Program People News

WRI Welcomes Attention to Water

Between the governor's declaration of a year of clean drinking water and the Wisconsin Assembly Speaker's Task Force on Water Quality, Wisconsin's public officials are devoting concerted attention to water issues in 2019. It's welcomed by the University of Wisconsin Water Resources Institute (WRI), which has worked to address present and emerging water quality, quantity and management challenges since 1964.

In 2019-20, WRI will fund three new projects and three continuing ones. The research is centered on groundwater, and projects have been selected from proposals submitted in response to a joint solicitation for Wisconsin Groundwater Research and Monitoring projects from the Groundwater Coordinating Council.

Civil and Environmental Engineering Professor Steve Loheide at the University of Wisconsin-Madison said, “Wisconsin is a water rich state, but its climate, the way we use the land and the ways in which we interact with water and ecosystems is constantly changing. Continued research on Wisconsin’s water resources is required to help inform decision making that will lead us and future generations down sustainable paths that support our cities, our agricultural systems, our environment and our economy – all of which are very much dependent upon water.”

His project, titled “Impact of Changing Snow Cover and Frozen Ground Regimes on Groundwater Recharge,” will help decision makers understand the quantity and flow of groundwater in the future. Loheide’s research team will determine the extent to which changes in the freeze-thaw cycle might affect the rate at which groundwater is replenished from surface water moving down from above. They will analyze existing conditions in groundwater, climate and soil temperature that encourage or inhibit this replenishment. That data will be used to develop models of snow accumulation and diminishment, variably saturated ground flow and heat transport.

The remaining projects are:

“Assessment of the Source and Mobility of Phosphorus in the Hydrologic System in Western Wisconsin.” In a project new for 2019, investigators at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire will collaborate with a scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey to better understand from where phosphorus is entering lakes in western Wisconsin and how it is moving through water bodies. This will contribute to effective non-point source contaminant cleanup, lake management and land-use regulation. Water samples will be collected from private and municipal wells, and sediment and water will be tested from Mud Lake in Barron County.

“Microbially-Mediated Oxidation of Trace Element-Bearing Sulfide Minerals in Sandstones of Trempealeau County, WI.” In a project new for 2019, three researchers based at UW-Madison will also draw on the contributions from a researcher at Beloit College to gauge any possible effects on drinking water quality due to both natural and frac sand mining. Microbial-laden groundwater flowing through mined areas could expose oxygen to minerals that then generate acidity and lead to the release of toxic trace elements. The team will approach this exploration by charting the rate of reaction to oxygen in both the presence and absence of natural groundwater microorganisms.

ASC bids adieu as Terri Liebmann retires

This summer, staff at the Aquatic Sciences Center (ASC) are saying a bittersweet goodbye to Terri Liebmann, assistant director for administration. While we’re glad she will have more time for travel and personal projects, we’ll miss her warm, easygoing personality and wealth of institutional and procedural knowledge.

Her last day is in the office is July 3, 2019.

Said Jen Hauxwell, ASC assistant director for research and student engagement, “Since the day I started, Terri has been my go-to person for everything related to how the center operates, from how our state budget works to where in the heck in Goodnight Hall we might have stashed the paper plates for hosting meetings. She knows where everything is, how everything works, and who everyone is! She also has a great sense of humor, which will be missed as much as her knowledge about ASC administration.”

Liebmann acquired her wealth of knowledge over many years of state service: 37 total with the state of Wisconsin, and the last 20 of those at ASC, where her activities cover both Wisconsin Sea Grant and the Water Resources Institute.

Liebmann has led budgeting and grant management, human resources, and other administrative areas that keep ASC humming.

A native of Madison, Liebmann now lives about 30 miles southwest of town in Blue Mounds, where she and her husband, Tim, care for over 200 acres of land. Some is their own, and some acreage they manage for her father-in-law.

She’ll devote some of her newfound free time to projects on the property, but is also looking forward to upcoming travel to Colorado and Seattle. She and Tim also have longer-range plans to visit Spain in the next year or two.

While Liebmann is looking forward to her next chapter, ASC has been a major part of her life. “ASC staff has been my family for 20 years,” she said. “I truly will miss everybody and the work, because I obviously enjoy what I do, or I wouldn’t have been here for two decades.”

High points for Liebmann have included being part of the Sea Grant Fiscal Officers Network and participating in several program reviews conducted by the National Sea Grant Office, including the March 2019 review.

Although program reviews are a lot of work, she said, “It’s my favorite time because it pulls all of us staff together to make it happen, and it also pulls in many of our PI’s.” It’s a chance to step back and appreciate the full portfolio of Sea Grant activities, from research and outreach to education and communications, said Liebmann.

On behalf of the entire Aquatic Sciences Center: best of luck, Terri, in all your future endeavors!

The Aquatic Sciences Center is the administrative home of the
University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute & University of Wisconsin Water Resources Institute.

©2011 University of Wisconsin Board of Regents