40 Years Serving Wisconsin
By Kathleen Schmitt Kline
During his tenure as director of the University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute, Anders W. Andren is often asked, “What is ‘Sea Grant’ and what is it doing in Wisconsin?”
“People are curious about our name—why something named ‘sea’ is located in Wisconsin, a state hundreds of miles from an ocean,” he said. “I explain that the Great Lakes are officially the nation’s fourth coastline, and roughly one thousand miles of that coastline belong to Wisconsin. So it’s ‘sea’ as in coastal and ‘grant’ as in money—we provide grants for Wisconsin university research, outreach and education projects focused on addressing and resolving Great Lakes, coastal and ocean-related issues.”
Now that the name conundrum is settled, the second question requires a more comprehensive answer. Given that the Wisconsin Sea Grant program has celebrated 40+ years of service to the state, Andren’s response to “What is Sea Grant doing in Wisconsin?” is even more extensive.
“Where do I begin?” he said.
Throughout the years, the Wisconsin Sea Grant program has invested in high-priority Great Lakes research in fisheries management, water supply and quality, toxic contaminants risk assessment, fluctuating lake levels, coastal development, ecosystem dynamics, aquatic invasive species, freshwater aquaculture, seafood safety, and remote sensing and geographic information systems for real-time observations. While supporting this research, Wisconsin Sea Grant has also provided financial support for almost 650 graduate students—a third of them women—that helped these students earn 399 master’s degrees and 283 doctoral degrees.
Not only does Sea Grant fund critical research, it goes to great lengths to share the results with the people who need them most, a true embodiment of the Wisconsin Idea. Resource managers and the public learn about Sea Grant research findings through an integrated outreach program that brings together the collective expertise of on-the-ground outreach and education specialists at UW-Green Bay, UW-Madison, UW-Manitowoc, UW-Milwaukee and UW-Superior.
Communicating the significance of the Great Lakes has also been at the heart of Sea Grant’s mission. It co-produced the longest-running science and environmental news program, Earthwatch Radio, which at its peak was distributed by more than 160 radio stations reaching hundreds of thousands of listeners in the U.S. and around the world. Wisconsin Sea Grant support also enabled Wisconsin Historical Society archaeologists to document and nominate 35 Great Lakes shipwrecks for the National Register of Historic Places. Wisconsin now has more shipwrecks listed on the register than any other state in the nation, and 17 of them can be explored virtually through the Wisconsin Sea Grant-developed website wisconsinshipwrecks.org.
Established by the National Sea Grant College and Program Act of 1966, Sea Grant was originally conceived as the marine equivalent of the nation’s land-grant colleges and universities. Wisconsin Sea Grant launched in 1968 as the first program in the Great Lakes region. Today, headquartered at the UW-Madison Graduate School’s Aquatic Sciences Center, it is part of a national network of 32 university-based programs funded through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, with matching contributions from participating states and the private sector.
For a copy of the 40th Anniversary Report of the University of Wisconsin Sea Grant College Program, go to aqua.wisc.edu/publications.