Tag: Environmental Science and Policy

Grad student Heim presents on dairy/watershed management

Graduate student Alexis Heim, Environmental Science and Policy, attended the 2015 International Soil and Water Assessment Tool Conference and Workshops, held October 12-16 at Purdue University. The conference drew more than 140 attendees from 10 countries with 96 oral and 22 poster presentations. She presented part of her thesis work on “Assessing the Impact of Alternative Management Strategies in a Dairy-dominated Agricultural Watershed Vulnerable to High Sediment and P Runoff” with co-authors Paul Baumgart and Kevin Fermanich. As part of the watershed research lab at UWGB, it is expected the work will help watershed managers target implementation of alternative management strategies which improve water quality.

Dornbush accepts post in academic affairs, grants, grad studies

post-dornbushProf. Mathew E. Dornbush is joining the academic affairs administrative team at UW-Green Bay as the Assistant Vice Chancellor for Professional Development and Grants, and Director of Graduate Studies.

He will report to Interim Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Gregory Davis, who announced the appointment this week. Dornbush will begin his new duties Aug. 24.

Dornbush is a professor of biology with the Natural and Applied Sciences academic unit who currently serves as chairman of UW-Green Bay’s interdisciplinary master’s degree program in Environmental Science and Policy. He has taught at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

In his new role, Dornbush will provide leadership for the Office of Grants and Research, the Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning, and the Office of Graduate Studies, with the latter expected to be an area of emphasis with strategic planning and new recruitment/marketing initiatives. Additionally, he will take a lead role in promoting undergraduate student research and serve as a liaison to the University’s Institutional Research Board and Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee.

The position represents a reshaping of the administrative post left vacant earlier this summer by the retirement of Daniel McCollum, whose title was assistant vice chancellor for academic administration.

Dornbush earned promotion to the highest faculty rank, full professor, this past June. The promotion came only a decade after he earned his doctoral degree in ecology at Iowa State University and joined the UW-Green Bay faculty in 2005. Along with his graduate-program experience as chairman of ES&P, Dornbush has been successful in winning outside grants to support his scientific research. His primary interests involve the role of native plant restorations in improving ecosystems. He has received state and federal grants for projects ranging from the potential use of native tallgrass for bio-energy purposes to the restoration of wild rice, bulrush and wild celery stands in the lower bay.

Master’s thesis by Biodiversity’s Giese leads to ‘Ecosphere’ article

Cofrin Center for Biodiversity Data Specialist Erin Giese, along with UW-Green Bay faculty members Bob Howe and Amy Wolf, graduate student Nick Walton, and Nature Conservancy biologist Nick Miller, have published a paper in the Ecological Society of America’s new online journal Ecosphere. The paper, titled “Sensitivity of breeding birds to the ‘human footprint’ in western Great Lakes forest landscapes,” documents how bird populations respond to human activities like road-building, logging, and housing density in the northwoods of Wisconsin and nearby states. The paper is an outgrowth of Giese’s master’s thesis in the UW-Green Bay Environmental Science and Policy program and has become the basis for an ongoing effort (www.uwgb.edu/biodiversity/forest-index/iec.asp) to measure forest health in the western Great Lakes based on birds. Howe says online scientific journals such as Ecosphere seem to be the wave of the future. Check out the article (for free) at: http://www.esajournals.org/doi/abs/10.1890/ES14-00414.1

GB grad Prestby ‘scores’ rare bird sighting

Here’s a fun story for friends of Eco U. It starts like this, “It was the equivalent of a touchdown… Almost camouflaged among the geese was a large shorebird with a long, orange and black, upturned bill. A Hudsonian Godwit. Score! Behind the wheel Quentin Yoerger pumped his fist in the air. ‘This was excellent,’ said Tom Prestby, riding shotgun. ‘It’s one of my favorite birds.’” Prestby, a recent UWGB master’s degree (ES&P) grad calls this birding experience “The Super Bowl of Birding” and the Journal Sentinel had coverage of Presby’s one-day race to document the most bird species in Wisconsin in a 24-hour period. In all, they confirmed 191 species. See story.

Meanwhile, Miller adds rare Black-bellied Whistling Duck to life list
No, really, that’s its name. (Although, Black-bellied, Pink-legged, Gaudy-billed, Chestnut-backed, Mohawk-sporting Whistling Duck might be even more descriptive.) Chancellor Gary L. Miller, an ecologist by training who has a fairly impressive life list as a birder, reports he was enjoying a short family vacation last week and playing a round of golf in the Houston area (well before the big rains arrived, obviously) when the call and coloration of a pair of greenside ducks he had never seen before caused him to set down the putter or pin flag he was holding (who can remember at such a time?) to enter full ornithologist mode. He quietly and carefully observed this new (to him) species — which he was able to identify as the BBWD, rare outside Mexico and parts of the Gulf Coast — which, of course, interrupted the golf outing… much to the consternation of Miller’s son, who favors birdies, not birds, and happened to be lining up a very important putt when the ducks of a lifetime whistled into view. At least that’s the way the Log heard the story. Take a look at the “spectacular, social and noisy” duck in question.

Alumnus finds inspiration to ‘Always Climb Higher’

Alumnus Jeff PagelsNote: An abbreviated version of this story was published in the May 2015 print edition of the Inside UW-Green Bay magazine.

Jeff Pagels’ success as an inspirational author, speaker, Olympic-caliber athlete, natural-resource manager and all-around good guy is fueled by his love for the outdoors and his determination to rise above life’s challenges.

Pagels received his master’s degree from UW-Green Bay in 1986. He chose UW-Green Bay because it was close to home and offered a degree in Environmental Science and Policy. He had been taking one course a semester, but jumped to almost a full load after he broke his back and got out of the hospital.

“I needed something to take my mind off my life-changing injury, and going to school nearly full time was the strong medicine that I needed to move on,” Pagels recalls.

His best memory of campus involves adjustment to his new life. A novice wheelchair user at the time, he struggled early with navigating and making his way around… except when he was at school.

“The UW-Green Bay campus was extremely accessible to me and easy to navigate. In addition, everyone on campus both students and professors were friendly and helpful,” Pagels remembers.

He landed rewarding professional work with the state Department of Natural Resources, administering grant programs and advocating for nature lovers with disabilities.

He worked as a regional outreach team leader. His job involved administering a variety of local grant programs associated with outdoor recreation, clean water, and land use and sewage treatment. Along with his love of the outdoors, his work supported his passion to ensure equal access for recreation users with disabilities.

A quote that Pagels created and uses often, “Mother Nature does not have to comply with ADA.”

At the same time, Pagels’ fierce competitive spirit found an outlet in handcycle racing, skiing, sled hockey, rafting and mountain climbing. His 13 gold medals and three silvers in international competition are highlighted by wins in the world 5K and 10K ski races held in conjunction with the 1992 Olympics in Albertville, France. At the time, he was the only American cross country skier in history (able or disabled) to accomplish the 5K and 10K double.

A year later, Pagels and another wheelchair athlete became the first to traverse the Sierra-Nevada Mountain Range on sit skis, conquering a 55-mile route and 10,000-foot elevations.

In 2014, Pagels wrote the book Always Climb Higher about his comeback from severe spinal cord injury. The book highlights his decision to stop competing against others and focus solely on competing with himself.

Since his retirement in 2014, Pagels has volunteered at various hospitals and medical centers providing one-on-one counseling for individuals with disabilities. He has developed a park and recreation accessibility manual and has served as a chief advisor in the preparation of a federal U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service video on accessibility. He also conducts sensitivity sessions for groups involved in providing services to the public and the disabled including the U.S. National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and other state and federal agencies across the country.

– Story by Daniele Frechette ’11

Healing habitats: Grant to build comprehensive plan for fish, wildlife

wolf-howe-top-storyMore than a dozen undergraduate and graduate students have a tremendous opportunity to work alongside UW-Green Bay Professors Bob Howe and Amy Wolf on a comprehensive plan to improve fish and wildlife habitat in the region.

Howe, Wolf and UWGB staff, in collaboration with The Nature Conservancy (TNC), are the recipients of a $471,000 Environmental Protection Agency/Department of Natural Resources grant to study fish and wildlife conditions and threats in what is termed the “Lower Green Bay and Fox River Area of Concern” and its immediately contributing watershed.

“This project is important for our region because it will yield one of the most, if not the most, specific plans for improving fish and wildlife habitat in the lower Bay and Fox River,” said Howe.

Howe considers the assessment, and the recommendations vital to the future regional economy and quality of life.

“Although the AOC is clearly degraded, more and more evidence has shown that this is a ‘world class’ site for freshwater fish, colonial and migratory birds, and other wildlife species,” said Howe. “I view Green Bay as comparable to Chesapeake Bay on the East Coast and San Francisco Bay on the West Coast — places where natural resources have experienced degradation, but places where these resources are still very much alive and are vital to the future local economy and quality of life,” he said.

Lower Green Bay and the Fox River below the DePere Dam comprise one of 43 Great Lakes Areas of Concern (AOC’s) designated in 1987 by the International Joint Commission of Canada and the United States through the U.S.-Canada Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. The ultimate goal of the UWGB/TNC project is to help develop a strategy for improving conditions in the AOC so that it can be removed or “de-listed” from its impaired status.

Loss of fish and wildlife habitat is one of the most significant reasons why the Lower Green Bay and Fox River AOC was designated as an AOC. Documented (WDNR) causes of ecological and economic impairment of the Lower Green Bay and Fox River AOC include:
• habitat destruction and fragmentation due to urban and industrial development and stream channelization;
• dredging and filling of aquatic habitats along the Fox River corridor;
• wetland degradation from human activity and changing water levels;
• disruption of hydrologic connectivity by road construction and other human activities;
• loss of submerged aquatic vegetation in the Duck Creek delta area of the lower Bay because of turbid water and hyper eutrophication;
• destruction of barrier islands in the Cat Island Chain by high water and storms;
• reduction in underwater plants and littoral vegetation by invasive carp;
• silt deposition and re-suspension of sediments in the Lower Bay; and
spread of invasive plant species.

Alongside UWGB staff members Erin Giese, Michael Stiefvater, Kimberlee McKeefry, and Bobbie Webster, Howe and Wolf are working with students on this two-year, two-phase project to comprehensively assess existing habitat conditions and formulate a protection and restoration plan in the affected areas.

In each phase, UW-Green Bay students will be able to assist the faculty and staff members and Wisconsin DNR and TNC collaborators in their comprehensive research and development of the plan.

Phase One, the assessment portion of the project, will focus primarily on finding, organizing and evaluating existing data related to fish and wildlife populations in the AOC. Information will be compiled from a wide variety of sources, including local experts, on historical conditions, habitat dynamics, restoration opportunities and threats in the lower Bay and Fox River.

Phase Two goals include synthesis of the information, creating a blueprint for protection and restoration activities; identifying specific opportunities for protection, restoration and rehabilitation of fish and wildlife habitat; cataloging past projects to assess their contribution towards delisting thresholds and developing monitoring protocols for measuring the status of fish and wildlife habitat to document the success or failure of specific remediation projects.

Proposers say the project will “test the utility of objective metrics for the ultimate purpose of informing decision-makers at local, regional and national levels, particularly those making decisions involving the status, protection and restoration of fish and wildlife habitat in other Great Lakes Areas of Concern.”

Work began in fall of 2014 and will continue through August of 2016. This project is particularly significant because it adds to a long-standing and growing involvement of UW-Green Bay scientists and students in solving problems of water quality, ecological health, and economic viability of Green Bay and the Great Lakes in general. Other recent grants by UWGB Natural and Applied Sciences professors Kevin Fermanich, Mike Zorn, Matt Dornbush, Patrick Forsythe and others, demonstrates the important role of UWGB in helping improve environmental quality in the Green Bay ecosystem.

UW-Green Bay grad students will describe Cat Island research

The keynote presentation at Tuesday’s watershed symposium will take place from 9:15 to 10 a.m. in the Union’s Phoenix Room. Chelsea Gunther, Jesse Weinzinger and Tom Prestby — graduate students in Environmental Science and Policy — will describe their research work involving the restoration of the Cat Island Chain in the lower bay. Following completion of protective islands and dikes intended to support better wetland and shallow-water habitat, Gunther and Weinzinger are finding evidence of increased aquatic plant diversity, and Prestby is documenting the return of migratory shorebird populations.

Students to share research April 14 at annual Fox River Watershed symposium

Nearly one hundred students and teachers from participating Northeastern Wisconsin high schools will spend the day on the UW-Green Bay campus Tuesday, April 14, for the 12th annual Student Watershed Symposium.

The symposium brings together the high schoolers and UW-Green Bay faculty researchers who partner on monitoring the health of the Fox River basin through the initiative known as the Lower Fox River Watershed Monitoring Program. The day’s activities run from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., with the morning presentations in the Phoenix Rooms of the University Union free and open to the public. In the afternoon, participating students will have the opportunity to tour UW-Green Bay’s Richter Museum of Natural History and Fewless Herbarium, take part in a frog-monitoring workshop, and compete in a quiz bowl.

Among the highlights of the annual event is the opportunity for the high schools to share reports on their respective monitoring projects. The list of student presentations for Tuesday:

Duck Creek Team: Website — Students from Green Bay Southwest H.S. have created a website for their science club that showcases their involvement with LFRWMP.
Trout Creek Team: Public Awareness — Students from Pulaski H.S. have created videos promoting public awareness on issues such as nutrient pollution, dead zones, PCB cleanup and northern pike restoration.
Spring Brook Team: Nitrates by the Stream — Students from Oshkosh North H.S. have investigated the cause of high nitrate levels in “their” stream, and contacted landowners near the brook to identify potential sources.
Ashwaubenon Creek: Frogs, Their Importance and Why We Monitor — An introduction to frogs and their importance to watershed ecosystems by Green Bay East H.S. student Jermaine Toliver-Marx.

Additionally, participating schools will also display research posters related to their monitoring work. Topics include testing that shows Ashwaubenon Creek’s clay bottom, among other factors, limits its suitability for crustaceans and other beneficial species; research indicating Dutchman’s Creek has water quality and habitat deficiencies that keep fish from thriving; and an analysis of upstream watershed improvement projects affecting Trout Creek.

The symposium opens with a keynote presentation by Chelsea Gunther, Jesse Weinzinger and Tom Prestby — graduate students in UW-Green Bay’s Environmental Science and Policy master’s degree program — in which they’ll describe their research work involving the restoration of the Cat Island Chain in the lower bay just off the mouth of the Fox River. Following completion of protective islands and dikes intended to support better wetland and shallow-water habitat, Gunther and Weinzinger are finding evidence of increased aquatic plant diversity, and Prestby is documenting the return of migratory shorebird populations.

The main goal of the Lower Fox River Watershed Monitoring Program is to increase the amount and quality of long-term watershed data to guide resource management decisions and help predict impacts on the ecosystem. It also is designed to enhance student, teacher and community understanding and stewardship of the watershed. Partner high schools are Appleton East, Appleton North, Ashwaubenon, Green Bay East, Green Bay Preble, Green Bay Southwest, Luxemburg-Casco, Oneida Nation, Oshkosh North, Pulaski and West De Pere.

Both the symposium and Lower Fox River Watershed Monitoring Program are partially supported by donations from Windward Prospects Ltd. (formerly Arjo Wiggins Appleton Ltd.) and Nicolet National Bank, and the sponsorship of the UW-Green Bay Natural and Applied Sciences academic unit and the Cofrin Center for Biodiversity.

For more information, contact Whitney Passint at UW-Green Bay by phone at (920) 465-5031. A complete schedule for the day and additional detail on the projects is available.


Video: Northern pike spawning, and a grad student’s project

Fox 11 News and reporter Eric Peterson ran a nice feature story last week about local research on spawning activity and habitat for northern pike, a popular game fish. Featured in the piece was UW-Green Bay graduate student Rachel Van Dam, who works with Associate Prof. Patrick Forsythe and is pursing her master’s in Environmental Science and Policy. Van Dam was netting and measuring fish at a restored spawning wetland on the west shore. Her work represents collaboration involving the University, the federal Fish and Wildlife Service, the state DNR, the Nature Conservancy and Brown County.

Double the love: Fondness for UWGB brings alumni back for more

Marian ShafferThe old saying goes, “If you love something set it free, if it comes back to you it’s yours.” This sums up the love affair between a growing number of UW-Green Bay alumni and their alma mater. What’s with the sappy sentiment? It’s nearly Valentine’s Day!

UW-Green Bay has seen an increasing number of alums who loved their campus so much, they returned for a second degree. The Advancement Office database shows 454 people with dual degrees from UWGB. With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, now is the perfect time to share a few tales of love, devotion and hard work in pursuit of their happily ever after.

Marian ShafferMarian Shaffer (above and at left) joined this love-struck group when she returned to UW-Green Bay to work on her M.S. in Environmental Science and Policy — a decision fueled by her love of studying the natural world. Her passion was awakened in her first undergraduate ecology course with Prof. Amy Wolf.

“Dr. Wolf was a fantastic mentor. She made me realize what really excites me and lit a flame within me, providing opportunities that forever changed my life and opened my eyes to the most amazing and rewarding career,” Shaffer said.

Shaffer works as an appointed research graduate assistant in the Natural and Applied Sciences department at UW-Green Bay. She feels fortunate that her appointment is in conjunction with and supported by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, where she has been working as a biological science technician since 2013.

Not only did UW-Green Bay open doors for Shaffer professionally, but romantically too. She says she met the love of her life while working on her master’s degree.

“He is one of the best things to ever come into my life,” she says. “Not only were we lucky enough to study and grow together during our time at UWGB, we were blessed to get jobs at the same conservation agency. Together, we are working to protect and conserve the habitat and animals in our beautiful Great Lakes.

Barbara FeeneyBarbara Feeney is a two-time UW-Green Bay alum who left a piece of her heart on campus as an undergraduate and returned to capture the love she felt the first time around. Feeney earned her B.S. in Human Development and Urban Studies and returned to work on her Master’s in Administrative Science-Policy and Planning. She started at UW-Green Bay when the campus was transitioning from being a two-year college to a four-year college. Feeney was attracted by the unique identity the University was claiming for itself.

“At the time I started my master’s degree, I was living in Sturgeon Bay, and had two young children. So for me UW-Green Bay was the most practical choice,” Feeney said. Feeney ended up adoring the interdisciplinary education she received from UW-Green Bay, each time.

“I had so many great professors and classes,” she says. “Looking back from the vantage point of 40 years, I am grateful for the single classes I took in art history, pottery and poetry. I knew at the time that I was not going to major in those areas and took the classes out of interest, but exposure to those disciplines has enriched my life.”

And now she is thankful.

“I am so grateful for my education,” she says. “It allowed me to have a career that was interesting and challenging. Most days, I woke up looking forward to the day’s work ahead of me. When you think about it that is really kind of amazing.”

Ben MarkowskiBen Markowski also became a member of the beloved two-timers club. Markowski chose the University for his undergraduate and master’s studies because of the beautiful campus and the distinguished Education program.

“I loved the Education program and its faculty. Tim Kaufman, Steve Kimball, and James Coates were professors who really stuck out to me, they showed me the educational light,” Markowski said.

Markowski has a soft place in his heart for UW-Green Bay. He admits that during his time on campus, he learned to be himself, an important lesson that has served him well. His studies at UW-Green Bay gave him valuable work experience in the classroom. When he started teaching as a bilingual kindergarten teacher at Danz Elementary in Green Bay, he was well prepared.

“I am definitely living my happily ever after thanks to UWGB,” Markowski said.

So the old adage rings true, “Do what you love and never work a day in your life,” especially for these lucky in love UW-Green Bay alums!

— Story by Daniele Frechette.