By UW-Stout Office of University Communications
New studies on the Red Cedar River watershed by students enrolled in a University of Wisconsin-Stout summer research program will be presented in early August at public forums in Menomonie and Chetek.
Home page photo: UW-Stout biology instructor Arthur Kneeland, left, works with LAKES REU students Elise Martinez, center, and Sarah Mack in a university lab. The trio was working on growing corn and other plants in sediment taken from an area waterway.
The 13 student researchers included two from UW-Stout and one from UW-La Crosse. The group will discuss its various summer research findings from 5 to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 2 at the Raw Deal, 603 S. Broadway St. in Menomonie. This will be followed by a forum from 3 to 6 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 4 at Gilligan’s, 2542 8¼ Avenue (Highway D) in Chetek.
Both events are free and open to the public.
The students are part of LAKES REU, a summer research experience for undergraduates at UW-Stout. (An earlier CVPost story on this project may be found here.)
The eight-week summer program focused on issues related to blue-green algae in the watershed and how the compromised water quality affects quality of life in the region. The students’ research efforts were directed at Lake Menomin, Tainter Lake and the Chetek chain of lakes.
Issues researched by the students this summer included public policies, citizen and community involvement, the impact of soil erosion on water quality, and what concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) can do to improve water quality. Other topics included the financial benefit to farmers of reducing run-off and how farmers can convert to conservation agriculture.
UW-Stout Associate Prof. Nels Paulson and Associate Prof. Chris Ferguson were co-directors of the project. Four other UW-Stout faculty members served as advisers for student research projects.
“This is a significant expansion on the LAKES REU research from the previous three summers,” Paulson said. “The student research will facilitate data-driven discussions on a range of issues from farming to community engagement to potential economic gains to practical technical solutions to this issue.”
The eight-week LAKES summer program annually hosts 10 or 11 students from universities around the United States. Students receive a $4,000 stipend plus housing, meals and travel expenses. This year’s student researchers, their home universities and research areas were:
- Madison Biggs, Drake University, economics.
- Jimmy Chin, University of North Carolina, economics.
- Kayleigh DeBruyne, Pacific University, anthropology.
- Amber Georgakopoulos, UW-Stout, anthropology.
- Stephanie Gonzalez, UCLA, geography.
- Sadie Higgins, Hampshire College, sociology.
- Andrew Hutchens, University of Central Florida, economics.
- Bailey Kramer, UW-Stout, biology.
- Sarah Mack, Kean University, biology.
- Elise Martinez, University of Colorado, sociology.
- Ryleigh Prochnow, UW-La Crosse, economics.
- Elizabeth Sosa, Sam Houston State University, geography.
- Katherine Zuniga, University of Arizona, anthropology.
The LAKES REU project was reapproved this year for another three years of funding by the National Science Foundation, and received a $303,000 grant. The first LAKES grant cycle ran from 2014-16. The LAKES REU acronym stands for Linking Applied Knowledge in Environmental Stability – Research Experience for Undergraduates.
During the project’s first three years, LAKES’ 32 students produced 31 research projects on social, economic, ecological, cultural and spatial issues related to the toxic blooms, which are caused by excessive phosphorous in the waterways.
The LAKES REU project 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.
LAKES also collaborates with other area entities and agencies, including the Tainter/Menomin Lake Improvement Association, Dunn and Barron Counties, the city of Menomonie, Red Cedar Lakes Association, Chetek Lakes Protection Association and the Big Chetac and Birch Lakes Association.
The Red Cedar watershed includes about 40,000 acres of open water and 4,900 miles of waterways.
The photos accompanying this article were provided by the UW-Stout Office of University Communications. More information on the project is available at www.uwstout.edu/lakes.