field. Through a connection with a community partner, we reached out to K-State for help and the team of four female students answered the call. Students Erica Schmitz, Margaret Spangler, Kayla Wehkamp and Laura Wilson are all seniors at K-State majoring in Biological Systems Engineering. Kari Bigham, a graduate student at K-State, also assisted on the project.
The project is aimed at assessing the current state of Lake Odanata, recommending ways to maintain lake health and suggesting environmentally friendly ways to make improvements (like a beach entrance). The analysis and design will be the students’ senior project – the biggest undertaking in their college career. Erica, Margaret, Kayla and Laura picked the project because it was so environmentally focused. “This was an environmental project and it suited out interests,” K-State senior Kayla Wehkamp said.
The first trip to Camp Daisy took place at the end of the summer, where the team examined erosion rates from streams connecting to the lake. They wanted to know if there was an abnormal activity. For this task, the girls trekked up the streams and took measurements in mud and water. They also analyzed a problem with the invasive plant species called milfoil. This beautiful little plant, if left to grow uncontrolled, can block sun from getting to other plants and animals that call the lake their home. The team analyzed the situation for Girl Scouts and recommended environmentally friendly ways to keep the plant in check (introducing a new fish species was one of their early ideas).
The second trip to Camp Daisy was an insect scouting trip in mid-September that allowed the group to assess the health of the lake. Covered in mud and waist-high in the water, the team started digging for bugs. “We could just take water quality data, but that only gives you one point of data where as these bugs give you a longer timeline,” Kayla said.
There was a great deal of excitement as they found certain insect species that indicated the lake was in great health – like damselflies and dragonflies. These little bugs not only indicate the lake is healthy, but they’re also the namesake for the lake! Odanata means Dragonfly!
The final trip to Camp Daisy took place in October and involved taking a boat out on the lake and collecting data that would allow the team to create a map of the bottom of the lake. If you’re wondering how they did this, we will tell you it wasn’t with fancy equipment! The girls got out into the lake themselves and measured from the top of the water to the bottom using a measuring stick. Using a grid system, they logged the measurements and will develop a general map of what Lake Odanata looks like on the bottom. This is the amazing type of hands-on work that we know girls love to do!
For these scientists, getting dirty is part of the job. “Scientists aim to study the world around us and the real world is messy! We’ve got to get out there to fully understand it and sometimes that means getting a little dirty,” Erica Schmitz said. We love seeing women in a STEM field working to help girls get the best camp experience possible!
This team still has a few more tests to run in the lab before finalizing their design, but we can’t wait to see their recommendations! Girl Scouts is all about inspiring women of all ages and providing unique opportunities to learn. The fresh eyes of these excited young scientists was exactly what the design piece of the project needed – and we’re so appreciative of their work! Thank you to the team at K-State for not only being an amazing partner, but for helping us make a more beautiful place for girls to discover who they are – AT CAMP!
If you have a Lake Odanata memory you’d like to share, comment below!