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UW-Eau Claire receives $207,882 for Freshwater Collaborative projects

| Gary Johnson

Photo caption: Dr. Sarah Vitale, associate professor of geology and environmental science, right, worked with high school students during the first Freshwater Science Summer Field Experience in 2021 at UW-Eau Claire.

The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire has received $207,882 in Freshwater Collaborative of Wisconsin funding to expand research and training opportunities for high school and undergraduate students to address the state’s biggest water challenges.

FCW has awarded nearly $4.3 million in funding for 22 projects as part of a statewide initiative, backed by the state Legislature and Gov. Tony Evers, to tackle Wisconsin’s 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.

Dr. Sarah Vitale, associate professor of geology and environmental science, is a principal investigator or collaborator on all five projects that involve UW-Eau Claire. The projects are large-scale collaborations that include UW-Eau Claire faculty from the departments of geology and environmental science; geography and anthropology; biology; and public health and environmental studies, as well as UW-Stout, UW Oshkosh and UW-River Falls.

Freshwater Collaborative

“These projects provide opportunities for UW-Eau Claire students and faculty to collaborate with freshwater experts at other UW campuses, for our students to have paid research and internship opportunities all over the state, and to connect with the community in a meaningful way that emphasizes the critical importance of our water resources,” Vitale says.

Vitale says the funding makes the additional learning opportunities possible.

“The Freshwater Collaborative recognizes high school and undergraduate students as the future of the freshwater workforce,” Vitale says. “Their investment in enhancing freshwater education, scholarship and community outreach through these projects adds an invaluable strength to the UW System and freshwater science across Wisconsin as a whole.”

UW-Eau Claire will receive funding for these five projects:

Freshwater Collaborative

Freshwater field experiences — $113,766:

“The Freshwater Science Across the Curriculum: Linked Outreach and Advanced Educational Activities in Western Wisconsin” is an ongoing project that includes two freshwater science field courses in western Wisconsin: one targeting junior and senior high school students and the other an advanced course designed for upper-level college students. The hands-on learning experiences introduce participants to a wide range of freshwater science topics with specialists from UW-Eau Claire, UW-Stout, UW-River Falls and UW Oshkosh. Courses are open to students enrolled in high schools across Wisconsin or from any UW System campus.

Training K-12 educators in groundwater science — $51,864:

The project entails a one-day groundwater workshop with K-12 educators in the Eau Claire Area School District and a hands-on classroom experience for each participating educator with UW-Eau Claire faculty and undergraduate students. The workshop will include exploration of groundwater characteristics using physical flow models, field experience on the UW-Eau Claire campus well field and a tour of the Eau Claire Municipal Water Treatment Plant.

Environmental science fair at UW-Eau Claire — $15,652:

The science fair “Water, Water, Everywhere!” is a new, one-day multidisciplinary event for up to 100 regional high school students and accompanying high school teachers and advisors. The fair will include hands-on breakout sessions, a panel, a plenary speaker and a traditional program fair for participants to interact with environmental science faculty at UW-Eau Claire.

High school summer camp — $15,200:

UW-Eau Claire students participate in the summer camp at UW Oshkosh that offers student training opportunities at a state-certified laboratory for many water-testing parameters as well as a contract R&D laboratory for various community and industry projects. Students from UW campuses work at field research sites or take a field course each summer, which embeds students in communities to study surface, well and groundwater.

Red Cedar Watershed monitoring project — $11,400:

This is a continuation and expansion of a project examining the Red Cedar Watershed’s blue-green algae blooms due to phosphorus pollution. The project examines the effectiveness of projects implemented to reduce runoff and restore stream channels and buffer areas. Students from UW-Stout, UW-River Falls, UW-Eau Claire and UW Oshkosh will work during the summer to survey streams, riparian corridors and wetlands while also monitoring Lakes Tainter and Menomin.

For more information about UW-Eau Claire’s participation in the Freshwater Collaborative of Wisconsin, contact Dr. Sarah Vitale at or 715-836-4300.