Aug. 31 event and livestream to explore phosphorus in aquatic ecosystems

Demonstrates the Wisconsin Idea in action

Wisconsin Sea Grant is sponsoring a panel headlined by entertainer Charlie Berens and author Dan Egan at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Memorial Union Terrace, on the shore of Lake Mendota, to discuss the lake and its blues—seasonal blue-green algae blooms—and the larger issues surrounding the use of phosphorus.

The event is scheduled for 5 to 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 31, Memorial Union, 800 Langdon St., Madison, Wisconsin. It will also be video livestreamed at as part of Berens’s Cripescast podcast series. The series focuses on Midwestern people and themes.

Emmy Award-winning journalist Charlie Berens will devote an upcoming podcast episode to harmful algal blooms as part of a live event and livestream.

This spring, Egan published “The Devil’s Element: Phosphorus and a World Out of Balance,” which outlines the world’s mining, processing and use of phosphorus. It also explains the element’s paradox—phosphorus brings agricultural plenty but can lead to environmental devastation, such as the growth of a bacteria known as blue-green algae that chokes the oxygen from aquatic ecosystems and creates dead zones.

Berens and Egan will be joined by Jake Vander Zanden, an expert on freshwater lakes and director of UW-Madison’s Center for Limnology, and Randy Jackson from the Department of Agronomy at UW-Madison who will speak to successful agricultural systems using reduced inputs. The panel will highlight the Wisconsin Idea, how the university’s research can inform policymaking and practices to reduce phosphorus input or reuse of the element, leading to healthier waters across the state and nation.

person sampling water filled with harmful algal blooms

A researcher samples water affected by a large harmful algal bloom.

Berens is an Emmy-Award-winning journalist, comedian and New York Times best-selling author of “The Midwest Survival Guide.”

Egan wrote  the bestseller “The Death and Life of the Great Lakes,” which was the 2018 UW-Madison Go Big Read selection. He was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize twice. He is currently journalist in residence at the Center for Water Policy at UW-Milwaukee’s School of Freshwater Sciences.

A book signing will follow the panel.

In case of inclement weather, the event will take place in Shannon Hall of the Memorial Union.