Lead Bullets Still Poisoning Region's Lakes
making impact with local, state science: What effect
does the lead shot mired in the muck at the bottom of
Rush Lake have on microorganisms living there?
Todd Sandrin is trying to figure that out. The University
of Wisconsin-Oshkosh faculty member who has now traded
his canoe for microscopes and petri dishes back at the
lab is getting near an answer.
lot of the sediment is rich in organic matter, and what
weve found is most of the lead is tied up in sediments,
which is a good thing, said Sandrin, 29. But
there may be further implications.
The big question: If microorganisms in the local lake
a rare, large prairie pothole
are being poisoned, killed or even slightly impacted by
decades-old lead duck shot, does it send a ripple or shockwave
through the rest of the food chain and ecosystem?
Thats some pretty important science.
And, while it is no major U.S. research institute, it
is coming out of UW-Oshkosh.
UW-Oshkosh biology faculty like Sandrin continue scoring
grant funding, time and support to undertake far-reaching
research projects that are locally and regionally digging
up new findings and revelations.
In the last few months to year, Sandrin has undertaken
his study of Rush Lakes lead woes, biology professor
Colleen McDermott has analyzed and blown the whistle on
inordinately high bacteria levels in popular Menominee
Park Beachs waters and two other scientists have
earned funding for research into developing less toxic
plants and preserving Native American wild rice stands.
think there may be a bit more research, but definitely,
the spotlighting has been beneficial, Sandrin said.
McDermott said about 14 years ago, the university made
a deliberate effort to hire faculty with research interests
beyond classroom instruction.
isnt that we werent doing it before,
she said. In the 1970s, people were working on phosphorous
dumping in Lake Winnebago. But 13 to 14 years ago, we
emphasized research more heavily. From that point on,
everybody weve hire has been pretty research oriented.
they chose to study the fish in the Mekong River or the
algae in Lake Winnebago is pretty much up to them. It
just makes sense to research the area around you because
its easier, she said.
McDermotts reported findings of inordinately high
bacteria levels in Menominee Park beach has prompted further
university-city collaboration on finding a solution.
More cooperation has been a key issue under the watch
of Chancellor Richard Wells, who argues UW-Oshkosh should
be a bigger player be it in science or other disciplines
in its home community.
think its important and we think it gives our students
an advantage, McDermott said.
Now, McDermott said Wells has granted her a $600 grant
to seek certification deeming the UW-Oshkosh biology lab
as an official testing lab.
will let us have more clout and impact to do testing for
municipalities and to teach our students, she said.
The science projects undertaken by UW-Oshkosh biologists
have been varied:
- Teri Shors, an assistant professor who came to UW-Oshkosh
from the National Institute of Health, has studied the
anti-virus for smallpox. Shors has also been able to score
the university of gene sequencer the state-of-the-art
tool international researchers are using to map the human
code of life.
Shors also teamed up with two other university faculty
members in 2001 to study the spread and sociological impact
of the infamous 1918 Oshkosh flu epidemic.
- Biology professor and director of UW-Oshkoshs
Electron Microscopy Facility Todd Kostman has undertaken
a two-year research project studying how a potentially
toxic acid in plants consumed by humans and animals can
be reduced. A $74,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture grant
fuels the work.
- UW-Oshkosh Aquatic Biologist Robert Pillsbury has a
more-than $40,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency grant in hand to study wild rice in 60 wetlands
in Wisconsin and Minnesota.
Pillsbury and UW-Oshkosh grad student Melissa McGuire
of Campbellsport are trying to determine how factors from
boat traffic to agricultural runoff effect endangered
wild rice stands.
time, the wild rice fields and lakes theyve been
harvested from, sometimes, just tend to disappear,
said McGuire, working on her masters in zoology.
The crop isnt productive from year to year,
and so far no one has been able to figure out whats
causing the decline.
McGuire said students, too, have noticed the apparent
boon in research efforts from UW-Oshkosh.
trend seems to be more local, she said. Its
What can we do to benefit the local area and Wisconsin?
Michael Zimmerman, dean of the College of Letters and
Science, said the efforts arent just in biology.
UW-Oshkoshs geologists, chemists and physics faculty
have also won grants, setting out on important research
really is true that the quality of research thats
going on here is every bit as high as at any research
institution, Zimmerman said. The quantity
is less, because people are teaching more, but the quality
have done a wonderful job of hiring the best people in
the world, he said. When you hire people that
good, you change the campus and you also change the community,
and thats exciting.