The end, sort of

Post by Jenny Seifert, science writer/outreach coordinator

Six years ago, a group of UW-Madison researchers from different walks and stages of the scholarly life came together to put the place where they live, the Yahara Watershed, and its future under the microscope, so to speak. With funding from the National Science Foundation’s Water Sustainability and Climate (WSC) program, we set out to find answers to big questions, such as what could life in the watershed be like in two generations, how could climate and land-use change impact lakes and rivers, and how can people ensure the watershed remains a healthy place to live, work and play?

Densely built urban area flanked by lakes

The Yahara watershed contains Wisconsin’s capital, Madison, and thousands of acres of valuable farmland, a complex landscape that lends itself well to scientific inquiry. Credit: UW-Madison WSC Project

Now, our work has come to an end…sort of. The funding that got us started has ended, but this does not bring our work on these issues to a close.

In a way, our WSC funding was merely a launching pad. We now have perhaps more questions than we started with – scientific inquiry tends to beget more scientific inquiry, after all.

One next step for the team is to work in collaboration with local stakeholders on translating our big-picture findings into more tangible on-the-ground solutions for improving our lakes and landscapes, for example. Over the next few years, more publications will emerge from our analyses, and members from our team are pursuing other opportunities to explore the new questions we’ve harvested from this work.

Before we move on, some of us took time to reflect on what the experience on the WSC project has taught us, and the following are our personal words. This project has certainly changed us all, and we hope the results of our work can contribute to the collective effort to build a resilient and desirable future for not just the Yahara watershed, but also all of Wisconsin. Continue reading