Water science is the focus of a new undergraduate research program

The Wisconsin Sea Grant College Program and its sister organization the University of Wisconsin Water Resources Institute (WRI) Tuesday received a $358,000 two-year grant from the Freshwater Collaborative of Wisconsin to set up summer undergraduate research experiences for students on University of Wisconsin System campuses. The experiences will focus on freshwater science.

Sea Grant Director Jim Hurley said the program will, “provide immersive student research experiences to enhance workforce development skills and allow undergraduates to consider the option of graduate studies in Wisconsin.”

He said a related goal is to create a diverse academic environment by recruiting traditionally underrepresented students to graduate programs and ultimately into academia, or into employment. That is also the goal of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Summer Research Opportunity Program (SROP), with which WRI and Sea Grant will be coordinating the recruitment and mentoring process.

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Wisconsin Sea Grant Director James Hurley. Image credit: Wisconsin Sea Grant

In year one, four students using Freshwater Collaborative of Wisconsin funding will be selected through SROP’s central application hub for both UW System faculty and staff researchers seeking to pair with aspiring research undergraduates, and the student applicants. An additional four students will be supported through combined funding from WRI, Sea Grant and UW-Madison’s Graduate School and also using the SROP hub. 

Along with UW-Madison, three other UW System campuses, Eau Claire, La Crosse and Platteville, will participate in the program in year one.

In 2023, the program will be expanded to 20 students. At that time, all four-year UW System campuses will be solicited to propose opportunities for hosting the students.  

In both years, these experiences will include larger partnership programming that supports, among others, students from minority-serving institutions.

The freshwater collaborative funding coming to Sea Grant and WRI is part of a statewide initiative, backed by the Wisconsin State Legislature and Gov. Tony Evers, to tackle 10 grand water challenges and support curriculum development, undergraduate research opportunities, career development and field training experiences for students interested in studying water-related fields at the UW System schools. The collaborative is a partnership of the universities, connecting with industry, local communities, policymakers and advocacy groups.​ Its mission is to establish Wisconsin as a world leader in freshwater science, technology, entrepreneurship and economic growth.