"My name is Ankita Mandelia and I’m a policy analyst with the Northeast-Midwest institute. My Watermark is Lake Erie and Lake Superior.
When I was about 5 years old, my dad took me on a fishing trip. I remember being really excited when I caught something finally. I remember it being kind of difficult to get it out of the water. Finally, I reeled it up and it turned out to be this little, black, round thing. I was really confused because it was not a fish but it seemed cool, so what was it. And then so my dad explained to me that it was a zebra mussel. Fast forward several years later to graduate school.
We had a summer where we learned about zebra mussels and quagga mussels and the impact they were having the ecosystems, especially in Lake Michigan. That they had kind of taken over the bottom of these lakes. It was an interesting connection for me because I didn’t know that when I was a 5 year old and suddenly I realized, okay they really are as bad as I thought they were when I was 5 years old. I went to graduate school at Michigan Tech. Which is….[hand gesture] if this is the upper peninsula of Michigan, it was here – it was in the part of the upper peninsula that sticks in the Lake Superior, so you are going to school surrounded by water. I mean the school was on the portage canal. The building that I was in had a boat house and we had a fleet of research vessels. It was the best thing in the world to just go out on these research vessels and take samples. It was a real fun thing to do, just to hang out with friends and being on Lake Superior and every once in a while we’d go out there to see the Northern Lights. At the same time, I was also studying this cool place. It was really cool to be a part of that. For that reason, I wanted to stay and work on Great Lakes issues."
Ankita Mandelia is an engineer and water policy professional.