Image credit: Marie Zhuikov, Wisconsin Sea Grant

The final River Talk for the 2021-22 season was held in May at the Lake Superior Estuarium and online. Jim Hurley, director of Wisconsin Sea Grant, presented, “Sea Grant at 50: Looking Back, Moving Forward,” examining the formation of this science-based organization devoted to sustainable use and protection of Great Lakes resources. He also discussed Sea Grant’s current work and where it is headed as it looks forward to the next 50 years.

Jim Hurley, Wisconsin Sea Grant Director. Image credit: Marie Zhuikov, Wisconsin Sea Grant

Hurley is also a professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His research interests include the cycling of mercury in the Great Lakes. He is the third director in Wisconsin Sea Grant’s history, having taken the helm in 2012. From 2017 to 2019, he also served as president of the national Sea Grant Association.

Hurley began by saying, “I’m darn proud to be able to give this talk and to be a part of an organization that I have so much respect for and that’s surrounded by so many great people.” He continued by describing the federal legislative history of Sea Grant’s founding and then went on to describe the accomplishments of the other Wisconsin Sea Grant directors before him.

He noted Robert Ragotzkie (director from 1968-1991) for thinking thematically about the areas that Wisconsin Sea Grant concentrates on for its research and outreach programs. “Also, Bob talked about Lake Superior’s circulation. He was thinking about Lake Superior in oceanographic terms and how that affected pollution distribution,” Hurley said. Ragotzkie also conducted climate research at this early stage.

Ragotskie gathered the program’s first cadre of extension agents and formed partnerships with other organizations. Hurley credited this start as the basis for the more than 240 partner organizations that Sea Grant works with today. Ragotskie’s strength was putting together teams of partners to study issues such as PCB pollution in the Fox River near Green Bay. He also established the program’s first communications team, which led to the formation of the popular Earthwatch Radio program, which was used by stations across the county.

Anders Andren (director from 1991-2012) took Ragotskie’s thematic area idea and brought it to Sea Grant at the national level through his work with the Sea Grant Association, which is made up of directors from all of the Sea Grant programs across the country. Hurley said Andren did that to, “get people in New Jersey Sea Grant that were doing the same thing as Florida Sea Grant or Oregon Sea Grant together to talk about similar types of issues, and then try to aggregate the results.”

Under Andren’s technological leadership, Wisconsin Sea Grant developed a website and an online submission system for research proposal submissions and reviews. Also during his tenure, the university’s Water Resources Institute’s management combined with Sea Grant under one umbrella organization known as the Aquatic Sciences Center.

“Another thing that occurred during Anders’ term is that the Great Lakes came together better, I think, than any other network in the county,” Hurley said. This has led to cooperative regional research and outreach projects. “It gives you such a great network, such a community of practice that can interact.”

The program also began concentrating on coastal community issues, providing funding for shipwreck research and working on harbor and recreation projects.

Hurley has continued the thematic area tradition. He’s also been emphasizing actionable science, which he classifies as research projects “that people can use.” He is also encouraging integration of science communications and social science into research. “The most successful projects are those developed with stakeholders at the table,” Hurley said. “We’re starting to see more of those.”

Since 2016, Wisconsin Sea Grant has also enlarged the number of postgraduate fellowships offered, with the help of Associate Director Jennifer Hauxwell and half a dozen partner organizations. Hurley rounded out the subject of accomplishments under his watch by discussing PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) research. He said the impetus began in Superior, Wisconsin, with the Huskey Refinery fire, which was doused with firefighting foam that contains PFAS. Staff at the National Lake Superior Estuarine Research Reserve requested help from Sea Grant to analyze water samples from a local creek.

“There was only one lab in the state that was certified to analyze the water for PFAS. We knew that had to change. We had some extra funding available. We were able to aid the State Laboratory of Hygiene, which is the state’s environmental research lab and its public health lab to build capacity to analyze for PFAS in water,” Hurley said. Now, the State Laboratory of Hygiene has opened a Center for PAFS Research. Sea Grant has also hired an emerging contaminants specialist (Gavin Dehnert) who focuses on PFAS and was active in proposing PFAS drinking water standards for the state.

Wisconsin Sea Grant continues to have a strong communications program that has moved from the era of radio into podcasting, video and blogging. “Communications has also changed with the times and I really feel it’s ahead of the curve,” Hurley said.

Other issues of focus include climate change, Great Lakes water level changes and encouraging diversity, equity, inclusion and environmental justice in programs. Sea Grant has hired a consultant and is in the process of becoming more inclusive as an organization. One of the first areas to benefit has been Sea Grant’s fellows program and undergraduate internships.

The program ended with testimonials from several partners. These included Jenny Van Sickle, president of the Superior City Council; Deanna Erickson, director of the National Lake Superior Estuarine Research Reserve; Joel Hoffman, acting chief, ecosystems branch for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; Gene Clark, retired Sea Grant coastal engineer; and Alex Frei, research and fellowship coordinator, Minnesota Sea Grant. Here’s a sampling of their kind words.

Jenny Van Sickle, City of Superior City Council:

For someone like me, who grew up in a lot of turmoil and violence, being near the water was free and it was fun. I’m thankful to the educators who took us out of the classroom on onto the beach. There are a lot of people who make sure our water is clean, free and accessible. I just want you to know that it really matters. I want to thank Sea Grant and wish you a happy birthday. We’ve been close partners for a long time.

Deanna Erickson, National Lake Superior Estuarine Research Reserve:

Something that’s really been remarkable to me from the very beginning of the Reserve’s formation . . . is how we were different yet complementary. That’s what makes a good relationship. The Reserve focuses on the St. Louis River Estuary and along Lake Superior, but Sea Grant gets to have this awesome statewide perspective. So, the Sea Grant folks that share our office space and share our community, bring that to us and help make us part of that, too. They also bring expertise that the National Estuarine Research Reserves don’t really have.

Joel Hoffman, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency:

Again and again, Sea Grant has set the gold standard on how to protect our coastal natural resources and our coastal communities. I’m really excited to see what you’re going to do in the next 50 years.

Watch the video of this talk on the Reserve’s YouTube site.

River Talks is taking a hiatus during the summer but will return in the fall for another season of talks focused on the St. Louis River and the organizations that help us understand it.

The post Let there be cake! Sea Grant celebrates 50 years at River Talks first appeared on Wisconsin Sea Grant.

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Marie Zhuikov

The Legend of the Lost Emerald, a free online video game for children, earned a gold medal at the 2022 International Serious Play Awards Program in Orlando, Florida. The immersive, boldly illustrated adventure game was one of nine educational games developed for learners ages K-12 that was cited for excellence last week.

The game provides learners in grades 4-6 the experience of using the same tools, practices and skills that maritime archaeologists use to locate and dive for shipwrecks on the Great Lakes and uncover the real treasure — the stories inspired by actual shipwrecks and Great Lakes history. English language arts, social studies, and Great Lakes literacy skills and standards are supported through game play and extension activities. The game is available in English and Spanish and was designed by Field Day Lab, PBS Wisconsin Education, Wisconsin Sea Grant and an advisory group of Wisconsin educators.

“We were especially impressed with the quality of the games produced for use in K-12 education,” said Sue Bohle, a former high school teacher and Atari Games executive who leads the conference. “The learning game industry has matured to the place where the new products really work for teachers and parents.”

The awards program honors outstanding commercial and student products that incorporate game elements and were created for use in education or training. Entries are judged for their success is meeting learning objectives, engagement, aesthetics and assessment goals.

“The entire collaborative team on this project did an incredible job connecting students to the rich maritime history of the Great Lakes watershed,” said Anne Moser, education coordinator for Wisconsin Sea Grant. “The goal of education at Sea Grant is to spark a passion for the Great Lakes, and I have seen how shipwreck stories do just that. We are excited to share this with the educators and youth we work with throughout Wisconsin.”

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Marie Zhuikov

A map of location for the Wisc-Watch bouys for the 2022 season in the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. Image credit: Josh Anderson, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Several buoys that provide real-time wave condition information for the WISC-Watch Project (https://go.wisc.edu/7y2x4o) in the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore to aid with paddler and boater safety have been moved to new locations this summer based on user feedback, and the placement of others has been adjusted.

WISC-Watch stands for Water Information for a Safe Coast Watch. In 2021, seven spotter buoys were deployed throughout the islands, plus Chequamegon Bay near Ashland and Siskiwit Bay near Cornucopia. The buoys monitor wave height, water temperature and wind information. Conditions around the 22 Apostle Islands vary dramatically due to sheltering effects from the archipelago and rapidly changing winds and fast-moving storms.

The scientific data collected by the buoys is being used by University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers to make nearshore wave and current forecast computer models more accurate so that in the future, buoys won’t be needed.

Last week, eight buoys were deployed at the mainland sea caves, Little Sand Bay, Little Manitou Island, Stockton Island, Madeline Island and Long Island, plus Siskiwit Bay near Cornucopia and Saxon Harbor.

Josh Anderson, submitted photo

Josh Anderson, assistant scientist at UW-Madison’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering said major changes include removal of the buoy that was in Chequamegon Bay. It will not be part of WISC-Watch this year because it was associated with a different project, which is complete. The Devil’s Island buoy was moved to just off Manitou Island. A buoy was added to Madeline Island near Big Bay State Park.

Minor adjustments include the movement of the Sand Bay buoy to closer to Little Sand Bay. The Stockton Island buoy was moved from the more sheltered Julian Bay to just off the Presque Isle Peninsula so that it’s exposed to more waves.

“I compared the data from the buoys last year to our wave model,” Anderson said. “The model was accurate at five of the seven locations. After we collect a couple more years of data in more areas of the Apostles, that will help make the wave model more accurate. The winds are the problem. All the wind fields that we use to drive the wave models don’t reflect all the funneling of the wind through the island channels. We’re working on that.”

The WISC-Watch team has also developed a 15-minute public survey (bit.ly/3PU5fPZ ) to assess and evaluate the best ways to communicate real-time wave information. People ages 18 and older are encouraged to participate. Experience in the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore is not required.

The WISC-Watch Project was funded by the Wisconsin Coastal Management Program, Wisconsin Sea Grant and the UW-Madison Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Other project partners include the National Park Service, the National Weather Service in Duluth, the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the Wisconsin Department of Tourism, the cities of Bayfield and Ashland, Northland College, the Lake Superior Nearshore Working Group, the Friends of the Apostle Islands and local outfitters.

A Wisc-Watch buoy off Little Manitou Island, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. Image credit: Josh Anderson, University of Wisconsin-Madison

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A third-grader from Northern Lights Elementary School searches his net for macroinvertebrates. Image credit: Marie Zhuikov, Wisconsin Sea Grant

Schoolchildren from Northern Lights Elementary in Superior enjoyed the benefits of nature as their classroom last week on Wisconsin Point. The third graders and their teachers are part of the Rivers2Lake Education Program offered by the Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve (Reserve). 

Brandi with the Reserve helps two students identify their finds. Image credit: Marie Zhuikov, Wisconsin Sea Grant

The program, which is designed to connect students to the Lake Superior Watershed, is a decade old and has been funded in part by Wisconsin Sea Grant for half of its life. The classrooms were split into four learning groups, which covered topics like trees as habitat and dune ecology, and activities like tree planting and searching for macroinvertebrates (larval insects, snails, crayfish, clams, etc.).  The outing was a culmination of the program, which runs year-round. Shawn Stewart and Jasmine Haroldson, both Northern Lights teachers, led one of the learning groups, employing confidence and skills they honed through the year of mentoring associated with Rivers2Lake.

I stationed myself at the macroinvertebrate sampling station along the shores of Allouez Bay. As the students arrived, Brandi, a Rivers2Lake mentor, reminded them about the tiny creatures they would be searching for in the bay sediment. The students were outfitted in waders and provided with small nets on long poles for their sampling. After a demonstration, where Brandi dragged her net through the sediment, the students made their own discoveries.

Much conversation and enthusiasm ensued. One group found a mayfly larva. Another child thought they caught a young fish. They compared findings to when they looked for macroinvertebrates in a creek near their school, previously. When it came time to leave for the next station, none of the children wanted to come back on land.

I would say that their connection to their watershed was a success!

For information about the Reserve’s work with Rivers2Lake teachers, please see this previous story.

A student from Northern Lights Elementary School searches for macroinvertebrates in Allouez Bay. Image credit: Marie Zhuikov, Wisconsin Sea Grant

The post Rivers2Lake Program sparks curiosity first appeared on Wisconsin Sea Grant.

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A culvert washout in Superior, Wisconsin, during a flood in 2012. Image credit: Marie Zhuikov, Wisconsin Sea Grant

A new program for community leaders in northern Wisconsin who are looking for ways to address climate change is available through Wisconsin Sea Grant and the Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve.

The Lake Superior Climate Champions Program provides a yearlong opportunity for community teams to work on a goal of their choosing that addresses climate change, with a minimum of $2,500 in funding, guidance from Sea Grant and Reserve staff members and the chance to connect with other communities working on climate challenges.

Participating teams of two to four people must be from one of the four coastal counties (Douglas, Bayfield, Ashland or Iron). The teams should include community members in decision-making roles, such as tribal or county government staff, elected officials, members of local boards and committees or regional intergovernmental committees.

“All across Lake Superior’s coastal communities, we feel the impacts of climate change firsthand,” said Karina Heim, coastal training program coordinator with the Lake Superior Reserve. “Finding time and the capacity to address climate issues can be a challenge for local leaders. Our Climate Champions Program offers dedicated support for climate work.”

Teams who want to participate need to apply online by Aug. 1 at: bit.ly/39Zovej. Two teams will be selected for 2022 and the program will begin in the fall.

Examples of projects include: finding and using an assessment or planning tool to prepare for climate challenges (flooding, public health, etc.), planning a workshop or a facilitated process that allows for climate change learning and dialog and incorporating climate change considerations into an existing project or process, such as land-use planning or stormwater management.

For more information, visit lakesuperiornerr.org/focus-areas/coastal-leadership/lake-superior-climate-champions/.

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The SS Meteor (taken in 2012). Image credit: Marie Zhuikov, Wisconsin Sea Grant

A momentous event happened last week in Superior, Wisconsin. After 10 years of working in Wisconsin Sea Grant’s Lake Superior Field Office next to the SS Meteor – the last remaining whaleback ship in the world – I finally took a tour of it.

I’d written about the ship before in a story about maritime history geocaching – the ship is one of the stops in a Wisconsin Sea Grant-funded outreach project designed to highlight the history of the state’s shipping industry. And, I’d walked around the outside of it plenty on my daily roams around Barker’s Island, but I’d never been inside before. A tour was one thing I mentally wrote down on my Barker’s Island Bucket List. I meant to get around to it, but never did.

Tour participants walk on top of the ship among the vents. Image credit: Marie Zhuikov, Wisconsin Sea Grant

The free visit was arranged by my office partners, the National Lake Superior Estuarine Research Reserve, to train volunteers who work at their interpretive center during the summer. They had room, so invited their officemates (like me), along.

We met inside the ship in the gift shop for a short orientation, then went back outside and up a ramp where we were able to wander among the tall vents that brought air into the ship while keeping sea spray out. Along the way, our tour guide explained that the ship was built locally by Captain Alexander McDougall. Whalebacks were a new innovation in ship design back in the late 1800s, known for their cigar-shaped steel hulls that rode low in the water when loaded with cargo. Waves just washed over them, and the water was easily shed, unlike with typical ships. The Meteor carried a variety of cargoes over the years, including iron ore, grain, gravel, cars and oil.

After climbing a stairway, we went inside, taking a peek into the pilot house and then descending a short stairway to the living quarters. The officers’ quarters were closer to the bow of the ship, while the lowly seamen slept near the rear of the ship, above the noisy engine. The captain had his own spacious office and private bathroom.

The pilothouse. Image credit: Marie Zhuikov, Wisconsin Sea Grant

The kitchen and dining rooms were on the deck below the bedrooms. The crew and officers had separate dining rooms. Timeliness of dining must have been an issue, since there were signs in both rooms proclaiming strict serving hours. Another historic placard described steps to take in event of an atomic bomb attack.

Below the dining deck were the engine room and storage areas. The ship’s last load must have been oil, since the smell of petroleum was strong as we walked through, and we could see pools of oil seeping up from sand used to cover it.

The Meteor was built in 1896 and ended her shipping career in 1969 when she ran aground on a shoal off Marquette, Michigan. Because of severe damage to the hull, the shipping company chose not to repair her. Recognizing the ship’s historic importance, the Meteor was purchased, repaired, and began use as a museum ship in 1971.

Our tour ended with a stroll through historical displays that provided more information about McDougall and the ship. The excursion was better than I’d imagined, sitting so close to the attraction for all these years.

If you’re ever in Superior, consider taking a tour of this fascinating piece of maritime history.

Now all that’s left for me to do on my Barker’s Island Bucket List is to take advantage of the mini golf course that’s between my office and the ship!

The SS Meteor and Mini Golf Course on Barker’s Island in Superior. Image credit: Marie Zhuikov, Wisconsin Sea Grant

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Marie Zhuikov

Groundwater pollution project is first to use cancer imaging technology in novel way

A Wisconsin Water Resources Institute project is exploring how bacteria and other water contaminants flow through soil by applying a medical technology widely used for cancer imaging.

Chris Zahasky, submitted photo

Chris Zahasky, assistant professor in the Department of Geoscience at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, received two years of funding to study soil types in the two most vulnerable geologic settings in Wisconsin for groundwater pollution. Those are the Central Sands district, which features sandy soil, and Kewaunee County along Lake Michigan, which features fractured bedrock. Zahasky is investigating how E. coli bacteria – one of the main water contaminants in Wisconsin – percolates through the soil and ends up polluting groundwater and people’s private wells.

His research team hypothesizes that flow of contaminated water though soil that’s highly permeable leads to bacterial contamination of groundwater at greater distances from the pollution source than what was thought possible based on previous laboratory measurements in more stable, homogeneous geologic materials.

“With a better understanding of these transport and travel pathways, we can build better models to understand and manage the risks associated with these contaminants,” Zahasky said. “We all know the source of bacteria and nitrate. In Wisconsin, it’s largely from certain agricultural activities. Ideally, we can make better decisions about the times of the year that you might do manure spreading or certain geologic setting that shouldn’t have manure spread on them because of the ability for these bacteria to travel through this material and get down to the groundwater.”

Zahasky and his team are conducting their research in the lab with soil samples they’ve gathered from the Central Sands area and Kewaunee County. They measure the soil’s properties, then pack it into large tubular columns and inject water through the material in a controlled manner. Then they add bacteria they’ve grown and pump them into the columns.

This is where the cancer imaging technology comes in. It’s called positron emission tomography (PET). In medical situations, doctors use PET with radio tracers to identify tumors in the body. It’s also used in some cases for cancer therapy treatment. The radio tracers are basically a radioactive sugar molecule. Cancer tumor cells have a high metabolism and so they uptake (eat) these sugar molecules at a higher rate than other cells in the body, which is what the PET ends up imaging.

Zahasky’s graduate students (Vy Le on the left and Collin Sutton right) work in the imaging lab. Submitted photo.

Zahasky explained how this works for his purposes. “We leverage that imaging technique by radio labelling these bacteria, which means that we attach these radioactive isotopes to the bacteria that are emitted as they travel through these columns. As we’re imaging them, we can essentially track where these bacteria are going, how fast they’re getting there and where they’re getting stuck.

“We’re the first people in the world to radio label bacteria for environmental and geologic purposes. We’re pretty excited about this,” Zahasky said.

How do they attach radioactive isotopes to tiny bacteria? Zahasky said it’s not complicated. “We grow the bacteria until just the right point – where they’re starting to get hungry. Then we add this radio-labeled sugar and they just gobble it up. The bacteria eat the sugars just like tumor cells do.”

Zahasky developed this approach during his Ph.D. work at Stanford University. However, many of the isotopes required for this imaging are produced at the University of Wisconsin Cyclotron Lab. So, it made sense for him to continue his research at UW-Madison, where he has built capability with support from a National Science Foundation grant.

“It allowed my research group to leverage this type of imaging in lots of new ways that just weren’t possible without having access to these facilities here on campus,” he said.

Zahasky plans to apply this technique to future studies involving the movement of microplastics and other contaminants such as heavy metals.

The post Percolating pollution first appeared on WRI.

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Marie Zhuikov

The final River Talk for this season turns its focus to series partner Wisconsin Sea Grant, as the organization celebrates its 50th anniversary year.

On Wednesday, May 11, from 6:30 to 9 p.m. in person at the Lake Superior Estuarium (3 Marina Dr., Superior, Wisconsin) and from 7 to 8 p.m. on Zoom, Sea Grant Director Jim Hurley will present, “Sea Grant at 50: Looking Back, Moving Forward,” examining the formation of this science-based organization devoted to the sustainable use and protection of Great Lakes resources. He’ll also discuss Sea Grant’s current work and where it is headed as it looks ahead to the next 50 years.

The in-person event will begin with social time featuring cake and refreshments. Hurley’s presentation will begin at 7 p.m. and will be available virtually (see Zoom link below).

Hurley is also a professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His research interests include the cycling of mercury in the Great Lakes. He is the third director in Wisconsin Sea Grant’s history, having taken the helm in 2012. From 2017 to 2019, he also served as president of the national Sea Grant Association.

“I’m fortunate to be able to build on the foundation laid by my predecessors, founding director Bob Ragotzkie and Anders Andren,” Hurley said. “As the Sea Grant program was being created on the national level in the 1960s, Ragotzkie really stood up for the Great Lakes to ensure that these inland seas were a part of the program, and not just our ocean coasts. We are still reaping the benefits of his vision. We’re also actively considering how we can best serve the people of Wisconsin and the Great Lakes in our present moment and moving forward.”

Wisconsin Sea Grant works in many areas, from commercial fisheries and aquaculture, to aquatic invasive species, to dealing with emerging contaminants in our water. It is a program of the University of Wisconsin System, with headquarters on the Madison campus and additional staff at field offices around the state, including Superior, Green Bay, Manitowoc, Milwaukee and Kenosha County.

The organization also funds a robust portfolio of Great Lakes- and water-related research conducted at campuses around the state.

Zoom link:
https://uwmadison.zoom.us/j/95345823876?pwd=QlplY1o3TnJDbXBGRG40U1o3UW1idz09 
Meeting ID: 953 4582 3876
Passcode: 306955
One tap mobile
+13017158592,,95345823876# US (Washington DC)
+13126266799,,95345823876# US (Chicago)  

The River Talks are sponsored by The Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve and the Wisconsin Sea Grant Program.

The post River Talk series ends season with exploration of Sea Grant’s past and future first appeared on Wisconsin Sea Grant.

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Marie Zhuikov

Teacher mentor program connects both teachers and students

Teachers with a passion for the Great Lakes are sharing their expertise across the region with other teachers in a program that benefits the educators and their students. The mentor program, organized by the Center for Great Lakes Literacy (CGLL), is funded through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

Wisconsin is home to five teacher mentor/mentee pairs. They’re organized by Anne Moser, senior special librarian and education coordinator for Wisconsin Sea Grant. She explained that this is the first formal year of the program and that it’s growing.

“The teachers we chose for mentoring are really dynamic Great Lakes educators,” Moser said. “They’re so committed to bringing place-based education to their students and then sharing that love for Great Lakes literacy with either colleagues in their school or with their wider community.”

The mentors were chosen from a pool of teachers who had participated in past CGLL programs. Moser explained these teachers are always, “thinking through the lens of the Great Lakes. Whatever they’re teaching, they’re drawing on their knowledge of the watershed.”

The program kicked off last June with a two-day workshop where the mentors and mentees got to know each other better and plan which activities they wanted to work on. A check-in this past fall included a professional learning opportunity, featuring a presentation by Jackson Parr, the J. Philip Keillor Flood Resilience-Wisconsin Sea Grant Fellow who is working with communities on flooding issues. In January of this year, the teachers were introduced to the Watershed Game, an interactive, educational tool that helps people understand the connection between land use and water quality.

Kelly Kollar, Bay View Middle School. Submitted photo.

One of the mentors is Kelly Koller, technology integration specialist at Bay View Middle School in Green Bay. She actually has two mentees: Mona Forbes, an eighth-grade science teacher, and Chandra Johnson, a special education teacher.

Koller first became involved in mentoring when she applied to one of the CGLL summer professional learning workshop aboard the Denis Sullivan sailing ship in 2019. That experience showed her the value of such relationships. For her current mentoring connection, she’s working with Forbes and Johnson to provide their students with opportunities like raising brown trout in the school library and growing wild rice plants.

Koller works in the library and thought the fish would be a great addition. “We didn’t have any pieces of student engagement that were living. Everything is books and decorations, and I thought fish would be an addition that would capture students’ interest.”

Koller organized the fish rearing through Trout in the Classroom, a program offered by Trout Unlimited. By raising the fish from egg stage to adult, the students gain knowledge about the fish and the environment where they live. The goal is to release the trout into a local stream, under the guidance of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

The wild rice project is being done in conjunction with the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, which provided the seeds and equipment. The goal is to plant the rice in a wetland the university is working to restore.

Brown trout raised in the library by students at Bay View Middle School in Green Bay. Submitted photo.

Koller explained she did the heavy lifting to get the projects started so that the weight of organizing didn’t all fall on the mentee teacher’s shoulders, since they had enough challenges already teaching during a pandemic. To orient Johnson’s students to the fish’s environment, she organized a boat trip on Green Bay through Hands on Deck, a local nonprofit.

“So, even before the students started putting together our trout tank and receiving the trout eggs, they were learning about the Great Lakes through being on one of them. Any time you have a shared outdoor experience it helps build relationships and a positive sense of community,” Koller said.

After navigating two months of start-up challenges, Koller received the agency permissions needed to house the tank. Johnson’s students set up the tank and then Forbes’s students took over once the eggs arrived. Three middle-schoolers have shown impressive dedication: Mercades Bryfczynski, Sandra Thompson and Emily Jarmuskiewicz.

Students at Bay View Middle School test the water quality of their trout tank. Submitted photo.

“They do all the water measurements on their own. They take the pH level, the ammonia level, they change out water daily. They’ve been just wonderful about the caretaking involved with the trout and seeing them grow,” Koller said.

Despite a rough start one weekend after the automatic feeder malfunctioned and a third of the larval trout died, the students said the experience of caring for the fish has made them more interested in nature.

“I’ve been having a little bit more fun in science, learning about the fish,” said Bryfczynski. She also said that seeing the tank sparks interest from other students in the library. “We’ve had people come in and ask us questions about the fish, like how big they’re going to get or how old they’re going to live, and what we do with the tank.”

Jarmuskiewicz said that learning about the fish’s life cycle has sparked her interest in biology. Thompson has also enjoyed watching the fish grow under their care.

When asked if they are excited to release the fish into the wild, the girls all replied with a resounding, “Yes!”

“We hope that they’ll be healthy because they grew up healthy with us, and that they’ll stay healthy in the river once we release them,” Bryfczynski said.

A student tends to the wild rice in a project done in conjunction with the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. Submitted photo.

At the end of the school year, Moser said the mentor/mentees and their students will gather together for a student showcase. This will offer the students an opportunity to present their project and receive feedback from other students across Wisconsin and Minnesota. In summer, mentor/mentee pairs will be invited to their own summit where they can provide the CGLL network feedback about their experiences. The goal of both events is to build a community of educators passionate about Great Lakes literacy and to build a community of youth who will be future stewards of the Great Lakes watershed.

“It’s been an exciting year, even as we have had to navigate the challenges of a global pandemic. To work with such passionate and resilient educators has been a gift,” Moser said.

A new mentor/mentee cohort will be formed in the fall of 2022. Please contact Anne Moser if you are interested in learning more.

The post Thinking through the lens of the Great Lakes first appeared on Wisconsin Sea Grant.

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Marie Zhuikov

A free online video game for children about a Great Lakes shipwreck is now available. “The Legend of the Lost Emerald,” is a point-and-click adventure game designed for players grades 4-6. It was developed by the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Field Day Lab in partnership with Wisconsin Sea Grant, PBS Wisconsin Education and the Wisconsin Historical Society. Teacher fellows offered insights at every step of the game’s development. Funding was provided by PBS Wisconsin Education with additional help from the Wisconsin Coastal Management Program and Sea Grant.

Players must use critical thinking and historical inquiry skills to find the wreck as they step into the shoes of Jules, a maritime archaeologist, with help from a cast of diverse family members. Players dive underwater to gather clues, build evidence and uncover the real treasure – stories of shipwrecks inspired by Great Lakes history. It takes two classroom sessions to complete (about 2 hours).

“The goal of the game is to connect students with the maritime history in their own state – to go beyond the story of the Titanic,” said Anne Moser, senior special librarian and education coordinator for Wisconsin Sea Grant. “It includes topics like lake ecology, maritime archaeology, trade and commerce.”

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Marie Zhuikov

An ovenbird rests on a branch in the St. Louis River Estuary. Image credit: National Lake Superior Estuarine Research Reserve

The next River Talk will take place at 7 p.m., Wednesday, April 13, via Zoom. Alexis Grinde with the Natural Resources Research Institute and Cole Wilson with the University of Wisconsin-Madison, will present, “Black ash and birds: conserving critical habitat in the St. Louis River Estuary.”

Black ash tree wetlands in the St. Louis River Estuary are unique forests that support diverse bird species. Grinde and Wilson will discuss current research revealing how birds use these habitats and the possible impacts of ash tree death caused by the invasive emerald ash borer. 

Here is the Zoom link and info:
https://uwmadison.zoom.us/j/94381805869?pwd=QXJ6SzZaelpEVVFKdFdUSEhDaUVCUT09 
Meeting ID: 943 8180 5869
Passcode: 582749
One tap mobile
+19292056099,94381805869# US (New York)
+13017158592,94381805869# US (Washington DC)  

The event will last an hour and will include time for comments and questions. The talk will be recorded and posted afterward on the Reserve’s Facebook page and YouTube. A summary will also be posted on Wisconsin Sea Grant’s blog.

The remaining River Talk for this season will be held on May 11. For more information, visit the River Talks page: go.wisc.edu/4uz720.

The River Talks are sponsored by The Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve and the Wisconsin Sea Grant Program.

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Marie Zhuikov

A River Talk participant forms a wild rice knocker into shape during the March talk. Image credit: Michael Anderson

The River Talk for March was held as an evening in-person event during the 12th annual St. Louis River Summit at the University of Wisconsin-Superior.

This particular talk required hands-on participation. Marne Kaeske, cultural preservation specialist with the 1854 Treaty Authority, led an activity where attendees constructed their own wild rice harvesting sticks, called, “Bawa’iganaakoog” in Ojibwe. Wild rice is a grass that can grow to reach 8 feet tall.

River Talkers use the wall to brace their work on wild rice knocking sticks. Image credit: Michael Anderson

Kaeske explained that she learned to make rice knockers from cedar because the wood is lightweight. Rice is harvested by two people. One paddles or push-poles the canoe through the wild rice (manoomin) beds found in wetlands while the other uses the sticks to bend the rice over the canoe, tapping the wild rice seeds into it. Hand-harvesting wild rice can be time-consuming, so the lighter the sticks, the less tired a ricer’s arms will get.

Different resource management agencies have different requirements for the length of wild rice sticks. Kaeske said current 1854 Treaty Authority Ceded Territory Code regulations call for “round, smooth cedar, no longer than 32-inch” sticks. In Wisconsin, they can be 38 inches.

One problem in efforts to preserve wild rice beds comes from people harvesting the rice too early. “We live by the clock and the calendar nowadays instead of by waiting and living on the rice lake until it’s time to rice,” Kaeske said. When people harvest the rice before it is mature, it lessens the good seed for the next year’s crop and can damage the plants.

“When you harvest wild rice, you’re also reseeding the lake,” Kaeske said. “Rice is an annual plant.”

Rice knockers aren’t something a person can buy in a store. Kaeske showed the audience how she learned to do it. After a short introduction, she offered the tools needed (measuring tape, planers and an ax) and let participants “go to town” on the wood she provided.

She explained that all the bark needs to be removed as well as any rotten wood. The sticks are usually tapered, larger where the hand grips and smaller on the ends.

By the end of the class, everyone had sticks to take home and they were ready for ricing season, which usually occurs in late summer or early fall.

The remaining River Talks for this season will be held April 13 and May 11. For more information, visit the River Talks page: go.wisc.edu/4uz720.

The post A River Knock first appeared on Wisconsin Sea Grant.

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Marie Zhuikov

Mural #2 in the Superior Public Library by Carl Gawboy. It shows the area where the Ojibwe settled on Wisconsin and Minnesota points on Lake Superior and how the points were separated by a giant otter. Image taken with permission by Marie Zhuikov, Wisconsin Sea Grant.

During the latest St. Louis River Summit, I had the chance to attend a field trip to the library in Superior, Wisconsin. What’s in a library that could relate to the summit? A series of 35 murals line its walls, showing the history of the area. Many feature the St. Louis River, Duluth-Superior Harbor and Lake Superior.

The murals were painted over 10 years by artist Carl Gawboy, an Elder enrolled in the Bois Fort Band of Chippewa. The murals begin with the Ojibwe creation story and continue through the 20th century, reflecting how people have interacted with the landscape through time.

Local historian and retired librarian Teddie Meronek led the tour. “I like to say I was here at the birth of the murals, but that started long before any paint went on canvas,” Meronek said. She described how Paul Gaboriault, the library director who commissioned the murals, was a former co-worker of Gawboy’s. Gawboy was born in Cloquet, Minnesota, and grew up on a family farm outside of Ely. He eventually taught at Ely High School, which is where he met Gaboriault. The friends both ended up back in the Twin Ports.

To research the murals, Meronek studied Gaboriault’s and Gawboy’s correspondence. She said the library used to be a Super One grocery store. “If you really look at this building it was just a big warehouse. It wasn’t built for a library. Dr. Gaboriault knew, in his way, that it needed something, and the first thing he thought of were murals.”

The second mural in the series shows the story of how the Superior Harbor opening was created through Wisconsin Point. A giant otter digs as a Native man approaches.

“The great otter represents the Ojibwe religion,” Meronek said. “He is breaking an entryway from Lake Superior into the harbor. The human figure is Nanabozho. He is bringing arts and fire to the land. That was Carl’s interpretation of the legend. The otter is pictured as being so large because it’s representing power.”

According to Gawboy, Lake Superior ties all the murals together, Meronek said. “You can’t always see it in every mural but it’s there. It influences what is going on, which is very true. I’ve lived three blocks from the bay of Lake Superior every day of my life and I can tell you there’s not a day that goes by that the lake doesn’t influence you in some way.”

The location of the horizon line also links the paintings. Meronek said it’s in the same place in each image. As she walked past the murals, she described each one, sharing her impressive knowledge of local history along with personal observations. Other murals include notable buildings and personages, as well as historic events.

Meronek ended the tour on a somber note at a mural of the Edmund Fitzgerald. She often listens to Gordon Lightfoot’s song about the ill-fated ship. “There’s one line in it that always makes me cry: ‘Does anyone know where the love of God goes when the waves turn the minutes to hours.’ Always beware of Lake Superior, right? I can’t even put my foot in it, it’s too cold! What a beautiful thing though, isn’t it? It’s the greatest of the Great Lakes, right? An inland ocean.”

If you’re ever in Superior, stop in the library and take a look. Of course, if you’re not a Superior resident, you can’t check out a book, but you can check out the murals, so to speak. Not planning a visit soon? You can also see the murals online.

The post Superior Public Library murals tied together by water first appeared on Wisconsin Sea Grant.

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Marie Zhuikov

In a study recently published in the journal, “Aquatic Toxicology,” researchers found that while concentrations of the herbicide fluridone similar to those used when it’s applied to lakes to control Eurasian watermilfoil and hydrilla did not kill fathead minnows, it can impact fish health in more subtle ways.

Eurasian watermilfoil is an invasive water plant that grows so densely it can make boating, fishing and swimming unpleasant and difficult. Image credit: Gavin Dehnert, Wisconsin Sea Grant

“The good news for fluridone is that it didn’t really have any impacts on survivorship or even on fish growth, which was to be expected. But when we looked at some of the more sensitive endpoints, particularly prey capture and endocrine disruption, we see that at certain concentrations there seems to be an impact,” said Gavin Dehnert, research team member and Wisconsin Sea Grant’s emerging contaminants scientist.

Fluridone is one of the major active ingredients in commercial aquatic herbicides. It affects the entire plant by inhibiting its ability to photosynthesize, which eventually leads to death. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is interested in using herbicides containing fluridone as an alternative to those containing 2,4-D, which preliminary research has found can be toxic to fish.

Dehnert said that before commercial use, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) mandates testing of fluridone to ensure it does not impact fish survival and growth parameters such as length and weight. This testing is done with very high concentrations and recommendations are derived.

“The problem is, they (the EPA) rarely test the actual lower concentrations that they say are safe for the lake,” Dehnert said. “That’s usually a big question mark. It’s like, well, they just said it was safe, but is it actually?”

The research team, led by William Karasov with the Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, exposed fathead minnows (Pimephales promelas) to concentrations of fluridone that would be found in a lake during treatment. Unlike 2,4-D, which only needs to be applied once, fluridone herbicides could require several applications to a lake to be effective over a minimum of 45 days but usually 90 days. The minnows were exposed to the chemical in the lab for 35 days and then a subsequent generation of larval minnows from the original test group was exposed for 65 days.

Larval fathead minnows were tested for impacts from the aquatic herbicide fluridone. Image credit: Gavin Dehnert, Wisconsin Sea Grant.

After 30 days of fluridone exposure, the adult male fish showed an increased number of nuptial tubercules, which can indicate endocrine disruption. Dehnert explained that some herbicides, especially when they are used at low concentrations, can mimic fish hormones. The tubercules are found near the minnows’ noses and increase or decrease in number depending on how much androgen and estrogen a fish produces. “That’s really important because it could have major impacts on reproduction,” Dehnert said.

The researchers also found that the fishes’ livers were enlarged and that their ability to catch prey decreased significantly when exposed to fluridone, which could be because it impairs their ability to move. Previous studies suggest fluridone can act as a neurotoxin.

The DNR funded the study because, as Dehnert said, “In the state of Wisconsin, everybody likes to fish. So, we’re trying to make sure we protect them as much as possible.”

Other members of the team included Angelo Cozzola and Amber White, all with UW-Madison.

The post Herbicide Study Finds Good News, Bad News for Use of Fluridone in Lakes first appeared on Wisconsin Sea Grant.

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Marie Zhuikov

An example of information provided by the Science Communications Toolkit.

Looking for help communicating about science to a nonscientist audience? A new publication is available to help students and researchers. Written by Amy Lentz, a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s School of Freshwater Sciences professional master’s program and edited by Wisconsin Sea Grant Social Science Outreach Specialist Deidre Peroff, this free, downloadable “Science Communications Toolkit” offers tips to help make science more understandable to audiences such as elected officials, possible employers, grade-school students and reporters.

In addition, the publication contains suggestions for developing effective graphs, PowerPoint slides and social media messages. Funding was provided by Wisconsin Sea Grant in partnership with the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay in Manitowoc and the Southeastern Wisconsin Watersheds Trust, Inc.

Take a look and make your science stand out.

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Marie Zhuikov

The next River Talk will take place at 6:30 p.m.-8 p.m., Tuesday, March 8, in person in room 203 at the University of Wisconsin Yellowjacket Union (1605 Catlin Ave., Superior) as part of the St. Louis River Summit. Marne Kaeske with the 1854 Treaty Authority, will present, “Bawa’iganaakoog (Wild Rice Harvesting Sticks).”

Wooden wild rice knockers rest atop a pile of wild rice they were used to harvest. Image credit: Deanna Erickson, National Lake Superior Estuarine Research Reserve

Construct wild rice knocking sticks and get prepared to hit the rice bed during Manoomike-giizis (the wild ricing moon). All materials and instruction included. Registration in advance is required and capacity is limited to 15 people.  Face coverings are required inside the building.

To attend, please sign up using this form: https://forms.gle/trdxExKZfi169XAG8. The form will close when the event limit has been reached.

For questions about this River Talk, please contact Luciana Ranelli at 715-399-4085 or luciana.ranelli@wisc.edu.

Remaining River Talks will be held April 13 and May 11. For more information, visit the River Talks page: go.wisc.edu/4uz720.

The River Talks are sponsored by The Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve and the Wisconsin Sea Grant Program.

The post Construct wild rice knockers at River Talks first appeared on Wisconsin Sea Grant.

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Marie Zhuikov

Ever since she was a child, Sarah Brown has been interested in what makes people tick. She pursued that interest and intends to make good use of it in her new role as a J. Philip Keillor Wisconsin Coastal Management-Sea Grant Fellow for Lake Superior.

“My dad was a wildlife biologist for the state of Illinois,” Brown said. “When he came home from work and had any complaints, it was never about natural resources. It was always about people. So, I always had an interest in why people do what they do. That led to my interest in the social sciences.”

Sarah Brown, submitted photo.

Brown majored in psychology at Southern Illinois University Carbondale and then continued in a master’s program in human dimensions of natural resources at the University of Missouri. Her thesis was on motivations and perceptions held by Missouri landowners with conservation easements on their properties.

As graduation neared, she applied for a variety of jobs, but nothing seemed the right fit. She widened her search to include internships and fellowships because it seemed, “like a natural next step after grad school and into the workforce,” Brown said.

The one-year Keillor fellowship caught her eye for two reasons. “I felt like it gave me an opportunity to apply my social science skills to a natural resources issue by working with the CHAOS community of practice. Also, I’ve traveled many times with my family to northern Wisconsin and Duluth. That was a big attractor.”

CHAOS stands for the Coastal Hazards of Superior. It’s a group comprised of local community leaders, managers, researchers and communicators who focus on issues affecting the Wisconsin and Minnesota coastlines of Lake Superior. These issues include erosion, shoreline planning, nutrient runoff pollution, flooding and community resilience.

“Being the CHAOS coordinator is the most awesome job title you can have!” Brown said. “I’m hoping through this role I can fold in social science methodology to benefit the future progression of this community of practice, whether it’s finding out where it needs to go next or what it’s going to be next, or just figuring out what community members want. I also want experience working alongside a state agency and to improve my skills in meeting facilitation and project coordination.”

The state agency Brown will be working with is the Wisconsin Department of Administration’s Coastal Management Program along with Sea Grant, the Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve (Reserve) and the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Division of Extension. She is stationed in the Reserve’s office in Superior. You can email Brown at sarah.brown@wisconsin.gov.

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Marie Zhuikov

The Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve (Lake Superior Reserve) is holding its 12th annual St. Louis River Summit March 7-9 via the virtual platform Zoom and with optional in-person events. Wisconsin Sea Grant is one of the sponsors.

The theme for the summit is, “River Transformations,” which celebrates progress on St. Louis River Area of Concern environmental projects and the transformative work of understanding and addressing climate change. The goal of the summit is to bring together key audiences working in the region to share information about the St. Louis River and encourage coordination of activities and funding proposals.

“This year, more than any other, we are emphasizing the community that surrounds, cares for, and benefits from the St. Louis River,” said Deanna Erickson, Lake Superior Reserve director. “From keynote speakers, to posters, to field trips and presenters, we are emphasizing community engagement and equity in this remarkable landscape. After decades of restoration, the river is transforming. A healthier St. Louis River supports positive community transformations and wellbeing.”

The keynote speaker will be Jesse Roesler, a filmmaker with Credo Nonfiction, which is the company that produced “Breaking Trail,” a documentary about Emily Ford, a Duluthian who last winter was the first woman and person of color to through-hike the 1,200-mile Ice Age Trail in Wisconsin. Roesler will address the power of storytelling to inspire positive change.

Jennifer Chenoweth will be a featured speaker. She is a visual artist and entrepreneur who created the XYZ Atlas, an interactive public art project that portrays the feelings, stories and experiences of people living in and visiting Austin, Texas. Chenoweth will describe how art can be a tool for social change through inspiration and connection.

In-person events include a poster session, an evening River Talk, and field trips. The poster session will take place at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 8, in the University of Wisconsin-Superior Yellowjacket Union.

The River Talk will be held at 6:30 p.m. on March 8, also in the Yellowjacket Union. It will feature Marne Kaeske with the 1854 Treaty Authority who will help participants construct wild rice knocking sticks during “Bawa’iganaakoog (Wild Rice Harvesting Sticks).” Advance registration is required.

During the morning of March 9, small-group, socially distanced field trips will be held. Options include a drone meet and fly, winter birding on Wisconsin Point, a snowshoe trek in the Superior Municipal Forest and a tour of Carl Gawboy’s classic murals in the Superior Public Library.

Students from local schools and institutions are invited to attend the summit to learn more about the research community and river projects. Students are free but need to register.

The cost to attend the summit is $30. To register and view the agenda, visit lakesuperiorreserve.org/summit/.

Sponsorship opportunities are still available. In addition to Sea Grant, initial sponsors include Barr Engineering, Duluth Pottery, the Duluth Seaway Port Authority, EA Engineering, Science, and Technology, Inc., the Friends of the Lake Superior Reserve, the Great Lakes Maritime Research Institute, Izaak Walton League of America, the Lake Superior Research Institute, the Large Lakes Observatory, LimnoTech, Inc., Marine Tech, the Minnesota Land Trust, Minnesota Sea Grant, Roen Salvage Company, Stantec, the University of Minnesota Duluth Natural Resources Research Institute, the W.J. McCabe (Duluth) Chapter of the Izaak Walton League of America, the Western Lake Superior Sanitary District, the Wisconsin Coastal Management Program, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. EPA’s Great Lakes Toxicology and Ecology Division.

The post St. Louis River Summit celebrates river transformations first appeared on Wisconsin Sea Grant.

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Marie Zhuikov

Current activities at the Spirit Lake Great Lakes Legacy Act cleanup site. Image credit: U. S, Environmental Protection Agency

The next River Talk will take place at 7 p.m., Wednesday, February 9, via Zoom. Mark Loomis, with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Great Lakes National Program Office, will present, “Update on the Spirit Lake Great Lakes Legacy Act Project.”

The EPA continues work at the Spirit Lake site under the Great Lakes Legacy Act. Loomis will provide technical updates on progress to-date and the plan for remediating the Spirit Lake project area.

Here is the Zoom link and info:
https://uwmadison.zoom.us/j/93995368994?pwd=UElHcHlybGZmRUdLRG5xU3oyQ3ZmZz09 
Meeting ID: 939 9536 8994
Passcode: 206104
One tap mobile
+13126266799,,93995368994# US (Chicago)
+19292056099,,93995368994# US (New York)  

The event will last an hour and will include time for comments and questions. The talk will be recorded and posted afterward on the Reserve’s Facebook page and YouTube. A summary will also be posted on Wisconsin Sea Grant’s blog.

Remaining River Talks will be held March 8, April 13 and May 11, 2022. For more information, visit the River Talks page: go.wisc.edu/4uz720.

The River Talks are sponsored by The Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve and the Wisconsin Sea Grant Program.

 

The post River Talks Offers Update on Spirit Lake Project first appeared on Wisconsin Sea Grant.

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Marie Zhuikov

By Eva Ryan, University of Wisconsin-Madison

The next specialist I interviewed in celebration of Wisconsin Sea Grant’s 50th anniversary was Emma Wiermaa, aquaculture and education outreach specialist. Together, we discussed details of Wiermaa’s specialty that have changed and details she hopes to see change in the future.

Wiermaa is stationed at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point Northern Aquaculture Demonstration Facility (NADF). Her position is in collaboration between Wisconsin Sea Grant and the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. NADF is a research and demonstration facility for freshwater finfish that may be used for a variety of food fish, baitfish or conservation species projects. The facility also partners with various organizations, private, public and tribal, looking to engage in sustainable aquaculture.

Emma Wiermaa at the Northern Aquaculture Demonstration Facility. Image credit: Marie Zhuikov, Wisconsin Sea Grant

“My job is to take the research that we’re doing and convert it into a way that’s understandable and usable for various groups,” said Wiermaa. One of Wiermaa’s key audiences are K-12 students. Her duty involves effectively engaging and educating these children on what aquaculture is and why it is important, not only for educational purposes but also as a career pathway.

Though Wiermaa has only been working for the aquaculture industry for eight years, she said, “In the past 50 years from what I’ve seen, there seems to be a lot more interest in the growth of recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS).” Essentially, RAS have the potential to create the best possible circumstances to optimize fish growth throughout the year. This includes control of various environmental factors such as temperature, flow rates, lighting, water quality and biosecurity. She said that temperature control is especially important in our Midwest climate for species that require warmer temperatures for optimum growth, such as the walleye.

“We’re part of these national groups that want to see this (RAS) succeed, and they’re (the NADF) doing it in a sustainable way. They’re thinking about water reuse, effluent (water leaving the site) and optimum control of the fish-rearing environment.”

Not wasting any time in looking forward to the next 50 years of aquaculture, Wiermaa expressed her hope to continue supporting local and sustainable aquaculture, not only aquaculture research but also the farmers working hard to support local communities while providing fresh and local fish. “It is important for consumers to know that purchasing fish and seafood raised in the U.S. ensures a safe, healthy and tastefully fresh option that supports local jobs and communities,” she said.

To help achieve this, Wiermaa notes that misconceptions about the aquaculture industry need to be addressed to erase any stigma. “We need the trust, we need the support, and we need the research,” Wiermaa said.

Wiermaa mentioned one specific detail: farmers know better than anyone that fish are sensitive animals that require a healthy environment with good water quality in order to survive on a daily basis. Farmers must ensure clean living conditions for these fish because otherwise, the fish would not survive. She stressed that maintaining honesty in research and information is essential in eliminating misconceptions.

To cap off the interview, Wiermaa expressed her appreciation for Wisconsin Sea Grant in supporting aquaculture research and sustainable practices. She said, “I think that’s why everyone who works at the facility is so passionate about it because we’re doing cutting-edge research that really helps our partners. It’s all about partnerships and helping to advance sustainable aquaculture.”

 

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Marie Zhuikov

A steel dock post on a lake near Cotton, Minnesota, shows the same biocorrosion tubercles as those found in the Duluth Superior Harbor. Photo taken in 2020. Image credit: Marie Zhuikov, Wisconsin Sea Grant

The calendar has flipped to 2022. Our staff members are ready to tackle new projects in the coming 12 months, which also happens to mark Sea Grant’s 50th anniversary. Before they move more deeply into the new year, however, some staff members took a moment to retain the glow of their favorite 2021 project. Marie Zhuikov shared her thoughts. She’s our senior science communicator.

My favorite project happened right on the cusp of 2021. It all started the previous fall, when I found strange rusty bumps on the steel support legs of our cabin dock. The lumps looked familiar to me because I’d seen similar ones on steel pilings in the Duluth-Superior Harbor. But my dock was on an inland lake in northern Minnesota, far from the harbor. Could the same accelerated corrosion of steel that was happening in the harbor and in Lake Superior be happening in inland lakes?

I knew who to ask about this from interviews for stories that I did about this issue in the past. Some background: Research funded by both Wisconsin Sea Grant and Minnesota Sea Grant determined the cause of accelerated corrosion of steel infrastructure in the Duluth-Superior Port, which was first noticed in 1998. Corrosion of this nature is most often seen in saltwater environments, but Sea Grant work determined it was related to microbial action combined with winter ice scour. Coatings and jackets have been devised, with Wisconsin Sea Grant support, to protect port infrastructure. In 2018-19, the value of harbor assets protected was $5.4 million. An expert panel originally thought the corrosion microbes were only found in Lake Superior waters.

I conferred with Sea Grant researchers and corrosion experts, sending them pictures of my dock legs. The more I dug, the more intriguing and complex the story became. The researchers confirmed the corrosion was caused by the same factors at work in the Duluth-Superior Port. They told me that microbially influenced corrosion problems are not confined only to Lake Superior. Corrosion is impacting steel structures far up the St. Louis River, which empties into Lake Superior, and has been found in several inland lakes.

I wrote a story and produced a podcast about the findings, which led to stories in several local media outlets and magazines. This increased the public’s understanding of the corrosion issue, how to mitigate its effects, and ongoing research efforts to counteract it. My cabin neighbors now know how to keep their dock legs from buckling too soon.

Usually, I get story ideas from scientific journals or research proposals. This story originated because I was paying attention to what was happening out my own back door, so to speak. That’s why it’s my fave for 2021.

 

The post Sea Grant project faves, Marie Zhuikov first appeared on Wisconsin Sea Grant.

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Marie Zhuikov

The next River Talk will take place at 7 p.m., Wednesday, January 12, in person at the Lake Superior Estuarium (3 Marina Dr., Superior, Wisconsin). Jeff Savage, Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa cultural center and museum director, will share, “Stories of Spirit Island.”

Spirit Island. Image credit: David Bowman

On the Minnesota side of the St. Louis River in a widening called Spirit Lake, lies Spirit Island. This small island is of spiritual and cultural significance to the Ojibwe people and was the second-to-last stop on their migration to this area from the East Coast. The Fond du Lac Band bought the island from a private seller in 2011 and it’s an important site of stories, both past and present.

The event will last an hour and will include time for comments and questions. Refreshments will be provided. Use of facial masks is required for safety. The talk summary will be posted on Wisconsin Sea Grant’s blog. In case of inclement weather or pandemic-related shutdowns, this event will shift to virtual. Watch the Reserve’s or Wisconsin Sea Grant’s Facebook pages for further information.

Other River Talks will be held Feb. 9, March 8, April 13 and May 11, 2022. For more information, visit the River Talks page: go.wisc.edu/4uz720.

The River Talks are sponsored by The Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve and the Wisconsin Sea Grant Program.

The post River Talks to Feature Stories of Spirit Island first appeared on Wisconsin Sea Grant.

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Marie Zhuikov

The November River Talks featured Samuel Geer, president of Urban Ecosystems, presenting, “Revealing the Invisible: Experiencing and Interpreting the St. Louis River Along Waabizheshikana (The Marten Trail).” Through his landscape architecture practice, Geer was the lead designer of the interpretive plan for the trail, which was formerly known as the Western Waterfront Trail in Duluth, Minnesota.

The trail was renamed during the previous year to better reflect the history of the area and because plans were in place by the city of Duluth to change and lengthen the trail. Although currently over 3 miles, once completed, the trail will stretch from the community of Fond du Lac neighborhood at the western end to near Indian Point and Kingsbury Bay, over 10 miles to the north. Geer shared the process his team began in 2020 to gain public input about ways to celebrate the people, animals, plants and landscapes along the St. Louis River waterfront.

Sam Geer. Image credit: Submitted photo

“One of the stated goals of the process was to incorporate Native American languages and worldviews into the plan and the whole process,” Geer said. “This spot – the estuary – is just crawling with life and has an abundance of natural beauty and character that really makes people want to spend time there. The trail plan preserves the activities of the Lake Superior and Mississippi Railroad that’s currently there, plus provides opportunities for cyclists and pedestrians to explore the waterfront.”

Geer said the trail interpretive elements celebrate Duluth’s industrial history but also acknowledges the damage that industry has had on the environment. He described their interpretive approach like this, “In order for people to appreciate this place, they need to be able to access it and get down to the waterfront regardless of age or ability to explore the place and be comfortable in the process of doing it. Ultimately, the goal is to have people develop a sense of connection and caring toward this landscape and an appreciation for how diverse and multilayered it is.”

The team chose natural colors for their color palette. Signage will take the form of freestanding signs and “story poles,” 10-foot-tall metal rectangles that honor the iron ore and steelmaking legacy of the area. They will contain interpretive panels that feature Ojibwe words and laser-cut stainless-steel animal sculptures. Eight segments of the trail will each be “branded” with different animals visitors could encounter along that stretch. They will also feature portrayals of the various ways people have made a living from the estuary, be it wild ricing or a lumber mill. Cairns made from local rock material will mark trail spurs.

Sarah Agaton Howes, a member of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, created much of the animal artwork. Historian Christine Carlson provided text, and John Koepke, Ojibwe landscape architect, provided illustrations.

Geer said they emphasized including diverse and often overlooked perspectives into the interpretive plan, such as women’s and African American stories.

“You know, Jay Cooke paid for a railroad and only came here one time, yet he has a state park named after him,” Geer said. “There were many people who spent their entire lives in this area who offered up a lot more meaningful things in terms of their personal contributions and life experiences. If you’re not oriented to these types of things, they’re invisible but if you can open up a view into some intimate aspect of the history of the place or someone who lived there, I think it creates a powerful connection to the place in a way you don’t get from a big elaborate installation.”

The plan is not on-the-ground yet. It’s being included in a grant proposal to the state of Minnesota, which will request money to pay for interpretation and construction.

To watch a video of Geer’s presentation, visit the Lake Superior Estuarine Research Reserve’s YouTube site.

The River Talks are sponsored by the Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve and the Wisconsin Sea Grant Program.

Other River Talks will be held Jan. 12, Feb. 19, March 8, April 13 and May 11, 2022. For more information, visit the River Talks page: go.wisc.edu/4uz720.

The post Interpreting the Marten Trail first appeared on Wisconsin Sea Grant.

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Marie Zhuikov

In our continuing series of stories for Wisconsin Sea Grant’s upcoming 50th anniversary in 2022, I interviewed former extension agent, Harvey Hoven, who worked out of our office in Superior. Hoven was employed from 1989 through 2003 (14 years) focusing on coastal businesses along the South Shore of Lake Superior, aquaculture in the Midwest and initial efforts to remediate the St. Louis River, the largest U.S. tributary into Lake Superior.

Harvey Hoven’s picture from a “Littorial Drift” newsletter article about his hire with Sea Grant in 1989. Image credit: Wisconsin Sea Grant

Hoven had already worked a full career in finance in Minneapolis before he found Sea Grant. He retired from banking and moved back to his hometown of Superior in the mid-1980s. Hoven boated and fished on Lake Superior frequently, enjoying his leisure. But his time boating also piqued his curiosity about the things living in the lake.

On the advice of some Wisconsin Department of Natural resources staff members, Hoven decided to pursue a degree in aquatic biology at the University of Wisconsin-Superior even though he already had an MBA from the University of Minnesota.

While he was studying, he heard that Wisconsin Sea Grant might be hiring locally. “I thought that would be a good thing to look into,” Hoven said. “It interested me, so I got involved. I kind of edged my way in there and got hired.”

Although his duties weren’t clearly defined at first, because of his finance background, they shaped up to focus on business enterprises along the Wisconsin shore of Lake Superior. Hoven said these included marinas, bait shops, charter captains and fishing groups. He worked to “get a feel of who’s doing what, what were some of the issues, what were the problems, what were the questions they wanted answers to. I played the role of go-between – somebody who was on the shoreline but had access to the university campus in Madison where the experts were – the fisheries experts, the engineering people. I was a gofer for UW-Madison on the lakeshore,” he said.

Initially, he spent much of his time getting to know people along the shore. This naturally led to projects. “I started doing an annual economic survey of business activity along the shoreline,” Hoven said. “I found that very interesting for two reasons. One, it gave me a sense of what was happening economically on Lake Superior. Secondly, it got me into everybody’s store!”

At first, business owners were reluctant to provide Hoven with their financial information, but as they got to know him they began to trust him. Hoven also credits help from former Barker’s Island Marina manager Jack Culley for their cooperation.

“He was a real dynamic guy and a hard-driven guy. He didn’t trust me at first, but after a while, we got to know each other quite well and he opened up his records to me. I think he maybe pushed the word up and down the shore that when I came around to talk about who’s doing what, they’d better sit down and talk to me so that their information would get into the survey and report, as well,” Hoven said.

He conducted the economic survey for about 10 years, comparing growth sectors and where new developments were happening.

Hoven also used to hold a daylong seminar for charter captains along with staff from Minnesota Sea Grant. Attendees talked about rules and regulations, who’s catching what kind of fish and what their records were showing in terms of fishing effort. Hoven used to also offer the captains business consulting advice.

After observing numerous crates of cisco (formerly called lake herring) on commercial fisherman’s docks seeming to go to waste as fertilizer or mink food, Hoven teamed with a professor at the University of Minnesota Duluth to conduct a market analysis to find a profitable use for the fish. They ended up getting a grant to conduct a marketing survey.

“As it turns out, we never did develop a great market for herring, but it’s an example of somebody like myself being in the position I was along the lakeshore, who kept my eyes and ears open and said, ‘Hey, there’s something we should work on.’”

Hoven also teamed with Sea Grant aquaculture specialist Fred Binkowski to develop business models for prospective aquaculture operations. “I was kind of in the middle again,” Hoven said. “I relied on Fred for the economic data for producing fish, but I also went the next step, which was telling them what they could expect when they market it and how to go about marketing it.”

Hoven presented his business model at several national aquaculture meetings. He also developed an aquaculture directory for the Midwest. For that, he visited every aquaculture facility, which took him a year.

His last project was perhaps Hoven’s most noteworthy. He chaired the group that developed the first Remedial Action Plan (RAP), which directed environmental restoration efforts for the St. Louis River after it had been designated as an Area of Concern by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. It also led to the founding of the St. Louis River Alliance, a nonprofit that works to protect the river.

Hoven said he chaired the board, a consortium of 25 people representing different businesses and organizations around the river, for five or six years. “That took a lot of my time, but it was very good because I got to be close to everybody in the community who was working on the river.

“At first, it was contentious because nothing was getting done. The businesses only could see dollar signs in the millions in front of them. We used to argue and yell at each other. Eventually, things got resolved and we published the first report, coordinating it with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s RAP efforts across the country,” Hoven said.

That report provided an important blueprint for restoration efforts and has been updated over the years. “The river really was a mess, I’ll tell ya. But little by little, it’s getting cleaned up now,” Hoven said.

The post Sea Grant was Second Career for Harvey Hoven first appeared on Wisconsin Sea Grant.

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Marie Zhuikov

By Eva Ryan, University of Wisconsin-Madison

In 2022, Wisconsin Sea Grant will celebrate its 50th anniversary, marking five decades of work geared toward protecting ecosystems, addressing natural and economic disasters, supporting aquaculture industries, educating the public on related topics, and much more. Wisconsin Sea Grant has been a beacon of accurate, scientific information, and will continue to be so in the future.

To kick off the celebration, I interviewed Tim Campbell, aquatic invasive species (AIS) outreach specialist, to see how things have changed in his field in the past 50 years, and how he hopes they will progress. His story is first in an anniversary series we plan to continue on our blog.

Visitors learn about aquatic invasive species at an information stand hosted by Tim Campbell, Wisconsin Sea Grant (right) and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources during the Ghost Ships Festival, Milwaukee, 2013. Image credit: Wisconsin Sea Grant

Campbell recounted a brief history of the study of invasive species: The creation of the Welland Canal, a human-made waterway that links Lake Ontario to Lake Erie in the mid-1800s sparked the idea of invasive species in the Great Lakes. Sea lampreys and alewives were able to travel through the Welland Canal into the Great Lakes, majorly impacting both people and fish.

While Great Lakes invasion science used to be primarily focused on managing sea lamprey and alewives for the benefit of commercial and recreational fisheries, Campbell noted that “now, what we think about in terms of invasive species in the Great Lakes and the Great Lakes region is so much more broad than just alewives and sea lamprey.” New invasive species like zebra and quagga mussels have expanded what requires management. Another task trying to be proactive in keeping other nonnative species from being introduced. Improvements in control programs give AIS managers alternatives and new prevention programs have helped reach wider audiences.

And while advancement in science and technology have bolstered our understanding of invasive species and the pathways they use to breach new areas, new pathways are continuously arising. Campbell cited online marketplaces as an example. These marketplaces, which allow customers to purchase species from anywhere in the world, have complicated AIS management in the past 10 years. Additionally, new segments of existing pathways – like recreational watercraft with ballast tanks – keep AIS managers readdressing pathways they thought were already sufficiently covered by their management plans.

“I think we’re starting to get more specific with pathways and how we can focus less on the actual invasive species and more on the people using the pathways – how we can work with them to stop unintentionally moving plants and animals around,” Campbell said. He went on to mention that “as we have gotten a better handle on some pathways, new ones are also emerging. We need to be aware of how these pathways function, how these species and goods are moving around, and how we can make sure that only things that we want are being introduced into the environment.”

So where does invasion science go from here? Through the eyes of Campbell, the “limiting factor” of his field is often not new biological facts about invasive species, but rather “getting people to understand the impacts of their actions and getting them to take action.” In terms of progressing the field of invasion science, Campbell has high hopes that the approach of shifting toward social science and trying to incorporate more of it into invasive species management will bode well.

“In the next 50 years, I hope we keep going down this track of interdisciplinary work and trying to use all of the different scientific disciplines to address our problems” in order to, “leave no stone unturned for potential improvements,” Campbell said.

When asked for final comments, Campbell left me with this: “It [the Sea and Land Grant College approach] has historically been very important in managing our agricultural problems and natural resource issues, and I think we will be even more important in the future because of where we sit between science and communities. Especially in this age of finding anything on the internet, no matter the accuracy, I think that it’s important to have this trusted source of scientific information to help communities make the best decisions possible.”

The post Invasive Species: Then and Now first appeared on Wisconsin Sea Grant.

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Marie Zhuikov

A new website is available that details what Indigenous communities in the Upper Midwest are doing to conserve and protect water. Named Bimaadiziwin Nibi, Water is Life, the story map is divided into sections, each centered around a different environmental issue. These include wild rice, fish, nonlocal beings (invasive species), mining, contaminants and beach sampling. Within each section are photos, reports and videos from tribal natural resource departments and a summary of interviews with scientists.

The project was created by Brenna DeNamur during her internship with Wisconsin Sea Grant in 2020. DeNamur, a recent University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate, partnered with the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission (GLIFWC) to develop the content in a culturally responsive manner.

Image courtesy of the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission

“It’s my hope that visitors to the site will gain a better understanding of the challenges faced in the intersection of conversation efforts and tribal culture, and that they be introduced to the diverse voices working in this area,” DeNamur said.

For instance, in the nonlocal beings section, DeNamur writes, “Although Indigenous science teaches respect and consideration for all, these nonlocal beings still pose a threat to biodiversity and the individual species, such as manoomin (wild rice) and ogaa (walleye), that Native Americans have had deep relationships with for generations.”

In response, GLIFWC has taken action against nonlocal beings. They conduct surveys, control actions and follow up monitoring for both terrestrial and aquatic species. The web page details how the commission divides its efforts into prevention, early detection and rapid response, control and management, research, and cooperation and coordination.

“This story map is a great tool for understanding how the collaboration of Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Western Science methodologies can produce strategic and respectful conservation efforts concerning water throughout the Ceded Territories and beyond,” said Hannah Arbuckle, GLIFWC Outreach Coordinator.

Anne Moser, Wisconsin Sea Grant senior special librarian/education coordinator and DeNamur’s mentor, hopes to see the story map grow in the coming years. “I am grateful and honored to collaborate with GLIFWC on this project. It helped me gain a deeper understanding about Great Lakes literacy and how to incorporate Indigenous approaches into my work in education and outreach.”

“Ultimately, teaching Indigenous science is about understanding the world from different perspectives. If more people lived by this, we could sustain a healthier, more prosperous world,” DeNamur said.

To access the story map, visit go.wisc.edu/4n6n3n.

The post An Indigenous Story Map Experience About Water first appeared on Wisconsin Sea Grant.

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Marie Zhuikov

 

Sharon displays the Greek-Style Lake Whitefish, sizzling in the pan. Image credit: Marie Zhuikov, Wisconsin Sea Grant

For the latest “dish” about Great Lakes fish, you’ll want to listen to “The Fish Dish.” The podcast, co-hosted by longtime coworkers and friends Sharon Moen and Marie Zhuikov, introduces you to the people behind Wisconsin’s fishing and aquaculture industries. Each episode includes a “Fish-o-licious” section where Moen and Zhuikov cook a new fish recipe.

The first episode features Craig Hoopman, a sixth-generation commercial fisherman from Bayfield, Wisconsin. Hoopman shares his beginnings in the business, current challenges, plus his dreams for the future. Also, Eat Wisconsin Fish Outreach Specialist Moen and Science Communicator Zhuikov share their backgrounds in fishing and introduce listeners to the Eat Wisconsin Fish campaign. During the “Fish-o-licious” part of the show, they cook Greek-Style Lake Whitefish at Hoopman’s recommendation.

Tying it all together is ska music by Twin Ports band, Woodblind.

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Marie Zhuikov

The revamped stormwater pond at Barker’s Island Marina. Before the improvements, the pond often used to flood after storms. Image credit: Marie Zhuikov, Wisconsin Sea Grant

Greener and Cleaner: How a Marina Takes Big Strides Toward Cleaner Water

The new season of River Talks began in October with three speakers who described projects designed to control stormwater runoff and prevent pollution at the marina on Barker’s Island in Superior, Wisconsin.

Theresa Qualls with the Wisconsin Clean Marina Program, Eric Thomas with Barker’s Island Marina and Michael Krick with the city of Superior gave in-person presentations in the Lake Superior Estuarium. Their talk was originally scheduled to be an outdoors tour, but inclement weather changed plans.

Barker’s Island Marina has been working for several years on certification to become a Wisconsin Clean Marina. These clean marinas voluntarily go the extra mile to adopt measures to reduce pollution from their marina, boatyards and recreational boats. Designated clean marinas are recognized as environmentally responsible businesses.

Qualls began the presentation by providing information about the clean marina program. “Clean lakes and rivers are good for business. Boaters really care about the water resource,” said Qualls, coordinator of the program. “In addition, it creates a safer and healthier place to work and recreate, and it really can enhance the image of the marina among the community and among boaters.”

The new boat wash station at Barker’s Island Marina. It better controls wash water that could potentially carry toxic boat paint residue. Image credit: Marie Zhuikov, Wisconsin Sea Grant

She said marinas are in a unique position to improve water quality because of their location near water. Earlier that day, she met with Barker’s Island Marina staff to finalize a plan for their certification. Once approved by a technical team and certified, Barker’s Island Marina will join 22 other clean marinas in the state. She said most of those are coastal marinas, but they are working to encourage more inland lake marinas to pursue certification.

Thomas said his marina wanted to be in the clean marina program because, “We have a ton of boats. We have a ton of machinery. All these boats are full of machines, engines, oil, grease – all kinds of yucky stuff . . . As somebody who has been on the Great Lakes all my life, and in the water my whole life, it’s so easy to make mess — we have to work really hard not to. But the rewards are huge.”

One thing the marina did to control stormwater runoff is to let native plants along the shoreline grow instead of continuously cutting them down. This also deters geese from walking onshore and defecating on sidewalks.

At the far end of the marina is a new boat wash station. When boats are lifted out of the water at the end of the season, the power wash water is collected in tub, filtered and sent to the sewage treatment plant. This keeps toxic boat paint residue from entering the lake. They also regraded the boat washing pavement so that rainwater drains into a new engineered wetland constructed by the city of Superior.

Krick described the construction process for the wetland, which contains a forebay and several cells to slow down stormwater and treat it via native plant processes. The outlet drains into the harbor. “It was really hard to grow anything this year, everyone’s aware of the lack of rain we had,” Krick said of the process to plant the wetland vegetation. “But the last month has been very nice in terms of getting vegetation established before winter. I’m fairly happy with the way it looks.”

Thomas added, “We’re able to treat an inch or inch-and-a-half of rain through the wetland effectively. So, when we get one of these good soakers, we’re not releasing anything immediately into the lake. It’s all getting filtered through this.”

The new engineered wetland at Barker’s Island Marina. Image credit: Marie Zhuikov, Wisconsin Sea Grant

The wetland project was funded by the Great Lakes Protection Fund and engineered by The Ohio State University. Staff at the Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve monitor conditions at the wetland and stormwater pond to ensure they are working properly.

The last improvement discussed was the marina’s stormwater pond, which is near the road. Because it had no outlet, the pond would often flood the marina parking lot during heavy rains, creating hazardous conditions.

The pond was retrofitted with a forebay to catch and treat the water, allowing sediment to settle. A pipe allows the water to flow into the bay once it gets high enough.

Barker’s Island Marina is one of three marinas in the states of Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio chosen for installation of green stormwater infrastructure practices.

For more information about Barker’s Island environmental projects, visit this blog story.

The Nov. 10 River Talk will feature Samuel Geer, president of Urban Ecosystems, presenting, “Revealing the Invisible: Experiencing and Interpreting the St. Louis River along Waabizheshikana (The Marten Trail).”  His talk will be via Zoom at 7 p.m.:

https://uwmadison.zoom.us/j/97648986592?pwd=THZIU1JBYTZRdzg3V1hkdUZOSExuUT09 
Meeting ID: 976 4898 6592
Passcode: 924675

Other River Talks will be held Jan. 12, Feb. 19, March 9, April 13 and May 11, 2022. The March talk will be held in conjunction with the St. Louis River Summit and the date may change. For more information, visit the River Talks page: go.wisc.edu/4uz720.

The River Talks are sponsored by The Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve and the Wisconsin Sea Grant Program.

The post Greener and Cleaner: How a Marina Takes Big Strides Toward Cleaner Water first appeared on Wisconsin Sea Grant.

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Marie Zhuikov

Sam Geer. Image credit: Submitted photo

The next River Talk will take place at 7 p.m., Wednesday, November 10 via Zoom. Samuel Geer will present, “Revealing the Invisible: Experiencing and Interpreting the St. Louis River along Waabizheshikana (The Marten Trail).”

Geer is president of Urban Ecosystems, a Twin Cities-based landscape architecture practice.  He was lead designer for the interpretive plan for Waabizheshikana (formerly the Western Waterfront Trail in Duluth) and will share the process by which the team sought to celebrate the plants, animals and landscapes along the waterfront. The plan collects stories of noteworthy people, river places and lost landmarks that are revealed to visitors by a constellation of interpretive elements.

Here is the Zoom link and info:
Join Zoom Meeting
https://uwmadison.zoom.us/j/97648986592?pwd=THZIU1JBYTZRdzg3V1hkdUZOSExuUT09 

Meeting ID: 976 4898 6592
Passcode: 924675
One tap mobile
+19292056099,,97648986592# US (New York)
+13017158592,,97648986592# US (Washington DC)  

The event will last an hour and will include time for comments and questions. The talk will be recorded and posted afterward on the Reserve’s Facebook page and YouTube. A summary will also be posted on Wisconsin Sea Grant’s blog.

Other River Talks will be held Jan. 12, Feb. 19, March 9, April 13 and May 11, 2022. The March talk will be held in conjunction with the St. Louis River Summit and the date may change. For more information, visit the River Talks page: go.wisc.edu/4uz720.

The River Talks are sponsored by The Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve and the Wisconsin Sea Grant Program.

 

The post River Talks to feature Marten Trail plan first appeared on Wisconsin Sea Grant.

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News Releases | Wisconsin Sea Grant

https://www.seagrant.wisc.edu/news/river-talks-to-feature-marten-trail-plan/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=river-talks-to-feature-marten-trail-plan

Marie Zhuikov

Sam Geer. Image credit: Submitted photo

The next River Talk will take place at 7 p.m., Wednesday, November 10 via Zoom. Samuel Geer will present, “Revealing the Invisible: Experiencing and Interpreting the St. Louis River along Waabizheshikana (The Marten Trail).”

Geer is president of Urban Ecosystems, a Twin Cities-based landscape architecture practice.  He was lead designer for the interpretive plan for Waabizheshikana (formerly the Western Waterfront Trail in Duluth) and will share the process by which the team sought to celebrate the plants, animals and landscapes along the waterfront. The plan collects stories of noteworthy people, river places and lost landmarks that are revealed to visitors by a constellation of interpretive elements.

Here is the Zoom link and info:
Join Zoom Meeting
https://uwmadison.zoom.us/j/97648986592?pwd=THZIU1JBYTZRdzg3V1hkdUZOSExuUT09 

Meeting ID: 976 4898 6592
Passcode: 924675
One tap mobile
+19292056099,,97648986592# US (New York)
+13017158592,,97648986592# US (Washington DC)  

The event will last an hour and will include time for comments and questions. The talk will be recorded and posted afterward on the Reserve’s Facebook page and YouTube. A summary will also be posted on Wisconsin Sea Grant’s blog.

Other River Talks will be held Jan. 12, Feb. 19, March 9, April 13 and May 11, 2022. The March talk will be held in conjunction with the St. Louis River Summit and the date may change. For more information, visit the River Talks page: go.wisc.edu/4uz720.

The River Talks are sponsored by The Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve and the Wisconsin Sea Grant Program.

 

The post River Talks to feature Marten Trail plan first appeared on Wisconsin Sea Grant.

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Marie Zhuikov

Wisconsin Sea Grant’s emerging contaminants scientist, Gavin Dehnert, earned his Ph.D. by studying the effects of commercial 2,4-D herbicide exposure on the development and behavior of freshwater fish at different life stages. Now, he’s taking his research out of the lab and into the natural environment, where 2,4-D herbicides are used to treat lakes for the invasive plant, Eurasian watermilfoil.

During his doctoral studies, Dehnert found that exposure to concentrations of 2,4-D similar to those allowed during application to lakes significantly decreased survival in fathead minnow larvae and also other young fish species such as walleye, yellow perch, largemouth bass, northern pike, white crappies and white suckers.

“We saw an increase in about 20 to 35% mortality of the young fish when exposed to 2,4-D,” Dehnert said. “But we kept getting this big question: We know what happens in the laboratory, but what happens in the real world?”

With funding from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Dehnert designed two sets of experiments this summer in lakes that were undergoing 2,4-D treatments. For the first,

One of two lakewater systems Dehnert uses. In this one, water is taken directly from a lake that had 2,4-D applied, then distributed to tanks where the fish are held. Image credit: Gavin Dehnert, Wisconsin Sea Grant

The second employed an in-lake exposure system. Young fish were put in the lake in two-liter buckets with holes in them covered in mesh, which allowed water and food to pass through, but not the fish.

Dehnert explained, “This allowed us to see what goes on during an actual herbicide treatment. It’s applied to the entire lake and we look at what goes on with the fish.”

He anticipates a possible higher mortality in the lake setting because there are more variables at play. “I would expect more like a 35 to 45% decrease in survivorship because there are more stressors on the fish – temperature changes, storms, nutrient runoff, etcetera. That’s why it’s important to do this experiment in a natural lake setting, so we can get those real-world scenarios,” Dehnert said.

Dehnert is just beginning to process the data from his lake experiments and expects to finish up next year (2022).

Wisconsin lake associations are interested in Dehnert’s work because they want to eradicate Eurasian watermilfoil. Besides the use of an herbicide, the invasive plant can be controlled by manually removing the plants or by introducing beetles that eat it.

“All of these lake associations want to make sure they’re causing the least amount of impact to the other organisms in the lake,” Dehnert said. “So, it’s really exciting to work with them to determine the risks of the different control methods. How do we get rid of this invasive species but keep intact what we already have in the lake?

“Let’s understand what could happen, so we can make an educated decision on whether the benefits outweigh the cons,” he said.

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Marie Zhuikov

Kayakers receive instructions from their guide before a trip in the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. Image credit: Marie Zhuikov, Wisconsin Sea Grant

A new international training program for outdoor guides and outfitters is now available online for northwestern Wisconsin. The program, named Guide and Outfitter Recognized Professional (GORP) is being offered by Wisconsin Sea Grant in conjunction with Oregon Sea Grant.

GORP content was developed with input from professional guides, educators and tourism organizations. It’s aligned with best practices recommended by the Adventure Travel Trade Association. With completion of the program, experienced guides and outfitters will be recognized for their existing knowledge and information on a wide range of topics and best practices, demonstrating the value of their guiding services over competitors to potential clients. For aspiring guides, it will provide a great foundation for their future business.

GORP consists of four online modules that participants are encouraged to complete within a month, although there is flexibility. These are augmented by optional live webinars conducted by Oregon Sea Grant Extension staff. The next course begins Monday, Nov. 1, and it is free. Future course offerings will have costs associated with them. Although the course is geared toward northwestern Wisconsin, registration is open to all and may be helpful to guides in other parts of Wisconsin, too.

Course content covers a broad range of knowledge and skills that guides can use to improve client experiences, including identification of 101 local species of plants and animals, knowledge of local history, natural resource agencies, tourism organizations and economic impacts, group management, customer service, sustainability, marketing, personal interpretation skills and more.

Those completing the GORP program will be awarded a certification and a package of marketing benefits including: a GORP branded shirt, GORP logo vinyl for boat or truck, special listing on the GORP website, and other online marketing services.

Development of Wisconsin’s GORP program was led by Natalie Chin, climate and tourism outreach specialist for Wisconsin Sea Grant. For more information or to register, visit the GORP site and choose the Wisconsin program.

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Marie Zhuikov

Deidre Peroff, Wisconsin Sea Grant’s social scientist outreach specialist, is part of a new project designed to foster community-engaged learning and environmental stewardship in Milwaukee. The $2.8-million undertaking, funded by the National Science Foundation, is led by Ryan Holifield, associate professor of geography at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

The project will integrate art with STEM experiences (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), along with geography, water management and social science. The goal is to develop collaborations among artists, scientists and communities to bring informal sustainability science learning to Milwaukee.

Named “WaterMarks,” the four-year effort will include activities such as neighborhood walks led by artists, scientists or community members where participants are encouraged to consider the characteristics, histories and ecosystems in their neighborhoods. The walks will be expanded upon through workshops that will explore water-related environmental challenges and proposed solutions. Art projects and a website are other ways learning will be encouraged.

An artist’s redition of what one of the “WaterMarks” public art installations would look like. Image credit: University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Peroff will serve as a researcher, collecting and analyzing data, writing reports – and she will also facilitate public engagement in the project.

Collaborators include City as Living Laboratory and the COSI Center for Research and Evaluation. Contact Peroff for more information.

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Marie Zhuikov

The revamped stormwater pond at Barker’s Island Marina. Before the improvements, the pond often used to flood. Image credit: Marie Zhuikov, Wisconsin Sea Grant

The River Talks, a series of informal science presentations, returns for the season with “Greener and Cleaner: How a Marina Takes Big Strides Toward Cleaner Water,” an in-person tour of environmental improvements on Barker’s Island in Superior.

Three speakers –Theresa Qualls with the Wisconsin Clean Marina Program, Eric Thomas with Barker’s Island Marina and Michael Krick with the city of Superior – will describe new projects designed to control stormwater runoff and prevent pollution on the island at 5 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 13.

Marinas attract customers who care deeply about sustaining water quality. With support from the Clean Marina Program, the city of Superior and many partners, Barker’s Island Marina has taken great strides over the past few years to install an engineered wetland and a large boat wash station. Tour participants will visit these innovative projects and learn more about the Clean Marina Program.

Meet at the marina’s Ship Store. Parking for this can be found in the northwest corner of the Barker’s Inn Resort parking lot (see map below). The tour will involve a round-trip walk on easy, paved surfaces from the Ship Store to the service center (three-fourths of a mile). It will last until 6 p.m. and will include time for Q&A.

In case of rain, the presentations will be held in the Lake Superior Estuarium on Barker’s Island (3 Marina Dr.).

Other River Talks will be held Nov. 10, 2021, and Jan. 12, Feb. 19, March 9, April 13 and May 10, 2022. The March talk will be held in conjunction with the St. Louis River Summit and the date may change. For more information, visit the River Talks page: go.wisc.edu/4uz720.

The River Talks are sponsored by The Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve and the Wisconsin Sea Grant Program.

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Birders on Wisconsin Point look for rare jaegers. Image credit: Marie Zhuikov, Wisconsin Sea Grant

The third weekend in September is traditionally a time for beach cleanups by communities in the Great Lakes. Volunteers scour beaches and shorelines for trash as part of the International Coastal Cleanup. Our Sea Grant staff members got in the spirit, participating in cleanups spanning across the state, from Wisconsin Point in Lake Superior, to Madison, to Manitowoc on Lake Michigan.

Marie Zhuikov and Russ Maron on Wisconsin Point. Image credit: Russ Maron

The event on Wisconsin Point featured a twist: birding. Besides being a good time to collect trash, this season offers a narrow window for Wisconsin birders to see parasitic jaegers, fast-flying pirates of the water bird world, as they migrate past Wisconsin Point from the arctic tundra to southern climes.

The “parasitic” part of their name comes from their food-stealing habits. They are categorized as “kleptoparasites,” which means they steal food from other seabirds.

The Friends of the Lake Superior Reserve (FOLSR) took advantage of the timing to invite Jaegerfest birders and FOLSR members to cleanup the beach when they weren’t on the lookout for birds.

Science communicator Marie Zhuikov and her husband have attended many beach cleanups in the past, but never one that combined jaeger-watching. On a calm and quiet Saturday morning, they joined the professional birders and their high-powered spotting scopes.

Dried bee balm flowers. Image credit: Yael Gen, Wisconsin Sea Grant

Zhuikov and her husband had better luck finding trash than birds. Alas, no jaegers were to be seen, although many ring-billed and herring gulls floated serenely in the lake. The duo moved to the end of the point and collected two bags of trash from the beach. The most interesting finds? A single Birkenstock sandal and fireworks debris.

Their efforts became even more impressive with the addition of four other bags of garbage plus a car bumper that others had collected and left bagged near the parking lot. All total, their haul weighed 160 pounds!

Their colleagues editor Elizabeth White, educator Ginny Carlton and graphic designer Yael Gen participated in a more botanical cleanup at the Lakeshore Nature Preserve on the Madison campus. They began by collecting seeds from dried bee balm plants. Gen said they pulled the seed heads off and saved them in paper bags. “If you turn one upside down and shake it, the seeds resemble ground pepper,” she said. The seeds will be used for a class and to reseed other areas of the preserve.

Titus Seilheimer and his sons with one of their beach cleanup finds in Manitowoc. Image credit: Amy Seilheimer

Next, they got a workout clearing an invasive buckthorn thicket along the shores of Lake Mendota using loppers and saws.

Fisheries specialist Titus Seilheimer and his family worked on Silver Creek Beach in Manitowoc. “We typically organize two cleanups per year, spring and fall,” Seilheimer said. “We had two other volunteers for our cleanup for a total of six. We removed 68 pounds of trash. That included two tires for most of the weight. We found fairly typical trash with 40 cigarette butts, small pieces of foam and plastic, shotgun shells and wads, bottle caps and plastic bottles.”

Way to go, Sea Grant staff! You cleaned up 228 pounds of trash, plus gobs of unwanted plants and provided seeds for the future. A commendable effort for one morning in September.

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Marie Zhuikov

Participants on the tour listen to Matt Steiger, Wisconsin DNR, describe improvements to the Barker’s Island inland beach. Image credit: Marie Zhuikov

Last week, I joined a walking tour to check on the progress of projects designed to improve the environment on Barker’s Island in Superior, Wisconsin. After a welcome at the Lake Superior Estuarium by Jim Paine, the mayor of Superior, we hoofed it over to Barker’s Island beach. Although most of the work on the beach was done back in 2019, progress is still being made.

Native plants that replaced invasive buckthorn bushes were thriving and in fine color. Yellow sunflowers and purple bottle gentians lined the raised boardwalk along with many other grasses, flowers and shrubs. Our tour guides from the Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve (Reserve) and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) pointed out porous concrete underneath the picnic tables and pervious pavers in the parking areas along the street. These are designed to allow water to soak into the ground instead of running directly into the lake, which diminishes pollution.

The Barker’s Island beach and boardwalk. Image credit: Marie Zhuikov, Wisconsin Sea Grant

Matt Steiger with the Wisconsin DNR said the changes are working. Before the improvements, the E. coli bacteria amount exceeded standards 42% of the time for the summer season in 2015 and 2016. After the project was completed in 2020, E. coli exceedances dropped to only 8%.

The second area we visited encompassed the charter fishing dock parking lot and the Barker’s Island Inn lot and tennis courts. Funded by a grant to the city of Superior from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Sustain Our Great Lakes Program, progress on these projects has been slower than anticipated because of the many challenges brought about by the COVID pandemic.

However, city staff expect ground to be broken in the spring of 2022 on medians in the parking lot, which will be planted with native trees and shrubs to slow water runoff. The tennis courts behind the inn will be turned into a green space, and the paved walking path across from the inn will be extended.

Our next stop was Barker’s Island Marina. Manager Eric Thomas showed us the many improvements completed this spring thanks to several grants and cooperation among Sea Grant programs in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio, as well as the City of Superior, the Wisconsin Coastal Management Program, The Ohio State University, and the Wisconsin Marine Association. These include a rubber mat that catches toxic paint chemicals and biofouling organisms when boats are removed from the water and washed at the end of the season.

Eric Thomas, manager of Barker’s Island Marina, describes new environmental improvements. Image credit: Marie Zhuikov, Wisconsin Sea Grant

Pavement at the marina has been replaced and regraded so that it drains toward a new engineered wetland along its edge. Todd Breiby with the Wisconsin Coastal Management Program explained that the wetland includes a forebay, which catches the pavement runoff and allows contaminants to settle. Then the water moves into a basin filled with plants, which filter the water, and then into another plant-filled basin, before emptying into the bay.

Breiby and Thomas then walked us closer to the road to the marina parking lot stormwater pond, which was retrofitted to make it function better. The pond used to flood the lot because it had no outlet, so a culvert was added that allows water to drain into the bay once it reaches a certain level. A forebay was also installed, which captures sediment coming off the marina parking lot and improves water quality.

To ensure these new marina improvements are doing their job cleaning water, researchers from Ohio State and the Reserve are monitoring water quality and noting “before” and “after” changes.

Todd Breiby with the Wisconsin Coastal Management Program describes changes to the Barker’s Island Marina parking lot stormwater pond. Image credit: Marie Zhuikov, Wisconsin Sea Grant

Walking back to my office (which is on Barker’s Island) at the end of the tour, I was struck by how things that look so natural, like the wetland and the pond, can do such a good job of cleaning water if we give them a chance.  Although some had only been put in this season, they already looked like they’d been around for years. It’s good to know that these features are in place and working, and that they’ll serve as examples for other communities and marinas to try.

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Amercian white pelicans take flight off Cat Island in lower Green Bay. Image credit: Amy Wolf, University of Wisconsin Green-Bay

When Amy Wolf and Bob Howe with the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay bring new research partners or students out to the restored Cat Island chain in lower Green Bay on Lake Michigan, their reactions are memorable.

“To see people’s expressions when they enter the midst of thousands of loud, often smelly and sometimes defecating birds is pretty amazing and gratifying,” said Wolf, biology professor with the Department of Natural and Applied Sciences.

This avian abundance is relatively new, made possible by habitat restoration projects in the bay coupled with pollution remediation and control. For instance, the number of American white pelicans nesting has increased from about 250 in 2005 (State of the Bay report), to more than 3,000 now.

Wolf and Howe are coordinating a small army of students and government agency researchers to count and observe the behavior of birds that eat fish (piscivorous birds) in the lower Green Bay area around Cat Island, an area that Howe likens to the “Serengeti of Lake Michigan” due to the sheer abundance of wildlife. With two years of funding through Wisconsin Sea Grant, they are working to gain basic information about populations of pelicans, cormorants, terns, egrets, herons and gulls in the lower bay, including information about what the birds eat and where they spend their time.

Double-crested cormorants and American white pelicans on Cat Island. Image credit: Amy Wolf, University of Wisconsin-Green Bay

Howe, professor and director of the Cofrin Center for Biodiversity, explained, “We want to know what impact these large numbers of fish-eating birds have on the lower Green Bay ecosystem in general, and specifically on the fishery, which is so important for public recreation and commercial harvesting.”

Every two weeks during the spring and summer, Howe, Wolf, UW-Green Bay research specialist Erin Giese, and a team of undergraduate and graduate students surveyed all the piscivorous birds from southern Door County down to the DePere Dam on the Fox River, and then up the lakeshore to Oconto, Wisconsin. Graduate students Jacob Woulf and Brandon Byrne flew drones down the Cat Island causeway to count the thousands of birds there. Additionally, the students conducted firsthand observations of what the birds eat, where they catch fish and what other bird species they associate with.

In concert with the bird surveys, Howe said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is conducting fish surveys in the lower bay.

“We’re learning about what kinds of fish these birds are taking and where they’re taking them,” he said. “We’re really excited about this information so far.”

They are also tracking double-crested cormorants with two types of technologies: one uses the cellular phone network and the other uses radio telemetry. For the cellular tracking, the birds are fitted with a lightweight harness that contains a solar-powered transmitter. The device provides information about a bird’s position every hour, even if it leaves Green Bay.

Birds with the radio transmitters are tracked through special towers stationed around Green Bay and in a growing network across eastern North America. They plan to track pelicans next year.

Preliminary findings

The researchers are only beginning to crunch numbers from their first season of data, but Howe and Wolf already have preliminary findings to share.

In terms of tracking, they’ve found that some of the cormorants move much farther than they anticipated. Wolf said, “They hang around Cat Island, they feed around Cat Island, but they definitely range widely; one bird flew 75 kilometers south to Lake Butte Des Morts and returned to Green Bay during the same day. Another went over 110 kilometers north toward Gills Rock, where it stayed for days before returning to lower Green Bay.”

Their feeding observers have noted that the cormorants and pelicans are foraging with each other. Howe suspects their social nature might be why they are the dominant piscivorous species in the Green Bay system. “Social foraging behavior might give them a leg up on exploiting the fish in the lower bay.”

Howe said their counting surveys have provided a good estimate of how many piscivorous birds are in lower Green Bay. By mid-summer 2021, well over 4,000 pelicans and 2,000 cormorants were present.

“We know that a pelican can eat up to three pounds of fish per day. A cormorant can eat about a pound of fish per day. You start doing the math and realize that these birds take tens of thousands of pounds of fish every week. They’re significantly shifting the biomass from one place to another,” Howe said.

Pelicans congregate near recreational fishing boats in Green Bay. Image credit: Bob Howe, University of Wisconsin-Green Bay

They’ve also noted that pelicans, and cormorants to a lesser extent, have developed a relationship with recreational fishermen. The birds hang around the boats and feed on fish that the fisherman don’t want and throw overboard.

“The pelicans have learned there’s free food there,” Howe said. “We didn’t anticipate this relationship and it’s very obvious from the data that we’re seeing.”

They expect their research will be helpful for agencies working on management decisions about the abundance of piscivorous birds, including gulls.

Additional partner agencies aiding the project include the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bird Studies Canada, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services Program, Brown County Port Authority and Mississippi State University. The research team has also received cooperation and support from landowners and marinas along the shores of lower Green Bay.

The bird banding crew on Cat Island. The person in the center is holding a cormorant. Image credit: Bob Howe, University of Wisconsin-Green Bay

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Teachers in the Rivers2Lake Summer Institute receive basic canoeing instruction from Luciana Ranelli of the Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve. Image credit: Marie Zhuikov, Wisconsin Sea Grant

Teachers from northern Wisconsin and northern Minnesota received firsthand experience in their watershed recently, thanks to the Rivers2Lake Education Program run by the Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve (Reserve).

Six teachers took part in a weeklong Rivers2Lake Summer Institute where they traveled the upper reaches of the St. Louis River, trapping water bugs in nets, learning how to test water quality and developing a relationship with the river and Lake Superior. They are gathering ideas and techniques to share with their students with the Reserve’s help.

This is the ninth year of the program, which has been funded in part by Wisconsin Sea Grant for four of those years. One activity during the institute involved a short canoe trip around Pokegama Bay in Superior, Wisconsin. The teachers learned why the area is important.

Ryan Feldbrugge, education specialist with the Reserve. Image credit: Marie Zhuikov, Wisconsin Sea Grant

“Pokegama is our reference site,” said Ryan Feldbrugge, education specialist with the Reserve. “It’s an example of an undisturbed or minimally disturbed ecosystem.”

Feldbrugge explained how the Reserve monitors conditions in the area with a meteorological station and water quality equipment. “The idea is to have baseline data so we can track how the wetlands are changing and how the plant communities are changing so that we can do stewardship or restoration efforts if that’s what’s needed.”

Luciana Ranelli, Reserve education coordinator, said the quiet, protected bay is also a good place for students to explore the St. Louis River Estuary. “You could imagine your tiny tikes or older students here, doing what we are doing,” she said to the teachers. Plus, a new boat launch developed by the Reserve, city of Superior and the Wisconsin Coastal Management Program provides easier access and vault toilets.

During that recent canoe trip, the teachers battled wind past the meteorological station and learned about purple loosestrife, a pretty but invasive plant scattered along the bay’s shores. Feldbrugge said the Reserve has been working closely with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources for several years to rear and release beetles that feed exclusively on loosestrife. They are slowly making progress in controlling the plant in the estuary.

Two guests joined the teachers: Noah Pinnsonault, a research and monitoring technician for the Reserve, and Megan Hogfeldt, a water resources specialist with the city of Superior. Once out of the wind, the teachers rafted their canoes together to hear Pinnsonault describe work he’s doing to address damage by the emerald ash-borer beetle, which destroys black ash trees, a prevalent tree species in the estuary. He’s determining survival rates for alternative tree species that were planted in 2015. These include hackberry, northern white cedar and red maple.

“In really low-lying sites, black ash is basically the only thing that will grow there. So, we’re trying to figure out what besides the ash will work. If we can’t save the black ash, we need to at least preserve the ecosystem function and keep it forested, otherwise, everything will change,” Pinnsonault said.

Megan Hogfeldt, a water resources specialist with the city of Superior. Image credit: Marie Zhuikov, Wisconsin Sea Grant

Once back on shore, Hogfeldt described the stormwater control work she does for the city, while Reserve staff loaded the canoes on their trailer. “If you haven’t been through Superior, the city has about seven streams that go through it. We’re always interacting with water in Superior and Duluth,” Hogfeldt said.

She offers several programs that teachers and their classes can participate in, such as storm drain art, a stream monitoring program and an adopt-a-storm drain program.

After the institute completes, the Reserve offers teachers continued support to integrate Lake Superior science, history, research and stewardship into their classrooms.

“The effects have been transformative,” Ranelli said. “Teachers appreciate the sustained support through the school year, and students in Rivers2Lake classrooms have improved learning and enhanced engagement. We’re proud to support local teachers and students in learning about their watershed.”

For at least two teachers on the paddle, this wasn’t the only time they’ve been on the water with Reserve staff. Melissa Hepokoski from Cooper Elementary School and Jasmine Haroldson from Northern Lights Elementary attended an Outdoor Learning Clinic for two days last summer.

In her teacher institute evaluation, Haroldson offered, “The presenters were an amazing asset – so knowledgeable and excited! The nonthreatening, supportive community that was built in just four days will be so beneficial to me. I now have a huge library of resources — people and print — at my fingertips.”

For information about the Reserve’s work with Rivers2Lake students, please see this previous story.

Educators Melissa Hepokoski, Shawn Stewart and Jasmine Haroldson enjoyed their paddle time on Pokegama Bay. Image credit: Marie Zhuikov, Wisconsin Sea Grant

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Marie Zhuikov

It’s not often that a Sea Grant research project proposal contains the word “forgiveness.” However, that’s one of the missions of a multi-Sea-Grant-program endeavor taking place in three communities along the Lake Michigan coast.

Record-high water levels, severe storm surges and shoreline armoring have caused significant erosion to the bluffs and beaches in many areas along the 1,460-mile Lake Michigan shoreline. The ground beneath houses and garages on the shore is washing away, causing some structures to topple into the lake.

Along with this physical breakage comes emotional breakage, with neighbors blaming neighbors and community organizations for these problems.

Project lead Chin Wu, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said he is working to strengthen broken relationships and soothe anxiety. For example, tensions have run high in Mequon, Wisconsin, following Concordia University’s 2008 bluff stabilization project, including a lawsuit against the school brought by neighbors.

“There are people mad about every different aspect [of erosion],” Wu said. “But instead of blaming each other when natural forces take place, it’s the high-water levels that we need to cope with.”

The two-year joint project that began in 2020 is co-led by Wu, Guy Meadows with Michigan Technological University and Cary Troy with Purdue University. With funding by Sea Grant programs in Illinois-Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin, the project seeks to address complex erosion issues through an integrated physical, social and community approach.

Although their joint project has the capacity to impact the whole of the lake and lakeshore communities, the research team is concentrating on three locations that are all experiencing erosion: Mequon, Wisconsin; the dunes at Beverly Shores, Indiana; and the shoreline of South Haven, Michigan.

For the physical aspect, they are working to identify coastal areas with high erosion potential, characterize areas where sediment is trapped or diverted by using historical aerial photos, and compile an inventory of coastal sediment budgets in Lake Michigan – how much sediment is coming into the lake, how much is going out, and how much is being stored. The team will also assess the cumulative impacts of shoreline protection structures through historical aerial images and different computer model scenarios of varying lake levels and storm events.

For the social aspect, the team will assess public attitudes and perceptions about different shore protection options and examine variables that affect community relationships.

For the community aspect, the team will develop a community of practice to guide decision-making for what coastal stabilization measures to use and communicate the information learned through the project back to the communities. A community of practice is a group of people who share a common concern, a set of problems, or an interest in a topic and who come together to fulfill both individual and group goals.

Ph.D. student, Miles Tryon-Petith, installs a real-time camera to track erosion on the Lake Michigan shoreline in Mequon, Wisconsin. Submitted photo.

Miles Tryon-Petith, Wu’s civil and environmental engineering Ph.D. student from UW-Madison, said the community of practice will include local and regional organizations, such as the Department of Natural Resources as well as community leaders.

The forgiveness aspect of the project enters with factors that affect community relationships. Robert Enright, psychology professor, and his Ph.D. student, Lai Wong, at UW-Madison will employ social justice circles, a scientifically verified program that works to address issues about which people feel strongly. This method convenes opposing parties in a dialogue with the goals of fostering understanding and mutual problem-solving.

“Developing strong community relationships and introducing the social justice circles seemed very important because people’s homes and livelihoods are threatened by this ongoing problem. These are people living through the situation,” said Tryon-Petith.

The hope is that after working through the understanding and forgiveness exercises, communities can move on to discussing erosion-control solutions.

Wu emphasized that solutions lie with shoreline protection structures that employ engineering principles, which work with natural processes. He calls these nature-based solutions. These may include features that are completely natural, such as planting native vegetation on dunes, and those that are “hard,” such as concrete structures like seawalls. Multiple types of nature-based features are often combined within a project. Wu said the features would also be attractive to wildlife.

Adam Bechle, coastal engineering outreach specialist for Wisconsin Sea Grant and project team member, said, “There is growing interest in nature-based shorelines in the Great Lakes. We are eager to explore what types of these features can work at these sites and hopefully bolster their use in the region.”

Tryon-Petith said the project team met recently with community members in Mequon and Concordia University. “People were excited about moving forward – about what they could do or how we could work with each other, rather than lingering on what happened in the past. So, I’m optimistic about that.”

The goal of this project is not to actually build erosion-control structures but to identify which ones would work in different locations along the lake. Then, communities could seek funding for building them and implementing other erosion control measures.

“The dream is that we’re able to approach changing shorelines better,” said Tryon-Petith. “Erosion is such a behemoth of an issue. I’m starting to feel very excited working to find ways to tackle shoreline erosion around the lake. It’s not going to be the same solution everywhere . . . It’s very special to work on this issue with colleagues from Michigan and Illinois-Indiana. You can tell this isn’t a chore for them. This is clearly a passion for everyone involved.”

Read more details about the work going on in Illinois, Indiana and Michigan by following the links.

Other project personnel include Todd Breiby and Kate Angel with the Wisconsin Coastal Management Program; Pengfei Xue, Michigan Technological University; Sean Vitousek, United States Geological Survey; Stuart Carlton and Aaron Thompson, Purdue University; Mark Breederland, Michigan Sea Grant; and Sarah Peterson, Boyuan Lu, Yuli Liu and Josh Anderson with the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Additional funding is being provided by the Michigan Coastal Management Program and a NOAA Coastal Resilience grant.

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Marie Zhuikov

Plastic pollution at the Magee Marsh Wildlife Area on Lake Erie demonstrates the problem of marine debris in the Great Lakes. Image credit: NOAA

Wisconsin Sea Grant is leading one of six projects recently funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Marine Debris Program. The projects, announced today, focus on preventing the introduction of marine debris (trash, fishing gear and microplastics) into coastal and Great Lakes environments.

Wisconsin’s project is, “The Play’s the Thing: Using Drama as an Introduction to Marine Debris Prevention and Meaningful Stewardship Experiences.” Led by Ginny Carlton with help from Anne Moser and Jim Hurley, the project will harness the power of storytelling to engage, educate and inspire performing artists and community members to be committed stewards of their Great Lakes watershed.

The team will work with the American Players Theater to pilot a theatrical piece about marine debris science to educate and motivate change in two Lake Michigan communities (Racine and Egg Harbor, Wisconsin). In addition to the performance, the project includes marine debris prevention workshops, cleanup events, and public outreach and education activities. The script from the play will be available for use for Great Lakes education after the project is completed.

The other five projects are coming from Sea Grant programs in Florida, Georgia, Hawai’i, Illinois-Indiana and Puerto Rico. They were awarded $300,000 in federal funds, matched by nonfederal contributions, bringing the total investment to approximately $600,000. The activities begin this summer and continue for up to two years.

See the full list of projects.

“The continued effort between Sea Grant and the Marine Debris Program leverages the strengths of both programs to effectively address marine debris challenges nationwide,” said National Sea Grant College Program director Jonathan Pennock. “We look forward to seeing these new and creative strategies for marine debris prevention.”

This is the second year that Sea Grant and the Marine Debris Program offered a joint funding opportunity. Projects funded in the first year were aimed at reducing marine debris across the U.S.

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Marie Zhuikov

Natalie Chin, Wisconsin Sea Grant’s Climate and Tourism Outreach Specialist based in Superior, was recently appointed by Governor Tony Evers to the Wisconsin Council on Tourism.

“We’re working to make sure our state and our economy continue to recover from the coronavirus pandemic, and the Wisconsin Council on Tourism will play an important role in advising the Secretary of the Department of Tourism in the weeks and months ahead,” said Governor Evers. “Our tourism industry and workforce are a critical part of our state’s economy, and I’m proud of the work we’ve done through my first two budgets and targeted federal assistance to help support tourism in Wisconsin and ensure this industry can bounce back from this pandemic.”

Natalie Chin. Image credit: Bonnie Willison, Wisconsin Sea Grant.

Chin works on issues related to climate change, tourism and outdoor recreation within the context of the sustainable use of the Great Lakes. She also serves as one of the North Central Region representatives for the National Extension Tourism Network; is co-leading the Tourism and Outdoor Recreation Working Group for the Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts; and is a member of the Wisconsin Department of Tourism’s Diversity, Equity, Accessibility and Inclusion Committee.

“It’s truly an honor to be appointed to the council,” Chin said. “The Great Lakes are a key part of the state’s tourism industry and will certainly play an important role in its recovery. I can’t wait to contribute to the council’s efforts to support and advise the Department of Tourism.”

Evers also appointed three others to the Wisconsin Council on Tourism:

  • Mary McPhetridge (Reappointment) is the Executive Director of the Ashland Area Chamber of Commerce. A pillar of the Wisconsin tourism industry for more than 20 years, she serves in multiple leadership roles locally and with the state. In addition to serving on the Council on Tourism, she currently serves on the state’s marketing committee. Prior to her current role, Mary taught Hospitality Management classes for technical college and high school students and served as Executive Rooms Director at the Madison Concourse Hotel and Governor’s Club.
  • Dr. Robert “Bert” Davis, DVM (Reappointment) is the President and CEO of America’s Black Holocaust Museum in Milwaukee and serves as a board member at the Association of African American Museums. Davis also serves as the principal of DRMD Strategies LLC, a nonprofit strategic consulting firm with expertise in the areas of diversity, equity, collaborative alliances, communications, animal health and diversity, inclusion planning and implementation, and is the former President and CEO of the Zoological Society of Milwaukee. Dr. Davis is a co-chair of the Department’s Diversity, Equity, Accessibility and Inclusion committee. 
     
  • Denise Stillman (New Member) is the co-owner of Foremost Management Services, Inc., a hospitality consulting firm in Door County, and the co-owner/operator of Parkwood Lodge in Fish Creek.  Denise has been active in Door County tourism for over 30 years.  She is a past Chair and Board member of the Wisconsin Hotel & Lodging Association and currently serves as the Board President of Visit Fish Creek.

The 21-member council, which includes 14 gubernatorial appointees and 7 ex-officio members, represents varied geography and wide-ranging expertise that includes, but is not limited to, recreation and attraction business owners, hospitality and service industry business owners, convention and visitor bureaus, economic development specialists, industry thought leaders, legislators and leaders of arts, historic and cultural destinations. Despite the pandemic, the tourism industry supported more than 157,000 jobs and drove $17.3 billion in total business sales in 2020.

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Marie Zhuikov

It’s a thin volume with a worldwide span. In 2020, we sent out a call for river poems for The River Talks speaker series we hold with the Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve. Poets were offered the opportunity to read their poems via Zoom during one of the River Talk monthly presentations.

Poets from across the world responded. With help from a judging committee, we narrowed the pool to a dozen poets, who read their works in March 2021 in conjunction with the St. Louis River Summit. The event was so moving, and the poems so well received, we created a publication to showcase them. “A River of Poems,” is now available as a free download.

In “I Held Us on for 36 Hours After the Levee Broke to Hell,” Heather Dobbins tells the story of a family who spends the night atop a phone pole to escape a raging river.

In “Catching Your Drift,” Lorraine Lamey highlights the subtle humor in natural resource regulations for a river in Montana.

Poet Ron Riekki shares how water can be an antidote for PTSD from war in “It Took a Long Time to Discover.”

A river in Detroit burns in Derold Sligh’s “Rouge River” poem, heralding a cry for environmental and social justice.

Download the book here.

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Marie Zhuikov

Olivia Dachel, a Merrill High School teacher who is active in Wisconsin Sea Grant educational programs, has again put knowledge she gained through Sea Grant to help her students succeed. Her team of students took home the Judges’ Choice Best Tabletop System Design Award in the 2021 Aquaculture Challenge competition cosponsored by Lake Superior State University in Sault St. Marie, Michigan, and Michigan Sea Grant.

Drew Polak sits next to his team’s award-winning aquaponics system. Image credit: Olivia Dachel

Three of the team members were part of a team that won two awards in last year’s competition. They were team captain Drew Polak, a senior who plans to attend the University of Wisconsin-Platteville for engineering after he graduates; Brendan Blystone, a sophomore who developed the system’s automated monitoring coding; and Teeny, a goldfish who represented an aquaculture fish species.

The students were challenged to create a small-scale aquaponics system, which included developing a way to monitor system parameters such as air and water temperature, luminosity and soil moisture. They also developed an action plan to help ensure the business succeeds.

Their system featured a self-contained aquaponics unit in a sleek countertop cabinet with a built-in 10-gallon aquarium. The adjacent gardening system was accented with grow lights and a mounted touch-screen tablet for system monitoring.

“They really upgraded the automated monitoring system this year,” Dachel said. “I was so impressed with it!”

Aquaponics is a combination of aquaculture, which is growing fish and other aquatic animals, and hydroponics, which is growing plants without soil. To be successful, an aquaponics unit must carefully balance nutrients, fish, bacteria and plants. Anything out of balance will cause the system to collapse. (A video produced by Sea Grant presents one of these systems.)

The Merrill team competed against 19 others from across the Midwest, totaling over 300 students in grades 9-12. The team benefitted from information provided by the Sea Grant-sponsored Northern Aquaculture Demonstration Facility.

“They provided a virtual tour, plus schematics and baseline information that the students needed,” Dachel said.

The pandemic provided challenges to the team last year. This year was no different.

“If anything, it offered even more challenges,” Dachel said. “Even though we could have been face-to-face, due to student options for attending school at home or in a hybrid fashion, and due to the number of quarantines and health factors, it was very difficult to get students to meet in person to discuss the project. Most of the work occurred at home in separate areas or in the classroom at separate times when others weren’t around. When you’re working on circuitry, that’s pretty difficult.”

However, something must have gone right, given the team’s outcome. Just think what they could do if they were all together.

Oh, and Teeny? He now lives at home with Dachel.

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Marie Zhuikov

This summer on Bradford Beach in Milwaukee, swimmers might notice people in light blue T-shirts pushing an ice cream cart across the sand. Instead of frozen treats, the cart contains brochures and other information that beachgoers need to keep safe.

This cart, filled with water safety information, is a centerpiece of the new Beach Ambassador program on Bradford Beach in Milwaukee. Image credit: Deidre Peroff, Wisconsin Sea Grant

The cart is part of a new Beach Ambassador Pilot Project run by Wisconsin Sea Grant, Milwaukee Water Commons, Milwaukee Riverkeeper, Coastline Services LLC and the Milwaukee Community Sailing Center. These organizations created the project in response to four drownings that occurred on McKinley Beach in Milwaukee in 2020, and an increase in beachgoers because of the pandemic.

“Obviously, there were not that many things to do during the pandemic, so a lot more people were getting outside and utilizing the beach,” said Deidre Peroff, Wisconsin Sea Grant’s social science outreach specialist. “People were coming from all different backgrounds and different levels of swimming knowledge and competency, so it was just really risky.”

Peroff said there was a lifeguard shortage last year and that this year, in 2021, there are no lifeguards on Milwaukee beaches. This makes the Beach Ambassador project even more relevant. She explained the project is not designed to replace lifeguards, “But just to provide education and information for people so that they can protect themselves, and then, hopefully, share that information with others. There’s also a social justice element to it because all four people who drowned at McKinley Beach last year were African American.”

This project supports Peroff’s ongoing work to address racial disparities around swimming in Milwaukee and providing access to more opportunities for people to have meaningful experiences with water.

With funding from a National Sea Grant Covid 19 Pandemic Relief Social Justice grant that was matched by Milwaukee Water Commons, three beach ambassadors were hired as well as an intern. The ambassadors are walking Bradford Beach in teams with their cart each Thursday through Sunday from Memorial Day to Labor Day in 2021. (McKinley Beach is closed.) They inform people about topics related to water safety such as water quality conditions, rip currents, dehydration and hypothermia. The ambassadors encourage them to check the Milwaukee County Parks Weather and Beach Conditions website for more information and also let them know where safety equipment is located on the beach, should it be needed.

Jumana Tanner and Deidre Peroff. Image credit: Deidre Peroff, Wisconsin Sea Grant

Jumana Tanner is the intern Peroff hired for the Beach Ambassador project. A sophomore enrolled at the University of Wisconsin-Madison studying marine biology, Tanner is excited about spending time on the beach several days each week.

“I’m definitely getting a lot of hands-on experience with people. There’s a lot of networking and interactions with the public and strategizing how to effectively communicate about science. I have realized it doesn’t matter how much knowledge I might have – being able to effectively communicate that with people makes a greater difference,” Tanner said.

Tanner was thankful for the extensive training she received leading up to her posting as a beach ambassador. She said the ambassadors learned about dangerous currents, E. coli testing and drowning statistics. They also practiced various educational scenarios for interacting with the public.

With her colorful headscarf and heart-shaped sunglasses, Tanner cuts an unusual and enthusiastic figure on the beach. Besides providing beach information, she sees her internship as an opportunity to show people her character and Muslim culture, as well as furthering her career goals.

“I try to match my scarf with something else on me like jewelry or my shoes. When I come up to people with my bubbly personality, they get that color coordination to match with it. I use it to show people what my personality’s like and that I’m not intimidating. They shouldn’t be scared of me.

“My ultimate career goal is to effectively communicate with people about discoveries in our water. Our water is our greatest resource and it’s not being taken care of the way it takes care of us. That’s an issue for the future,” Tanner said.

Besides walking the beach, Tanner is helping to evaluate the project to shape it for possible future use at additional beaches. After each engagement with the public, the ambassadors write down what kind of information they provided and how people reacted.

Peroff said she’s not sure what the next steps will be for this unique program. “We’ll see how it goes and see if people are finding it valuable and go from there.”

The Beach Ambassadors and their mentors. From left to right, back row: Jumana Tanner, Deidre Peroff, Dylan Tripler, Jacob Donovan, Stephanie Alvarez, Teresa Coronado. Front: Lloyd Seawright, Cesar Castillo. Image credit: Deidre Peroff, Wisconsin Sea Grant

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Marie Zhuikov

The brains behind the SeaCavesWatch.org website have developed a new website that offers real-time wave condition information for the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in Lake Superior. Before venturing onto the lake, paddlers and boaters should check WISC-Watch (https://go.wisc.edu/7y2x4o), which stands for Water Information for a Safe Coast Watch. The WISC-Watch site provides information from seven spotter buoys recently deployed throughout the islands, plus Chequamegon Bay near Ashland and Siskiwit Bay near Cornucopia. The buoys monitor wave height, water temperature and wind information.

Lynne Dominy. Image credit: National Park Service

“Apostle Islands National Lakeshore offers world-class sea kayaking and sailing in a remote environment,” said Lynne Dominy, park superintendent. “But treacherous waves and frigid water temperatures can imperil boaters. We hope boaters will use this system to assess current conditions and to make good decisions before venturing out on Lake Superior.”

The site was developed as part of a yearlong project by the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Wisconsin Sea Grant with advice from the National Park Service and the Wisconsin Coastal Management Program.

Chin Wu, project leader and a professor in the UW-Madison Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, said spotter buoys were deployed in mid-June at the mainland sea caves, Sand Island, Devil’s Island, Stockton Island and southeast of Madeline Island, in addition to Chequamegon Bay and Siskiwit Bay.

“Besides the mainland sea caves, real-time measurements of wave heights and water temperatures have never been provided at these locations before,” Wu said. “The data we collect will also help us make nearshore wave and current forecast models operational.”

Next summer, a team led by Natalie Chin, Wisconsin Sea Grant climate and tourism outreach specialist, and Todd Breiby with the Wisconsin Coastal Management Program, will conduct a public survey to assess and evaluate the best ways to communicate real-time wave information. This could lead to refinements to the website and buoy locations.

Sarah Peterson, a Ph.D. student at UW-Madison, holds one of the spotter sensors deployed in the Apostle Islands for the WISC-Watch Project. Image credit: Chin Wu

Water conditions around the 22 Apostle Islands vary dramatically due to sheltering effects from the archipelago and rapidly changing winds and fast-moving storms. Recent boating accidents are an unpleasant reminder of the dangers. Under certain conditions, freak waves, which can tower more than 10-feet tall, or unexpected dangerous currents can also occur.

The WISC-Watch Project was funded by the Wisconsin Coastal Management Program, Wisconsin Sea Grant and the UW-Madison Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Other project partners include the National Park Service, the National Weather Service in Duluth, the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the Wisconsin Department of Tourism, the cities of Bayfield and Ashland, Northland College, the Lake Superior Nearshore Working Group, the Friends of the Apostle Islands and local outfitters.

Additional team members include Mike Friis with the Wisconsin Coastal Management Program, Jim Hurley and Marie Zhuikov with Wisconsin Sea Grant, Julie Van Stappen and Karl Carlson with the National Park Service, Josh Anderson with UW-Madison, and Mary Monroe Brown and Julieann Fox with Travel Wisconsin.

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Marie Zhuikov

Anne Moser. Credit: Wisconsin Sea Grant

Anne Moser, our senior special librarian and education coordinator, is participating in a conversation about the Great Lakes with several others in Door County on July 2. Organized by Write On, Door County, the in-person conversation about how the arts and science intersect is part of a book tour for Moheb Solimon’s poetry collection book, “Homes.”

Joined by fish biologist Mark Holey, the trio will present, “The Great Lakes: Why we love them and why we need to protect them.” It will be held from 10-11:30 a.m. at the Door County Maritime Museum. For more details, please access this event announcement.

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Marie Zhuikov

Dangerous currents can be caused by winds and waves on beaches and often form around islands or piers, as well. They are a hidden but lethal hazard. Across the Great Lakes, an average of 11 drownings and 23 rescues happen related to dangerous currents every year.

This is the spotter sensor (right) that was deployed off Park Point recently for the Dangerous Currents Project. Image credit: Jerry Henneck, Natural Resources Research Institute

Local water researchers studying dangerous currents want the public to know they’ll be active on the Lake Superior beaches of Park Point this summer. One of their activities in July will turn the lake water a fluorescent yellow green with a nontoxic dye to trace water currents as part of a safety project to predict dangerous currents. Research equipment will also be deployed into swimming waters off the shore. A spotter sensor (a buoy that measures waves and temperature) was deployed last week off Park Point, and a GPS drifter tracker will go in the water in July.

Chin Wu, one of the lead researchers with the project and a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, explains what the research activities will entail. “The spotter sensor is a basketball-sized, solar-powered yellow buoy that will be anchored. The GPS drifter tracker looks rather like a red post floating upright in the water. It will be drifting with the current. We’d appreciate it if the public would allow the equipment to operate. We plan to release the dye after a storm. It’s the same type used by the military to spot downed pilots in the ocean or track leaks in sewer pipes. It’s nontoxic and disperses within 45 minutes.”

The project involves a team of personnel in Wisconsin and Minnesota who are working to better understand and characterize dangerous currents along Lake Superior’s South Shore, improve the ability to predict when and where they will form, and develop a framework for public safety warnings and education programs. The project is focusing on six locations: three on Park Point, and one each in Port Wing, the Apostle Islands and Chequamegon Bay.

While on the beach this summer, Park Point beachgoers might also notice signs requesting them to take a survey. Results of this survey will be used to guide water safety efforts in the future.

Funding for the project is provided by the Wisconsin and Minnesota Sea Grant programs. Other partners include the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Weather Service, the Wisconsin Coastal Management Program, the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory; the University of Minnesota and the University of Minnesota Duluth, the Natural Resources Research Institute and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

A GPS drifter tracker in Lake Superior. Image credit: Jerry Henneck, Natural Resources Research Institute

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Marie Zhuikov

Amy Wolf speaks during the Wequiock Creek Natural Area gathering. Image credit: Daniel Meinhardt

This spring, a small but dedicated group of people gathered in the woods near the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay campus to commemorate restoration efforts that are beginning on the Wequiock Creek Natural Area.

Contributing to the restoration is Stephanie Dodge (formerly Stephanie King), a First Nations graduate assistant with Wisconsin Sea Grant. Dodge, an enrolled Oneida Nation Member, is incorporating Indigenous oral histories into work on the Wequiock Creek wetlands. The area is ancestral lands for the Ho-Chunk Nation, Menominee Nation, and Potawatomi, as well.

During the gathering of First Nations folks, Dodge listened to the group’s ideas, thoughts and feelings about what the wetlands means to them. Along with restoration team partners at the UW-Green Bay Cofrin Center for Biodiversity, Dodge shared intentions and goals for the land.

The gathering opened with a tobacco offering and Menominee prayer by David Grignon, tribal historic preservation officer with the Menominee Indian Tribe.

David Grignon and Stephanie Dodge. Image credit: Daniel Meinhardt

“It is my hope that good things happen at the site and a natural ecosystem can be developed and maintained,” Grignon said.

Dodge obtained the tobacco from a garden center near Wequiock Creek. The owners are friends of her mentor, Julia Noordyk, Wisconsin Sea Grant water quality and coastal communities outreach specialist. Dodge traded white corn flour products for it. Trading versus buying the tobacco is another example of incorporating traditional ways.

The group then toured the area and continued their discussions. The east shore of Green Bay, which includes Point au Sable, Wequiock Creek and Red Banks, remains a significant area for First Nations, who have been connected to this land for millennia.

“We hope this is just one of more gatherings and conversations to come,” said Bobbie Webster, natural areas ecologist for the Cofrin Center for Biodiversity.

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Marie Zhuikov

Back in 2004, when I worked for Minnesota Sea Grant, I was part of an effort to eradicate “feral” goldfish that had been flourishing in a pond on the University of Minnesota Duluth campus. The two-acre Rock Pond drained into a trout stream, which led to Lake Superior. Although it’s unlikely the goldfish would have survived in Lake Superior, they are illegal to release into waterways, and it’s not a good idea to have them swimming around in trout streams or a Great Lake.

After considering all options, a plan was put into place to drain the pond and compost the goldfish. At that same time, we were in the middle of developing “Habitattitude,” a national educational campaign that sought to prevent the release of aquarium and water garden fish and plants. Developed by Sea Grant, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council and involving large aquarium fish retailers such as PetCo, Wal-Mart and others, the campaign is still active today.

We decided Rock Pond would make a perfect pilot test of the new campaign logo and messages. After all, we didn’t want to clean up the pond only to have goldfish find their mysterious way back into it. For several years, we targeted the college students a few weeks before they left for the summer with emails, fliers in residence halls, and signs near the pond offering information about alternatives to releasing their unwanted pets.

It seemed to work well. As far as I know, the pond has not been infested with goldfish since. But I suppose you’re wondering why I referenced “murder” in the title of this story. Well, let me tell you a story behind the story.

After Rock Pond was drained, my supervisor at the time, Minnesota Sea Grant Assistant Director Jeff Gunderson, was back in his office looking over photos he took. He noticed something strange. He called me and our invasive species coordinator, Doug Jensen, into his office. He enlarged a section of a photo that seemed to show something white in the bottom of the pond.

“What does this look like to you?” Gunderson asked.

Jensen and I looked at the image and then looked at each other in disbelief. “That looks like a human skull!” I said.

We examined the image some more and came to consensus that yes, it very well could be a skull, half-buried in the mud.

Adrenaline coursed through my Sea Grant science communicator’s heart. We could have a murder mystery on our hands. Murder, combined with aquatic invasive species, what a wonderous and newsworthy combination!

What happened after that is a bit blurry in my memory, but I think we alerted the campus police and Gunderson sent them the photo. They investigated quickly. The result? Yes, it was a skull . . .

BUT, it was a plastic skull – like one a person would use for Halloween or some sort of occult ritual. (It had symbols carved into it.)

We were a bit deflated by the news, but also happy that no one had met their demise in the pond with the goldfishes.

It just goes to show that even with projects as routine as combatting invasive species, exciting things can happen.

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Marie Zhuikov

Prarthana Shankar gets around, and it’s all in the name of science. She has moved from tropical southern India, to California, to Oregon. Her next stop? The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Great Lakes Toxicology and Ecology Division in Duluth, Minnesota.

Shankar is one of the latest fellows in a partnership with the EPA, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and its Aquatic Sciences Center. The goal of the three-year U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Human Health and the Environment Research Fellows program is to train the next generation of scientists in environmental and ecosystem health. Shankar’s position will last two years.

Along with her EPA mentors Gary Ankley and Dan Villeneuve, Shankar has been working from her home in Oregon since May to understand the risks that per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS) pose to freshwater fish and ecosystems. She plans to use fathead minnows and zebrafish in her studies.

Prarthana Shankar, submitted photo.

“In the past few weeks, I’ve developed an interest in understanding the thyroid system,” Shankar said. “PFAS have been shown to have negative effects on the thyroid system, so I’ll be testing that and also seeing if they have higher-level impacts such as on the growth of the fishes.”

PFAS are a class of chemicals of emerging concern. PFAS exposure is linked to human health concerns, including compromised immunity, low birth weight, endocrine disruption and cancer. These chemicals get into the environment from sources like firefighting foam and industrial processes.

Shankar credits her dentist father for her love of science. “He was the kind of person who would look through my school biology books and talk to me about the concepts,” she said.

After growing up in India, Shankar had an opportunity to come to the U.S. to study, which she did. It was then she realized she loved the environment and wanted to be involved in ecological research. She eventually enrolled in California State University-Fullerton, where she majored in biology with a minor in chemistry.

While there, she was chosen for the Southern California Ecosystems Research Program (SCERP), which allows scholars to work on independent projects and present their work at conferences, concluding with a thesis.

“The SCERP program is what really got me into doing research and gave me my first experience in a lab setting,” Shankar said.

Shankar then moved onto Oregon State University in Corvallis, where she completed her Ph.D. program earlier this year. She studied the effects of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) (a class of chemicals that occur naturally in substances such as coal, oil and gas) on zebrafish.

Due to the pandemic, she has not moved to the EPA office in Duluth yet, but looks forward to it in a few months. She has even learned how to cross-county ski in preparation. “This postdoc position is the perfect opportunity to combine my work with my passion for the environment. Corvallis is the coldest place I’ve lived up until now. Moving to Duluth is going to be an adventure!”

The post EPA Fellow’s world travels lead to Duluth first appeared on Wisconsin Sea Grant.

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News Releases – Wisconsin Sea Grant

News Releases – Wisconsin Sea Grant

https://www.seagrant.wisc.edu/news/epa-fellows-world-travels-lead-to-duluth/

Marie Zhuikov