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.