Susan Bence

Environmental Reporter

Susan Bence entered broadcasting in an untraditional way. After years of avid public radio listening, Susan returned to school and earned a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. She interned for WUWM News and worked with the Lake Effect team, before being hired full-time as a WUWM News reporter / producer.

Susan is now WUWM's Environmental Reporter, the station's first. Her work has been recognized by the Milwaukee Press Club, the Northwest Broadcast News Association, and the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association.

Susan worked with Prevent Blindness Wisconsin for 20 years, studied foreign languages at UWM, and loves to travel.

Susan Bence

For many people, the outdoors has become a precious oasis — maybe now more than ever before. One spot that hikers gravitate toward would have been unthinkable and largely inaccessible just a decade ago: the Milwaukee River Greenway.

It forms a ribbon of 878 acres stretching from Glendale to the edge of downtown Milwaukee, much of it parkland. Milwaukee-native Kathy Mooney recalls forbidding parcels before the Greenway was established.

Michelle Maternowski

Wisconsin officials reported the largest single-day increase in COVID-19-related deaths on Wednesday. Twenty-two people died, bringing the total to 539 deaths.

Secretary-designee of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services Andrea Palm didn’t dwell on the day’s death count at a news briefing, but she did acknowledge a recent rise in COVID-19 patients being hospitalized. Still, Palm stuck to positive messaging.

Chuck Quirmbach

The Milwaukee area just came through a bout of long, hard rain. When the deep tunnel capacity was maxed out on Sunday, the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD) made the tough call to release combined sewer water to Milwaukee waterways which flow into Lake Michigan.

Troye Fox / UWM Photo Services

Coronavirus is a respiratory virus, but a Milwaukee researcher is looking for signs of the virus somewhere you may not expect: human waste.

For years, scientist Sandra McLellan’s team has been tracking bacteria that can impact public health. McLellan is a professor at UWM’s School of Freshwater Sciences.

READ: South Shore Beach Goes Green For Science

Susan Bence

We’re living in an era when more people need a helping hand due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

We received several Bubbler Talk questions wondering how people needing help during the coronavirus pandemic can find resources. So, we spoke with three groups that are supporting people in the Milwaukee area — now and after the pandemic.

>>Latest WUWM & NPR Coronavirus Coverage

Hunger Task Force

Susan Bence

COVID-19 has turned our economy upside down. While Milwaukee leaders are trying to figure out how to fund the city’s budget and continue providing services, many residents worry how far their funds will stretch.

On Monday, the Judiciary and Legislation Committee spent most of the afternoon discussing a proposal to freeze property assessment at last year’s level until further notice.

Emily Files

University of Wisconsin System leaders are working on safety protocols that could enable students to return to campus if the coronavirus pandemic stretches into fall, system President Ray Cross told regents Thursday.

Cross told the regents during a teleconference that system leaders want to be able to test all faculty, staff and students — a task he called “monumental.” They also want to be able to trace student contacts, create a way to isolate and quarantine the sick as well as infected people who aren't showing symptoms.

Susan Bence

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services is tracking COVID-19 outbreaks at 187 facilities, which includes factories and other places of work. About half are in long-term care facilities, many of them nursing homes. To limit the spread of the coronavirus, a state health official says it could be months until nursing homes allow in-person visitors. 

Erica Heisdorf Bisquerra

Climate change poses daunting threats to every facet and form of life. The Great Lakes region is expected to be hit by an increase in heat waves, flooding and severe storms.

Climate change disproportionately impacts people already grappling with obstacles, particularly in urban areas.

Walnut Way would appear to fit that description. The 30-block section of Milwaukee, 2 miles northwest of downtown falls within the Lindsay Heights neighborhood.

Spencer Platt / Getty Images

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released a new database earlier this month. It’s called Nature’s Archives, and NOAA says it’s the most comprehensive temperature change database ever assembled.

Library of Congress

Fifty years ago on Wednesday, the first Earth Day kicked off with a huge bang. An estimated 20 million people rallied to the call to protect our most fundamental resources: land, water, and air.

Its founder, Gaylord Nelson, served as Wisconsin governor before moving on to the U.S. Senate. Here's an excerpt from his 1970 speech delivered at MATC in Milwaukee on the eve of the first Earth Day:

Michelle Maternowski

Messages collided Thursday as Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers announced he's extending the safer-at-home order until May 26 to help control the COVID-19 crisis.

Just before, the state’s largest business group, Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, called on Evers to begin reopening the economy on April 24. That was the original date Evers’ safer-at-home order was due to expire.

Melissa Tashjian

A few years ago, the city of Milwaukee launched a curbside organics pick-up pilot for households to sign up to recieve a special bin to toss yard waste and food scraps.

In 2016, 500 families signed up — now that number's at 519 — primarily in the Bay View, East Side and Riverwest neighborhoods. 

Courtesy of David Crowley

Updated at 12:54 p.m. CT 

In an extremely close contest, state Rep. David Crowley won the race for Milwaukee County executive. Crowley beat state Sen. Chris Larson, who says he's not going to challenge the results. 

>>Wisconsin Spring Election Results

Michele Woodford

The presence of gray wolves in Wisconsin is considered a success story. The wolf is native to the Great Lakes and other parts of the U.S., but by the 1950s, the population was teetering on extinction. The gray wolf was placed on the federal endangered species list in 1975. By 2012, its numbers had rebounded and the gray wolf was taken off the list.

Chuck Quirmbach

Updated Tuesday at 12:08 p.m. CT

Tuesday is election day in Wisconsin, due to an order from the state Supreme Court.

Less than 24 hours before the April 7 election was scheduled to begin, Gov. Tony Evers called off the election and postponed in-person voting to June 9. But, Monday, the state Supreme Court ruled 4-2 that Evers lacked the authority to do so.

Bonnie Halvorsen

City and county agencies with the help of private organizations have been scrambling over the last week to set up safe lodging for those most vulnerable to the threat of COVID-19 — people living in unsafe conditions, including those who are homeless. Individuals want to help too. People like Paulette Flynn are providing food.

"I’m here at Immanuel Church in Brookfield and I just am delivering a couple hundred PB&J sandwiches," Flynn says. "The group here goes out a couple times a week and provides food and other needs for our homeless neighbors."

Courtesy of Ann Christiansen

While cases are much higher in the city of Milwaukee, confirmed cases of the coronavirus are on the rise in North Shore communities as well. Director/Health Officer Ann Christiansen gives WUWM a glimpse of the inner workings of the North Shore Health Department.

Spencer Platt / Getty Images

The new coronavirus is crippling countries around the world, forcing major cities into lockdown. Production has slowed, as some businesses have had to pause. The sluggish commercial climate along with travel restrictions have led to a drop in air pollution.  

Experts, including UW-Milwaukee distinguished professor of atmospheric science Paul Roebber, say the unintended relief the environment is experiencing will be temporary. But Roebber says lessons can be learned by considering similarities between the outbreak and climate change. 

Susan Bence

According to a report from the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin, nearly 30% of the energy residents rely on is fueled by natural gas. That is almost 2% more than coal.

We Energies wants to increase its natural gas delivery capacity by laying a pipeline that would stretch from rural Walworth County to northcentral Kenosha County.

Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

Updated Friday at 2:37 p.m. CT

Milwaukee learned more late Thursday afternoon about the fatal shootings Wednesday on the campus of Molson Coors — still thought of by many as Miller Valley. Milwaukee police released the names of victims and the suspect, who’s believed to have killed the five men before turning the gun on himself.

A hushed battalion of journalists waited inside the Milwaukee Police Department Administration Building on West State Street for the update.

Chuck Quirmbach

Recently the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration reported that this January was the warmest on record for the globe. This information is part of a growing body of evidence that climate change can be seen and felt.

Michelle Maternowski

You’ve probably driven by The Domes many times and even visited them. Whether you love them or hate them, their future’s been hotly debated — should Milwaukee County restore or destroy them? To have a better understanding of their future, let’s take a look at their past.

Pat Faherty is fond of The Domes, officially called The Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory, but has one lingering question. So, Pat and reached out to Bubbler Talk:

Courtesy David Crowley and Chris Larson

Updated Wednesday at 11:39 a.m. CT

David Crowley and Chris Larson are advancing to the April 7 general election in the Milwaukee County executive race. They were the top two vote-getters in the primary election, beating out Theo Lipscomb and Purnima Nath.

Both Crowley and Larson are Democrats who serve in the Wisconsin Legislature – Crowley in the Assembly and Larson in the Senate.

Susan Bence

An estimated 900,000 Wisconsin households rely on private wells for drinking water. It seems with every passing day, we learn wells are being impacted by contaminants — from manure to PFAS — putting families’ health at risk. Some people feel there's not enough support when they have to deal with a contaminated well.

READ: PFAS Concern Remains High In Marinette

Susan Bence

Milwaukee prides itself for being a water centric city, but it has a problem with its water quality. In 1987, Milwaukee was one of 43 areas around the Great Lakes put on a list no one wants to be on — the Areas of Concern list.

Susan Bence

In the coming months, Lake Effect will be exploring the impact of climate change through a series of conversations with Paul Roebber, a distinguished professor of atmospheric science at UW-Milwaukee. The series will include listener questions about how climate change is directly impacting our region and our lives.

Roebber explains that climate is a complex, dynamical system that changes over periods of time — some long and some short.

Susan Bence

Updated at 5:35 p.m. CT

No one had the opportunity to speak for or against the proposed Kletzsch Park dam project at Tuesday afternoon’s meeting of the Milwaukee County Parks, Energy and Environment Committee.

While the item was taken up almost immediately by the committee, it just as quickly voted to lay over the proposal to the call of the chair.

Unless the committee forwards the Kletzsch Park item to the Board of Supervisors before its end of term meeting on March 26, the item will effectively be dead.

Susan Bence

A family of man-made chemicals that can contaminate water, called PFAS, has been front and center in the news, across the United States and in Wisconsin.

On Tuesday, the Wisconsin Legislature said yes to a first step in limiting the use of the most visible source of PFAS contamination – firefighting foams. Then on Wednesday, the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board took up a proposal to regulate PFAS and other chemicals that can contaminate groundwater.

Susan Bence

There’s promising new research that could help farmers weather climate change. A team of scientists is experimenting with a hormone that naturally occurs in plants. The hormone slows the plant’s growth – meaning it would need less water during a drought.

There’s more research to be done, but it could eventually lead to a drought-survival spray farmers could use on crops.