Time change: Humanistic Studies Faculty Forum, March 24

Several faculty members will be presenting their research at the spring Humanistic Studies Faculty Forum. The time has changed to 3 to 4:30 p.m. but the date and location remain the same — Friday, March 24 in the 1965 Room. Associate Prof. Chris Martin will present “We’re not as Real as We’d like to Think: Spinoza, Reason and Objects as Reflections of the Infinite.” Prof. David Coury and Associate Prof. Katia Levintova will be discussing “Poland, Germany and the EU: A Disappearing Middle.” Refreshments will be provided.


Erica Muelmans taking a water sample

Water Water Everywhere

UW-Green Bay helps protect the largest freshwater estuary in the world

Green Bay and its surrounding communities sit on the largest freshwater estuary in the world, where water from the Fox River and the Bay of Green Bay mix.

“The estuary is important to all of Lake Michigan, both as an active port and as an engine for biological production,” says Patrick Robinson, Interim Director of Community, Natural Resource and Economic Development (CNRED).

Every member of the community depends on a constant supply of fresh water for drinking, and water dominates a local economy built on agriculture, paper and food processing industries, forestry, fishing, hunting and boating. Water is everywhere, but it is easy to forget just how intertwined water quality is to the region’s overall quality of life and the threats to our liquid lifeline. The Bay of Green Bay is threatened by invasive species, urban and agricultural nutrient run-off and wetland and shoreline loss.

UW-Green Bay scientists have long taken advantage of the University’s location on the Bay to study one of the region’s most valuable resources. During the University’s early years, scientists Jack Day, Jim Wiersma, Bud Harris, Paul Sager and Ron Stieglitz focused on understanding the impacts of pollutants and nutrients on water quality and ecosystem health that helped advise agencies as they began to tackle the national clean-up of the Fox River.

UW-Green Bay’s new cohort of award-winning faculty continue to be actively involved in all aspects of water quality, from soils and farms to helping industry and municipalities ensure that clean water keeps coming out of the tap. Current research focuses on water quality, wastewater management, habitat restoration and ecology.

Nine faculty and their staff and students are currently engaged in water-related research that now spans several disciplines. (Photo above, Environmental Science and Policy student Erica Meulemans studies the nutrient dynamics of the Lower Fox River using chemical sensors). There is a universal focus on funded research based on collaborative partnerships with local businesses, agencies, municipalities, non-profit organizations and other universities, which provide a rich resource of information about water quality.

Grants received between 2013 and 2016 amount to $3.1 million for water-related research focusing on the region’s freshwater resources. Current partners with our faculty include 14 area farms, hundreds of businesses, non-profits and municipalities, NEW Water, The Oneida Tribe, Ducks Unlimited, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Sea Grant, The Fox-Wolf Watershed Alliance, The Nature Conservancy, Great Lakes Alliance, UW Extension and UW-Milwaukee, among them.

Collaborative data and information are shared with partners and are made publicly available to help agency and municipal personnel make informed economic decisions that can potentially save money, maintain water quality and conserve freshwater resources and habitat.

Nicole Van Helden, Director of Conservation-Green Bay Watershed at The Nature Conservancy, describes UW-Green Bay as an excellent partner. “UW-Green Bay provides the science we need to inform on-the-ground action. This helps us to make better decisions and provide cost effective solutions to improve water quality in our region.”

Faculty work extensively with their students, helping them to develop and practice skills. Over the last three years, hundreds of students have participated directly in water-related research as part of their coursework, independent studies, internships and senior and graduate thesis projects. Most are now pursuing advanced degrees or successful careers in water resources. Recent graduates now work with the DNR, The Nature Conservancy, USFWS, NEW Water, UW Extension, and with several local and regional businesses.

In addition, water research reaches students in area high schools. The Lower Fox River Water monitoring program, started 15 years ago by professors Bud Harris (Emeritus) and Kevin Fermanich, provides area science teachers with resources to lead teams of high school students who collect water quality data from streams that feed the lower part of the Fox River.

From long-term monitoring to modeling, water resources research by faculty in the College of Science and Technology with their students and collaborative partners allows business and community members to better understand their water resources and provide solutions and options for decision makers.

Current research focused on water quality, wastewater management, habitat restoration, and fisheries ecology:

Water Quality —

Ryan Holzem, an environmental engineer in UW-Green Bay’s Engineering Technology program, has as his primary research goal to improve  drinking and wastewater management. Holzem has had several projects that team students with area businesses to solve unique wastewater issues. In one project, students under his direction worked with a food processing business to help find ways to economically reduce chlorides in waste water. This project benefits the community and sewage treatment facilities by alleviating  pressure on the water resource recovery and wastewater treatment facilities that would otherwise have to remove those chemicals. Other projects had students working with area farmers to apply manure to fields in a responsible way. Undergraduate Jake Pelegrin worked on an analysis to see whether it might be cost effective to harvest the invasive aquatic plant Phragmites to use in digesters to generate biogas.  This year, student Eric Short will work with wastewater treatment staff to facilitate  more efficient aeration  in treatment tanks.

Geologist John Luczaj has a number of ongoing projects that are examining the relationship between rock geology and chemistry related to groundwater availability and water quality. One project, which became part of graduate student Julie Maas’s thesis research, showed how deep aquifer water level recovered almost 200 feet since regional municipalities switched from using groundwater to lake water for their drinking supply.  His other  projects, in collaboration with UW-Green Bay chemist Mike McIntire and statistician Megan Olson Hunt, aim to better understand the geochemistry of rocks in relation to metals that become dissolved in groundwater supplies. Other projects involve students examining groundwater age and chemistry.

Soil Scientist Kevin Fermanich has spent the last 20 years studying soil health and nutrient runoff into streams and ultimately the Bay of Green Bay. His work on phosphorus, helping  to determine low oxygen  “dead zones” in the Bay of Green Bay with recent ES&P graduate Tracy Valenta and collaborators at NEW Water in Green Bay and  at UW-Milwaukee, gained national attention.

Restoration ecologist Matt Dornbush is working with Kevin Fermanich on projects related to monitoring  soil health, productivity and clean water on farms in the lower Fox Region that help farmers to improve their “edge of field” water quality. Other collaborations,with the Fox Wolf Watershed Alliance and the Nature Conservancy, are  looking at edge of field impacts and agricultural  treatment wetlands, which are similar to urban storm water ponds.

Dornbush and Fermanich are working with the Oneida tribe to quantify impacts on water quality in Silver Creek located on the reservation. This project uses Silver Creek as a test case for altering land use to improve water quality in an agricultural ecosystem. The project involves the cooperation of tribal farmers and agencies in comparing impacts of various agricultural practices from grazing to row crops, along with various restoration activities in the creek.

Environmental Chemist Mike Zorn studies chemical conditions in the Bay of Green Bay using a variety of sampling methods, especially new chemistry tools to better understand and make predictions about conditions. He is currently working on measuring nutrients using  chemical sensors deployed from Lake Winnebago into the bay to better understand the system and predict algal blooms, which will have significance for other projects like restoring Bay Beach in Green Bay. He is also working with collaborators from UW-Milwaukee and NEW Water to monitor oxygen concentrations in the bay.

Habitat and Ecological  Restoration —

Fisheries ecologist Patrick Forsythe works on projects designed to improve the health of fish populations, with the goal of improving reproduction and habitat quality that will benefit biodiversity and recreational and commercial fisheries in the Great Lakes. His recent research project is in collaboration with partners with USFWS, Ducks Unlimited, and the WI-DNR  to understand the reproduction ecology of Northern Pike and Lake Sturgeon. With collaborators at other institutions, he has recently received three new grants totaling more than $630,000, to extend the study to include several more fish species like Lake Whitefish. The results of this research will help regional fisheries managers with their efforts  to improve fish spawning in tributaries into Lake Michigan.

Several faculty, including Patrick Robinson, Patrick Forsythe, Matt Dornbush, Amy Wolf, and Bob Howe are working with a coalition of partners (Ducks Unlimited, USFWS, DNR, NRDA, Save Our Great Lakes Alliance, Green Bay Water Authority) to monitor restoration of the Cat Island chain of barrier islands in the southern part of the bay of Green Bay. The goal of the barrier islands is to improve water quality and wildlife habitat in the southern bay. Students and faculty have been monitoring shorebirds, fish, and water chemistry, and actively restoring vegetation between Duck Creek and the southern part of the islands. Major successes of the project include nesting by threatened Piping Plovers on the island and the return of wild rice to the mouth of Duck Creek. The team is currently transitioning to a new project focused on further restoration, with the help of a $1.2 million grant to continue habitat restoration, including continued vegetation restoration and improved waterfowl and fish habitat.

The Lower Green Bay and Fox River Area of Concern is just one of many sites in the Great Lakes that has been designated by the EPA as  areas where human activity has significantly impaired beneficial uses. Ecologists Amy Wolf and Bob Howe are leading a project that includes staff and students in developing the roadmap to guide local stakeholders in achieving  their goal of delisting the area. They are gathering and compiling data on current and historical conditions, identifying high biodiversity areas and developing statistical models that will help stakeholders to prioritize projects and to focus their management in the most cost effective way.

In order to restore habitat at UW-Green Bay’s Point au Sable coastal natural area, professors Robert Howe and Amy Wolf received funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to remove invasive plants, especially Phragmites. This natural area is an important migratory stop-over spot for birds and bats, as well as an important nesting site for game fish and birds. Students in Ecology and Conservation Biology courses helped with field work and monitoring for the restoration management plan. Wolf and Howe are continuing to pursue shoreline restoration at Point au Sable and in the UW-Green Bay Arboretum by pursuing funding to reduce erosion and storm water runoff into the bay, and to restore and improve beach habitat.

Bob Howe has participated in a Great Lakes Coastal Monitoring project with 14 other institutions, to monitor frog and bird populations in the western Great Lakes. The EPA has funded the project for the past 15 years and it has been renewed for another four  years. This research has provided eight graduate students and over 30 undergraduates with spring and summer research opportunities.

See a video from NEW Water on the importance of water and the collaborative efforts to keep it healthy.

Written by freelance writer Vicki Medland. Photo by University photographer Dan Moore.

Prof. Harvey Kaye with Bree Mucha

Prelaw? At UW-Green Bay? Why, yes we do.

UW-Green Bay offers prelaw? The answer is a resounding “yes.” Ask Green Bay Attorney, Jason R. Just. He received his law degree from the University of Minnesota in May of this year, and credits his acceptance into its law program to the time he spent working towards his undergraduate degree from the University’s Democracy and Justice Studies (DJS) program.

Jason R. Just
Jason R. Just

“My professors did an exceptional job of challenging my thinking,” says Just. “They didn’t just lecture and hand out a test; their courses were difficult and challenging and made me think and engage with professors and fellow students. I was able to develop a type of critical thinking mindset that put me a step ahead of my peers in 
law school.”

Nationally-recognized professors, a close-knit setting that emphasizes open discussion and critical thinking combined with the program’s interdisciplinary approach give graduates a distinct advantage when entering law school. This interdisciplinary approach is what makes such a difference in the success of the program, says UW-Green Bay’s pre-law advisor, Assistant Professor Kristine Coulter.

“There are nine of us (professors) within this department, and we all come at it with different angles,” says Coulter. “We are political scientists, sociologists, historians and economists. Yet our underlying connection is caring about democracy and justice.”

Law schools throughout the country accept students in any major, based mostly on their GPA and Law School Admissions Test (LSAT). But Coulter explains that the coursework and instruction within the DJS program expose students to classes that they would have to take in law school, and assist students in deciding if law school is the right path.

“Our students develop a skill set that’s attractive to law schools…reading and writing skills, analytical and oral communication skills,” says Coulter. “We help our students pick the classes that will hone these skills, and at the same time, expose them to Constitutional Law, for example, to see if they like reading law briefs; or Law and Society to learn about the court system.”

Professor Harvey Kaye (Photo above with pre-law student Bree Mucha, DJS, Soldotna, Alaska) says strong community engagement by DJS faculty, and continual research and study of local and national issues, transfers back to the classroom, directly impacting DJS students.

“We’ve had more, and better students than we ever have before in the program,” says Kaye. “Department faculty are involved with many local organizations… and collaborate to provide numerous opportunities for internships.”

This community involvement, and continual research and study of local and national issues, transfers back to the classroom, directly impacting DJS students.

“When the university was founded 50-plus years ago, we were created to be the ‘innovative’ campus in the UW system,” states Kaye. “Although much has changed, we have sustained the idea that every student should have a program that is problem-focused and interdisciplinary, encouraging innovation, public debate, and the asking of questions.”

Many opportunities exist for those wishing to become an attorney. Besides the “traditional” courtroom lawyer, attorneys are in demand within large business settings and within the healthcare compliance system — both because of their law degree and their well-honed critical thinking skills.

“We’re going to challenge students and get them to think about and talk about things that are uncomfortable,” says Coulter, giving students the skills and critical thinking mindset to make them successful law students that become successful attorneys.

And more importantly, good citizens.

Written by freelance writer Kristin Bouchard. Feature photo by UW-Green Bay photographer Dan Moore.