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May 5, 2006

Fishers face decline in smelt population

It was Wednesday at 11:00 pm on Park Point and six people stood around a pale yellow-lighted heat lamp in a cold offshore wind, fishing for smelt. There was no moon in the sky and the lamp made it hard to see anything in the surrounding darkness.

Three of them stood with hoods pulled tightly over their heads and made regular trips back to the car to warm up. The others huddled the lamp in wet waders and flannel shirts.

The night before, the beach was lined with fires and people with large seine nets, walking out of the water with hundreds of little fish. A day later it was cold and Dave—no last name given—and his friends were the only ones around and weren’t having much luck.

“It ain’t like the old days,? said Dave. “When I was a kid, we picked ‘em out with our hands.?

Years ago, millions of palm-sized fish called smelt used to ascend Duluth’s rivers to spawn in the early spring. Many, including Dave, believe over fishing has caused the smelt population to dwindle when in fact is caused by the return of lake trout to the area, one of the fishes predators.

“The healthy predation population has controlled the smelt population,? said Thomas Hrabik, who teaches ichthyology classes at UMD and has done extensive research on the species. “It is responsible for the decline we have seen lately.?

Dave and a friend come out of the cold water in insulated waders and walk towards the heat lamp. They hold a large empty seine net with metal weights at the bottom.

“We’ve only caught 12 so far,? said Dave as he picks up a bottle of Mountain Dew buried in the sand under the lamp along with three paper coffee cups. “Yesterday was warmer. We didn’t get home until 2:00 am and we started at eight.?

In the past people would fill five-gallon buckets of these fish in less than 30 minutes. After three nights of fishing, Dave and his friends have caught few smelt.

According to Hrabik, smelt were abundant in the 1960’s with the introduction of the sea lamprey, an exotic species from the Atlantic. The onslaught of the sea lamprey killed off much of the lake trout population.

“The smelt population exploded,? said Hrabik.

Now, the lamprey population has been reduced and the Department of Natural Resources has stocked the lake trout population in the area.

For the time being, Dave and his friends will have to settle for a small catch. The feast that follows—the glorious golden-battered fish fry accompanied by beer—will also be small, but it’s unlikely that the smelt fishing will dwindle each spring.

April 21, 2006

Art professor does film

She was wearing a bright orange shirt matched with orange shoes and blue jeans. She sat, drinking coffee out of a paper cup in a café, and recalled with excitement her new experiences in film producing.

Her bleached-blond hair and thick black glasses would make her stand out of any crowd, and if I told you she was an artist, you wouldn’t have a hard time believing it.

Jen Dietrich is an art professor here at UMD and is taking her first stab at film with a documentary she is putting together in collaboration with Sarah Bauer on the life of the 81 year-old artist, Philip Pearlstein—whose work is currently on display at the Tweed Museum of Art.

“I’m a teacher,? Dietrich said. “I wanted more films to show students. I wanted a film to show the average working artist.?

Much of the filming took place in New York City. Dietrich worked alongside Pearlstein—a close friend and mentor for years—serving as the main communication link between him and the rest of the crew.

“It’s a lot of prep work,? Dietrich said. “I’m usually the pitch.?

Dietrich started the project two years ago, adding it to a list of about four “careers? she juggles.

“We loaded everyone into a big, 15 passenger van with Philip in the back –he wouldn’t wear a seatbelt—and drove to New York,? said Dietrich.

A wide grin cracked beneath her black glasses as she thought of an incident in the New York subway.

“We ran into trouble with the transit authorities in the subway system because of Sept. 11,? said Dietrich. “They wouldn’t let us film.?

“Our editor said: ‘We’re going to pretend that Philip is your grandfather and that you’re a New York University graduate student.’

“It worked,? said Dietrich as she laughed and continued the story with excitement and wild gesticulations. “A cop came up to us and we told him the story and he believed it. Philip had no idea what was going on.?

Dietrich said she did many of the interviews for the documentary, working with Pearlstein and who’s left of his contemporaries; Pearlstein is one of the last of his art movement.

“Interviewing is hard to do,? said Dietrich as she commended the talent of the pros. “But that’s the fun part.?

Dietrich said the screening of a trailer for the film will be shown at the Tweed Museum of Art in October, but that the film won’t be done until 2009.

“They say it takes seven years for a dock to be in the can,? said Dietrich.

The film is set to premier at larger independent film festivals such as Sundance and Telluride.

As for now, Dietrich will continue with her teaching, while she and the crew work on the tedious editing process.

April 14, 2006

Profile Draft

Jen Dietrich is known around UMD as an art teacher and some may know she is an accomplished artist. She’s also a single mother and more recently, a film producer.

Dietrich is taking her first stab at film with the documentary she is putting together in collaboration with Sarah Bauer on the life of the 81 year-old artist, Philip Pearlstein—whose work is currently on display in the Tweed Museum of Art.

She started the project about two years ago, adding it to the list of “careers? she juggles.

“I’m a teacher,? Dietrich said. “I wanted more films to show to students. I wanted a film to show the average working artist.?

Dietrich said it’s important for professors to show students that being an artist is like punching in at a full-time job. She likes to show the reality and not the glamour of being an artist, saying that Pearlstein doesn’t live a “flamboyant? lifestyle.

Dietrich provided an Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program to Robb Quisling, as a way to let students participate in real-life experiences.

“That’s what it’s all about, seeing it through the students’ eyes,? said Dietrich.

The film documents the life of Pearlstein—considered the father of Modern Realism—through interviews with the artist and his contemporaries.

“We loaded everyone into a big, 15 passenger van with Philip in the back—he wouldn’t wear a seatbelt—and drove to New York,? said Dietrich.

Much of the filming took place in New York City, where Pearlstein was credited with developing the Soho district as an arts district.

“We ran into trouble with the transit authorities in the subway system because of 9/11,? said Dietrich. “They wouldn’t let us film.?

“Our editor said: ‘We’re going to pretend that Philip is your grandfather, and that you’re a New York University graduate student.’ It worked, a cop came up to us and we told him the story and he believed it.?

Dietrich met Pearlstein for the first time in 1997 when she was teaching at the University of Fairbanks, Alaska. The two are now good friends.

“He’s mentored me throughout my career,? said Dietrich.

The film is still in the works

“They say it takes seven years for a dock to be in the can,? said Dietrich, who hopes to complete the film while Pearlstein is still in good health.

Dietrich said the film is projected to be finished by 2009, with a trailer ready for October of 2006. The film is set to premier at larger independent film festivals such as the Sundance and Telluride film festivals.

April 6, 2006

DIAC hazy over definition of minority

Controversy and dissatisfaction broke out at last night’s Desegregation/Integration Advisory Council meeting in the form of a quarrel over the recent filling of the Adelante Cultural Center Facilitator Position.

The controversy came when members of the DIAC could not decide whether or not the person hired—Katy Livaddaros, a graduate of the University of Wisconsin Madison—was really Hispanic.

The inability of the DIAC to define what it is to be a “person of color,? comes in the face of recent criticism that the Duluth Public School District does not open its doors wide enough for minorities.

“This district has a poor record of hiring people of color,? said council member Cruz Mendosa.

Council members criticized the district, saying that they did not make a good attempt to hire a person of color for the new position. The DIAC is concerned that less diversity in the district means that students of color do not receive a multi-cultural experience.

“This position was created to open doors in our cultural center,? said council member Sharon Witherspoon.

She said that in their attempts to open and keep these doors open, they “failed.? This is true if Livaddaros is, in fact, not “a person of color.?

District Human Resources Director Rob McLachlan fell under a heavy fire of verbal attack from the council as the argument continued. He was scrutinized for the short period of time the position was advertised and that the screening and hiring process did not meet the DIAC’s expectations.

Council members said they wanted to leave the position open longer to widen the pool of applicants.

“We have to make every effort to include all groups,? said Mendosa.

According to McLachlan, there were 21 candidates, a “good amount,? and that the screening and hiring process for the job had a good cross-section of diversity.

Council members were still not satisfied as the quarrel wound down after about 20 minutes. It ended, resting on the fact that there was nothing they could do—now that Livaddaros was hired.

March 8, 2006

Spring Health Fair offers new experiences

Liz Nicholas’ black tennis shoes stomped and squeaked on the terracotta-colored tile as she led the class of four in the blend of aerobics, Tae Bo and Pilates known as Jazzercise.

She stood in the front of the hollow conference room. The tables and chairs that normally filled the room were pushed and stacked in the back.

Nicholas’ feet were joined by eight others’, all dancing and bouncing as Steppenwolf’s “Born to be Wild? blared out of a little boom box and echoed off of the brick walls.

Jazzercise was one of three new exercise sessions featured at the annual Spring Health Fair held at UMD on Wednesday. The three exercise sessions were joined by an expo consisting of information booths set up by health-oriented organizations.

“Our goal is to give people bits and pieces of information,? said Spring Health Fair coordinator Shelley DeCaigny. “If we can get people to walk away educated, we have done our job.?

The Purpose of Jazzercise is to improve total fitness, gradually conditioning the body. A normal session is one hour long.

“You go from ground zero to your top aerobic level, and then back down,? said Nicholas. “It’s a well developed, fun fitness program.?

Nicholas is a short, bubbly woman with a blond ponytail that bobbed behind her head as she shouted the Jazzercise routine to the students above the loud and rhythmic music—a big part of the workout.

“We use a combination of all good music, mostly current stuff,? said Nicholas.

Jazzercise and the other two exercise sessions offered at the fair were meant to give students an opportunity to participate in something they may not have seen or tried before.

“We want to get people to try something new,? said DeCaigny. “These are all things that can be done on campus or around Duluth.?

Jazzercise offers classes to the people of Duluth during the week, but is not offered on campus.

February 16, 2006

Mushing is about the dog

Matt Rossi has his sled dogs with him 365 days a year, 24 hours a day—they pull a 550 pound four-wheeler through Chequamegon National Forest as part of their offseason training.

“Our dogs are better trained now than they ever have been,? said Rossi in a speech given with his wife, Paula, at UMD on Monday.

“It’s not just a seasonal sport.?

The Rossis live in Herbster, WI. They have 35 dogs and have been raising and racing them for eight years.

“The four-wheeler is hard muscle building stuff,? said Rossi.

The dogs need to pull a sled filled with 150 pounds of mandatory equipment during a race.

“It’s all about the dogs—we need to keep them healthy,? said Rossi.

Rossi feeds his dogs high quality dry food during training, and raw meat in races. Nutrition is important.

“They get a lot more out of raw meat that they do from cooked meat,? said Rossi. “They need to eat at every checkpoint.?

During a race like the 1,150-mile Iditarod in Alaska, a dog can burn up to 10,000 calories a day—they can eat up to three pounds of raw meat and other high protein foods to replace this loss.

Rossi trains each of his dogs to be leaders—they all need to learn to make decisions.

“It’s just you and the dogs,? said Rossi. “There has to be a huge love and trust, or else it doesn’t work.?

Rossi competes in about five races a year but missed the John Beargrease because of a cold. Many of the races have been canceled this year because of the lack of snow in a warm January.

The Rossi’s son, Andrew Letziring, finished ninth in the 2006 John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon and was given the good sportsmanship award. His time was 37 hours, 4 minutes—4 minutes, 30 seconds behind the leader.

Rossi says sled dog racing is “90 percent maintenance and 10 percent fun, but that 10 percent is quality fun, and that’s what keeps you going.?

“At night you’re under a sky full of stars and all you have is a single light—there’s nothing like it in the world.?

February 13, 2006

Mushing is about the dog: Rough draft

A veteran musher spoke Monday about the importance of training, nutrition and trust between the dogs and handlers in a grueling race like the 373-mile John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon ran last week.

“It’s all about the dogs—we need to keep them healthy,? said Matt Rossi in a speech given with his wife, Paula, at UMD in the Kirby Rafters.

“Our dogs are better trained now than they ever have been. Healthy coats, feet and appetites are all important.?

The Rossis have 35 dogs and have been raising and racing them for eight years.

“We have these dogs 365 days a year, 24 hours a day,? said Rossi. “It’s not just a seasonal sport.?

The Rossis live in Herbster, WI and train their dogs year-round. The dogs pull a heavy four-wheeler through neighboring Chequamegon National Forest as part of their offseason training.

“The four-wheeler is hard muscle building stuff,? said Rossi.

The sled pulled by the dogs in a race is filled with 150 pounds of mandatory equipment—everything from a compass and maps to food and an alcohol-fueled cooker.

During a race the dogs eat raw meat and other high protein foods.

“They get a lot more out of raw meat than they do from cooked meat,? said Rossi. “They need to eat at every checkpoint.?

During a race like the 1,150-mile Iditarod in Alaska, a dog can burn up to 10,000 calories a day. Nutrition is important.

A sled dog race is quiet and filled with solitude. The lead dog is 20 feet out in front and must make decisions.

“It’s just you and the dogs,? said Rossi. “There has to be a huge love and trust, or else it doesn’t work.?

Rossi competes in about five races a year but missed the John Beargrease because of a cold. Many of the races have been canceled this year because of the lack of snow in a warm January.

The Rossi’s son, Andrew Letziring, finished ninth in the 2006 John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon and was given the good sportsmanship award. His time was 37 hours, 4 minutes.

Rossi says sled dog racing is “90 percent maintenance and 10 percent fun, but that 10 percent is quality fun, and that’s what keeps you going.?

“At night you’re under a sky full of stars and all you have is a single light—there’s nothing like it in the world.?

February 12, 2006

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