WUWM: Environmental Reporting

Many of us are environmentally aware — many recycle, some conserve water, you might ride a bike to work. But we do face profound environmental challenges.

Help WUWM’s Environmental Reporter Susan Bence dig deeper into the issues you are most concerned about.

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Susan Bence

The coronavirus pandemic has many of us feeling unsure. How far is far enough when social distancing? How clean is clean enough?

Milwaukee-area entrepreneur Todd Muderlak thinks the coronavirus is changing the way people approach sanitation — and he’s developed products he hopes will fill a void.

Standing in the middle of his Glendale headquarters off Port Washington Road, Muderlak says as a kid he surrounded by his dad’s creations, including washroom innovations.

Susan Bence

Each month, UWM distinguished professor of atmospheric science Paul Roebber talks with Lake Effect as part of our climate conversations series. In this final installment, two policy experts join the conversation.

Amber Meyer Smith is from the organization Clean Wisconsin. She’s a member of Gov. Tony Evers’ climate change task force.

Susan Bence

A statewide research initiative is underway, which involves all of the UW System’s four-year campuses. It’s called The Freshwater Collaborative of Wisconsin.

The hope is that this initiative will make Wisconsin and UW schools global leaders in freshwater science, technology and entrepreneurship. The group hopes to enroll hundreds of students, raise research dollars and create jobs.

Susan Bence

Friday was Juneteenth Day, which marks when the last slaves in Galveston, Texas learned in 1865 that slavery had been abolished.

There were a number of gatherings and celebrations in Milwaukee. And they took on special meaning in a period of civil rights demonstrations that have sprouted up across the country.

>>Juneteenth: The Day African Americans Truly Gained Freedom

Courtesy of David Thomas

One day a year for the last 24 years, several thousand volunteers have spread out throughout the Milwaukee River Basin to pick up trash. But this year is different, the coronavirus forced the Milwaukee Riverkeeper organization to cancel its 25th cleanup.

The science-based, water advocacy group says the annual cleaning up of tons of trash that accumulates over the winter helps the Menomonee, Kinnickinnic and Milwaukee River watersheds, but it also helps connect people to the natural resource.

Susan Bence

Spring is in full swing, so many plants and trees are beginning to bloom. Research shows that blooming trends are being impacted by climate change.

Mark Schwartz, a UW-Milwaukee distinguished professor of geography, is one of the researchers digging into those trends.

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.

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

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:

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. 

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.

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. 

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