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UW-Eau Claire's Todd Wellnitz Receives
National Science Foundation Career Award

RELEASED: Jan. 23, 2007

Dr. Todd Wellnitz
Dr. Todd Wellnitz

EAU CLAIRE — A prestigious award from the National Science Foundation will enable Dr. Todd Wellnitz, assistant professor of biology at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, to study the question of how much water a stream needs to maintain the ecosystem it supports.

Wellnitz received a five-year, $740,000 NSF Career Grant, which recognizes a young researcher's dual commitment to scholarship and education. Additional support from the UW-Eau Claire Provost's Office, College of Arts and Sciences, Office of Research and Sponsored Programs, and the biology department brings the project's total funding to $820,000.

Dr. Paula Kleintjes Neff, chair of the biology department, said the NSF award brings national attention to Wellnitz's and the department's dedication to scientific research and undergraduate education.

"This grant will provide incredible hands-on research opportunities for students and teachers to work with Dr. Wellnitz and other scientists in the field of aquatic ecology," Kleintjes Neff said. "It will provide them exposure to new places and faces and immerse them in a true experiential learning environment."

The project, "Linking heterogeneity to the contributions made by species for ecosystem processes," will combine research and teacher education in Colorado and Wisconsin streams.

Stream flows are being altered worldwide to meet human needs, creating a pressing need for ecologists to help society understand what flows are necessary to prevent species loss and allow streams to provide essential ecosystem services, Wellnitz said.

"Ultimately the project has the potential to provide resource managers with a process-based measure for establishing minimum stream flows," Wellnitz said.

The project will support a research assistant and two undergraduate researchers each year of the grant. The undergraduates will commit to spending three semesters at UW-Eau Claire and a summer at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory conducting individual research projects in conjunction with the main project. Particular efforts will be made to recruit Hmong students.

In addition, Wellnitz will offer workshops on aquatic ecology for local K-12 teachers each year of the grant.

Wellnitz joined UW-Eau Claire's faculty in the fall of 2005. He earned a Ph.D. from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in 1997. He teaches courses in ecology and evolution, tropical ecology, invertebrate zoology and medicine.

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JW/JB

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