Pioneer Talk: freshwater initiatives

The evening began with sustainable and renewable energy systems assistant professor Dr. Pamela Tas introducing the panel discussion.. The panel of water experts consisted of UW-Platteville faculty freshwater biologist and a professor of biology Dr. Kristopher Wright, assistant professor of sociology and anthropology and program coordinator for social and environmental justice Dr. Claudine Pied, research manager at Pioneer Farm Dr. Dennis Busch, biogeographer and assistant professor of geography Dr. Chris Underwood, assistant professor and coordinator of reclamation, environment and conservation Dr. Yari Johnson, and assistant professor in civil and environmental engineering Dr. Austin Polebistski.

Wright started off the panel by introducing some of the freshwater initiatives currently in action. Wright’s current research focuses on trout streams in Southwest Wisconsin and working in conjunction with Trout Unlimited to see how their restoration efforts effect the habitat and communities within those streams. He also discussed how other faculty in the biology department were doing research conducive to the University Freshwater Initiative.

Associate professor of biology Dr. Becky Doyle-Morin’s research is focused on lakes and hydrogen peroxide level effects on lake vegetation. Assistant professor of biology Dr. John Peterson is working on detecting cricket frog populations. Finally, assistant professor of biology Dr. Ryan Haasal is working on exotic vegetation, particularly the migration process of Japanese Hops.

Pied gave an update on the research initiative University System Water Research Collaborative and discussed the idea behind the program. Water is important with the mission being a way to protect and enhance water resources for the state and nation. A big part of the collaboration is to connect people and stir the dialogue for water related issues. She introduced an Undergrad Fellows Program for the summer of 2018 where two students picked from each UW System will be able to work on another UW Systems fresh water project.

Busch discussed how the Pioneer Farm objective is to meet demand without degrading resources otherwise known as sustainable intensification. The Department of Agriculture (ARS) Long Term Agro-Ecosystem Research, Global Farm Platform are research programs that were mentioned with the purpose of being able to assist global food demand. (He also went over the Runoff Infrastructure research at Pioneer farm.)

Underwood’s presentation went over research that they are conducting in the Tree Ring Earth and Environment Science Lab. They are reconstructing environmental data through trees because they are static and essentially data piles of the area they live in. The trees hold groundwater data and shows how it varies over time.

Johnson’s research focuses on how to restore hydrology which is the water part of wetlands. The main area of focus is the Driftless Area. He discussed how topsoil has changed and the issues brought on by, that such as stream bank erosions. Historically, Wisconsin has a lot of wetlands but now they are buried. Johnson is working on restoring the wetlands and looking at the impact of the growing population on those environments.

Polebitski discussed the use of water reservoirs and the impact of climate change on those reservoirs. In terms of supply, he discussed his research on the use of water in toilets. He’s collecting hourly water use data on people in the Platteville area. Older toilets used around three to five gallons of water in order to flush while newer toilets around 1.5 gallons of water.

After the panel presented on their research concerning freshwater, the floor was opened up to questions from the audience who asked for more in depth information on some of the presentations. Junior civil engineering major McKenna Farmer gave her thoughts on the water panel talk as a whole.

“It was definitely really interesting for me. I’m really into water resources and I want to go into the field of water resources, so it was really interesting to hear about the research from the faculty, especially since [UW] Platteville isn’t really a research institution as far as their marketing goes and as far as what they emphasize to other people. Hearing all these different professors from different disciplines speaking about their own research experiences has been really interesting,” Farmer said. Junior civil engineering major DeLeah Willman also gave her thoughts on the water panel.

“I think it’s interesting that they’re now trying to implement more programs here, like graduate programs and even creating a new major here at UW[-Platteville] is really interesting, especially as a civil engineering student,” Willman said.