Volume 4 2012

Jane Harrison

Program and People News

JW Player goes here

Jane Harrison: Social Scientist

Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute has hired its first-ever social scientist: Jane Harrison, joined the organization’s outreach specialist staff in Milwaukee this October.

Harrison received her Ph.D. from Oregon State University, has spent much of her time in the Pacific Northwest studying and working with communities that have been forced to adapt over time to globalization and changes in supply and demand for the forest products upon which their economies have traditionally been based. She’s fascinated by the ways in which communities use a concept called “social capital”—the social norms of behavior and relationships that facilitate collective action. She sees several parallels between the issues faced by the forest-based communities of Oregon and the water-based communities in Wisconsin.

“The crux of my research is really trying to understand how people solve problems,” said Harrison. “Much of the research Sea Grant supports is really interested in changing behavior. The social side of that is so utterly important: How do social networks and norms influence natural resource decision-making?

Harrison put her own imprint on her career specialty, adding an emphasis on international studies and world economics, honing in on the push and pull between economic development and sustainable use of natural resources. Harrison gravitated toward sociology because, as she put it, “It does a better job of looking at the diversity of experience. We have to recognize how important interactions are between people. One of the key questions I think social science can help frame is ‘Where are people coming from?’ It’s always in the back of my mind—how can we approach people where they are?”

Harrison is happy to be settled in Milwaukee, where she’s quickly begun forging her own interactions, with Sea Grant staffers, researchers and stakeholders. “Sea Grant is poised to be a neutral advisor, providing scientific perspective on several really important issues. I’m hoping I can help as much as possible in consensus building.”

You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @GreatLakesJane.

2012 Carl J. Weston Memorial Scholarship Recipients

One is using a new way to process scientific data that could help keep beaches safe and clean. The other is helping to map the effects invasive zebra and quagga mussels are having on the food web in Green Bay.

Both Morgan Rose Schroeder and Kaitlyn Taylor are recipients of the 2012 Carl J. Weston Memorial Scholarship. The annual Weston Scholarship, established in 1995, awards $750 to undergraduate students who are involved in a Wisconsin Sea Grant-supported project.

Morgan Rose Schroeder

For the past year, Schroeder, a UW-Madison senior from Janesville, Wis., has been working closely with Sandra McClellan at the UW-Milwaukee School of Freshwater Sciences, using a specialized computer program called TRINE to process DNA sequence samples. It’s a quick and efficient way to identify and isolate the most common bacteria found in the sands of Milwaukee-area beaches.

“These sequences tell us how much bacteria is in each sample,” explained Schroeder. “Once we’ve identified them, we can use them as markers to compare to other data samples.”
Schroeder is a math major with computer science skills who became interested in applying those skills to microbiology. She eventually hopes to pursue a master’s degree in computational biology. Her ability to quickly process bioinformatics is already proving invaluable to McLellan’s work. 
Kaitlyn Taylor

Taylor, a UW-Madison junior from Madison, Wis., is focusing her studies on biological systems and environmental studies. She spent her summer in the field, assisting Bryan Althouse, a graduate student in UW-Madison Zoology Professor Jake Vander Zanden’s lab.

Twice a week, Taylor and Althouse collected zooplankton and algae samples from the bay, key pieces in a plan to map the entire ecosystem through lab analysis. Given the massive changes the invasion of filter-feeding zebra and quagga mussels have wrought on the bay’s food web and nutrient loading, Taylor’s work takes on an added importance.

“Collecting these samples will allow us to do some multidimensional scaling, comparing the algae production through space and time,” said Taylor. “We’ll be able to tell which types of algae are being produced in abundance.”

Mapping an ecosystem is no small task, and Vander Zanden is glad to have a Weston scholar on the job. “Kaity is bright and has lots of enthusiasm,” said Vander Zanden. “We’re delighted to be able to give her a chance to get hands-on research experience with freshwater ecosystems.”

Taylor hopes to work in the natural sciences field one day, perhaps doing community outreach. In warmer weather, she’s enjoyed the field work. “Being outside several times a week, in Green Bay and Door County, that was a pretty great work environment,” said Taylor.

The Aquatic Sciences Center is the administrative home of the
University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute & University of Wisconsin Water Resources Institute.

©2011 University of Wisconsin Board of Regents