UWO participates in $2.8 million research project

Christina Basken, Assistant News Editor

UW Oshkosh is participating in a beach remediation impact project among the Great Lakes research efforts supported by a $2.8 million omnibus grant from the Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute.

According to Sea Grant’s director of research Jennifer Hauxwell, beaches around the Great Lakes attract an estimated 8 million people a year and can have significant positive impacts to local communities, but beaches are also susceptible to fecal pollution, which can result in adverse human health effects.

To minimize pollution to beaches, some municipalities have re engineered aspects of the beach and surrounding areas. Activities have included redesigning the beach, treating stormwater, and re-naturalizing shorelines surrounding the beach area.

This project will look at how well these mitigation efforts have worked to minimize fecal pollution and to what extent they have increased the economic benefits to the local communities.

Hauxwell said she hopes this project will better inform the Oshkosh community.

“This project is a great example of researchers from different backgrounds (Dr. Kleinheinz-Environmental Engineering; Dr. Winden (from UW-Whitewater)-Economics) teaming up to tackle both the environmental and human health aspects of beach use in conjunction with economic aspects,” Hauxwell said. “This combined approach helps decision-makers understand the benefits and drawbacks of different choices from both an environmental but also an economic perspective.”

Environmental engineering technology professor, Gregory Kleinheinz is leading a new $190,000 project, “The Impact of Reengineering on Both Beach Water Quality and the Economic Value of the Beach” which will include all sampling, technical evaluation, lab work and student supervision.

Kleinheinz explained what the details of the project entail.

“Our project is one of the 19 Sea Grant projects funded,” Kleinheinz said. “It will evaluate 10 beaches, four beaches that have been mitigated, four that had no mitigation efforts and two that are mitigated during the project. The beaches are located in Door, Kewaunee and Manitowoc Counties.”

Kleinheinz said students participating in this project are able to see how they are impacting their community in a positive way.

“There are a group of five students working on the project this summer and likely a couple during the academic year,” Kleinheinz said. “The results of these projects can be applied to Menomonee Park and in fact have resulted in free reengineering plans for a redesign of Menominee Park beach. Students get to see how their classes impact the lives of thousands of people in WI and the Great Lakes.”

Lab manager of UWO’s Environmental Research and Innovation Center, Carmen Thiel also expressed the importance of this project.

“The beaches along Lake Michigan are of great sentimental and economic value to the area communities, therefore it is important to ensure they are safe for the public to enjoy,” Thiel said.