First Keillor Fellow in Place: Adam Bechle

For nearly 30 years, Phil Keillor worked as a coastal engineer for Wisconsin Sea Grant, retiring in 2003. During his career, Keillor earned a national reputation his for technical assistance, guidance, and educational services to coastal communities along Wisconsin’s shores, throughout the Great Lakes, and beyond. Along the way, he impressed colleagues and co-workers with his competence, integrity and respect for everyone he encountered, on the job and off. Keillor died rather suddenly in 2009.

Just this week, his legacy was renewed when Adam Bechle, a recent graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, started work as the first J. Philip Keillor Science-Policy Fellow. Wisconsin Sea Grant and the Wisconsin Coastal Management Program created this opportunity to honor Keillor and to continue his work.

If the name Keillor rings a bell it might be because Phil Keillor also had a brother who is well-known in his own circles. Garrison Keillor, host of the popular A Prairie Home Companion radio show, retired from the show recently. But other than sharing the same last name, he does not have a connection to the Keillor Fellowship.

The program places a recent master’s or doctoral graduate with a state agency full time for a year. The plan is for the fellow to provide technical skills to bear on water issues and to receive valuable real-world science-policy experience from resources professionals who will serve as mentors.

Bechle, a civil and environmental engineering doctoral graduate and a Sea-Grant funded student, has focused his research on Great Lakes meteotsunamis – destructive water level fluctuations caused by storms moving over the lakes. He says he was intrigued by the fellowship’s emphasis on connecting science and policy. “I’d like to be that interface between coastal processes science and the people who need the information. I’m interested in translating science into community resilience.”

Bechle will be working from the Wisconsin Coastal Management Program Office in Madison. One of his first duties will be a field trip to learn more about erosion issues at the Kenosha Sand Dunes on Lake Michigan. He will also be updating the Wisconsin Sea Grant Coastal Processes Manual, which was written by Keillor. Bechle will be working with current Wisconsin Sea Grant Coastal Engineer Gene Clark to incorporate advances in coastal resilience understanding and practice into the manual.

“I’d like to give folks a better handle on coastal processes that could affect their communities and to help make their communities more resilient,” Bechle said.

Bechle can be reached at