Wisconsin Water News

Wisconsin Water News

Wisconsin is a state shaped by water. From its western border defined by the Mississippi River to two of the five lakes that make up the world’s largest freshwater system to its north and east, the state is awash in this valuable commodity. The interior is defined by more than 15,000 lakes scattered across counties both rural and urban, more than 5 million acres of wetlands, more than 84,000 miles rivers and streams and 1.2 quadrillion gallons of groundwater.

Two Wisconsin programs provide a statewide and multidisciplinary approach to supporting livelihoods and enhancing lifestyles through the research of, education about and outreach focused on those waters. These programs are the University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute and the University of Wisconsin Water Resources Institute at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

This new podcast series, Wisconsin Water News, highlights stories previously only available in print from these programs. Series Narrator and Science Communicator Marie Zhuikov brings the stories alive by featuring in-person and phone interviews of the people behind the news.

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Latest Episodes

Episode 59: Lake and River Foams Study Reveals High PFAS Levels – 7/15/24

In a new study, natural foams and water surface microlayers of 43 Wisconsin rivers and lakes were found to contain 36 compounds in a group of chemicals known as PFAS. While PFAS were detected in both the foam and the water surface, it’s the foams that the researcher said were orders of magnitude higher in PFAS concentration compared to water, and they urge people and their pets to avoid them. The study also revealed that foams, generally off-white and found along shorelines on windy days, are not an indicator of elevated contamination levels in the entire water body.

Leading the project is Christy Remucal with the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and interim director of the University of Wisconsin Aquatic Sciences Center.

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Episode 58: Wisconsin Sport Fish Carry Suite of New Viruses – 4/3/24

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have detected a suite of new viruses in five species of Wisconsin sport fish. Although none pose a threat to human health, one is a type of coronavirus that’s usually associated with birds. It was found in healthy walleyes from Wisconsin lakes. The finding is part of a Wisconsin Sea Grant-funded study by Tony Goldberg, a professor in the Department of Pathobiological Sciences, of the natural diversity of viruses of fish in Wisconsin and is the first project of its kind in North America.

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Episode 57: Northern Wisconsin Communities Benefit from Climate Change Program – 2/6/24

Leaders in several northern Wisconsin counties and cities were chosen to participate in a Lake Superior Climate Champions Program organized by Wisconsin Sea Grant and the Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve in 2023. The program provided funding and guidance to two teams to work on goals of their choosing that addressed climate change. Hear what they worked on and other outcomes of this unique program.

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Episode 56: Marine Debris Play Script Available for Free – 1/29/24

What is marine debris, what are its impacts and what can we do about it? These are the central messages of a play written on behalf of Wisconsin Sea Grant by David Daniel with American Players Theatre of Wisconsin.

Me and Debry,” is a half-hour, whimsical, audience-participation play about litter (or marine debris) in the Great Lakes. It had its “world premiere” in Wisconsin’s Door County in October 2022 and it was performed three times at the Gilmore Fine Arts School in Racine, Wisconsin, for fifth- and sixth-grade students in May 2023.

The play’s script has been fine-tuned through these performances and is now available for others to use for free, complete with props.

Ginny Carlton, Wisconsin Sea Grant’s education outreach specialist, discussed the play with the Wisconsin Water News host and also why schools or other educational institutions might be interested in performing it.

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Episode 55: Wisconsin’s Rural Residents Concerned About Water Quality – 12/12/23

A new report published by the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that Wisconsin’s rural residents perceived significant risks to water quality from pesticides, PFAS (which are per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances) and excess nutrients. They also ranked water as very or extremely important for supporting wildlife and for hunting and fishing, in addition to home uses such as drinking and cleaning.

These findings regarding groundwater and surface water are based on a study by UW-Madison professors, including Michael Cardiff via a research project funded by the University of Wisconsin Water Resources Institute. The report, entitled, “Rural Resident Perceptions of Wisconsin’s Waters” is available for free download from the Water Resources Institute website.

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Episode 54: Plastics Learning Kit Educates and Enthralls– 11/6/23

Wisconsin Sea Grant’s Anne Moser has learned enough about wastewater treatment to create “Plastic Panic,” a grab-and-go kit that formal and nonformal educators can use to teach about plastic pollution in the Great Lakes, specifically, microplastics. The colorful artwork in the “grab-and-go” kit both educates and enthralls it audiences.

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Episode 53: Hoping for Snow: Wisconsin Snow Data Project Captures Snowflake Images and Students’ Attention – 10/9/23

Michael Notaro with the University of Wisconsin-Madison is teaching Wisconsin school children the similarities in snowflakes to share the wonder of nature and information about the Great Lakes climate, but also to expand an international environmental database.

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Episode 52: Providing Access for All to a National Lakeshore – 8/29/23

How do you make a park in the middle of Lake Superior accessible to people with disabilities? Natalie Chin and Marie Zhuikov from Wisconsin Sea Grant had the chance to travel to Stockton Island in the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore to see first-hand what the park is doing to make it more accessible.

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Episode 51: Lack of housing looms large as barrier to nature-based jobs in northern Wisconsin – 8/24/23

A report published recently by Wisconsin Sea Grant cites a lack of housing as a major barrier to development of nature-based jobs in Wisconsin’s northern tier. This includes Douglas, Ashland, Bayfield and Iron counties. This episode features interviews with the report authors and panel members from a webinar about the report, “Workforce Needs for Nature-Based Solutions in Wisconsin’s Northern Tier.”

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Episode 50: Persistent Pollution: Researchers Investigate the key to E. coli Bacteria Survival in Lake Michigan Beach Sand and Water – 7/24/23

Sea Grant-funded researchers Sandra McLellan and Gyaneshwar Prasad, both with the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, are building on previous research to find ways to decomplicate beach managers’ lives by determining what factors could limit long-term survival of E. coli on beaches. They are also in the process of developing a scorecard for the potential of long-term E. coli reservoirs for each of the six Lake Michigan beaches they are studying.

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Episode 49: The Big Picture on Bluff Erosion Along Lake Michigan – 4/27/23

High water levels in Lake Michigan since 2013 have caused erosion rates that are faster than usual, especially in 2020, when lake levels set records. This has created an urgent need to know more about erosion processes along and in the lake.

Lucas Zoet with the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Geoscience and his research team are looking at bluff erosion and sediment movement at two Wisconsin sites along Lake Michigan. They’re doing the project in a holistic way to better understand erosion rates and where the eroding sediment goes. This information will help guide shore protection and bluff stabilization processes and preserve beaches for recreation.

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Episode 48: Testing Ceded Territories for PFAS at request of tribes – 4/3/23

The three-year tribally driven project called, “Quantifying PFAS bioaccumulation and health impacts on economically important plants and animals associated with aquatic ecosystems in Ceded Territories,” was recently funded. The project has three goals: One is to assess aquatic environments for PFAS contamination in the Ceded Territories, two is to determine the accumulation of PFAS in different plants and animals and three is to understand the health impacts from PFAS exposure.

The project involves Gavin Dehner with Wisconsin Sea Grant, Jonathan Gilbert with the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, Emily Cornelius Ruhs with the University of Chicago, Sean Strom with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, and Christine Custer and Robert Flynn with the U.S. Geological Survey.

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Episode 47: The Stories Trees Tell – 1/5/23

A Wisconsin Sea Grant-funded research and outreach project is designed to explore how the Anishinaabe people connected to and homesteaded the lands of Wisconsin and Minnesota points and how they used fire to manage the landscape. The project name, “Nimaawanji’idimin Giiwitaashkodeng,” translates into “We are all gathering around the fire.” It is being led by Evan Larson with the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, and Melonee Montano, a Red Cliff tribal member and a University of Minnesota graduate student.

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Episode 46: Marine Debris Play Debuts In Door County – 11/17/22

What empowers people to help the environment and rhymes at the same time? Answer: “Me and Debry,” a half-hour, whimsical, audience-participation play about litter (or marine debris) in the Great Lakes.

The play had its “world premiere” in Wisconsin’s Door County in October 2022 before a full house at the town library in Egg Harbor. Starring in it were two local actors: Cassandra Bissell and Neil Brookshire. The play is part of a project designed to harnesses the power of storytelling to engage, educate and inspire performing artists and community members to be committed stewards of their Great Lakes watershed.

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Episode 45: Accessible Birding Event Delivers – 10/25/22

Barker’s Island in the Duluth-Superior Harbor was the site of a free, bird-focused morning during the fall of 2022. People of all ages and ability levels attended an accessible birding outing led by experts from the Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory and the Friends of the Lake Superior Reserve.

This free event was made possible through the University of Wisconsin–Madison Dean’s Innovation Grant to collaborators from Upham Woods Outdoor Learning Center, the Reserve, Wisconsin Sea Grant, University of Wisconsin Extension, and Bayfield and Ashland counties.

Episode extras

Episode 44: Research Survey Aligns the Wisconsin Idea with Water – 8/30/22

The Wisconsin Idea is one of the longest and deepest traditions surrounding the University of Wisconsin. It promotes the principle that education and the influence of the university need to reach beyond the boundaries of the classroom across the state.

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Episode 43: Percolating Pollution – 6/1/22

A Wisconsin Water Resources Institute project is exploring how bacteria and other water contaminants flow through soil by applying a medical technology usually used for cancer imaging. Chris Zahasky, assistant professor in the Department of Geoscience at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, received two years of funding to study soil types in the two most vulnerable geologic settings in Wisconsin for groundwater pollution. 

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Episode 42: Great Lakes Teacher Mentor Project – 5/16/22

Teachers with a passion for the Great Lakes are sharing their expertise across the region with other teachers in a program that benefits the educators and their students. The mentor program, organized by the Center for Great Lakes Literacy (or CGLL), is funded through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

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Episode 41: Use of Fluridone in Lakes – 4/4/22

Gavin Dehnert with Wisconsin Sea Grant is part of a research team that found the use of the herbicide fluridone in lakes to control Eurasian watermilfoil is a good news, bad news story.

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Episode 40: Road Salt and Groundwater – 2/22/22

UW-Milwaukee researcher Charles Paradis and his team are studying the year-round impact that road salt has on Wisconsin rivers and the groundwater that feeds them.

Episode extras

Making a Promising Treatment for Nitrate Pollution Even Better – 1/21/22

Joe Sanford with the University of Wisconsin-Platteville has spent his academic career getting his hands dirty. The assistant professor of soil and crop science has been studying uses for biochar, a form of charcoal that’s made by burning wood and plant byproducts (such as pine chips or dried corn plants) under low oxygen conditions.

Episode extras

Radium and Strontium Research – 11/2/21

Matt Ginder-Vogel and Amy Plechacek with the University of Wisconsin-Madison are studying how interactions between water and rock in Fond du Lac County might result in natural contamination of public and private drinking water wells.

Episode extras

Lake Michigan Bluff Restoration – 9/2/21

A two-year project by three Sea Grant programs seeks to address complex erosion issues on Lake Michigan through an integrated physical, social and community approach. It’s led by Chin Wu with the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Episode extras

Beach Ambassadors Fill Vital Role, 7/8/21  

Sea Grant’s Deidre Peroff and Jumana Tanner are part of a program designed to keep beachgoers in Milwaukee safe even though there are no lifeguards on beaches there this summer.

Episode extras

Coastal Engineering Education Project, 6/10/2021  

Wisconsin Sea Grant’s Anne Moser and Adam Bechle are beginning a project designed to connect middle-school students in Racine to their watershed by exploring coastal engineering concepts.

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Great Lakes Shipping and Ice Cover Study, 6/3/21  

Richard Stewart and Daniel Rust at the University of Wisconsin-Superior are undertaking a study that looks at the impacts of reduced ice cover on Great Lakes marine transportation.

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Healthy Potatoes and Healthy Water, 4/1/21  

Kevin Masarik with the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point is working to reduce fertilizer pollution in the Central Sands area, a popular place to grow potatoes.

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Plastic Free-MKE Project, 3/15/21  

Deidre Peroff and Belle Pappalardo are working with Milwaukee Riverkeeper on a project designed to educate school children about microplastics and reduce the amount of plastics entering Lake Michigan.

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Freshwater Steel Corrosion, 1/26/21  

People still tracking the mysterious accelerated corrosion of steel in Lake Superior have discovered the issue is occurring on inland lakes and in a river, as well.

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The Fate of PFAS in Green Bay, 1/8/21  

Sea Grant researcher Christina Remucal is looking into the fate of harmful PFAS chemicals in the water and sediments of Green Bay and Lake Michigan. She describes her preliminary results.

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Trash Trunk Learning Treasure, 10/29/20 

This new learning kit focuses on trash found in waterways. Sea Grant educators Ginny Carlton and Anne Moser describe what’s in it, who can use it and how to request it.

Fight to Keep Milwaukee Pool Open, 8/19/20 

The Friends of Lincoln Park successfully fought the closing of an aquatic center in their neighborhood on Milwaukee’s north side thanks to data from a mapping project by Sea Grant’s Deidre Peroff and Reflo.

Under the Surface, 7/21/20

Toben Lafrancois helps lead a unique underwater photography program in northern Wisconsin that uses the healing value and inspiration of spending time in water to aid youths facing significant mental health challenges, and to educate middle and high school students.

Untangling Complex Phosphorus, 6/15/20 

Sarah Vitale and other researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire are investigating the possibility that phosphorus deep in the aquifer is the driver behind elevated levels of phosphorus in both surface water and groundwater in western Wisconsin.

Boatloads of Lumber, 5/18/20

Caitlin Zant with the Wisconsin Historical Society describes how they are developing online educational resources about Lake Michigan shipwrecks, along with a field school for budding maritime archaeologists – all with funding from Wisconsin Sea Grant.

Great Lakes Literacy Messaging Project, 5/1/20


A new Lake Michigan project addresses the need for skilled water workers and will enhance an online resource hub to promote cohesive stormwater messaging along the Wisconsin coast. Deidre Peroff, Rebecca Abler and Jacob Fincher describe how they will cooperate.

Barker’s Island Green Infrastructure Projects, 2/26/20 

Changes are coming to Barker’s Island in Superior in 2020 and 2021, all designed to reduce stormwater runoff. Julia Noordyk, Todd Breiby and Andrea Crouse describe what’s up and where the money’s coming from for the improvements.

Pow Wow Educator Workshop, 2/7/20

Educators from Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan learned more about Ojibwe culture, treaty rights and water ecology recently thanks to a Sea Grant-sponsored workshop.

AIS Boater Survey, 2/3/20

Tim Campbell with Wisconsin Sea Grant describes results from a 2018 survey of boaters in Wisconsin regarding their knowledge of aquatic invasive species.

Tea and Sunlight, 11/19/19

Christine Remucal with the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Kristine Wammer with the University of St. Thomas found that various amounts and types of dissolved organic matter combined with sunlight can break down different pollutants in the St. Louis River.

Rivers2Lake Education Program, 10/10/19

Deanna Erickson with the Lake Superior Reserve runs a program designed to connect teachers and students to the Lake Superior Watershed.

Mystery of Rising Silica Levels, 9/13/19

John Berges and Erica Young with the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee are investigating a drastic rise in dissolved silica in Lake Michigan, which plays an important role in the base of the food web.

Over the moon over Manoomin, 7/24/19

Sarah Dance, a Ph.D. student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, was recently awarded a Baldwin Wisconsin Idea Endowment grant to fund research into wild rice in Wisconsin. Her advisor, Matthew Ginder-Vogel, was pretty psyched that she was awarded the grant.

Lake Guardian Teacher Cruise 2019, 7/19/19

Three Wisconsin teachers joined a dozen others from around the Great Lakes on a week-long research cruise on Lake Erie with scientists. Hear how the teachers built on knowledge they gained during a previous Sea Grant cruise and how their students will benefit from the teachers’ new insights into large lakes. Jody Henseler and Brian Henrickson are interviewed.

Dangerous Currents Workshop, 7/1/19

A workshop about dangerous currents on Lake Superior’s South Shore drew community members to Ashland recently. Hear how Chin Wu, Todd Brieby and Deidre Peroff are doing to help with safety measures for swimmers and hear why excursion boat captain Shelly Holland attended the event.

Kenosha Dunes Project, 6/24/19

Kenosha Dunes is a scenic natural area along Lake Michigan. Unfortunately, the dunes are eroding at an alarming rate. A team of specialists, including Chin Wu, Adam Bechle and Titus Seilheimer, are looking for new solutions to the old problem of erosion in order to save the dunes.

Clean water and more, 5/16/19

Greg Kleinheinz is in the middle of a Wisconsin Sea Grant project to assess effectiveness of beach redesigns along Lake Michigan. He’s finding that fixing beaches benefits both the environment and economy.

Listen to the People of the Sturgeon, 4/30/19

Throughout the process of writing the book, “People of the Sturgeon,” about the culture surrounding surgeon spearing on Lake Winnebago, the authors interviewed 69 community members and researchers. Hear excerpts from two interviews from a new audio collection made possible by the University of Wisconsin-Madison Libraries and the Oshkosh Public Museum.

Meteotsunami Rip Currents, 3/29/19

Conditions from a July 4, 2003, storm that caused seven drownings on Lake Michigan came under scrutiny by Wisconsin Sea Grant scientists who are studying a storm-induced wave called a meteotsunami — a contraction of the term meteorological tsunami, which means a wave caused by weather. Chin Wu, Eric Anderson, Robert Duksherer and Megan Dodson are interviewed.

The Drama of Docks, 3/8/19

Gene Clark, our coastal engineer, helps state and local agencies with coastal erosion issues. This is the story of one case of erosion on Madeline Island in Lake Superior that went all the way to the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Water and Nitrogen Use in the Central Sands, 12/7/18 

Chris Kucharik and Matthew Ruark have new funding from the Water Resources Institute for a project that will help farmers in the Central Sands Region better manage their nitrogen fertilizer use and improve water quality and quantity in a changing climate.

Lake Superior Watershed Class, 10/23/18 

Students from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point received a personal look at current and future impacts of climate change through a new field class the college offered and Wisconsin Sea Grant sponsored. They met with Matt Dahlman of The Nature Conservancy at Caroline Lake Preserve near Mellen, Wisconsin. Then they tromped through the woods for a climate change game with Steven Handler of the U.S. Forest Service. Afterward, they traveled to Odanah to meet with Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission staff. Find out what they learned during their adventures!

Milwaukee River Race, 9/4/18 

In the first swim held in the Milwaukee River in potentially 100 years, 68 people entered the water for a mile-and-a-half race. All but one finished, and nobody got sick. Hear the details from Kirsten Shead with the Milwaukee Water Commons and Deidre Peroff with Wisconsin Sea Grant.

Clean Marina Grant, 8/27/18 

A three-year grant of $200,000 will help Wisconsin’s Clean Marina Program last into the future and will encourage more boat marinas to reduce any negative impacts from their operations in Lake Michigan. In this episode, Wisconsin Sea Grant’s Julia Noordyk and the Wisconsin Marine Association’s Michelle Shrider describe what the grant means to the program. Vicki Elkin with the Fund for Lake Michigan explains why her program was willing to provide funds for this important work.

Wisconsin Teachers Cruise Lake Ontario, 7/16/18 

Two Wisconsin teachers joined a dozen others from around the Great Lakes on a week-long research cruise this summer on Lake Ontario with scientists. We spoke with them before their trip aboard the R/V Lake Guardian from Buffalo, New York, to Youngstown, New York, and asked them about their plans for bringing their new watery knowledge back to their classrooms.

Wild Rice is Focus of a Grant, 6/19/18 

Sea Grant Programs in Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota will receive federal funds to create a Manoomin (wild rice) toolkit. Leading the effort in Wisconsin will be Deidre Peroff, Wisconsin Sea Grant’s social scientist. Hear what Native American elders have to say about what wild rice means to them.

A City Zoning Code “Monster,” 5/17/18 

The city of Superior is beginning a process, led by Wisconsin Sea Grant’s Julia Noordyk, to review and update city codes and ordinances to reduce stormwater pollution. Hear what Superior Mayor Jim Paine thinks about this effort to make his community more sustainable.

The Art and Science of Sturgeon, 5/17/18

A professor’s concern about the condition of the ocean’s coral reefs translated into a unique melding of freshwater art and science once he found himself in the Great Lakes after living in Japan. Learn about how University of Minnesota Duluth’s Ryuta Nakajima curated an art exhibit about sturgeon that’s available to show across the state. Also interviewed is Anne Moser, Wisconsin Water Librarian, who is coordinating venues.

Providing a “Road Map” for Aquaculture, 5/17/18 

If you plan to start an aquaculture business in Wisconsin, you’re in luck. Wisconsin is one of the only U.S. states that is mapped out with the aquaculture industry in mind. The mapping tool is available on the Northern Aquaculture Demonstration Facility’s web site. Chris Hatleb, professor of fisheries biology at the UW-Stevens Point, describes what it can do, and what it can’t.


Marie Zhuikov | Host

Senior Science Communicator

What I do at Sea Grant

Marie writes about Great Lakes water issues, Sea Grant activities and research. She also works on podcasts, oversees the Wisconsin Sea Grant blog, and takes photos. She works in collaboration with program scientists, outreach specialists and institute staff to build water science literacy. Prior to joining Wisconsin Sea Grant in 2012, Marie worked for Minnesota Sea Grant for 15 years.