Economic impacts

Economic impacts  >>

This project will study local public policy issues, human capital, and strategic mechanisms for implementing sustainable economic growth policies. Specifically, this project will explore the economic and social benefits of water resources in the Red Cedar Watershed while quantifying the costs of pollution mitigation.

Using data generated by projects, REU students will create simulation models to explore the short- and long-term consequences of sustainable policy. Students will build Bayesian network models and simulate outcomes under different assumptions informed by local data. We will then use these models to understand stakeholder behavior in the Red Cedar Watershed. Ultimately, this knowledge will be used to tailor regulatory policy to achieve long-term agricultural, economic, and water quality sustainability.


Sedimentology  >>

This project will model ecological phenomena using the tools of paleoecology and geomorphology. We will study the sedimentary record within the Red Cedar Watershed by comparing geomorphology and sedimentary phosphorus deposits to land-use history. 

REU students will study chemical and textural changes in floodplain sediments, depth variation in sediment nutrient concentration, and phosphorus sequestration in area sediments. They will then compare the basin stratigraphy to historical records such as precipitation, stream hydrology, and cultural changes in land use.

Using these data, we will compile a history of human, landscape, and climate-driven sediment fluxes. These data will provide an important landscape history perspective.

Ethnography of Red Cedar Basin Stakeholders

Ethnography of Red Cedar Basin stakeholders >>

This project will use ethnographic methods to explore how, why, and in what ways community stakeholders (including business owners and investors, civic organizations, farmer organizations, and local residents) are engaged or disengaged in working towards better water quality in the Red Cedar Basin. 

  • How do they understand the problem and how it changed over time? 
  • How does it affect the community as a whole, especially the local economy and tourism? 
  • What capacities already exist that might be connected with current activities aimed at addressing the problem?
  • What frustrations and roadblocks exist to more effective participation? 

The goal of the project is to create a community inventory of organizations, leaders, and engaged citizens and to understand the relationships among them and their views about environmental issues and the impact of poor water quality on their lives and on the community. A part of the project will include collecting oral histories of long-term residents and leaders to better understand how communities and their use of lakes and waterways have changed over time.

Geographies of Pollution and Conservation

Geographies of Pollution and Conservation >>

This study will use spatial analysis to examine geographic variations in phosphorus pollution and conservation behavior within the Red Cedar Watershed. This project seeks to understand local ecologies and local cultures of southwestern Wisconsin, an area of deep river valleys and surprising biodiversity, sometimes referred to as the Driftless Region because it is the only portion the upper Midwest that escaped glaciation during the last glacial maximum.

One of the key insights of geography is that place matters. While phosphorus pollution is a global problem, in order to find solutions we need to understand local people, cultures, and physical environments. Policy interventions and remediation strategies need to be tailored to local conditions and to work for local people and communities.

REU students will work with geographic information systems to analyze geographic variation in pollution levels and conservation behavior in order to understand spatial patterns and identify where interventions will have the greatest impact.

Farmer social networks

Farmer social networks  >>

This study will evaluate the structure of farmer social networks with the goal of understanding how their social capital impacts their adoption of sustainable farming practices. Social capital is the value a person gains from their connections to others who have different economic and cultural capital. REU students will survey farmers and use statistical analysis to examine social aspects of farmers' connections to local, regional, and global ecologies.

This research studies social capital as a resource for mitigating phosphorus pollution, and how government and non-profit organizations can better resolve environmental issues by valuing diverse human interests and working with local stakeholders to forge lasting solutions. 

Phosphorus remediation strategies

Phosphorus remediation strategies  >>

This project uses mesocosm and whole-lake experiments to study how chemical treatments and biological manipulations can reduce phosphorus in the Red Cedar Watershed.

REU students will use the techniques of molecular biology to measure treatment effects on cyanobacterial community composition and characterize cyanophage in lake water. Experiments manipulating fish and aquatic plant populations will also be performed. 

The overall goal is to identify treatment approaches that remediate algal blooms and improve water quality over the long term.

Ethnography of phosphorus mitigation governance

Ethnography of phosphorus mitigation governance  >>

This project will study how policies are constructed and measure the consequences on socially and economically marginalized populations. We will explore how phosphorus remediation policy is shaped and implemented in the Red Cedar Watershed. 

REU students will identify specific phosphorus remediation policies and explore how they are enforced. Students will address these questions: 

  • Who is responsible for enforcing policies?
  • What do they understand of the policy and what attitudes do they bring to their work?
  • How are the policies interpreted and applied in day-to-day situations?
  • What mechanisms for enforcement exist and are resources sufficient? 

Students will map bureaucracies and policies to uncover relationships and conduct interviews of agency officials to study their jobs, how they understand the issue of phosphorus pollution, and how they apply policies and enforce regulations.

Mathematical Modeling

Mathematical Modeling  >>

This study will develop a learning algorithm (think AI or neural net) that takes the collected data and tries to predict bloom levels. Here we can tweak the inputs to test the AI and see what measures can be taken to mitigate bloom levels (i.e. solve the inverse problem). We will make the deterministic model parameters probabilistic with densities based on the data collected in previous summers by LAKES REU researchers.

Water Policy Economics

Water Policy Economics >>

This project will analyze regulatory policies designed to increase water quality, specifically those targeting excess nutrients. Students will also utilize survey and publicly available data to design optimal water protection policies. By using statistical analysis, such as difference-in-differences regression techniques to understand if previously implemented policies have proven both cost-effective and successful at improving water quality, and to examine these policies in the context of the RCB, this project will identify those policies most likely to prove effective in the future, and thus, identify how best to utilize taxpayer dollars to benefit the RCB. The project will also utilize forecasting techniques and cost-benefit analyses to design optimal policies for the future, which will best achieve the desired goal of water quality improvements, while remaining economically efficient.