Smart Farming and Precision Agriculture

The 2024 Research in the Rotunda featured 16 Freshwater Collaborative-funded research projects. Students shared more about their experience.

Student: Aiden Drew
University: UW-Stout
Major: Applied Mathematics and Computer Science
Expected graduation date: May 2025
Mentors: Ahmed Elmagrous, Saleh Alneali, Keith Wojciechowski

Summarize the research and your role.

My research is on smart farming and precision agriculture. My role is to develop new ideas and build prototypes of new technologies that would be useful for growers. One of these technologies is a weather box that is placed in the grower’s field, which captures real-time data and sends it back to the grower by a mobile app.

What skills did you learn? 

I have learned important team-oriented skills like team communication and time effectiveness. I am able to be creative in the way I approach a problem. There are no wrong answers, just ideas. 

What are some of the opportunities you’ve had because of this research?

I’ve been able to attend different research conferences. At these conferences, I’m not only able share my research, but I also receive good questions/feedback from outside perspectives. 

What kind of career do you hope to go into after graduation?

I hope to go into data science/analysis, where I can use different mathematical methods to approach data visualization.

How will this experience help you attain your career goals?

I am able to work with large sums of data, where I can learn new ways to approach data analysis/visualization. Working with experts in the field, I am able to learn from the best in terms of how to tackle different scenarios with math.

Analyzing the Viability of Surface-Enhanced Raman Spectroscopy for the Accessible Detection of Toxic “Forever Chemicals” (PFAS) in Drinking Water

The 2024 Research in the Rotunda featured 16 Freshwater Collaborative-funded research projects. Students shared more about their experience.

Student: Andrew Glasgow
University:
UW-Madison
Major: Civil and Environmental Engineering, Environmental Emphasis
Graduation date: December 2023
Mentor: Haoran Wei

Summarize the research and your role.

The research was aimed at developing a novel, innovative approach for detecting per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in drinking water. Despite PFAS exposure’s strong links to various cancers and other health effects, current PFAS detection approaches are very expensive and time-consuming, rendering them inaccessible to many communities — especially marginalized groups and those without financial resources. This inaccessibility is made even more pressing because marginalized communities are more likely to be continually exposed to high levels of PFAS in their drinking water. 

Together with my advisors, Hanwei Wang and Dr. Haoran Wei, I worked to assess the viability of surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS) as a low-cost approach for the rapid detection of PFAS in drinking water. My role consisted of preparing, testing, and analyzing experimental data for different PFAS species, to determine if our experimental approach could help detect various compounds. I likewise had the unique opportunity to choose many of the next steps for experimental and variable analysis, and gained experience with advanced scientific instrumentation (e.g., scanning electron microscopy). Much of my work during the research program was accomplished in an independent manner, with my advisors being available for consultation as needed.

What skills have you gained?

The most valuable skill was gaining a strong comfort with the research process. Most of my prior research work had been “automatic,” with next steps being self-evident due to the nature of the experiments. My PFAS research through the SROP required a much more intensive and nuanced approach, as a slew of confounding variables (e.g., chemical properties) could potentially be influencing the results we obtained. Learning to trace and navigate the potential influence of these factors was an arduous process at first, but one that I believe made me a much more versatile researcher.

What was your favorite part of this project?

My favorite part was the opportunity to connect with like-minded individuals who are passionate about research that impacts the environment and society. Over the summer, one graduate student shared with me the importance of developing friendships with one’s coworkers, as they serve as a powerful motivator when the research process inevitably becomes discouraging. I found this piece of wisdom to be unequivocally true through my summer research experience and hope to continue to apply it during my future research endeavors.

What are your plans after graduate?

In autumn 2024, I hope to begin pursuing a Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering. In the interim between my graduation and the start of my doctoral studies, I have been working as a research assistant in two laboratories to gain additional experience with PFAS and contaminant research. Career-wise, I hope to become an environmental chemistry professor, to improve public health through the development of novel detection and treatment approaches for contaminants.

How will this experience help you attain your career goals?

This experience has provided me with significant knowledge and skills that will allow me to navigate graduate school and a career in the environmental chemistry field more easily. The experience solidified my dedication to scientific research that can improve society. For example, a true hope of mine one day is to aid in addressing the widespread and marked PFAS contamination in Okinawa, Japan. This goal stems directly from my research through the SROP, as the experience allowed me to fully realize my passion for research that can tangibly address severe environmental injustices.

Jablonski to Speak About Stakeholder Engagement at Wisconsin AWRA

Executive Director Marissa Jablonski will talk about the importance of stakeholder engagement at the annual Wisconsin AWRA conference on April 25.

During the opening lunch she will share insight from her work at the Freshwater Collaborative and her experience in global development on how to translate across multiple languages – lingual, cultural, disciplinary.

She will talk about how future research must pull together ALL stakeholders to successfully address water challenges such as PFAS, phosphorus pollution and other emerging water issues. We hope to see you there!

https://www.wisconsinawra.org/2024-annual-meeting.html

Science in the Classroom Panel at WSST, April 19

The Freshwater Collaborative will be presenting “Bringing Water Science into Your Classroom” at the Wisconsin Society of Science Teachers on Friday, April 19, at 8 a.m.

Our executive director, Marissa Jablonski, will be joined by Laura Lauderdale from University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, Sarah Vitale from University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, and Nicole Hayes from University of Wisconsin-Stout to talk about the programs for K-12 teachers and students that we are supporting across the state.

https://www.wsst.org/2024-conference

UW-River Falls Program Engages Youth in Water Science, Stewardship

Offering 22 miles of world-class trout fishing and other recreational activities, the beloved Kinnickinnic River runs through the city of River Falls and the UW-River Falls campus. The community and the campus are invested in its health.

So, it was no surprise the Youth Water Stewards pilot program, funded by the Freshwater Collaborative of Wisconsin, received a positive response from high school participants and community members.

The program was envisioned and led by Tovah Flygare, lecturer and sustainability specialist at UW-Fiver Falls, who is passionate about connecting people to water. Though not a scientist herself, she believes anyone can care for their local watershed.

Flygare worked closely with educators at Renaissance Charter Academy, a partner of the River Falls High School focused on individualized learning with support for student success. Many students express feelings of eco-anxiety and disconnectedness from their community. The goal was to help them to deepen their understanding of water science, future potential professions, and their community.

The pilot program engaged high schoolers in water science through basic water monitoring, data analysis and stewardship. Students also connected with university professors and students, local government and business representatives, and indigenous teachers.

During their coursework, students created or improved rain gardens, assisted in local erosion control projects, completed water monitoring projects, and learned about aspects of healthy water, including learning from indigenous teachers about species of vital importance to regional food and culture, such as wild rice.

Students participated in unique hands-on field trips.

“The outdoors experience for the entire pilot project was framed around field trips, hands-on learning and service-learning opportunities,” she says. “Every field trip seemed to be very positively received.”

In fact, the pilot program received such a positive reaction that the faculty received in-kind donations of time and expertise from the local Trout Unlimited chapter, the Kinnickinnic River Land Trust, and the city of River Falls.

The original funding was for one year, but because of the in-kind donations and the ability to leverage equipment used for another UW-River Falls project — the DAM Crew, which is also funded by the Freshwater Collaborative — Flygare was able to run the pilot for two years. Twenty-five high school students enrolled in the participating courses, and the field trips and speaker events were open to the entire high school and to UW-River Falls students.

The grant also supported two paid undergraduate positions to help with activities. Another four undergraduates volunteered their time.

Amber Rappl, who is majoring in biology and biotechnology at UW-River Falls, was the lead undergraduate mentor and educator. She facilitated educational workshops, organized field trips to local waterways, coordinated hands-on conservation projects, and provided guidance and support to students as they developed their understanding of water issues and implemented solutions in their communities.

As an undergraduate mentor, Amber Rappl enhanced her skills while encouraging others to get excited about science.

“My favorite part of this experience was seeing high school students get visibly excited about doing science,” she says. “Working closely with them, I witnessed their enthusiasm and passion for environmental stewardship grow, and I am proud to have played a role in fostering their commitment to protecting our freshwater resources.”

Another undergraduate helped the students create a rain garden around a city drain, and recent graduates who now work for the city led a service-learning project to address erosion.

Flygare says having undergraduate mentors was powerful. They shared what it was like to be a college student and made connections between the science and how students could use it to address real-world environmental problems.

“It was nice for the students to see a path from high school to college to a professional career working in water,” she says. “There were some ah-ha moments that were pretty special.”

Sex Based Spawning Behavior Differences in Lake Michigan Walleye

The 2024 Research in the Rotunda featured 16 Freshwater Collaborative-funded research projects. Students shared more about their experience.

Student: Carly Phalen
University: UW-Madison
Major: Wildlife Ecology with a certificate in Environmental Studies
Expected graduation date: December 2024
Mentor: Dan Isermann, UW-Stevens Point

Summarize the research and your role.

My role as an intern was to assist on a diverse array of graduate projects, including trout sampling in streams, conducting bass nest surveys, setting drift net arrays for sturgeon, and much more.

What skills have you gained?

Through this experience, I have acquired many skills, including electrofishing, eDNA sampling, otolith removal, drift and trawl net sampling, PIT tagging, and data analysis.

What was your favorite part of this project?

My favorite part of this experience was electrofishing for brook trout in spring ponds. These sampling sites were gorgeous, with crystal clear waters, and I enjoyed being hands on with such a beautiful fish species.

Students electrofishing

What are some of the opportunities you’ve had because of this research?

Through this experience, I was able to assist in an event at Kemp Station in which we gave kids a hands-on learning experience focused on engaging them in fisheries.

What are your plans after graduate?

After graduation, I hope to have a conservation-based career. I’m hoping to have a career conserving reptiles and amphibians.

This experience gave me many new skills necessary for a career in wildlife ecology, including a season conducting field research and data analysis. I believe these will be especially useful for my future, since I am planning on going to graduate school.

Sorption of Anionic Dye Alizarin Red S from Solution by Carbonate Mineral Dolomite

The 2024 Research in the Rotunda featured 16 Freshwater Collaborative-funded research projects. Students shared more about their experience.

Student: Anna Bowman
University: UW-Parkside
Major: Geosciences
Expected graduation date: Summer 2024
Mentor: Zhaohui (George) Li

Summarize the research and your role.

This specific research project was to test the dye-removal capacity of dolomite and heat-treated dolomite. Our findings were that heat-treated dolomite performed significantly better than raw dolomite. I was Dr. Li’s (my faculty advisor) research assistant.

What skills did you learn? 

Throughout this project, I’ve learned how to communicate effectively with others — whether coordinating schedules to make sure we set up and take off our samples at the right times, or (through Research in the Rotunda) explaining our research results in less technical terms. I’ve also learned how to use different kinds of lab equipment: centrifuge, x-ray diffractor, Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR for short), just to name a few.

What has been your favorite part about this experience?

Personally, my favorite part about this project was literally seeing how well each test (pH, ionic strength, temperature, and time) performed. Since we used dyes, we could see how dark or light the solution was before and after centrifuging and filtering. Sometimes, the raw dolomite wouldn’t be very effective, but it would make a pretty purple solution.

What are some of the opportunities you’ve had because of this research?

Some opportunities I have had because of this research are the chances to present at other conferences, namely the National Conference for Undergraduate Research and the Parkside Student Showcase, both in April.

What kind of career do you hope to go into after graduation? 

After graduation, I’m thinking of pursuing graduate school for something water related (not sure if I want to go into hydrology or hydrogeology yet).

How will this experience help you attain your career goals?

I believe this experience will help in the future. Right now, I’m thinking about working in a geology/ environmental geosciences lab, so this will definitely give me a head start. Even if I don’t end up working in a lab, I’ll know how to work well with others.

Steamer NIAGARA: Her Demise, Her Artifacts, and Her Significance

The 2024 Research in the Rotunda featured 16 Freshwater Collaborative-funded research projects. Students shared more about their experience.

Student: Nick Quaney
University: UW-Milwaukee
Major: History with a minor in English and a certificate in Celtic Studies
Expected graduation date: May 2025
Mentor: Kevin Cullen, Wisconsin Maritime Museum

Summarize the research and your role.

My research was at the Wisconsin Maritime Museum, going through their shipwreck artifact collection, specifically artifacts from the steamer NIAGARA, and researching maker’s marks. I was the only student researcher, working under the collections manager and curator.

What skills did you learn? 

I learned quite a bit about the many databases on maker’s marks, specifically British manufacture during the mid-19th century, the requirements, and procedures on how to handle artifacts, as well as the practical and less-flashy information on how museums operate, the structure of personnel and operations, and the making of museum exhibits.

What has been your favorite part about this experience?

Connecting with the museum staff and their partners at NOAA was one of my favorite parts, and the unique experience of looking at actual shipwreck artifacts.

What are some of the opportunities you’ve had because of this research?

I have had the opportunity to present my research at multiple symposia, in addition to the many connections I’ve made with academic advisors, curators, and NOAA federal employees.

What kind of career do you hope to go into after graduation? 

I hope to go to graduate school for a PhD in history, with a focus on military history, and to eventually teach at a university.

How will this experience help you attain your career goals?

I have made so many connections through my research, and the people I have met are more than willing to help me achieve my goals. The skills I gained have added to not just the way I look at my own field, but also the practical application of my studies, both of which are invaluable.

Lake Sturgeon Larval Production in the Upper Menominee River

The 2024 Research in the Rotunda featured 16 Freshwater Collaborative-funded research projects. Students shared more about their experience.

Student: Lauren Klawiter 
University: UW-Green Bay
Major: Biology with an emphasis in Fisheries and Aquatic Ecology and minor in Environmental Sciences
Expected graduation date: May of 2025
Mentor: Patrick Forsythe

Lauren Klawiter with sturgeon

Summarize the research and your role.

The main goal of this research was to determine the larval production downstream from the Grand Rapids Dam, and to evaluate the timing of the drift as a function of river conditions. My role was to take part in collecting the sturgeon larvae and data collection. Once data was collected, I compared the data from 2020, 2021 and 2023 to see how they correlated. 

What skills did you learn? 

I have learned a wide variety of skills: how to collect the sturgeon larvae, how to feed them in the many different stages of life, and how to tag them. I also was able to expand my knowledge on fish hatcheries and all the skills that are needed to successfully take care of the fish.  

What has been your favorite part about this experience?

My favorite part of this entire research project was probably being able to collect the larvae. It was something I’ve never done before and being outside till almost 3 in the morning with my coworkers was a something I’ll never forget. 

What are some of the opportunities you’ve had because of this research?

This research project has opened the door for me to several opportunities. I presented at the National American Fisheries Society (AFS) Conference. At the conference, I was also able to speak with multiple people and gain experience in presenting and making connections. Also, the skills I learned while on this project helped me gain a summer internship with Colorado State University, working with the Environment for Management of Military Lands at Fort McCoy. I will not only be using my skills from last summer but adding some additional skills which I am extremely excited for.

Students walking in stream

What kind of career do you hope to go into after graduation? 

I’m looking into a DNR biologist role as of now. I have really enjoyed my experiences with fish and hope to obtain a position working at a fishery or potentially with the DNR. I have always enjoyed being outside and I know my internships from last summer and this upcoming summer are setting me up nicely to help me reach my goals.

How will this experience help you attain your career goals?

My experience has helped make me a more confident person with my education and skills. I learned a variety of skills from electrofishing, tagging fish, water sampling and so much more, but I also learned to have confidence in myself.

Coastal Bird Use of Small Stream Mouths Along the Western Lake Michigan Shoreline

The 2024 Research in the Rotunda featured 16 Freshwater Collaborative-funded research projects. Students shared more about their experience.

Student: Sarah Baughman
University: UW-Green Bay
Major: Biology with emphasis on Conversation and Ecology
Expected graduation date: May 2025
Mentor: Erin Giese

Summarize the research and your role.

My research focused on coastal bird use of small to medium-sized stream mouths along the western Lake Michigan shoreline. The findings of this project are intended to inform restoration projects and contribute to research on lesser known and understudied creeks and streams around the Great Lakes. I took part in all phases of this project, so I was able to gain experience with proposal development, volunteer outreach and coordinating, site scouting, surveying, data collection and analysis, report writing, and presentation of results. 

Female student conducting field work

What skills did you learn? 

As an undergraduate student, I’ve had the privilege of holding a variety of roles in this project and I learned something with each phase. I gained experience with writing a proposal, communicating with advisors and volunteers, and protocol development. I gained self-confidence as I navigated communicating the goals of this project to others and asking for access to private lands. My bird identification skills have increased, and I have felt capable of joining other bird-related research projects. In presenting at Research in the Rotunda, I was able to break through anxieties about public speaking, and I am now a more confident and thorough communicator. All of this to say: I have learned so much.

What has been your favorite part about this experience?

Seeing my personal evolution from the start of this project to the present and encouraging other students to embrace similar opportunities.

What are some of the opportunities you’ve had because of this research?

Bird researcher for the Great Lakes Coastal Wetland Monitoring Program; student research presenter at multiple symposia and conferences including the Chancellor’s Open House in 2023; Audubon Fly-In in Washington, DC; Cat Island Piping Plover Conservation Team Member.

Female student conducting field research

What kind of career do you hope to go into after graduation? 

Wildlife biologist; volunteer outreach; researcher and field team leader

How will this experience help you attain your career goals?

This experience has strengthened my confidence and communication skills; a foundation I can build future career choices on. I am a more competitive undergraduate student than I would have been without this experience.