Lakeside Lab group receives statewide honor

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

It has more than a century of history. Close to 1,400 students came to campus for programs in 2013 alone.

But two decades ago, Iowa Lakeside Lab was almost gone. The Iowa Board of Regents -- a governing group for the state's major universities -- almost closed the doors at the campus near Wahpeton. The biological field research station was spared because of a decision made closer to the Iowa Great Lakes.

"Friends of Lakeside Lab was born when area residents didn't want to see the Lab disappear from West Okoboji's landscape," Lisa Roti, the project coordinator for Friends of Lakeside Lab said.

The statewide board's current appointees recently acknowledged the Friends group efforts with a commendation. The foundation continues to support the learning center through ongoing programming as well.

"We're very grateful to the Board of Regents that they recognized the Friends for what has been now 20 years of work (by) the many volunteers who are supporting the Lakeside Lab," Roti said.

The program director recently compiled a list of accomplishments by the nonprofit group.

"We sometimes feel like this undiscovered gem on the West Okoboji shores," Roti said. "The campus is on 147 acres and there's this beautiful organization that exists and people don't know what it is -- or they think, because of the name 'Iowa Lakeside Laboratory,' they think it is unapproachable when, in fact it's not. It's very family-oriented."

The Friends of Lakeside Lab also helps subsidize the cost for the CLAMP program -- the Cooperative Lakes Area Monitoring Project.

"It's one of the largest-running, water-monitoring projects in the state of Iowa," Roti said. "Thanks to the help of Friends, that organization continues to be supported as well."

The Friends group raises funds for fellowships and about 35 scholarships -- those opportunities aren't exclusive to college-age students who need help with room-and-board. The group offsets costs for young children who participate in nature camps over the summer.

"The Friends are an integral part of the fact that all of those programs exist and continue to flourish," Roti said.

Jane Shuttleworth's efforts draw another segment of the population to campus through Wild Wednesday programs, faculty lectures and numerous other programs.

"Jane is, of course, a powerhouse with respect to education here on campus for the more non-traditional students," Roti said of Lakeside's community outreach administrator.

Roti also credits the Okoboji Foundation's Youth in Philanthropy program, who helped to fund a nearly-complete trail segment through campus. The trail will have an exit point through the prairie to the north of campus.

For more information about becoming a member of the Friends of Lakeside Lab or the programs offered on campus, go to www.friendsoflakesidelab.org or call 712-337-3669 ext. 1.

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