St. Louis River Speaker Series Offered Diverse Topics
From community efforts to make the St. Louis River more “hip,” to the finer points of water chemistry, to celebrations of the river through poetry and photography, this season’s monthly River Talk series offered a range of topics. The audience doubled during this second year of the talks, reaching more than 240 people at nine events in local cafes and learning centers. Those people wanted to learn about the St. Louis River Estuary, which runs into Lake Superior along the Wisconsin-Minnesota border.
The series was organized by Wisconsin Sea Grant and the Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve. To revisit the series, check out the blog posts. Plans for more talks are in the works for the next season.
Voter Elects to Become Debut WRI Fellow
Groundwater brought Carolyn Voter to Wisconsin, and groundwater is what’s kept her here. It’s also the centerpiece of her latest career step: Voter, a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is the first Water Resources Institute (WRI) policy fellow.
The newly created position will be shared with and housed within the structure of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Voter will be charged with analyzing statistical data, compiling information and creating the annual report the state Groundwater Coordinating Council (GCC) submits to the state legislature detailing the results of groundwater research funded by WRI, DNR and other state agencies.
“Interagency cooperation is the cornerstone for groundwater protection in Wisconsin,” said Mary Ellen Vollbrecht, the DNR’s groundwater section chief for the Bureau of Drinking Water and Groundwater. “The new Water Resources fellowship builds on that base. Carolyn’s background and energy are sure to get the fellowship off to a strong start. DNR appreciates this initiative of the Water Resources Institute and will strive to maximize the benefits to all agencies—and all Wisconsin water consumers.”
Jennifer Hauxwell, WRI’s assistant director for research and student engagement, agreed.
“Carolyn has a strong background in hydrology and familiarity with the Groundwater Coordinating Council’s Joint Solicitation for groundwater research,” Hauxwell said. “She also brings great enthusiasm and positivity toward tackling the difficult challenge of both understanding and protecting a hidden resource—our groundwater.”
Voter, who was born in New Jersey and received her undergraduate degree from Bucknell University in Pennsylvania, was inspired by stream restoration work she became involved with there and was drawn to Wisconsin in part because of UW-Madison’s interdisciplinary hydroecology research programs. As a Ph.D. student, Voter worked on multiple WRI-funded research projects with UW-Madison Professor of Engineering Steven Loheide, including a project that examined the ways in which urban design impacted an area’s water budget.
“I’m excited about the policy angle,’ said Voter of her new position and duties. “I’ve had a lot of consulting experience, but I haven’t had a chance to do much policy.”
Voter already knows several of the issues that will be an integral part of the challenges associated with maintaining or enhancing the quality and quantity of the state’s groundwater resources—chemical and biological contaminants and dozens of factors that affect water supply and demand.
“An important part of what I’ll be doing is figuring out how to communicate science to non-scientists,” she said.
Voter began work in her new position in July. In her off hours, Voter likes to run, spend time with her dog and check off activities on her “Madison bucket list.”
By the Numbers, Sea Grant Has Busy Year
Each year, Sea Grant bins various types of information and provides it to the National Sea Grant Office as a measure of accountability and outcomes to be shared with the general public as well as federal funders.
Some examples of the 2014 report reflect Wisconsin’s efforts to meet coastal needs through science, promote the sustainable use of Great Lakes assets and train the next generation of water scientists:
- 86 acres of coastal habitat protected, enhanced or restored
- 11,559 fishermen who modified their practices using knowledge gained in fisheries sustainability
- 111 communities that implemented hazard resiliency practices to prepare for, respond to or minimize coastal hazardous events
- Seven jobs created
- Two businesses created
- 5,063 jobs retained
- 55 businesses retained
- Support for136 students—undergraduate, graduate and Ph.D.
- Support that contributed to 23 degrees (Bachelor’s, Masters and a doctorate)
- 27 Sea Grant-supported students who become employed in a job related to their degree within two years of graduation
If you’re a fan of using Google’s popular Field Trip app to augment your vacations and road trips with hidden and unexpected sights, rejoice: Field Trip now includes the sites and attractions featured on Sea Grant’s popular wisconsinshipwrecks.org website. Now, when you’re near areas of the Lake Michigan and Lake Superior coastal waters where the remains of historic schooners lie, cards detailing the ship’s location, statistics and history will pop up on your Apple or Android smartphone. The app is also keyed to offer information on other Great Lakes maritime attractions such as lighthouses, museums and parks.
Sea Grant Web Developer Rich Dellinger spent months migrating the GPS information to Google’s servers. “This is another great way to let people know they are near our state’s rich maritime history, when they might have otherwise missed it,” he said.
Christmas in May
Beach Safety Equipment Distributed Statewide
Gene Clark, Wisconsin Sea Grant coastal engineer, and Todd Brieby from the Wisconsin Coastal Management Program played Santa to local beach managers this spring. They distributed piles of new water safety and emergency rescue equipment like ring buoys and life jackets to 42 beaches in Wisconsin as part of the Be Current Smart water safety campaign.
In addition to the equipment, the
campaign, which is designed to raise
awareness about the dangers of rip
currents and other dangerous currents
around piers and other structures,
includes water safety tips tailored to
Wisconsin and additional states in the
region. It also includes animations targeted for children and video news release footage with interviews from the U.S. Coast Guard, county sheriffs and park officials.
“Many of the Wisconsin beaches that received equipment don’t have lifeguards or safety equipment that’s available to the public,” said Clark. “Rescues are often dependent on the response time
of emergency personnel. Having equipment at these beaches increases the chances for a successful rescue.”
The Be Current Smart campaign is led by the Michigan, Illinois- Indiana and Wisconsin Sea Grant programs in partnership with Minnesota and Ohio Sea Grant, and is funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Coastal Storms Program. Other partners include the National Weather Service, the Wisconsin Coastal Management Program, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh.
Safety campaign partners supported the production of new beach sign templates, publications, curriculum, diagrams and descriptions of the types of dangerous currents. All materials are free and available for beach communities, park staff, educators and others and can be found on the Be Current Smart website: currentsmart.org.
“Beachgoers can take simple steps to ensure a fun, safe day in the water,” said Breiby. “Parents have an important role in keeping a close watch on young children and making sure they wear