Reid BogertReid Bogert here, from Shedd Aquarium’s Great Lakes and Sustainability team. As some of you may know, we were busy as a school of bullhead catfish this summer with our Great Lakes Action Days (GLADs), and I’m GLAD to say it’s been a huge success. For those that are new to the program, I’d like to introduce myself and invite you to come out and join the fun!

I wasn’t always a Great Lakes guy. In fact, I moved to Chicago just four years ago from the San Francisco Bay area, where I grew up eating local strawberries year-round, hiking through mossy redwood groves and surfing the great Pacific Ocean. When I moved to Chicago to pursue a master’s degree in environmental science and policy at the University of Chicago, I’ll admit I was a little nervous. How would I survive so far from the ocean? I even googled “surfing Lake Michigan” the night before I left the Golden State for the Windy City. I haven’t yet surfed Lake Michigan, but I do now call the Great Lakes home. I’ve traded strawberries for snow (at least during winter), redwoods for prairies, and the ocean for the Great Lakes—and I couldn’t be happier. The natural and cultural history here runs as deep as Lake Superior, and everyday I’m inspired to learn more.

ReidBefore joining Shedd, I worked as a scientist for The Nature Conservancy, where I studied and wrote about the Great Lakes region. I learned about the whole Great Lakes watershed—the area of land that drains rainwater through streams, lakes and wetlands into the Great Lakes. I learned how these glacial wonders are connected and how the remaining forests, wetlands, prairies and dunes also depend on the lakes and vice versa. With more than 200 globally rare plants and animals, each one adapted to specific habitat conditions, each with its own story, the Great Lakes ecosystem is a truly remarkable place. At Shedd, it’s my job to share these stories, celebrate our existing connections and create new ones among the 36 million people who live in the basin and depend on the Great Lakes every day.

 By now it may be no surprise that I find getting outside to be the best way to tell these stories and reconnect with the lakes. Last summer, I lead groups of passionate stewards of all ages and backgrounds into the field to give back. We got outside, learned about the Great Lakes and made a difference—my three favorite things to do. With your help, Shedd can do even more to foster a sustainable Great Lakes region. In just a a few hours at the beach we can accomplish a lot—and have loads of fun, too. So harness your inner Great Lakes steward and join us in 2014 for a Great Lakes Action Day (we’ll post the schedule soon). I guarantee you’ll be GLAD you did!

Reid Bogert, Great Lakes and sustainability team