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Sea Grant’s ‘Survey Girl’ is Helping to Establish a Collaborative Stormwater Awareness Campaign for Lake Michigan

She’s been on the job for over a year now, and Wisconsin Sea Grant’s social scientist located in Milwaukee, Deidre Peroff, has found plenty of ways to put her skills to use. One major project she’s working on is designed to collaborate with several stormwater awareness campaigns for people living along Lake Michigan’s Wisconsin shoreline.

“There are many different campaigns out there designed around stormwater,” Peroff said. “Some of them overlap in the messaging that they use – but they’re really all trying to relay the same message, which is what you do at a household level is connected to how chemicals and pollution can get into Lake Michigan through untreated stormwater.”

The project is led by Jacob Fincher of the Southeastern Wisconsin Watersheds Trust, Inc. (also called Sweet Water) and is funded by the Wisconsin Coastal Management Program. Sweet Water already has its own popular campaign around Milwaukee, Respect our Waters, which features Sparkles the Water Spaniel as a mascot and “spokes-dog.” But this new effort would extend new messages northward to Door and Brown counties, along with the watersheds in between.

Additional project partners include the Lake Michigan Stakeholders steering committee, the Lakeshore Natural Resource Partnership, East Central Regional Planning Commission and the Fox-Wolf Watershed Alliance.

Although Peroff was hired too recently to be included in the original grant application, Fincher of Sweet Water realized how useful her social science skills could be and brought her in. Peroff’s first contribution was to develop a survey that was sent to 55 organizations along the Wisconsin Lake Michigan coast that already have stormwater campaigns. The survey asked them what counties and watersheds they work in, what kind of outreach they do, which topics they address, and if they are interested in working to develop a collaborative stormwater outreach campaign.

The survey is just wrapping up, but Peroff has already learned from it. “I got an idea of what people are already doing and what they’re interested in,” she said.

The project team is going to meet in a few weeks to discuss the survey results and decide on next steps.

“The ultimate goal is to get people on the same page so we’ll have a greater impact with the campaign,” Peroff said. Plans include developing another survey for households along the lake, which Peroff will also help design. “I feel like my superhero nickname should be Survey Girl,” she laughed.

The messages will be spread via workshops, community events, television and radio ads, and online. The campaign’s effectiveness will be evaluated by an advertising agency as well as through a follow-up survey. Guess who will likely have a hand in that survey?