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New, Free Podcast Series Demystifies Wisconsin Aquifers and Watersheds

By Katy Thostenson

Water flows both above and below ground, traveling through watersheds on the land surface and infiltrating the soil to flow through underground aquifers. In fact, 25 percent of the world’s freshwater supply is contained in the lithosphere – the top 60 miles of earth beneath our feet. A new, free podcast series produced by the University of Wisconsin Water Resources Institute demystifies two fundamental concepts of the physical geography of water – aquifers and watersheds.

Narrator and Audio Specialist Chris Bocast takes listeners into the field and interviews researchers working on Wisconsin’s water resource issues to ask, “What’s important for people to know?” Without holding back on the depth of detail, the podcast explores the science and history of hydrology in plain words to reconnect listeners with water’s important role in Wisconsin.

In “Watersheds Past – Oaks, Rings and Answers”, Bocast follows a team of graduate students into the field, braving frigid February temperatures and ice-covered roads through the woods to learn the history of Wisconsin’s water and drought cycles from oak trees. Tapping into dendrochronology, the study of tree rings, listeners learn oak trees are prime subjects for studying the history of a watershed. They grow slowly compared with other tree species, capturing detailed information in their rings.

Learning about the perfect soil from “Doctor Dirt” or how Carthusian monks influenced today’s aquifer terminology, Bocast enjoys exploring Wisconsin’s hydrology from different angles. “I seek topics for our podcast series that appeal to my own sense of curiosity about science and the natural world. I’ve always wanted to dig deeper into some of the ‘nuts and bolts’ concepts of hydrology to enhance my own knowledge, and I’m sure many listeners must feel the same way,” said Bocast.

As a sound artist, Bocast also seeks to make science more entertaining for listeners. “I try to keep our productions both informative and fun to listen to. I know I certainly get a lot of enjoyment going to so many various sites, all across Wisconsin, to capture the interviews and location audio that I use to put these series together.”

The podcast includes eight episodes, each with 10 to 25 minutes of science and stories about Wisconsin’s water. “Aquifers and Watersheds: Understanding Our Water Resources” can be played and downloaded for free from the University of Wisconsin-Madison iTunesU, or by visiting Wisconsin Sea Grant’s website at seagrant.wisc.edu/podcasts.