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).