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Person in kayak taking water sampleMaya Dizack has experienced the effects of poor water quality firsthand. As a kid growing up near Lake Michigan, she dreamed of being a mermaid. She swam in rivers and streams near her Wisconsin home, and, as mermaids do, she drank the river water. After E. coli poisoning landed her in the emergency room, her family had serious concerns about water pollution, and they were ready to do something about it.

Maya’s family connected with the Wisconsin DNR’s Water Action Volunteers program. When she was five years old, she and her dad began kayaking along local tributaries to gather water samples for a statewide database. As a young citizen scientist, her love of the outdoors became inextricably linked with environmental education.

Now a college student, Maya has transformed her interest in water quality into an epic adventure. This summer, from May to July, she’s kayaking the entire length of the Mississippi River to study how ...

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