By UW-Stout Office of University Communications
Ongoing efforts to reduce blue-green algae and improve water quality in the Red Cedar River watershed have received a major boost from the National Science Foundation (NSF), which has renewed financing for a summer research program hosted by the University of Wisconsin-Stout.
The $303,427 grant will sustain the LAKES REU – Research Experience for Undergraduates – program from 2017 to 2019. An initial three-year grant cycle supported the program from 2014 to 2016 and totaled $282,000.
Home page photo: Students in the 2016 LAKES-REU program at UW-Stout are shown visiting a Dunn County farm as part of their research efforts. (Photo courtesy of UW-Stout Office of University Communications)
The eight-week LAKES program each summer hosts 10 or 11 students from universities around the United States.. Students receive a $4,000 stipend, housing in Red Cedar Hall, a basic meal plan for on-campus dining and travel expenses.
Students use the experience to prepare for graduate school. The project targets minority and/or first-generation college students, as well as those with limited research opportunities at their home institutions.
This year’s program will run from June 11 to Aug. 5.
During its first three years, the program’s 32 students produced 31 research projects on social, economic, ecological, cultural and spatial issues related to the toxic algae blooms, which are caused by excessive phosphorous entering the waterways.
The project’s findings have been made public each year via presentations at the Raw Deal in Menomonie, a blog, news stories and the annual Red Cedar Watershed Conference held at UW-Stout.
Nels Paulson, associate professor of social science at UW-Stout and co-director of the LAKES program, said he is excited to continue the project.
“Our research has provided some important data-driven inertia for increasing civic engagement on this issue in Menomonie, Dunn County and in other places in the Red Cedar basin,” he said. “We’ve been able to show the economic payoff in cleaning up the watershed, the cultural and social constraints and opportunities in doing so and the geological and limnological dynamics of phosphorous pollution and blue-green algal blooms.”
Research this year will aim at providing recommendations for reducing phosphorous run-off into the watershed and to assess “community capacity to support water quality improvement,” he added.
This spring, research by Alexis Econie of Illinois State University, a 2016 LAKES participant, was featured at ” Posters on the Hill,” one of just 60 collegiate research projects displayed at the U.S. Capitol.
In addition to the student research component, LAKES is collaborating with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, which has $500,000 in funding for a related watershed project called the Red Cedar River Water Quality Partnership.
“We’re trying to make sure our results directly integrate into their own research and decision-making,” Paulson said.
The Red Cedar watershed includes about 40,000 acres of open water and 4,900 miles of waterways. The LAKES project also collaborates with Dunn and Barron counties, the city of Menononie, the Tainter/Menomin Lake Improvement Association and several other area entities and agencies.
Chris Ferguson, associate professor of economics at UW-Stout, is co-director of the program. More information is available at www.uwstout.edu/lakes.