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Great Lakes Article:

UW Sea Grant Institute funds activities of UWGB professors
By Sonja G. Ostrow
Green Bay News-Chronicle
Posted May 17, 2004

That word is in local headlines more than ever as the community struggles with ways to obtain it and how to protect it.

Now, through several projects funded by the University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute, three UWGB professors are attempting to improve our knowledge of local water bodies and ecosystems.

Wisconsin Sea Grant, part of a nationwide network of university-based programs, studies and shares research on our Great Lakes systems.

This year, the program will receive $1.96 million in federal funds and another $1.38 million in matching funds from the state. That money will support research, outreach and education during 2004-05 by faculty, staff and students at UWGB and six other UW System campuses.

In total, 27 projects have been approved for funding this year, most requiring sophisticated laboratory and field research. Six of these will support Sea Grant specialists whose goal is to provide the public with free assistance and information regarding issues affecting the Great Lakes.

Among them is Victoria Harris, a professor at UWGB.

Harris, a water quality specialist, is primarily concerned with water pollution caused by runoff. In addition to raising awareness among community members, she works with agencies like the DNR and the Fish and Wildlife Service on projects to improve local water quality. Homeowners can limit the amount of toxic runoff they contribute to our local ecosystem with just a few simple steps, Harris said.

To cut down on runoff from rooftops, Harris suggests redirecting pipes onto the lawn. She also advises residents to use fewer chemicals on lawns and gardens, to avoid washing cars in driveways or roads, and to pick up dog droppings from the street instead of dumping them into storm sewers.

"The water running through storm sewers is not treated," Harris said, "so whatever you put in there goes into the nearest stream."

She is also working to restore the Cat Island chain, a sandy string of islands in lower Green Bay washed away by a series of storms in the 1970s. Harris hopes the reconstructed islands will serve as part of a natural habitat.

Another UWGB professor receiving funding through Sea Grant, Tara Reed, is also involved in the Cat Island project. Reed intends to collect current data on the area. This pre-restoration data, when compared with data compiled in the past, will allow future researchers to determine if the island restoration has achieved its goals.

Additionally, in collaboration with Bart DeStasio of Lawrence University, Reed will use Sea Grant funding to continue her investigation of the effects of zebra mussels on Green Bay.

Their project makes use of data gathered for earlier studies, many sponsored by Sea Grant.

"The reason we know so much about Green Bay is because Sea Grant has been so supportive of research in the past," Reed said. "Basically, Sea Grant is terrific, research is terrific - the spread of invasive species is not."

Michael E. Zorn, also at UWGB, is working in collaboration with researchers from other universities on a project funded by Sea Grant to develop a reliable, inexpensive method to measure water quality. Currently, such water-quality assessments are extremely expensive and laborious.

Zorn, Reed and Harris don't have all the answers to questions about the future of the bay. But with Sea Grant's support, they are that much closer to understanding its present.

More information about Sea Grant and its programs can be found at www.seagrant.wisc.edu

 

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