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Our Clean Water Partners: Meet the Lilly Center

Thursday, May 2, 2024

TWF Posted by: TWF

The Upper Tippecanoe River Watershed holds a lot of water in its 256 square miles–more than 60 lakes, many creeks and streams, and the Tippecanoe River. At TWF, it’s our mission to protect those water resources, but we can’t do it alone. That’s why we work with many partners at the local, state, and national level. Together, we coordinate our efforts and combine our strengths to solve water quality problems, educate the public, and so much more. 

Kosciusko, one of three counties partially located in our watershed, holds more than 100 lakes and over 600 miles of streams. Thanks in part to our friends at the Lilly Center for Lakes & Streams, those water resources are some of the best-studied in Indiana, and their research helps drive action for clean water. Learn more about the Lilly Center’s work, our partnership, and how you can get involved!

What is the Lilly Center for Lakes & Streams?
Lilly Center researchers collect data from a blue-green algae bloom on Waubee Lake. All photos courtesy of Lilly Center for Lakes & Streams.

The Lilly Center is a research and education center based at Grace College in Winona Lake. Since 2007, they’ve studied Kosciusko County’s lakes and streams, conducting ongoing research, providing information and best practices, and offering programs to help the community better understand and protect local waterways. That focus on community is unique in the world of higher education, says Dr. Nate Bosch, Creighton Brothers Endowed Director at the Lilly Center and Dean of the School of Science and Engineering. “We’re outward-facing,” explains Dr. Bosch. “Our purpose is to serve, engage, and inspire the community through what we do.”

Though the Lilly Center is part of Grace College and its School of Science and Engineering, it’s not an academic department. It’s a research center with separate, external funding and its own distinct mission: making the lakes and streams of Kosciusko County clean, healthy, safe, and beautiful.

What does the Lilly Center do?

The Lilly Center puts its mission into action through research, education, and collaboration. 

Using tools like stream sensors and water monitoring, they study about 14 local lakes and several key streams flowing into and out of them. Their sensors capture real-time data, while teams of college student interns collect and analyze water samples in the Lilly Center’s onsite lab. That information provides a clearer picture of water quality in Kosciusko County, especially lake health–which can affect human health. For example, excess nutrients can trigger toxic algae blooms, explains Ethan Buller, a senior student on the Algae Team. His team analyzes and documents different algae and toxins found in water samples. “If they’re above a certain threshold for human or pet safety, we can notify the public about that,” Ethan says.

Students at Leesburg Elementary create model wetlands.

The Lilly Center also works to equip the community with user-friendly resources and hands-on learning opportunities for all ages. The goal is to create “water-literate citizens,” explains Emily Anderson, a student on the Education Team. Through indoor and outdoor lessons, field trips, and more, her team teaches K-12 students about local critters and ecosystems, natural resources, and water-friendly behaviors. “Kosciusko County is such a rich ecosystem with all its lakes. When kids enjoy more time outside, it helps create empathy for the organisms around them,” Emily explains. Children who learn to care about the natural world are more likely to protect it as they grow up. And with fun workshops and events geared towards adults, the Lilly Center helps grown ups connect with–and care for–nature too. 

Research drives their collaboration, and vice versa. They partner in various ways with government agencies, area lake associations, conservation organizations like The Watershed Foundation, and individuals, including farmers and homeowners. With years of data in hand, the Lilly Center can track trends in water quality, identify threats, and work with those partners to find solutions. “We’re most effective and efficient when we’re working together,” Dr. Bosch points out. 

How do TWF and the Lilly Center collaborate for clean water?

“The Lilly Center is a great partner in building community awareness about the value of our lakes, especially through their marketing and outreach efforts and resources like their Economic Impact Study,” says Lyn Crighton, TWF’s Executive Director. The 2013 study found that the lakes bring more than $313 million dollars to the local economy each year. 

Over the years, TWF has collaborated with the Lilly Center to collect data too, notes Crighton. Projects include stream monitoring and a goose poop study to assess the benefits of shoreline restoration at Limitless Park.

The Lilly Center collaborates with local organizations to build water literacy.

The Lilly Center is an active member of the Clean Waters Partnership, a TWF initiative that brings together local organizations whose work touches on water quality. They helped shape and implement the Tippecanoe-Walnut Creek Watershed Management Plan, and they participate on CWP committees, helping guide pollution solutions, crafting outreach programs and materials, and more. 

TWF and the Lilly Center share a passion for healthy lakes. Whether we’re co-hosting events, creating resources, or promoting clean water practices, we accomplish more when we work together!

Want to get involved? Here are a few ways to show your support.
  • Attend an event. From gardening workshops to wildflower hikes to critter encounters, there are lots of opportunities to have fun in nature this summer!
  • Become a volunteer. You can teach kids, work in a native garden, take student researchers out to sample local lakes, and so much more. Contact Lilly Center to find out how you can make a difference. 
  • Explore the Lilly Center’s user-friendly resources. Learn about your lake, get algae-savvy, read fascinating field notes, and enjoy other resources designed to enhance your relationship with the natural world. 

We’re grateful to the Lilly Center for Lakes & Streams for their continued support, collaboration, and commitment to our community!