By Garrett Hopkins, Rock River Coalition
“I love helping connect people with nature. Everyone who wants to be involved in conservation should be and should feel welcome. Nature is for everybody.”
This sentiment comes from Addie Schlussel, who served as Rock River Coalition’s Stream Monitoring and Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) Coordinator for the past two and a half years. Addie spent every day of her employment empowering Rock River Basin residents to protect and conserve local water resources. In July, Addie informed RRC leadership that her life’s trail was taking a new turn, and she resigned from her position with a gracious two-month notice.
Addie has decided to spend the next year or so traveling the country – and eventually different parts of the world – with her partner. “I’m really sad to be leaving Rock River Coalition and moving away from Madison,” says Schlussel, who relocated to Wisconsin to work for RRC, “but at the same time, I know I need to take advantage of this opportunity when I have it.” Their first stop is New Mexico, where they will be working on a homestead farm near Santa Fe picking apples and making cider.
Her sense of adventure that’s driving this new journey has been present since childhood. “I was always a kid who loved running around in the woods and spending time in nature,” she says. “I went to school for Biology and Environmental Studies at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, then moved to Washington state after college to work for a land trust doing habitat restoration. I just want to get out there, meet people and understand different areas of the world.”
Addie Schlussel helping volunteers identify aquatic invasive species, Snapshot Day 2022. Photo Credit: Garrett Hopkins
We are grateful Addie chose to lend her knowledge and talent to our area of the world for the past two and a half years. While her time with Rock River Coalition has come to an end, the wake of her accomplishments will ripple through the region for years to come. Since Addie joined RRC in March 2021, we launched our AIS prevention program, began an annual purple loosestrife biocontrol project, enlisted dozens of new stream monitor volunteers, forged partnerships with multiple community organizations, created a comprehensive five-year plan and fortified our commitment to justice, equity, diversity and inclusion (JEDI).
Addie played an irreplaceable role in all of this work.
Her impact on the stream monitoring and AIS prevention programs, the two core functions of her job, was particularly impressive. “Specifically, I’ve been really happy to see the stream monitoring program get established in Dodge County, since our work in that area was basically new when I started,” she says. RRC now currently supports more than a dozen monitoring stations in Dodge County, largely due to Addie’s talent for welcoming the general public into the world of conservation. She also expressed excitement about the strides the AIS prevention program has made. “Our current New Zealand mudsnail project is a good example of how we are continuing to expand this program in response to new invasive species issues.”
Addie Schlussel teaching participants about New Zealand mudsnail, summer 2023. Photo Credit: Tessa Kooij
While summarizing Addie’s full impact on the Rock River Basin is an exercise in impracticality, expressing our gratitude for the time she gave us is a privilege. Lasting conservation requires the efforts of thousands of people, most of whom likely lack the skills and guidance to operate effectively on their own. Luckily, people like Addie excel at leveraging other people’s desire to do good by nature. Wherever Addie’s trail takes her, we are confident her footprints will leave a positive impression.
On behalf of our staff, volunteers, constituents and Board of Directors, Rock River Coalition wishes Addie the very best and thanks her for all she has done to support and enhance our mission.