The University of Wisconsin Oshkosh will receive $548,000 in support from the Freshwater Collaborative of Wisconsin this year to enhance its water-related academic programs.
The funding 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 13 UW System universities.
At UWO, the Freshwater Collaborative (FCW) will fund career development, student experiences and collaborative research with the Environmental Research and Innovations Center (ERIC) and its satellite labs and field facilities in Eagle River, Manitowoc and Sturgeon Bay. The project also includes the launch of the Water Technology Enterprise that will pair student groups with industry partners to help solve critical issues facing their operations.
Finally, the efforts at UWO will leverage the state-of-the-art ERIC by providing additional paid opportunities for training to all UW System students. The infrastructure provided by the FCW will set a solid foundation for sustainable programming in the freshwater sciences for the foreseeable future.
“We are pleased to join with the Freshwater Collaborative of Wisconsin to expand our infrastructure and offer more training for UWO students as well as students from across the UW System seeking careers in water science,” said Greg Kleinheinz, engineering and engineering technology department chair and ERIC director.
“We are excited to be the gateway to the Lake Winnebago system for all UW students and faculty. Starting immediately, the ERIC will be open to all UW faculty and students who want access to the waters of east-central Wisconsin for training, course field trip and research.”
Overall, the FCW will support 42 grants to further develop UW System-wide water science programs, internships and research opportunities.
High school and undergraduate students will have opportunities to participate in hands-on field and research experiences with faculty throughout the state, allowing them to develop a diverse range of skills. The Collaborative is also partnering with industry, nonprofits and community organizations to increase career development opportunities for students. Grant descriptions are available at freshwater.wisconsin.edu.
“Water is one of the fastest growing sectors of our economy,” said Marissa Jablonski, FCW executive director. “With these funds, the 13 UW universities can expand training opportunities for students and prepare them to meet the needs of Wisconsin’s workforce and address our state’s biggest water challenges.”
Wisconsin has abundant water resources; however, factors such as invasive species, pollution and climate change could significantly impact water safety and economic growth. The state of Wisconsin and the Freshwater Collaborative have identified 10 grand water challenges facing the state and are currently focusing research efforts on the top two: Agricultural Water Management and Water Quality Safety/Emerging Contaminants.
Startup funding for the FCW was provided in 2019 by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. and the UW System. In July 2021, the Wisconsin State Legislature and Gov. Evers approved $5 million in the current biennial budget to expand the Collaboration’s ability to train water professionals and establish Wisconsin as a leader in water-related science and economic growth.