As an intern, University of South Dakota student and Mitchell, South Dakota, native, Caleb Swanson, dedicated over 170 hours in the summer of 2021 to solving this problem. Swanson’s research eventually helped develop a strategic plan to improve the water quality of the lake.

Under the direction of the city manager, Swanson, a sophomore double majoring in political science and sustainability, centered his research around collecting and analyzing information about Lake Mitchell.

“Being able to have a direct impact on my hometown through the skills and knowledge I have gained here at USD, along with the opportunity to complement that learning through partaking in this experience was what inspired me to do the research that I did,” Swanson said.

Some aspects of Swanson's research included looking at technical reports of studies conducted on the lake dating back to 1997, examining the local paper’s archives for any information about the lake and looking at the city’s financial records.

“My research focused on the work that is being done to help improve Lake Mitchell’s water quality, including getting a comprehensive understanding of the issues at play, the history of the lake and the potential solutions to sustainably address the issue,” Swanson said.

Swanson then synthesized and presented the information he collected in a way that was understandable and easily accessible for a public education campaign. He created a webpage on the City of Mitchell’s website to present the information.

Caleb Swanson writing on a white board.

“I am proud of my ability to learn such a complex issue and be able to synthesize all of the information into an easily understandable, navigable and accessible format for others to learn more about Lake Mitchell,” Swanson said.

His output from the project--documents for the public information campaign, bond issue documents for upcoming election, design of website content, and work on grant opportunities--will be utilized by the City of Mitchell for years to come.

Swanson was a recipient of the 2021/2022 Undergraduate Research Award. After completing his undergraduate education, Swanson plans to attend law school in hopes of becoming an environmental attorney.

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