OSHKOSH, Wis. (WFRV)- Research into the blue-green algae blooms that show up through the waterways in Northeast Wisconsin is underway at UW Oshkosh.

Bob Stelzer, a biology professor at UW Oshkosh, is a part of a research team of senior scientists and students committed not only to improving the area’s water quality but also to how residents who interact with the waterways understand and interpret these blooms.

This research study is called the “Harmful Algal Bloom Project” and has been funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) with this past summer being year one of a four-year study. Stelzer says this project is called a “Wicked Problem”, which seeks to tackle issues happening within our community that has to be tackled from multiple perspectives.

This project features personnel from multiple departments at UW Oshkosh including biology, chemistry, geology, engineering and technology, environmental studies, and anthropology. With this team coming together, Stelzer says there are two areas this group is focusing on:

“The work that we are doing is really all about these harmful algal blooms but we are addressing these blooms from multiple perspectives. From perspectives of the biophysical sciences, explaining the extent of these blooms, and what toxins are produced, but there’s also a major component that involves the social sciences, ethnographic data collection and that part of the project includes really asking people how they interact with these blooms, asking people what they know about these blooms, how they might impact and how they interact with the water”.

This past year, the team set off into Lake Winnebago, collecting near-shore samples by wading in the water and offshore samples in boats. On top of that, the group set out into the public, asking residents key questions about how they interact with those blooms.

Local 5 caught up with a few of those students, including Kaylee Tackett, a double major in Biology and Environmental Studies, Dominic Laracuente who is majoring in General Biology, and Frances Kerkahof, majoring in Anthropology.

Although multiple majors were involved, all three had their own goals for the project that all contributed to this project, as Tackett mentioned wanting to know more about how people understood these blooms and spreading the word about water quality, Laracuente noted liking working in a lab and finding out what’s in the water and why it reacts this way and Kerkahof wanted to know more about the human/environmental interaction and how these two coexist.

These students are receiving hands-on training that will be beneficial to their future careers. So far, this team has found that the blooms vary in intensity and location from one side of the lake to the other. The group would like to eventually present findings to local agencies in order to help this persistent issue.