Monday, October 31, 2011

Tent Colony Woods

It's starting to get chilly here in Madison, but bikers, joggers, and walkers are still making use of the Lakeshore Path. While today's students use this area of the UW Madison Campus for recreation and study, one area of the Lakeshore Nature Preserve used to be a summer home to up to 300 residents. After the area was purchased in 1911 for the then-high price of $1100 per acre, a group of College of Agriculture students requested to set up tents there for the summer, rather than pay high housing costs for the summer term. The university, pleased to demonstrate the need for the land purchase, agreed.

The "tent colony" soon became a summer tradition, and in following years, rustic amenities such as tent platforms, water pumps, and even a study area, were provided in Tent Colony Woods. Many of the campers were the families of male students, whose wives and children spent time at camp while their fathers were at summer session classes. Each summer, these temporary residents even elected such "officials" as a mayor, postmaster, and newspaper editor, among others.

The practice of students camping in Tent Colony Woods continued into the late 1950s. At this time, the university had an increase in available housing for students, including the new Eagle Heights Apartments.

For more information, pictures, and maps, visit the Lakeshore Nature Preserve web page.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Technology and Clean Water for the Developing World

Clean drinking water is unavailable to over a billion people around the globe, but new technologies are enabling some entrepreneurs to develop ways to help.

A Mashable Tech post today outlines 5 new technologies that are helping to bring clean water to the developing world. View the full article to see a collection of YouTube videos further describing each of these technologies and the companies and organizations behind them:
  • A reusable water bottle with a teabag style water filter (costing about half a cent, from Stellenbosch University Water Institute HOPE Project)
  • LifeStraw, a personal, portable purification tool (costing $5, from Vestergaard Frandsen)
  • SlingShot, a tool which uses the energy required of a toaster, and has the ability to transform water as bad as sewage into 1,000 liters of drinkable water per day ($2,000 from Dean Kamen)
  • Midomo, a portable device on wheels. Its internal filter system is powered by the rotation of the wheels. (For $475, purchase a bracelet from Red Button Designs, and a Midomo is delivered to an African community.)
  • The Lifesaver Jerrycan, a portable system which uses nanofilter technology.
Interested in more information about clean drinking water? Check out the Clean Drinking Water recommended reading list at the Water Library.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Halloween: Environmentally Scary?

Halloween is one week from today! As you prepare for costume parties and trick or treating, keep spookiness away from the environment by considering cutting back on waste. Between store-bought costumes, plastic decorations, and candy wrappers, it's easy to see how Halloween can start to get spooky- in the wrong sort of way.
  • If only half the children who wear costumes swapped and wore used instead of new, it would reduce annual landfill waste by 6250 tons (Minnesota Pollution Control Agency). Check out the National Costume Swap Day website for swapping ideas.
  • Use the insides of carved pumpkins to make a tasty treat, like pumpkin bread or pumpkin soup, rather than throwing them away.
  • Done with your pumpkins? Consider composting them.
  • Have kids use a reusable bag to go trick-or-treating- a pillowcase works great!
We've got some spookiness up our sleeves at the Water Library- follow us on Twitter for some Halloween fun, or check out the hashtag #SpookyUW to see what's scary at the UW Madison libraries, too!

Friday, October 21, 2011

New Books at the Water Library

Have you stopped by the Water Library lately? We've recently added a number of new titles, from research materials to fishing guides to picture books and more!

The library also now has a copy of the children's book And Tango Makes Three, a book often challenged and even banned for telling the story of two male penguins who are given an egg to raise together in the Central Park Zoo.

You can also check out a copy of Enrique's Journey, this year's Go Big Read selection.

Other new titles include
  • The future of water: A startling look ahead, by Maxwell and Yates, 2011
  • People of the Big Voice: Photographs of Ho-Chunk families by Charles Van Schaick, by Lonetree et al, 2011
  • Freshwater microbiology: biodiversity and dynamic interactions of microorganisms in the aquatic environment by Sigee, 2005
  • Visualize this : the Flowing Data guide to design, visualization, and statistics, by Yau, 2011
For more titles, check out our Recent Acquisitions November 2011 list on the library webpage.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Scientist uses Twitter to Study Vaccinations

Yes, you read that right. With millions of people expressing themselves via Twitter, one scientist found the social media site to be the best way to track people's thoughts about new vaccines.

In order to study opinions of a new H1N1 vaccine, Marcel Salathé of Penn State was able to gather nearly 500,000 tweets with keywords relating to vaccinations. A team of students sorted the first 10% of tweets into positive, negative, and irrelevant reactions to the H1N1 vaccine. Salathé then was able to use the results to develop a computer algorithm to sort the rest. With this sorting process complete, he could easily determine people's reactions to the new H1N1 vaccine just by reading their tweets and looking at patterns in the data.

Since many tweeters identify their location, Salathé could also determine relationships between people's opinions and their location, in addition to the time of their post. Next, he plans to use his new research method to study hypertension, obesity, and heart disease. Visit Science Daily for more information.

Don't forget- Wisconsin's Water Library is on Twitter, too! Click here to follow and see what we're up to!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Pharmaceuticals Contamination in the Great Lakes

Improper disposal of pharmaceuticals can lead to eventual contamination of the Great Lakes, which threatens humans as well as wildlife, according to a recent report by the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.

While it is difficult to say what impacts this may have on humans, scientists have found that such contamination can lead to problems such as birth defects in fish. It's also difficult to track the source of the contamination, which can come from humans washing off topical medications, from waste matter, or from flushing medications down the toilet or throwing them in the garbage.

With so many factors involved, it may be better to treat the contamination itself rather than the cause. Some scientists believe the best treatment is to add ozone to wastewater, a process which oxidizes the chemicals. Some water treatment plants in the Great Lakes area are already using this process.

What can you do to help prevent the contamination of the Great Lakes? While some communities have access to a secure medication collection box, individuals can also mix medications with kitty litter or coffee grounds and seal them in a plastic container.

More information available at Great Lakes Echo.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Historic Photography of the Wisconsin Dells

In Wisconsin, the Dells is usually associated with water parks, summer fun, and tourist venues. However, indoor water parks weren't always a prime attraction. Boat tours of the Wisconsin River date back to the 1800s, and Dells land formations and scenic river views of the time were captured by photographer H.H. Bennett, whose photos played a large role in bringing tourism to the area.

Wisconsin River
Photo taken from a modern-day boat tour.

Bennett's 1870s photography studio is still present today, in the form of the H.H. Bennett Studio, maintained by the Wisconsin Historical Society.

While much of the museum focuses on the history of photography in the Midwest, Bennett's photography portrays use of the Wisconsin River by tourists and loggers, as well as native Ho-Chunk people.

The museum also holds the steering wheel from the last operating steamboat on the river.

Interested in learning more?
Click here to view H.H. Bennet's photos or visit the museum.

Click here to view the Wisconsin Historical Society website.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

How Many Sport Fish Can Lake Michigan Support?

Researchers are paying close attention to food webs in Lake Michigan after several invasive species have appeared, including round gobies and quagga mussels. Through analyzing the body tissue of these species, scientists are able to determine what they are eating- and if they are diminishing the food sources of other Lake Michigan fish.

To learn more about how and why this research is conducted, view the following video by the University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute.

More research and videos are available at the UW Sea Grant Institute YouTube channel.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Drinking Water Research Challenges

What does it mean to have safe drinking water? What does water conservation really entail? According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, there are three main research challenges to consider when studying drinking water. Wisconsin's Water Library holds many resources on these topics. Click the links within this post to find library reading lists and take on some research of your own!

The first challenge is to protect the source of water- either groundwater or surface water- especially as water is becoming a scarce resource in many locations. The second is to harness the flow of water- developing technologies that control runoff. The third is to treat and deliver safe water.

Scientists and researchers have been studying to meet these three challenges for nearly a century. For more information, visit "From Source to Tap" at the US EPA website.