In Memoriam – Chip Welling

On April 28, 2017, we lost a champion of science-based invasive species management, and many of us also lost a cherished friend and colleague.  Charles “Chip” H. Welling passed away on that day, after a ten month battle with cancer.  For 24 years, Chip worked for Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and, for most of that time, was the Eurasian watermilfoil or invasive aquatic species coordinator.  While in that position, he was adamant that management be based on good science, and would often ask to “see the journal article.”  This scientific skepticism was learned, in part, while a graduate student under the famous wetland ecologist Arnold van der Valk at Iowa State University.  Given Dr. van der Valk’s reputation, I am sure that Chip’s M.S. was hard-won.  Over the years, Chip could be counted on to give a thorough yet impartial review of journal articles and, more than once, I received a tough review from him on my submissions.

Many of us have worked with Chip on research projects in Minnesota – from the early years of triclopyr registration to the flowering rush invasion.  Chip was eager to have studies conducted on management of Minnesota’s invasive aquatic plant issues, and would play host to the annual invasion of researchers from federal and state agencies, universities, and private companies.  Chip was also an advocate of state-funded applied research, and supported many projects utilizing various control technologies to find practical solutions to invasive plant problems.  Even before the field work was completed, he’d start asking about the peer-reviewed journal article.  Chip clearly recognized the value of scientific support for managing invasive species.  That science-driven approach influenced other Midwestern aquatic invasive species resource agencies.

I don’t exactly remember when I first met Chip, but I do know that by the early 1990’s I was on his rolodex.  He’d call with a question about Eurasian watermilfoil or to dispute a point in a paper, but eventually the talk would turn to walleye fishing (or any fishing, for that matter).  He’d ask about my last trip to the North Country, or if I was coming to chase ditch parrots in Dakota.  He loved angling and, if he were fishing with his daughter Robin, then all things were perfect.  Chip had a keen, but dry, sense of humor, laughing at the follies of others, and occasionally at his own.  A few years ago he sent me a clipping from the Stockton paper that had a picture of hippos eating waterhyacinth, asking if we (in California) were really that desperate to control weeds.  “How about using manatee?” he asked.

Sadly, Minnesota has lost a champion of her lakes, and we all lost a proponent of science-based management – and many of us lost a friend.  If Chip is crossing the Styx, I am sure he’d ask Charon if the fish are biting.

John Madsen, President, APMS

Photo caption:    Chip Welling inspecting flowering rush on Detroit Lakes, Minnesota in 2011.