The “Dear Pandemic” Project; Reducing Risks of Wildfire Ignition from Power Grids; Life in the Late Triassic in Wyoming

Explore the Unknown!


Please share this missive with your friends & neighbors. 

If you’ve already registered for a previous WN@TL zoom this year, you’re good—you don’t have to register again.

Continue to use the link found in the confirmation message Zoom sent you when you first registered.

If you’ll be watching for the first time, please register for the WN@TL Zoom at 

WN@TL begins at 7:00pm Central


12 May 2021


Hi WN@TL Fans,


We have lived now for 15 months in the grippe of a fickle handful of mobile genes; a virion not even written in lofty DNA but rather in lowly RNA; a plague transmitted in wisps of breath & in wafts of air;  a spawner both of a pandemic and of an infodemic; a trigger of conspiracies and of insurrections; a cleaver among families and a splitting-wedge among nations; a killer so far of 580,000 Americans; a slayer of perhaps 7 millions worldwide.


Early on, in March 2020, covid also coalesced the coming together of an extraordinary group of women to form “Dear Pandemic.”   Their mission: to help meet the need for information, insight and guidance on covid.  At that time, people around the world were being pummeled with competing and sometimes contradictory claims about the mitigation of the spread of the virus and the management of the disease.


The clash of competing claims continues today, but organizations such as Dear Pandemic have become recognized as reliable distillers of data and as providers of advice.  As with the pandemic itself, the Dear Pandemic team has grown and evolved.  The stories of the origins, the development, and the future work of the team give us insights into how Dear Pandemic has braided together the threads of public health, medical care, and persuasive communication.


Tonight, May 12,  Malia Jones of the Applied Population Lab and co-founder &  editor-in-chief of the “Dear Pandemic” Project will be here to tell us more about the origins, work and future of this group of epidemiologists, physicians and other health care providers.  As the Dear Pandemic website puts it: “It’s a Pandemic. You Need Answers.”   The group provides insights and analysis in persuasive ways to people looking for guidance on how to deal with covid, its treatments, the ways to reduce its spread, and the vaccines to reduce the likelihood of disease and infection.  And last month, Dear Pandemic folks introduced the term “Pandexit” to describe the coming phase of as the pandemic levels out and falls off.


Bio:  Dr. Malia Jones is an interdisciplinary researcher working at the intersection of infectious disease and social epidemiology, demography, and geography. She is an Associate Scientist in Health Geography at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Applied Population Laboratory, where her work focuses on how the places we spend time affect our health, especially spatial clustering of infectious disease and vaccines. She is also the co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of Dear Pandemic.


Her current research program is funded by the National Institutes for Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). She received a MPH and a PhD in Public Health at UCLA, and completed postdoctoral training at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine. Her work has been published in journals including the American Journal of Public Health, Health Affairs, and Demography. She is a maker, a mom to two boys, and she loves David Bowie.




On May 19 Professor Line Roald of the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering will be here to speak on “How to Reduce the Risk of Wildfire Ignition from Power Grids.”


Description: Even the best run grid is not completely fault-free, meaning that there will occasionally be sparks from power lines. In situations with high wildfire risk, this means that utilities are caught in a really hard position: Should they turn off the power grid and face public outrage (and possible fines) for power outages? Or should they keep power on, facing potential financial liability of starting a fire?

In the presentation, we will discuss how a power grid ignites wildfires, what electric utilities can do to prevent it and how this may cause power outages to customers. I will present our recent research on how to minimize both wildfire risk and power outages in situations with high wildfire risk, which begins to answer the question of how to find the right trade-off between the two.

Bio: Line Roald is an Assistant Professor and Grainger Institute Fellow in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering in University of Wisconsin—Madison. She received her Ph.D. degree in Electrical Engineering (2016) from ETH Zurich, Switzerland and was a post-doctoral fellow at Los Alamos National Laboratory. She is the recipient of an NSF CAREER award and the UW Madison ECE Outstanding Graduate Mentoring award. Her research interests center around modeling and optimization of energy systems, with a particular focus on managing uncertainty and risk from renewable energy variability and component failures.



On May 26 Dave Lovelace of the UW Geology Museum and Dept of Geoscience will share his recent work on dinosaurs in the Late Triassic of Wyoming.  His is a saga how basically of puzzle pieces: each piece is a story, but as each piece is put together a broader picture is formed of Life in the Late Triassic, including how we know WHEN in time our rocks are, and why knowing that is important.

Bio:  Dave Lovelace is a vertebrate paleontologist specializing in Triassic-aged rocks of the Rocky Mountain West (252-201 million years ago). He joined the UW Geology Museum team as a research scientist after completing his PhD at UW-Madison’s Department of Geoscience in 2012. Dave combines the study of ancient bones, trackways, and soils to build a picture of what ecosystems looked like 230 million years ago — when the first mammals, turtles, crocodiles, lizards, dinosaurs, and birds evolved. Since becoming a member of the museum team, Dave had made several exciting discoveries including: the oldest known turtle tracks in the world, two mass-death-assemblages of Late Triassic amphibians, and the oldest dinosaur tracks in Wyoming.



Remember, we now meet by Zoom, since we can’t gather all in one room.


Hope to see you soon at Wednesday Nite @ The Lab!


Tom Zinnen
Biotechnology Center & Division of Extension, Wisconsin 4-H