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🔬 "Getting Schooled On Freshwater"


Photo by Lucas Ludwig / Unsplash

Host: Travis Loop
Guest: Rebecca Klaper | Vice Dean | School of Freshwater Sciences, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Category: 🔬 Research

Podcast’s Essential Bites:

[3:47] “We are the first Graduate School of Freshwater Sciences located on one of the Great Lakes in the United States. […] We have scientists that research everything from aquaculture, how to sustainably raise fish in a time where fish populations are dwindling, even though they're a main food source for many people to water technologies for cleanup, for sensing to areas like my own research, where we're looking at contaminants and how they impact not only the organisms that we find in freshwater systems and those communities and ecosystems, but also how that relates to human health. The whole idea of One Health, that environmental health is tied to human health. And then we also have people studying Ecosystem Science […] and then we also have […] a couple of scientists looking at bacteria and viral populations in our freshwater environments including the latest thing being monitoring COVID in our wastewater systems.”

[5:29] “Milwaukee is in a great position, because we are at the confluence of three rivers […] that ended up emptying out into Lake Michigan. And historically, this was an area where Native Americans were really dependent on the water systems and have a deep connection to water and the things they were able to grow here and the fish on these lakes. So we're very cognizant of the fact that we are standing on the shoulders of other folks that had a great appreciation for this freshwater system.”

[7:36] “The Great Lakes are a huge freshwater resource for many populations in the United States. […] They’re like freshwater oceans, the closest thing that you can describe them. […] They're an important source of freshwater, drinking water not only for human populations, but also for industry. There are lots of industries that are located on the Great Lakes because of this great water source. […] Milwaukee is becoming a Freshwater Science hub for industry and commercial enterprises, partly because of an organization that started here, the Water Council.”

[9:51] “The Lakes, a couple decades ago, looked a lot different than they do right now. Lake Michigan, as you said, looks like the Caribbean when you fly over it now and it didn't used to look like that. It used to be much less clear, much less blue. […] What happened is that we have several invasive species [like] zebra mussels that have invaded our Great Lakes. […] And so it cleared up the water column, and created other problems like algal growth, where light penetrates deeper down into the water column and ends up instigating algae growing where they weren't before, and causes changes in ecosystem dynamics. And so invasive species […] have had a tremendous impact over the last several decades, and are definitely still of concern within the Great Lakes […]. And that brings me to one of the things that the reasons why the Great Lakes are also important is shipping. […] We use the Great Lakes as a conveyance system for our goods and things that we're transporting around the Great Lakes region from other parts of the world. And with that they sometimes bring in other critters that are not necessarily beneficial for our Great Lakes ecosystem.”

[13:52] “There have definitely been changes in water patterns for instance, […] in water movement and temperature and in the organisms that are able to survive and thrive in Green Bay because of climate change. […] The big thing about climate change is the variability that happens in our weather patterns, […] influencing how much washes into the lakes, how much water flow sewage treatment systems have to deal with […]. We see differences in ice cover in the lakes, which also helps to determine water levels in the lake. […] It's […] influencing how dynamic that system is and influencing the whole ecosystem because of it.”

[15:27] “My lab studies emerging contaminants […]. And so some of the things that we've researched in the past are some of the pharmaceuticals that we use on a daily basis and end up going through the sewage treatment plant. […] In our research […] our scientist Sandra McClellan is looking at how you can monitor sewage and wastewater effluent and the environment after that sewage and wastewater effluent to determine what's going on in a population. So she's part of the group of scientists around the United States around the world that are looking at wastewater as an indicator for human populations, in this case for COVID. And, for instance, where is the Omicron variant? Are we finding it here in our ecosystem? And that would indicate that it's also in our human population, maybe before we even detected it medically in our hospitals and in our clinics.”

Rating: 💧💧💧

🎙️ Full Episode: Apple | Spotify
🕰️ 26 min | 🗓️ 01/04/2021
✅ Time saved: 24 min