Jill Coleman Wasik explains measuring water in the soil to students on May 25 at the university-operated Mann Valley Farm.
Jill Coleman Wasik, associate professor of environmental science who leads the Freshwater Collaborative of Wisconsin effort at UW-River Falls, explains measuring water in the soil to students on May 25 at the university-operated Mann Valley Farm. UW-River Falls is receiving $155,441 in state funding to conduct additional student research on water. UWRF photo.

UW-River Falls among recipients of Freshwater Collaborative of Wisconsin funding

Projects support student training and research efforts to monitor, improve water quality

Aug. 16, 2023 - River Falls, Wis. – The Freshwater Collaborative of Wisconsin has awarded $155,441 to the University of Wisconsin-River Falls for five water quality projects which the university is either leading or a partner in. 

That funding is part of nearly $4.3 million allocated in the 2023-25 state budget for 22 efforts that increase research and training opportunities for high school and undergraduates and will address Wisconsin’s biggest water challenges, officials announced today.

Faculty will work with students at UW-River Falls and other participating universities and high schools to study and monitor water quality, threats to water, and restoration of waterways. Among projects the funding will cover are those related to PFAS contamination and the adverse impact of agricultural runoff on waterways. 

Jill Coleman Wasik, associate professor of environmental science who leads the Freshwater Collaborative effort at UW-River Falls, said the funding will support different types of student opportunities, from hands-on courses to field training to professional networking. The program allows the university to develop innovative ways to train students and prepare them for working in water-related professions, she said. 

“Water intersects all facets of life whether or not we notice it,” she said. “Having young professionals who bring a holistic understanding of water issues and potential solutions makes our Wisconsin communities stronger.” 

David Travis, UWRF provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs, said dollars allocated to the university show the high-level water-related research being conducted by faculty and students.  

“I’m pleased to see that once again UW-River Falls is a leader among the campuses in the UW System receiving Freshwater Collaborative grants,” Travis said of the grant funding. “The scope of projects and range of faculty involvement shows the multiple ways that UW-River Falls can contribute expertise to the freshwater challenges in Wisconsin.”

Funding will support expansion of summer research programs that allow students from Wisconsin and elsewhere in the U.S. to conduct freshwater studies at UW System campuses. Those dollars also make possible summer programs educating high school students about water industry careers, as well as university-led research projects that help communities and government agencies monitor water quality. 

Numerous projects included in this year’s funding will address PFAS, “forever chemicals” used in everyday products that have been shown to cause significant health issues in humans and which have been identified at high levels in drinking water throughout Wisconsin. Projects involve collaboration between UW System universities, with faculty from numerous schools instructing students. 

“The collaboration of our public universities to protect and preserve Wisconsin’s freshwater will pay dividends for every Wisconsinite for generations,” UW System President Jay Rothman said. “Using the resources and expertise we have at all our 13 universities leverages Wisconsin’s extraordinary higher education system. I am very proud of the work of our students, faculty, and staff on this important initiative.”

UWRF faculty involved in projects include Coleman Wasik; Bahareh Hassanpour, assistant professor of environmental science; and Kevin Thaisen, assistant professor of geology.

The projects UW-River Falls is receiving funding for, and funding amounts, include:

  • Continuing the Work of the Data Analysis and Monitoring Crew, $79,300. Students participate in a two-week, hands-on, field-based training experience in which they learn about river health and restoration. The DAM Crew is a public-private partnership that includes UW-River Falls, the City of River Falls, Interfluve Inc., the Kinni Corridor Collaborative and Trout Unlimited. 
  • From Field to Laboratory: Hands-on Techniques for Students in Water Sciences, $41,737. This project is led by UW-River Falls and UW-Madison and focuses on hands-on laboratory and field techniques for studying freshwater.
  • Freshwater Science Across the Curriculum: Linked Outreach and Advanced Educational Activities in Western Wisconsin, $14,280. A collaborative effort including UW-River Falls, UW-Eau Claire, UW-Stout and UW-Oshkosh includes two freshwater science field courses in western Wisconsin: one targeting junior and senior high school students and the other an advanced course designed for upper-level college students. 
  • Continuation and Expansion of the Red Cedar Watershed Monitoring Project, $11,400. Participants in this project study the causes of toxic algae blooms that are present in the watershed and monitor the effectiveness of existing efforts to reduce algae, with the hope of informing future management of the waterway. The effort involves UW-River Falls, UW-Stout, UW-Eau Claire, UW-Oshkosh and the Dunn County Land and Water Conservation District.
  • Water, Health, and Habitat Interactions, $8,724. UW-Milwaukee will lead a collaboration with UW-River Falls and four other UW campuses to implement three intensive hands-on courses that will provide undergraduates throughout the UW System with an affordable opportunity to conduct research and field work on Lake Michigan. 

For more information about the Freshwater Collaborative of Wisconsin and grant descriptions for funded projects in 2023-25, visit

Contact Us

University Communications
and Marketing
120 North Hall
Phone: 715-425-3771
Fax: 715-425-4486