Katie’s (Stearns County) Climate Story

Katie Two SonsI am Katie Winkelman, I am a Soil Conservationist for Stearns County Soil and Water Conservation District and I am an Albany High School Graduate.  The class that started it all for me was Mr. Daninger’s (Mr. D) Ecology Class.  Ecology came easy to me; the subjects discussed in the classroom seemed natural to me, the topics made sense and I felt a connection to the environment.

I was selected as Student of the Month by Mr D.  On the nomination letter were the following words: Katie you have great potential in the ecology field.  That was the spark that lit the fire; I was inspired to seek out other environmental opportunities.  I joined the Environmental Club to meet others that shared my interest in ecology and conservation.  As a member of the Environmental Club I participated in Senior Envirothon, a competition for students to challenge their environmental knowledge and skills.  Offering five learning stations presented by natural resource professionals in the fields of water, wildlife, forestry, soil and a current environmental issue. Envirothon continued to kindle my passion for conservation, having the opportunity to meet professionals in a variety of fields.

So, I entered into College with direction and motivation.  I looked at the environment with different eyes, I found passion and beauty in natural habitats; I appreciated the rolling prairies and transitional woodlands of Stearns County.  I graduated from SCSU with a Bachelor of Science Degree.

This year marks my 6th year working for a Soil and Water Conservation District, the last two with Stearns County.  My passion for protecting and restoring Minnesota’s natural resources is stronger than ever.  As is the need for conservation, the reality of climate change has been casted down upon us, demonstrated by the increase of INTENSE rainfall events that are occurring EARLY in our growing seasons.

FieldOn May 31, 2014 Albany was pounded with over 4 inches of rain.  This came hard and fast.  The amount soil and nutrients transported by this event is not easily calculable but the impact is documented in pictures leave a lasting impression.

A little over a year later, on June 6-7, 2015 another storm hit the general area delivering another 4.7 inches in 60 minutes …this was classified as a 1,000 year storm.

On average in the Albany area receives 3.19 inches of rainfall in May and 4.45 inches in June but the last two years that has NOT been the case. In May 2015 the area received 5.51 inches in June 6.27 inches, in 2014 6.28 inches in May and 7.41 inches in June.  To me Climate Change means a challenge, as a Stearns County SWCD employee I provide leadership in the conservation of soil, water and related natural resources through programs and partnerships with individuals, business, organization and government

With more intense storms earlier in the growing season that demand for leadership and program support intensifies too.  Over time, I have realized that the only thing that I can be certain about with climate change is that we cannot entirely predict that magnitude of how impacts will affect our soil and our systems.  It will be necessary to continually build our understanding, and to consistently work together towards solutions.

I am grateful for Mr. D’s support and encouragement.  Like I said earlier his words were the spark that lit the fire for my passion for conservation.  Some may say that things have come full circle, I now participate in Envirothon as one of the natural resource professionals that I looked to many year ago.

I hope that I too can inspire youth to get involved in conservation activities, help them find their passion and to get fired up about being part of solutions.

Thanks Mr. D!

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