Smart Farming and Precision Agriculture

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

Aiden Drew and Josh Pederson created a video about their work. Watch the video.

Below is a Q&A with Aiden Drew.

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.

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.

Comparing the Effects of Restoration Age on Stream Ecosystems and Community Dynamics

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

Student: Casie Kopischke
University: UW-Stout
Major: Environmental Science
Expected graduation date: May 2025
Mentors: Nicole Hayes, Keith Gilland and Julia Chapman

Summarize the research and your role.

I researched how restoration year effects the community dynamics in Gilbert Creek, as a part of monitoring the Red Cedar watershed. Gilbert Creek was restored along several areas mor than 18 years for the trout population. Last summer, we collected insects that the trout eat, as they are a good indicator of water quality. After doing so, I ran calculations and found that the areas that have been restored along the stream are better for the insects and trout than the parts of the stream that are not restored. It’s impressive that we are still seeing effects from restoration almost 20 years after.

What skills did you learn? 

I had the opportunity to sample sites along four streams and collect data on nutrients, macroinvertebrates, and other stream qualities. I have learned more about different water quality measures and the importance of each measurement, and I also improved my data entry and analysis skills. My favorite part about this research was going into the field with my peers, collecting data and finding unique flora and fauna.

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

Some opportunities I have had because of this include going to Research in the Rotunda and presenting my research to Wisconsin legislators, as well as at Research Day at UW-Stout.

How will this experience help you attain your career goals?

After graduating, I hope to continue being able to do water quality focused jobs, or to branch into land conservation. Doing this research has expanded my skills in the environmental science field and will benefit my career aspirations post-graduation.

Economic Impacts of Wisconsin Fishing Supported by The Freshwater Resources of Lake Michigan and Bay of Green Bay

The 2024 Research in the Rotunda featured 16 Freshwater Collaborative-funded research projects. Students shared more about their experience analyzing how different fishery management strategies and climate change scenarios may affect the quality, and therefore economic value, of Lake Michigan and the Bay of Green Bay. Changes in quality and economic value in turn affect the health of regional economies and welfare of residents and visitors. Ultimately, this information helps inform resource managers about the most efficient and effective strategies available to maximize the value of this resource now and in the future.

University: UW-Whitewater
Mentor: Matthew Winden
Students:
Alaina Jacobs
Major: Entrepreneurship
Expected graduation date: May 2026

Clare O’Donnell
Major: Environmental Science
Expected graduation date: May 2024

Summarize the research and your role.

Jacobs: This research consisted of estimating the economic value of Lake Michigan and the Bay of Green Bay. We conducted multiple surveys for anglers to gain more information on their expenditures.

O’Donnell: I was involved in writing sections of the literature review and referencing other surveys sent out about commercial/ recreational/ charter boat fisheries. I then created the section of the survey that collects data about commercial fisheries (this is ongoing) and helped review the survey in its entirety. I also helped customize and create the poster that we presented at Research in the Rotunda.

What skills did you learn? 

Jacobs: I learned how to use Qualtrics and how to create a literature review on Excel. 

O’Donnell: I learned how to reference past studies to aid in future research practices. I also learned how to properly write a literature review. I learned how to create surveys in a way that optimizes results while still being easy to navigate for respondents.

What has been your favorite part about this experience?

Jacobs: My favorite part of this experience has been working with the team. Our varying backgrounds and perspectives propelled our research process. 

O’Donnell: My favorite part of this experience has been collecting the data and learning how important having the numbers can be when it comes to future decision-making. I also enjoyed referencing similar studies and seeing what we did differently and how we can improve.

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

Jacobs: I have had the opportunity to connect with local legislators and professors. This research has put me into important spaces. I had the opportunity to work alongside my peers, who also have a passion for the intersection of science and economics. 

O’Donnell: This research has given me more relevant experience for the jobs I am interested in pursuing. It has allowed me to gain more experience in collaborative working and experience in how to properly conduct research.

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

Jacobs: I want to go into environmental entrepreneurship. 

O’Donnell: I hope to work in something related to environmental policy, environmental social governance, environmental health and safety or environmental consulting.

How will this experience help you attain your career goals?

Jacobs: This experience has enhanced my ability to convey information effectively. I learned how to use Qualtrics and how to create a literature review in Excel. This high-impact practice strengthened my critical thinking skills, and that is a quality I will need as a business owner. 

O’Donnell: This experience helped me gain relevant experience that can be applicable to many of the jobs I am interested in. I have learned so much through this process, and I am ready to use all the skills I have learned in the workforce. 

Adsorption of PFAS in Nanoporous Solids

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

Student: Olivia Stellpflug
University: UW-Stevens Point
Major: Chemical Engineering with a Waste Resources Minor and Environmental Ethics Certificate
Expected graduation date: May 2025
Mentor: Joe Mondloch

Summarize the research and your role.

I have now been in two different research labs on campus–both studying PFAS adsorption to test methods for removing it from water. My role in both labs has been to prepare samples and record data to gather results on how these methods are performing.

What skills did you learn? 

It has improved my lab skills greatly outside the classroom, including preparing reagents, measuring out samples, and collecting data. Part of this role is also learning about the chemistry we are utilizing and how to interpret results and move forward. The biggest skill I have gained experience with is problem solving and troubleshooting when samples are not behaving the way we expected, and we must alter our approach.

What has been your favorite part about this experience?

My favorite part of this experience is learning from mentors on campus and to be part of a potential solution to an environmental concern. 

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

This research has helped me have background experience to draw on for future roles. I have been able to participate in research presentations and talk to administrators and officials, and it’s helping me secure future positions.

What are your plans after graduation?

My number one priority is environmental issues, and my goal is to work toward solutions to clean our planet. I hope to find a career in engineering solutions and sustainability to protect nature.

How will this experience help you attain your career goals?

My research experience has helped me take the first step toward this goal by developing my lab skills, problem solving, and communication that will allow me to be successful in my career. It has also expanded the range of knowledge I have of environmental issues.