Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Water, Water Everywhere Focus of New Sustainability Project

10.01.2011
An interdisciplinary team of scientists and engineers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is turning a comprehensive lens on Madison’s water in all its forms — in the lakes, streets, faucets, ground and atmosphere — thanks to the National Science Foundation.

Five UW-Madison professors, including two of the campus’s most-lauded ecologists, recently received a five-year, nearly $5 million grant from the NSF to study the complex links between the water system and factors such as land use, climate change, human activities, development, and ecosystems. Their work will focus on the Yahara watershed, which includes all of Madison’s lakes.

The grant is part of a new NSF Water Sustainability and Climate program that is exploring ways to maintain a sufficient supply and quality of freshwater in the face of changing climate and growing demand, while balancing often-competing needs such as development, agriculture, human use, and conservation.

“There’s not a better example of the issues regarding urbanization,” says UW-Madison agronomy and environmental studies professor Chris Kucharik, who spearheaded the new project. “Madison is a moderate-sized city that’s growing quickly. There is increasing water use due to the growing population, we’re experiencing climate change, which is likely to increase extreme weather events, and it’s an agricultural watershed.”

One focus of the new project is to better understand and predict the effects of policy decisions and other human activities, especially within the context of a changing climate. “When you start putting together all of these different drivers, what might that mean to the future of the watershed in terms of quality of life, sustainability of the environment, the lakes, and our groundwater supplies?” he asks.

Local residents have probably already noticed events such as flooding, runoff into the lakes, unusually high or low lake levels, and algae blooms, Kucharik says, and it’s important to understand how future changes may impact the system.

The complexity of the issues — which touch on everything from energy production and food prices to city planning and recreation — requires much more than a “just the facts” type of scientific approach. “We don’t want to spend five years collecting data in the field and running models across the watershed to find out that it wasn’t the right information,” Kucharik says.

Instead the scientists are tackling an integrated approach that combines scientific modeling, field data collection, stakeholder input, public engagement, outreach and education to take a broad view of the many factors at play.

One element is the development of a set of “integrated scenarios” with the help of landowners, policymakers, community members, and other stakeholders to gauge people’s perceptions and identify real-world issues and the types of information that will be useful to address them.

“The integrated scenarios will use narratives to help couple scientific models with what the future of the watershed might look like,” explains co-principal investigator Adena Rissman, to help people see likely outcomes under various conditions — such as climate changes, suburban growth or land-use decisions.

The scientists’ goal is not to decide what the future should look like, she emphasizes, but rather to synthesize the best available information to help policymakers and others understand how to work toward a target outcome.

“Whenever you’re talking about a public policy question or a political process, it’s really the community values that should drive that process and the role of science in that process,” says Rissman, who is an assistant professor of forest and wildlife ecology. “There are a lot of different perspectives in the watershed and a lot of different goals that need to be met simultaneously, so the better we can understand the tradeoffs and clarify decisions, the better we’ll be able to meet a divergent set of goals and interests.”

They are also partnering with Edgewood College, Wisconsin Public Television and the Lakeshore Nature Preserve to reach students and the public. The planned projects include a new informational “water walk” along the Lake Mendota shore, a series of television programs, and hands-on research opportunities for undergraduates interested in sustainability.

The project is already bringing together a broad base of researchers who span many campus boundaries and whose expertise runs the gamut from the natural and social sciences to engineering. Of the five co-investigators, Kucharik and Rissman are part of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences; Monica Turner, professor of zoology, and Stephen Carpenter, director of the UW-Madison Center for Limnology, hail from the College of Letters & Science; and Steven Loheide is a professor of civil and environmental engineering in the College of Engineering. Most of the investigators are also affiliated with the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies.

“This is a new way of doing things, and UW is really well positioned because of the expertise we have on campus. There are no barriers between colleges,” Kucharik says. “We hope to develop the tools needed to manage water resources in the built and natural environments in a way that balances social, economic and environmental considerations and enables future generations to do the same.”

Ultimately, he hopes, their findings will be applicable to other urban water systems such as the western Milwaukee-eastern Waukesha County corridor, which is studded with lakes and is undergoing rapid development. But for now, the focus is on the Yahara watershed.

“As a scientist, I want to help solve the problems here. That’s why we want to do this,” says Kucharik, who himself lives near Token Creek. “But when it’s your home territory, it takes on even more meaning.”

Jill Sakai | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.wisc.edu

More articles from Interdisciplinary Research:

nachricht Bergamotene - alluring and lethal for Manduca sexta
21.04.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für chemische Ökologie

nachricht How to color a lizard: From biology to mathematics
13.04.2017 | Université de Genève

All articles from Interdisciplinary Research >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Quantum thermometer or optical refrigerator?

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A 100-year-old physics problem has been solved at EPFL

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Equipping form with function

23.06.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>