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YEAR IN REVIEW SCIENCE FOR SUSTAINABLE WISCONSIN WATERS, 2020

In a year when we all seek normalcy, the University of Wisconsin Water Resources Institute and Wisconsin Sea Grant send our version of a holiday letter, like the ones that show up in your mailbox from family and friends but without the cloying sections.

With this, we offer comforting images and pass on our fervent well wishes for the season.

Winter

Despite record-high Great Lakes water levels lapping the shoreline of Door County this year, the beauty never diminishes nor does our commitment to helping communities across the region cope with erosion and flooding.

Anne Moser is the librarian in a treasured spot for water scholars — the Wisconsin Water Library. She also conducts public events across the state that forge ties between art and water science, including with artist Sarah FitzSimons who donated this book of Lake Michigan water to the collection.
Despite a January blizzard, a winter powwow came off as scheduled and a group of educators convened by the Wisconsin and Minnesota Sea Grant programs were there, participating in a workshop on Ojibwe culture.

Spring

Just before field work and lab analysis ground to a halt in the face of COVID-19, our two programs were a part of the progress of science.

The mission of the University of Wisconsin Water Resources Institute is understanding our state’s precious groundwater. That is done through annual research projects, as well as collaborating with others such as the Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey that organized this well drilling as part of the statewide groundwater-level monitoring well network.

PFAS research

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are synthetic chemicals that pose dangers to human health and have been detected in public water supplies. Since the 1940s, these chemicals have been used in many common items, including cookware, food packaging and firefighting foam.

Sea Grant is funding PFAS research, including the work of post-doc Sarah Balgooyen, who conducted extensive sampling from what is often viewed as ground zero for PFAS contamination in Wisconsin, waters near the site of a firefighting foam manufacturing facility in the Lake Michigan city of Marinette.

Summer

Putting aside that trademark Midwestern humbleness, we take a moment to highlight a proud moment from June — winning an award in a prestigious international communications competition for this video about a spitfire of a woman, Mary Lou Schneider, who embodies conservation.

In some Upper Great Lakes coastal wetlands, wild rice, known as manoomin, is considered a keystone species. Along with this ecological significance, it is culturally important to the Ojibwe Nation. Sea Grant continued its work in manoomin education, including helping create this life cycle illustration.

This year, as people followed public health guidelines and refrained from indoor gatherings, they poured into the outdoors. Boating was a popular activity, with marinas reporting a 400% increase in business. Sea Grant and its partners the Wisconsin Marine Association and the Wisconsin Coastal Management Program continued efforts to educate marinas to adopt pollution-free practices with our Wisconsin Clean Marina program.

Fall

These throwback photos provide a welcome memory. Traditionally, in the fall, our programs have participated in an annual poster session on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus under the broad banner of “water.” This year, of course, the pandemic prevented such scientific sharing.

Collaboration

Our waters are awash in microplastics and other trash. The Sea Grant education and communications teams led a Great Lakes regional effort to create teaching tools to empower individuals to take action to mitigate the problem.

Our events and trainings moved to a virtual space this year. The Great Lakes Aquaculture Day was one of those. It was a regional and popular undertaking that drew hundreds to discussion of this important sector that can feed us all with local, healthy and delicious choices.

We look forward through the lens of a profoundly pandemic-altered world. We advance dialog and action within our programs and participate in the effort to shape a more just and equitable society whose diverse citizens enjoy and benefit from Wisconsin’s rich water assets.

HAPPY NEW YEAR

FROM WISCONSIN SEA GRANT and UW WATER RESOURCES INSTITUTE

Credits:

Kandis Elliot, Bob Hundt, Mari Mitchell, Sara Stathas, Bonnie Willison, Marie Zhuikov