Monday, December 27, 2010

Changes proposed to ballast water rules

From the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR):

Published: December 21, 2010 by the WDNR Central Office

MADISON – Wisconsin is proposing to change its requirements for oceangoing ships arriving in its Great Lakes waters. The change would set ballast water discharge standards to those required by the International Maritime Organization. The proposed change reflects the latest science about reducing the risk from invasive species carried in the ships’ ballast water, state officials say.

The proposed modifications to a general permit issued by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to large oceangoing commercial ships will be the subject of a public hearing January 26 in Superior.

Read the rest of the article.

photo courtesy of the Smithsonian Institute.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Look what we found on the library website!

The Water Library has not featured this topic in recent months but as we think of new materials to add to our collection, we always visit our topical pages for ideas. And we recommend our users to check it out, too:


From this page, you can find recommended reading lists on a variety of water-related topics. We have suggestions on readings about coastal community planning, green gardening, ice fishing, and more.

And all titles are available for checkout by any Wisconsin resident. Just Ask Water!

Friday, December 17, 2010

New Funds Allocated to Halt Asian Carp

Many efforts are still being made to stop, or reduce the number of, Asian carp spreading to the Great Lakes. Yesterday $47 million in funds were announced that will go toward 13 different projects of prevention.

In addition to creating a lab in Wisconsin where Asian carp DNA will be sampled, pathways into the Great Lakes are going to be examined with hopes of finding ways to block the route of the fish.

Some of this funding is coming from money that was previously designated by the federal government for clean-up and restoration of the Great Lakes. Arguments have been made that the funding to fight Asian Carp should come from a separate source. For further information, see the Detroit Free Press article.

Photo credit: Brian Kaufman/Detroit Free Press

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

New Resource on Invasive Species

The National Environmental Coalition on Invasive Species (NECIS) was established in 2003 and is comprised of not-for-profit organizations dedicated to fighting invasive species. It is led by scientists, lawyers, activists, and advocates. Recently, NECIS launched a redesigned website covering invasive species. This resource gathers news and information about invasive species with updates about national policies and initiatives. The site is aimed to improve communication between member groups and the public and prevent the further spread of invasive species in the United States.

For further reading on invasive species, see the Water Library's recommended reading list.

Photo credit: by Mike Bindetti

Monday, December 13, 2010

Students with Climate Change Ideas can Win $50,000

UW-Madison students will have the chance to submit their ideas to the third annual Climate Leadership Challenge. Put on by the Nelson Institute Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment (SAGE), the goal of this competition is to promote students thinking about solutions or products that will combat climate change.

Students from any department are welcome to enter. Proposals will be due on Friday, March 25, 2011. The annual UW-Madison Nelson Institute Earth Day conference will showcase the six winning teams and spotlight the winner of the challenge.

The UW news release provides a bit more background on the competition as well as mentioning some of last years winning ideas. For further reading on climate change, see our recommended reading lists, available by sub-topic.

Photo courtesy of UW SAGE.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Phosphorus Rules in Effect in Wisconsin

Passed in June this year by the Natural Resources Board, the Phosphorus Rules will go into effect this month. Compliance with these rules, basically governing the numeric level of phosphorus that can be permitted to enter the water, will help to keep waters cleaner and will ultimately benefit fish and wildlife, fisheries, waterfront property owners, and recreational water users among others. Some of the negative effects of phosphorus include "toxic algae, excessive weed growth and murky water" (WDNR release).

The rules were developed over a period of time based on years of scientific research and evidence. Input from farmers, water treatment systems, manufacturers, food processors, local governments and environmental groups was also essential in their formation. There is also further work being done to help lower the cost of compliance.

For more information, see the WDNR news release.

Photo from

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Another Step in Fox River Cleanup & Restoration

An agreement was reached between the City of Green Bay, Brown County and the Army Corps of Engineers that a sum of $5.2 million go toward cleanup and restoration of the Fox River. Most of this money will be spent on dredging polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) contaminants from the river. Part of this money will also be set aside for future response costs. Officials say this payment shares "reflect the roles of the Corps, the County and the City in the resulting damages to natural resources."(WDNR release) This is one in a series of agreements relating to contamination in the Fox River and Lower Green Bay.

For further information, see the WDNR news release, or their information page about the Fox River/Green Bay Cleanup Project.

Fox River Map courtesty of WDNR.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Road Sealant Responsible for Water Contamination

Water samples have been taken from Alaska to Florida by the USGS and results are in. Contaminated lakes and rivers show a higher concentration of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), on the rise since the 1960s. These contaminants are toxic for fish and other aquatic life.

Researchers have found the main source of the PAHs to be coal-tar-based pavement sealant. One of the most common uses for this material is the squiggly, shiny black lines that seal the cracks in roadways. While effective, this material has a life span of only three to five years and is easily being transmitted into lakes and stream ecosystems. Storm runoff is a common mode of travel for PAHs from the sealant into the lakes.

The USGS news release gives further details, and the full journal article is available in Science of the Total Environment. For further reading suggestions, see our recommended reading list on Understanding and Protecting Groundwater.

Photo from

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Clean Marina Update

With the addition of five new marinas yesterday, a total of nine have joined the Clean Marina Program in the last five months. This program, initiated by a collaboration between the Wisconsin Sea Grant and the Wisconsin Marina Association, is meant to help marinas within the state take steps to better protect their natural resources. Voluntarily taking these steps, the marinas also become safer and environmentally friendlier places for all parties involved.

Yesterday's five new additions included The Abbey Marina (Fontana), Gaslight Pointe Marina (Racine), Lakeshore Towers (Racine), Manitowoc Marina and SkipperBud’s Reefpoint Marina (Racine). Beside the nine marinas that have already become certified, there are also several marinas that have pledged "to keep Wisconsin's waterways free of harmful chemicals, excess nutrients, and debris and commit to actively pursue designation as a Wisconsin Clean Marina" (Clean Marina website).

For more details on yesterday's event, see the UW Sea Grant press release.

Photo from the Wisconsin Marina Association website.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

"Climate Change Adaptation Tools for Addressing Water Issues"

EPA's Watershed Academy has sponsored over 50 free webcast seminars with the intent of educating people on water-related issues. The webinars are free and open to anyone, all you need to do is sign up. For those people who are unable to attend the webinar, a streaming audio version of the training is made available on the EPA's website.

This week's webinar on Thursday, December 2nd, from 12-2pm CST, will be "Climate Change Adaptation Tools for Addressing Water Issues." It will discuss some of EPA's plans for community adaption to climate change, a program to assess climate change vulnerabilities, and case studies addressing climate change impacts. To read a more detailed summary of the webinar, visit the Watershed Academy Seminar page.

To sign up for this week's webinar, click here. For reading lists of climate change materials related to water, divided by subject, visit our library's page. A reading list with climate change materials for children can be found on our site as well.

Photo from EPA Watershed Academy website.

Monday, November 29, 2010

'Tis the Season for Fishy Gifts

Now that Thanksgiving has passed, it's time to start thinking about presents! The UW Aquatic Sciences Center (ASC) Publications Store might have just what you need for that special fishy someone in your life.

The Great Lakes Fishes poster (shown right) pictures and identifies 35 varieties of fish you may encounter in the Great Lakes. What kid (or grownup) fisherman wouldn't want to have this on his wall?

For the all weather fishermen, the free "Ice Fishing" booklet is available by mail or as a downloadable pdf. "This guide to successful winter ice fishing includes: fishing gear and gadgets, tips on how to catch bluegill, yellow perch, northern pike and walleye, safety advice for thin ice and how to stay on top of the ice, clothing advice and Wisconsin regulations."

For the fish lover who does not partake in fishing, “People of the Sturgeon: Wisconsin’s Love Affair With an Ancient Fish,” a coffee-table book, is a beautiful addition to any collection. This 320 page award winner contains images, stories and interviews about lake sturgeon and their connection to Wisconsin's history and culture.

For further details on these and other available treats, see the ASC press release. For the non-givers, Wisconsin's Water Library provides reading lists on related topics including: Ice Fishing, Fish and Fishing in Wisconsin and Cooking.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

New Rules Regarding Groundwater Virus Treatment

Later this year, rules will go into effect that require disinfection of water by all municipal water systems in Wisconsin. This will increase protection for any state residents whose drinking water comes from groundwater. These rules are based on a discovery highlighted in the 2010 Groundwater Coordinating Council Report that showed viruses are able to travel through layers of rock and soil, which was previously thought to be an adequate filtration system. The Groundwater Coordinating Council (GCC) is responsible for identifying areas where research is needed, reviewing research proposals, and publicizing research findings.

In addition to assessing water quality, the 2010 GCC Report also "described recent research on arsenic treatment, the effects of nitrates on stream invertebrates, the occurrence of mercury in wetlands, extreme precipitation events and developing new tools for investigating fecal contamination" (WDNR Release).

Wisconsin's Water Library offers reading lists for the following related topics: Arsenic in Groundwater, Drinking Water Quality, Protecting our Wetlands, Understanding & Protecting Groundwater and Wastewater Treatment.

Photo of Wauwatosa Water Tank from Wikipedia.

Monday, November 22, 2010

GreenHouse Students Love Lake Mendota

The GreenHouse is a residential learning community in the Cole Hall dorm where students are able to learn about sustainable practices through action and involvement. It focuses on the ability to connect students "to social and environmental advocacy organizations on campus and in the community" and allows them the opportunity to take a hands-on approach.

Lake Mendota: We Love Our Lake—We Love Our Land is one seminar of several available exclusively to GreenHouse residents. This field trip based course, listed under Community and Environmental Sociology, is meant to "provide the opportunity to see first-hand the strong relationships between land use activities and the water quality of the lake" (course syllabus) and is being taught by Carolyn Betz, a science writer at the UW Aquatic Sciences Center. Learning is constantly taking place out of the classroom for students living in GreenHouse. A recent UW News article gives another example and explains a bit more about the residential community.

For more information about the current happenings at GreenHouse, see their blog or Facebook Page.

Photo from GreenHouse blog.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Great Lakes Earth Partnership

Earth Partnership for Schools (EPS), a statewide initiative, is growing. Founded in 1991, the program is meant to connect people with the land and water where they live. One of the program's goals is to allow children to experience nature while at school. Ecological restoration is another main focus. EPS helps young ones to understand their connection to the land and how they can help to give back.

Phase I of the Great Lakes Earth Partnership, a new regional EPS initiative funded by Wisconsin Sea Grant, recently took place in waters across the state including the Milwaukee River, estuaries of Lake Superior, the Kakagon Wild Rice Sloughs and others. Findings of the different teams will be discussed in Green Bay this winter. Read more about phase I in the Arboretum News Release.

Phase II is scheduled to continue in 2011 with funding from the EPA Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

Photo courtesy of UW Arboretum.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Grant to Document and Survey Five Shipwrecks

The Wisconsin Historical Society (WHS) recently received a $170,000 grant from the Federal Highway Administration Transportation Enhancement program that will fund the documenting and surveying of five shipwrecks in Lake Michigan. Divers will measure, photograph, and sketch the vessels to create a digital mosaic to show landlubbers how the wrecks appear underwater.

The five wrecks that have been selected include the S.S. Milwaukee (near Whitefish Bay), the EMBA (near Milwaukee's main harbor), the Floretta (near Manitowoc), the America (near Kewaunee), and the Lakeland (near Sturgeon Bay). These ships sank between 1880 and 1932 and were selected for this project because "they represent a cross section of historically significant vessels" (JSonline release).

For more information about Wisconsin's Great Lakes Shipwrecks, visit the UW Sea Grant and Wisconsin Historical Society site, The Wisconsin's Maritime Trails site was also created based on the Maritime Trails program founded by WHS. The Water Library also has a reading list of books about Great Lakes Shipwrecks.

Photo property of the Wisconsin Historical Society.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Directory of Projects & People for 2010-2012

From Wisconsin Sea Grant:

This directory contains a brief description of each project receiving UW Sea Grant support during 2010-12, as well as the principal investigators names and contact information. It also contains a list of key contacts and a list of participating institutions and agencies.

A full text version of the document is available for download.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Summer Science Instructor Positions (NOSB)

Two instructors to teach at the Gulf Coast Research Laboratories (GCRL) Summer Field Program, coordinated by the Marine Education Center, are sought. They will be teaching Marine Mammals and Oceanography courses during the summer of 2011. Read more about the courses here. The position description and instructions for application are available online, with a November 15th closing date.

The National Ocean Science Bowl is a national academic competition for high schools on topics related to the study of the oceans. This competition has taken place annually since 1998 and is recognized nationally for providing a forum for talented students to test their knowledge of the marine sciences including biology, chemistry, physics, and geology.

NOSB Logo is property of the National Ocean Sciences Bowl.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

35th Anniversary of Sinking of Edmund Fitzgerald

For Release: November 9, 2010

Moira Harrington, communications manager, (608) 263-5371,
Chin Wu, University of Wisconsin-Madison engineering professor, (608) 263-3078,

Madison (11/9/2010) -- The intense and dangerous wind storm and accompanying high waves the Great Lakes states experienced in late October is thought to be the same kind of storm that occurred on Lake Superior causing the fatal wreck of the ship Edmund Fitzgerald 35 years ago on Wednesday. A University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute-funded researcher is studying extreme waves in hopes of preventing future tragedies.

Extratropical cyclones are characterized by very strong winds carried over a long distance generating large waves. Buoys on the northern part of Lake Superior recorded waves as high as 27 feet in the recent storm. But the lake might have been even rougher during the Edmund Fitzgerald storm on Nov. 10, 1975, according to a scientific process called hindcasting, the opposite of forecasting.

Using a combination of observational data and computer modeling, scientists at NOAA’s National Weather Service and the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory in Michigan show that sustained winds were likely blowing at 50 to 60 knots, roughly 57 to 69 miles per hour. Winds of that velocity would have generated waves about 24.6 feet high.

Such rough conditions could have produced an individual wave 46 feet high, although “rare and unlikely,” according to the NOAA scientists. No one will know exactly what caused the demise of the Edmund Fitzgerald because all 29 crew members perished. However, computer models showed that one such wave – known as a freak, rogue or giant wave – occurred at the exact time and location of the ship’s sinking.

Freak waves are exceptionally large, steep and asymmetric and often occur in the Great Lakes, according to University of Wisconsin-Madison researcher Chin-Hsien Wu. He is currently investigating the conditions and locations prone to producing the dangerous waves, which can take down a vessel like the Edmund Fitzgerald.

Freak waves can also be dangerous to kayakers and recreational boaters. Wu is particularly interested in the potential for rogue waves to occur in the Apostle Islands off the north shore of Lake Superior.

“The occurrence of extreme waves is still a mysterious phenomenon in the field of fluid mechanics,” said Wu, professor of civil and environmental engineering. The Apostle Islands include a complex network of islands and shoals that under the right wind conditions are likely to produce freak waves.

Using funds provided by the University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute, Wu is using a combination of wave gauge instrumentations and computer models to better understand the likelihood of extreme waves occurring at the Mawikwe Bay Sea Caves, a place that is popular, but also potentially dangerous, to sea kayakers who enjoy viewing the sea caves from the water. Since wave measurements are critical for safety, data must be transmitted in real-time via a website to alert paddlers to current wave conditions. The system was field tested in the summer and could be fully operational next year.

Improving knowledge of how extreme waves are created should prove invaluable to prevent further tragedies like the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald. Several commemorative activities are planned for tomorrow, including in River Rogue, Mich., near where the ship was built in 1958. Editors note: UW Sea Grant video of the Chin Wu research at the Lake Superior sea caves can be found at:

Photo courtesy of the Kalamazoo Gazette, November 11, 1958.

Conceived in 1966, Sea Grant is a national network of 32 university-based programs of research, outreach, and education for enhancing the practical use and conservation of coastal, ocean and Great Lakes resources to create a sustainable economy and environment. The National Sea Grant Network is a partnership of participating coastal states, private industry, and the National Sea Grant College Program, National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Wisconsin Sea Grant 2012-14 Omnibus Funding

Per the UW Sea Grant website:
The University of Wisconsin Sea Grant College Program is inviting proposals for its next two-year grant period which begins February 1, 2012. The process involves two steps: (1) prospective principal investigators must submit a preproposal by December 17, 2010; and (2) potential principal investigators whose preproposals are accepted will be invited to submit a full proposal, which will be due April 18, 2011. All Sea Grant project funds are awarded via a highly competitive process involving peer reviews and the recommendations of external advisory panels.

Submission of preproposals will be via iPROPOSE, a Web-based proposal submission site hosted by the University of Wisconsin Aquatic Sciences Center (administrative home of the Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute). The iPROPOSE site will be open for submission of preproposals on Tuesday, November 23, 2010.

Read all about the grant opportunities on the Sea Grant website.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Consequences of Altering Stream Flow

A recent USGS study has shown several negative effects of altering natural stream flow. When the amount of water is changed, the types of creatures that are able to survive in the stream change as well. In many streams where the flow has slowed and the amount of water decreased, desirable species such as trout have moved on, making space for less desirable species such as carp. Trout require a quickly moving stream with a rocky bottom, whereas carp are more likely to be found in a setting with a much slower flow, more similar to a pond.

The surprising fact may be that 90% of the streams studied by the USGS had in some way been altered. Some of the causes for alteration may include "reservoirs, diversions, subsurface tile drains, groundwater withdrawals, wastewater inputs, and impervious surfaces, such as parking lots, sidewalks and roads." (USGS Release) Water quality and the health of the ecosystem are also being negatively affected by some of these changes to the streams. As water managers get a better understanding of the ecological effects of altering stream flow, they will be able to make more informed choices about dealing with streams in a healthy way. For further details and information, see the aforementioned USGS releases.

Photo courtesy of Punit Prakash.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

WLA Annual Conference: Create Adventure

The Wisconsin Library Association's annual conference began yesterday at Kalahari in Wisconsin Dells. The theme of this year's conference is "Create Adventure." The conference will run through Friday at noon, and offers many interesting sessions for attendees. A full schedule is available on the WLA Conference website.

This year's conference will also feature a special focus on technology, including web 2.0, geocoding and social networking. WLA's blog features a post detailing the related sessions.

WLA is sponsoring a food drive for the Wisconsin Dells-Lake Delton Community Food Pantry. Non-perishables will be collected for the duration of the conference near the registration desk.

Photo courtesy of Kalahari Resorts.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Bacteria DNA Discovered through Mud Core Study

Last summer, the public swimming area was closed for a month at Lake Wingra on account of cyanobacteria. These bacteria are not only smelly, but some can produce toxins that attack the liver or nervous system. Some researchers even say that these bacteria can be linked to liver cancer. One problem in studying this has been that few lakes have adequate historical records of cyanobacteria over time.

Cyanobacteria has not just been an issue in the recent past for Lake Wingra and other area Lakes. UW Madison researchers have now discovered that this bacteria is actually traceable back over 50 years. A modified kind of mud testing of the lake-bottom has shown Cyanobacteria DNA presence has risen over time as the climate has become warmer. This will be a way for many other lakes to be investigated as well.

See the full story released by UW News. For further reading on climate change, see our topical readings lists.

Lake Wingra photo Courtesy of UW Limnology Department.

Friday, October 29, 2010

UW Water Resources Institute's New Videos

Within the past month, the UW Water Resources Institute has added two new videos. Produced by John Karl, these short YouTube videos are informative and to the point, a very effective way to spread some news from the field.

The first video(above), entitled "Testing Well Water for Microorganisms," explains a simple process of water testing to check for contaminants. The goal of the project is a methodology to find the source of the contamination.

In the second video, "A New Measure of Groundwater Flow," researchers experiment with pumping hot water into a well to determine the flow of the groundwater. The hot water will disperse more quickly if the water flow is quicker. Watch this video and others on University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute's YouTube channel.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Book Review: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

This book, containing many layers, could appeal to a wide array of readers, each for different reasons. The story focuses on the history of African-American Henrietta Lacks and her cells, while also detailing related progress in the field of science and medicine, the struggle of her family, and quest for knowledge which resulted in this book. Author Rebecca Skloot coherently connects the pieces of several stories to come up with this successful non-fiction piece which explores ethical issues in science and poverty.

The book jumps right in, reminding me of an action movie in which new ideas are constantly being brought to the table. Skloot keeps the reader’s attention, and is effectively able to interweave the strands of a story that she methodically gathered over several years. Comparisons she draws between the Lacks family's case and other pertinent health issues that have been brought to light over the years help the reader to become more informed about the medical field in general, giving this book much more of an appeal to the non-medical or non-scientist than previous books in the area may have had.

While I cannot say that I enjoyed this book, it was definitely more interesting than most of the non-fiction I encounter, and most people who I spoke with did recommend the book. Not only will it prompt your brain into action on several important issues, it will lead to thoughtful discussions with those who have read it.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve

The Final Environmental Impact Statement and Management Plan for the Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve have been completed through a collaboration between NOAA, the University of Wisconsin-Extension, and others. On October 26th, a public designation ceremony will take place in Superior, WI. The Lake Superior Reserve, will be the second Great Lakes freshwater estuarine reserve in the system, and the 28th reserve overall. It will serve as an expansion of the biogeographic representation of the Reserve System(map).

NERRS Reserve Banner photo courtesy of

Thursday, October 21, 2010

How Do We Manage Water?

It's almost time for the fourth UW System Wisconsin Idea Forum which will be hosted by UW-Milwaukee's School of Freshwater Sciences and the UW System on November 12th.

The forum, entitled “Today's Research Frontiers, Tomorrow’s Water Policy,” will focus on how to sustainably manage water resources through public policy. Audience participation will be encouraged during the day-long event with an engaging exercise in public policy-making. The agenda also includes breakout sessions hosted by a variety of topical specialists.

The goal of the Wisconsin Idea Forum is to promote Wisconsin residents' interaction with UW resources while engaging a diverse group of stakeholders in thinking about public policy and action planning for key state issues.

Photo courtesy of UW Milwaukee

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Sea Grant Update

The New Jersey Sea Grant Consortium (NJSGC) is having an art exhibition in order to help reduce the gap in funding. The art and photography of five area artists will be displayed with a reception on October 24th. The focus of the exhibit will be a well known coastal landmark, Highlands Bridge. Pieces will be sold and auctioned with 25% of proceeds benefiting the NJSGC/NJSG Education and Scholarship program. Read the release on this creative new initiative.

Alaska Sea Grant published "Field Guide to Seaweeds of Alaska" by Mandy R. Lindeberg and Sandra C. Lindstrom last month. Featuring color photos, and printed on water-resistant paper, this is the first book to contain more than 100 common seaweeds, seagrasses, and marine lichens of Alaska. Lindeberg is a biologist with the NOAA in Juneau, and Lindstrom is a professor at UBC.

Ohio Sea Grant is sponsoring a seminar on the impact of Lake Erie's aquatic invasive species on October 27th. Dave Kelch, associate professor and Sea Grant extension specialist, will explain how the lake's aquatic environment has changed on account of the most influential invasive species in Lake Erie. See the release for more information about the seminar. Last month Ohio Sea Grant also hosted a webinar, Climate Change and Public Health Impacts in the Great Lakes Region, which addressed health issues involved with climate change in the Great Lakes, ways for the health department to address climate change, and questions about the issue.

Image of Hook Lighthouse” by Lola Adolf courtesy of

Monday, October 18, 2010

Upper Mississippi River Floodplain Named Wetland of International Importance

One of 30 Wetlands of International Importance, the Upper Mississippi River Floodplain was celebrated yesterday in an address by DNR Secretary Matt Frank. Hosted at the Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge, national and international officials gathered to celebrate this official designation. "The Mississippi is one of the great rivers of the world, and we strongly support this landmark designation. The vast wetlands of the Upper Mississippi floodplain, teeming with fish and wildlife, have long been an important anchor for Wisconsin's economy, its environment and its high quality of life. Now this beautiful workhorse of a river is receiving the recognition it deserves as a globally important resource," Frank stated. He also went on to acknowledge the work of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the DNR.

For further reading on wetlands see the DNR's Wetlands Media Kit, or our recommended reading list, Protecting Our Wetlands. The WDNR release of Frank's statement is also available, here.

Photo courtesy of WDNR.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Cat Islands Project Update

On Wednesday, Dean Haen, the manager of the Port of Green Bay, and other key people involved in the Cat Islands project met with members of the public to discuss the Cat Island Chain Restoration Project in lower Green Bay. The meeting was to discuss a possible time-line of events and clear up questions in the community. Funding for 35% of the project, estimated to cost around $34.2 million, has been secured by Brown County, but the rest of the funding, slated to come from the federal government, has no set time of arrival. In a Green Bay Press Gazette release, Haen is quoted: "We could be doing something as early as April, or as late as 2013."

For the majority of Wednesday's meeting, presentations were heard from representatives from the port, the Corps of Engineers, the Wisconsin DNR and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Members of the public brought up a few questions referred to in the article Timeline unclear on Cat Island restoration in Green Bay. A DNR fisheries biologist present at the meeting explained the benefits the project should have on aquatic life in Green Bay.

For further information see the UW SeaGrant article on the Cat Island Chain Restoration.

Image from UW SeaGrant

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Water is Quite the Molecular Party

Within fractions of a second, any amount of water, containing two molecular structures, is able to break apart and reform, frequently. There is no issue with the recently discovered tightly packed, regularly arranged, crystal lattice molecular structure reforming with the jumbled, loosely packed, blob one. These complex and dynamic bonds allow for the forming of complex organic molecules. Water molecules easily form weak bonds with other neighboring molecules to create more complex compounds. This may be the reason why so many life forms come from a wet environment.

These are just some of the discoveries of a recent study, published in full-text by The Journal of Physical Chemistry B. Science Magazine also recently wrote a piece on the article called At the Smallest Scale, Water Is a Sloppy Liquid, which quotes UW Madison physical chemist James Skinner. This research has proven about water's molecular structure what other studies could only suggest.

Image Credit: Rao et al/The Journal of Physical Chemistry B.

Lake Michigan Water Trail - Wisconsin

Covering approximately 450 miles of shoreline in Wisconsin, and connecting to the Michigan and Illinois Water Trails, the Lake Michigan Water Trail aims to increase public lakefront landholding while providing information on access points, safety considerations, activities, and points of interest to recreationists. The Wisconsin DNR in collaboration with Wisconsin Coastal Management Program, National Park Service - Rivers, Trails & Conservation Assistance Program (RTCA), and Bay-Lake Regional Planning Commission aim to identify areas where public access is needed to close gaps in the trail, create an image for the Lake Michigan Water Trail Network that can be recognized by the public, and to provide "educational opportunities that will encourage the understanding of the Lake Michigan ecosystem" (DNR Release). The DNR plans to update their site as progress in made in the trail's construction and encourages interested parties to follow along.

Our recommended reading lists are available on Great Lakes Travel Narratives from the Midwest and Exploring the World's Water.

Photo courtesy of WDNR by Todd Montgomery.

Monday, October 11, 2010

EPA Promotes Lakeshore Stewardship

Scientists studying lakeshores have determined that poor lakeshore habitats have a direct relationship with a poor overall biological condition of the surrounded lake. The National Lakes Assessment (NLA) released a report earlier this year showing that while 56% of lakes are in good biological condition, nearly one third suffer from poor lakeshore habitats.

In light of these findings, EPA's Office of Water has launched a new Web clearinghouse called Lake Shoreland Protection Resources with information about protecting and restoring lake shorelands. It includes links to webcasts, fact sheets, videos and other resources. This is part of an outreach campaign to educate the public about NLA's findings.

More information for property owners is available through the Web clearinghouse or in the pdf "Shoreland Property: A Guide to Environmentally Sound Ownership." See our reading list for further reading on Coastal Community Planning & Development.

Photo of Yellow Birch Lake by Amy De Simone

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Study of the Upper Great Lakes: St. Clair River

In December of 2009, the International Upper Great Lakes Study released their summary report entitled Upper Great Lakes Water Levels: St. Clair River. This report conveyed findings from the first phase of a study of the upper Great Lakes, detailing the physical changes in the St. Clair River since 1962. Based on the findings of this study, the board recommends that no corrective action be taken in the St. Clair River at present, and that a comprehensive study be conducted to determine the need of future mitigative measures in the river due to the effects of climate change. The International Joint Commission (IJC), Canada and the United States, wrote a letter to US and Canadian government officials to inform them of the findings. The IJC also asked the committee to study what would happen to the great lakes system were the water levels in Lake Michigan and Lake Huron to be raise. The final report will be due in early 2012.

Image from the Upper Great Lakes Water Levels: St. Clair River summary report.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Hot topic: Flooding

2010 has already been another year of flooding for the state of Wisconsin. Many remember the severe floods of 2008 and in April 2009 a conference was held in Madison to consider what could be learned from this type of disaster and what can be done to mitigate the related problems. A new reports just out summarizes key contributions from that conference and covers a broad range of relevant topics about flooding in Wisconsin such as hydrology, climate change, water quality, health impacts, mitigation options, human services and economic consequences.

Experts who spoke at the symposium emphasized stronger leadership, more communication, better research, greater education and stiffer laws to help control food damage and reduce the loss of property and lives. They also identified a need to fundamentally reconsider how policymakers ask residents to share risk and responsibility, and the role of government in shaping those choices.

Read the full report.

See more resources available from the Water Library.

Photo courtesy of the Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey website. Photo shows flooding in spring Green, Wisconsin (2008).

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Danger in Rising Groundwater Usage Levels

Since the 1960's, the use of groundwater has more than doubled. Approximately 70-80% of groundwater is used for agricultural purposes. Most of this water ends up going into the oceans, which also impacts the rising sea levels. A large concern is the rate at which the groundwater is being used. Aquifers are being depleted much faster than they can be replenished.

A study was recently conducted by members of Utrecht University and the International Groundwater Resources Assessment Center at Deltares in the Netherlands. This research helped to identify areas where high groundwater depletion is occurring. Findings were published in Geophysical Research Letters, and a recap of some of the important points can be seen in the Discovery News article: Groundwater Levels Draining Fast. The article also provides some suggestions for how new irrigation techniques might be used to slow groundwater usage.

For further reading, see our recommended reading list for Understanding and Protecting Groundwater.

Photo Courtesy of The Western Producer.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Mayor of Bayfield Wins Award, Going Traveling

Mayor Larry J. MacDonald of Bayfield Wisconsin was recently awarded the Peter Wege Award for best sustainable practices for a Great Lakes City under 100,000. Mayor MacDonald is a member of the UW Sea Grant Advisory Council.

In addition to the award, MacDonald will attend an invitation-only, all-expense-paid coastal economics workshop in Charleston, S.C., sponsored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), meant to help the NOAA Coastal Services Center identify what kind of information coastal managers need to make decisions later this month. And in October, the Embassy of Sweden has invited MacDonald, along with nine other U.S. mayors, to an all-expense-paid First European Green Capital Conference.

Congratulations, Mayor MacDonald!

City of Bayfield website.

Bayfield's eco-municipality initiative.

Recent AquaLog post about Mayor MacDonald.

photo courtesy of the city of Bayfield website

Monday, September 27, 2010

29th Annual Banned Books Week

Banned Books Week has officially arrived. Kick-0ff events took place on September 25th and celebration will continue through October 2nd. Over 200 participants attended Chicago's kick-off event in the city’s historic Bughouse Square. Recognizing Banned Books Week is a way to celebrate the freedom to read. This began in 1982 because of a sudden increase in the number of challenged books. ALA defines a challenge as "an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group."

Ideas for and information about Banned Books Week can be seen here, and a listing of events by state is also available.

Photo of the Lakeview Branch Banned Books Week display courtesy of Madison Public Library.

USGS Finds Elevated Nitrogen and Phosphorus in Groundwater

While nitrogen and phosphorus levels were previously an issue in groundwater systems, and many steps have been taken, and money spent to attempt to address this issue, a recently released study by the USGS shows that these levels have stayed the same or even risen since the 1990's. Some streams contain levels two to ten times higher than what is recommended by the EPA's Water Quality Standards. Areas affected most nationally include the Northeast, Midwest, and Northwest due to high use of fertilizer and manure for agricultural purposes.

Beside threatening aquaculture in these streams, drinking water with high nitrate levels is also a concern for humans. Aquifers and shallow wells are at risk and the potential for these nitrate levels to rise in the next few years as groundwater high in nutrient concentration penetrates the soil. Since private wells are not under the jurisdiction of the Federal Safe Drinking Water Act, homeowners should test their water annually to make sure that it is safe.

The USGS's fact sheet for Nutrients in the Nation’s Streams and Groundwater gives a detailed analysis of the study's findings. For further reading suggestions, see our recommended reading list on drinking water quality.

Photo courtesy of Roger Wendell.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Genetically Engineered Fish and Chips

Would you side with 78% of surveyed adults who feel the FDA should not yet approve genetically engineered salmon for human consumption? Meetings have taken place, and parties are casting their votes. Some of the controversial topics are: whether or not the FDA should approve genetically engineered (GE) salmon, if approved, should labeling be required to advise consumers of the type of fish they are purchasing, and if the GE salmon are as healthy for people and for the environment as regular farm raised salmon are.

Obviously, there are many interdependent factors here, such as the methods companies use to grow the fish. AquaBounty Technologies, one of the sponsors of the GE salmon, submitted reports indicating the fish would be safe to eat, and safe for the environment. Many demand more research be done, and the public seems to be in agreement according to a study recently released by Food & Water Watch.

The FDA's Overview of Atlantic Salmon provides some useful information for interested parties. Food & Water Watch's release about the labeling of GE salmon can be seen here. For further reading, you can view our recommended reading list on aquaculture.

Salmon photo courtesy of

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Project WET - Water Education for Teachers

Project WET, a national program that is delivered on a statewide basis, is available for teachers interested in becoming qualified to teach water education. They provide materials that can be used to get kids thinking about water and environmental issues. Materials from this non-profit water education program are available for kids ages 5-18. The prepared teaching materials are "designed to facilitate and promote awareness, appreciation, knowledge, and stewardship of water resources" (DNR release).

Incorporating different learning styles, including community service opportunities, there are over 90 activities available from Project WET. There are four main beliefs upon which Project WET was founded. One, water quantity and quality is important to all users. Two, knowledgeable water management is key to maintaining a healthy environment. Three, water connects a vast array of life and systems. Finally, being aware and respectful of water resources can encourage positive community involvement. Teachers are also able to sign up for workshops that are conducted by a network of Wisconsin facilitators.

For further curriculum ideas involving water, see our website.

Picture of Project WET booklet courtesy of WDNR.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Real-time wave information now available

by Gene Clark, PE (Wisconsin Sea Grant) and Dr. Chin Wu (UW Madison)

The sea caves at the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore are unique and spectacular natural rock formations. These eroded sandstone formations were formed when lake water and waves eroded the soft sandstone near the water edge, yielding a series of caves carved out of the exposed sandstone cliffs.

In Lake Superior, many sea caves are located on two of the islands—Devils Island and Sand Island—as well as on a relatively remote area on the mainland near Meyers Beach. The mainland sea caves can be viewed from above on land by a rugged two-mile hike along the bluff top trail from the Meyers Beach parking lot, but the best way to see these rock formations is on the water. the rest of the article on the Wisconsin Coastal Management website.

Read a recent article in the Summer 2009 Aquatic Sciences Chronicle for further information and to watch a video about the project.

Photo courtesy the National Park Service.

Monday, September 20, 2010

New Climate Change Resources in the Library

Recently, Wisconsin's Water Library updated our website to include information on, and access to a variety of climate change materials. We have created several climate change recommended reading lists for adults, which are broken down by category. These include Economies and Society, Policy, Great Lakes and Water.

We have also added a climate change recommended reading list for children, as well as a list of websites that were designed specifically for kids. For teachers and educators, we have added a curriculum ideas page which will provide some good starting points for those wishing to incorporate climate change into their lesson plans.

Book cover of Climate change begins at home: Life on the two-way street of global warming by David Reay.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

USGS Tracks Loon Migration by Satellite

Minnesota has the highest loon population in the continental US with over 10,000 adult loons. Many Midwestern loons reside in the Great Lakes during spring and summer months before they begin their annual migration to warmer areas such as the Pacific, Atlantic, or Gulf Coasts. Loons feed mainly on fish and other aquatic life.

Since the 1960's scientists have recorded cases of botulism in loons, but the numbers greatly increased starting in 1999. The Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center, a branch of the USGS, has equipped ten loons with satellite transmitters in hopes of tracking migration and ultimately discovering physical and biological links to the botulism outbreaks. The loons were tagged in July and their migration can be followed on this website. These transmitters allow researchers to track temperature and pressure, as well as location, which they hope will reveal foraging information. Other loons were also tagged with geolocators which will record information that researchers will collect when they remove the tags during the following season.

You can hear the call of a common loon here. For further reading, click here to access our recommended reading list on Great Lakes Birds.

Photo of Biologists Luke Fara and Kevin Kenow recording the measures of a common loon courtesy of Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Highlight on Cat Islands

Last week, Lisa Jackson, US EPA administer, announced EPA’s first Great Lakes Restoration Initiative competitive grants which included a $1.5 million dollar grant for the Cat Island Chain Restoration Project in lower Green Bay.

Details of the project funded by the grant are:

Grant Number: 00E00552
Total Federal Award: $1,500,000
Applicant Name: Brown County
Project Title: Cat Island Chain Restoration Project

Project Description: This project supports the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, pursuant to Public Law 111-88. Specifically, it consists of constructing a 2.5 mile barrier in Lower Green Bay to begin the process of restoring the Cat Island Chain of barrier islands. Three barrier islands will be created over the next 20 years. These islands will protect and enhance 1,400 acres surrounding Duck Creek (a tributary to Green Bay). This project will also provide immediate environmental benefits by protecting wetlands and promoting emergent and submergent aquatic vegetation growth in Lower Green Bay.

Vicky Harris, Wisconsin Sea Grant outreach specialist, has been working in this area for years. Read about her work.

To learn more about the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, visit their website.

image above from Wisconsin Sea Grant.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Why Worry About Asian Carp When There Are Quagga?

Dr. Charles Kerfoot, a researcher funded by NOAA and The National Science Foundation, isn't worried about Asian Carp. He says "by the time the carp get here, there won’t be anything left for them to eat," referring to the quagga activity that has been identified in Southern Lake Michigan.

These small European mollusks, about the size of a lima bean, have been discovered in abundance feeding on phytoplankton in Lake Michigan. A doughnut shaped collection of algae and other tiny plants was discovered in winter with the aid of NASA’s new Sea-viewing Wide Field-of-view Sensor (SeaWiFS). Between 10,000 and 15,000 quagga mussels can inhabit one square meter in the soft lake bed and have been found in all of the Great Lakes. Consuming phytoplankton at a rate of five to seven times that of the production rate, the massive number of quagge are excreting enough to stimulate the growth of Cladophora algae (see the DNR article on it here). When the algae dies and decomposes, it eliminates oxygen from the surrounding waters increasing the likelihood of botulism. The predictable result from all this is a decline in lake species starting with smaller ones such as zooplankton, and then continuing on to chub and alewives, eventually leading to even the larger fish that inhabit Lake Michigan.

The Journal of Great Lakes Research has published the article on Kerfoot's research called "Approaching Storm: Disappearing Winter Bloom in Lake Michigan," which is available online, here. For an overview of the topic see the Michigan Tech News release, here.

Video of quagga mussels feeding by John Karl at UW Sea Grant.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Lake Superior National Estuarine Reserve

The State of Wisconsin nominated the freshwater estuary situated on the confluence of the St. Louis River and Lake Superior for consideration as the 28th National Estuarine Research Reserve in 2008. NOAA has been working with the reserve state partner, University of Wisconsin-Extension and others, to complete the Final Environmental Impact Statement and Management Plan for the proposed Lake Superior Reserve. The proposed site consists exclusively of public lands and waters owned by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, City of Superior, Douglas County and the University of Wisconsin. The site is a diverse complex of representative terrestrial and aquatic habitats that form a unique freshwater estuary where the St. Louis River empties into Lake Superior. Each of the four components identified as the preferred alternative are within close proximity to each other. The combination of components being considered will provide a wide range of estuarine research and public education opportunities and contribute to the national system of research reserves.

The Federal Register announcement for the Reserve appeared on September 3rd.

[Search help: Click on this link for advanced search and input September 3rd as publication date and search for the term "Lake Superior National Estuarine Reserve". The first hit will be the Federal Register notice.]

For more information about the reserve (including a link to the Final Environmental Impact Statement), visit NOAA's website.

Photo credit: Pokegama River wetlands - Mike Anderson; from the NERR's website.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Where Does the Salt from Winter Roads Go?

A recently released study conducted by the USGS Wisconsin Water Science Center has shown that streams are being adversely affected by the use of salt for deicing roads, sidewalks and parking lots. The study focused especially on eastern Wisconsin and Milwaukee, but also included other northern U.S. cities.

In eastern and south-central Wisconsin, chloride levels exceeding US EPA chronic water quality criteria were found in 100 percent of urban streams during winter. These chloride levels are the determinant of toxicity in the water. Further, the chloride levels of the water were not declining enough even by the time summer came in order for those streams to be suitable for many aquatic inhabitants. Nationally, 55 percent of northern streams samples chloride levels exceeded US EPA chronic water-quality criteria.

Matthew C. Larsen, the Associate Director for Water at the USGS says: "This study suggests the need for advancements that will reduce salt loads to surface waters." Read the full release: "Many Urban Streams Harmful to Aquatic Life Following Winter Pavement Deicing" on the USGS website. For further reading suggestions, see our recommended reading list on Understanding and Protecting Groundwater.

Photo by Michael Pereckas

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Asian Carp: The Introduction You May Have Missed

While you have probably heard about the controversy and fears surrounding Asian carp, maybe you missed a bit of the background information. The term Asian carp actually accounts for four different types of fish according to the USDA: black carp, silver carp, the Bighead carp and grass carp. An article written by the California Academy of Sciences on these fish can be seen here.

These fish were originally introduced for the purpose of algae control, but then spread in an unintended manner. They can grow to over 20 feet long and 100 pounds, eating up to 40% of their weight a day in plankton. This causes a danger to the food chain, especially for the bottom of it. Asian carp are also know for jumping out of the water when they are scared or alarmed, which happens somewhat frequently in the presence of boats, since they feed near the water's surface. For a fish this size, unpredictable flight type movements have been known to injure boaters and fisherman. This video can help you get an idea of the movement of these fish.

For a suggested reading list on Great Lakes Fish, click here.

Asian Bighead carp photo by M. Spencer Green.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Yellow Perch Numbers Up In Green Bay

According to the Wisconsin DNR, Yellow Perch numbers are up this year, and are the third highest seen in the last 30 years. This may have to do with increased water temperatures that were present during spring and summer this year, as well as an early hatch. A high rate of mortality among first through third year yellow perch has the DNR concerned. Some causes are hypothesized, including predators such as walleye and/or northern pike, as well as birds called cormorants which the DNR are taking specific steps to control. More about the cormorant can be read here. Fishermen are not suspected as being problematic in this instance because most yellow perch they keep are around 8 inches or more, which typically occurs in the third year. Click here for the full press release from the WDNR.

WDNR photo shows an adult yellow perch with young-of-year perch.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Lake Superior Bathymetric Lidar Collection is Complete

From NOAA:

Lidar is a laser-based technology used to map land, beach, and underwater elevations. Planes equipped with lidar sensors have been surveying much of Lake Superior’s nearshore bathymetry since early July, and as of August 12, 2010, this bathymetric lidar data collection effort is complete.

Over 900 linear kilometers of data were collected in forty-seven days. This exceeded the requirements of the contract by close to 200 linear kilometers, as the original requirement was for collection of 725 linear kilometers of data. Fugro Lads used the LADS MkII system to collect the bathymetric lidar along the shoreline up to 1000 m lakeward or to the extinction of the laser. The same system was used to collect lidar points on land to approximately 30 m inland, so that this collection could be tied to existing and future topographic lidar collections.

This effort, funded by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, was extremely successful and will yield data that is greater than 85% very good or good depth coverage. Data in these categories typically extends out to around 20m depth. The raw data will now undergo a refinement process and a quality assurance process. The final data will be delivered to the federal government’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Coastal Services Center (Center), and the data will be served from the Center’s Digital Coast website by the winter of 2011. Through this website the data will be available for use, free of charge.

Standardized data protocols for processing, assuring quality, and serving the data will be followed, which means a wide variety of organizations can use these data for many different uses. Uses for this dataset are wide-ranging, including planning for restoration efforts, remediating stamp sands, evaluating essential fish habitat, enhancing navigation, and developing scenarios for lake level drop.

photo courtesy of Minn. Sea Grant

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Lake Sturgeon - on a hook and a line

The lake sturgeon hook and line season opens September 4th and runs through September 30th. High water levels in state rivers should make this one interesting.

The 2010 season marks the fourth year that the minimum length for harvesting sturgeon is set at 60 inches, with a one-fish limit per season. There is a catch and release season on a stretch of the Menominee River downstream from the Hattie Street dam to Green Bay.

New this year is a catch and release season on the lower St. Croix River from St. Croix Falls Dam downstream to the Mississippi River from Oct. 1 through Oct. 15 to allow Wisconsin and Minnesota to have the same regulations for the same species. This is not reflected in the Fishing Regulations 2010-2011.

Remember to follow all required fishing regulations and bring your bug spray!

About the Hook and Line Season

News release from WDNR.

photo used by permission from the Shedd Aquarium, Chicago