PFAS in Waters of Wisconsin; How Legal Reforms Can Protect Our Culinary Heritage in the Face of Climate Change; Winged Sentinels–How Birds are Adapting to Climate Change

For September 22, 2021            
Hi WN@TL Fans,
My major professor at UW-Madison, plant virologist Robert W. Fulton, was an avid trout angler who tied flies and stalked streams in western Dane County and in the hollers of the Driftless in pursuit of the wiley salmonid.  I asked him once about how he got permission from landowners to access such small creeks, and I was astonished when he replied he didn’t need permission: the navigable waters of Wisconsin include any stream that is able to float a log or a canoe at some point during a year.  This was an astoundingly broad definition of a public resource, especially to a canoeist from Illinois, where the public waterways are strictly delineated and narrow in scope.  “Whatever floats your boat”  takes on a breathtaking nautical meaning in Wisconsin.  It was my first taste of how folks (and the law) look at public waterways differently in Wisconsin than in some other places.
Some time later I was introduced to the Public Trust Doctrine of the Waters of Wisconsin and was again impressed with the distribution of rights of the public relative to the rights of the owner of land bordering on a navigable waterway.  I have the impression (I may be wrong) that there’s no such thing as a private beach along the Wisconsin portions of the Great Lakes, provided you are walking on that part of the shore that is within the normal high water level.  Thus the doctrine makes for the possibility of days-long treks on the sandy and the hardscrabble shores of Lakes Superior and Michigan.
The third prong in this trident of freshwater stewardship was learning of the origins of the Hamm’s Beer ad. To a Flatlander like me, Hamm’s was strictly a Minnesota beer, like Grain Belt and Schmidt. So I was nonplussed to learn that Ernie Garven, the Minnesotan who in 1952 wrote the words & tune of the Hamm’s beer song, had tapped into inspiration while on vacation in Wisconsin.  “The land of sky-blue waters” captures three of the most vibrant and cherished ideas of both states that border the St. Croix:  water, land and sky.
And so it is that this week’s presentation invokes a phrase that to my ear strings and sings some of the most evocative words in the badger state:  “The Waters of Wisconsin.”
Prof Christy Remucal
On September 22 we welcome back Christy Remucal of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering to speak on “PFAS in Waters of Wisconsin.”

Description: Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of >5,000 synthetic chemicals that are used in commercial products, fire fighting foams, and industrial applications. PFAS are increasingly detected in surface waters and groundwater in Wisconsin, where they are raising concerns about human and ecosystem health. This talk will discuss the prevalence of PFAS in the Great Lakes, with a specific focus on the Marinette and Peshtigo region due to known contamination in that area.

Bio: Associate Professor Christy Remucal leads the Aquatic Chemistry group at the University of Wisconsin, Madison and is the Director of the Water Science and Engineering Laboratory. She is a faculty member in the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering and the Environmental Chemistry & Technology Program. She holds an MS (2004) and a PhD (2009) in Civil & Environmental Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley, and a BS (2003) in Environmental Engineering Science from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Before joining the UW faculty, Christy completed a post-doc in the Institute for Biogeochemistry and Pollutant Dynamics at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology.

Explore More:
On September 29 we get a taste of how what Jonathan Patz now calls “the Climate Crisis” is changing our foods, and therefore our culinary heritage.  Law professor Steph Tai explores the legal angles of a social justice issue in their talk entitled, “In Fairness to Future Generations of Eaters and Drinkers: How Legal Reforms Can Protect Our Culinary Heritage.
Description: Cuisine is an important part of all cultures.  But climate change can affect both the quality and quantity of available foods and beverages.  Prof. Tai will describe some of the effects already seen in agriculture, as well as changes that may happen in the near future.  They will then discuss existing legal mechanisms that could be used to protect our culinary heritage, and conclude with additional changes that we should consider if we want fairness for future generations of eaters and drinkers.
Bio:  Steph Tai’s scholarly research examines the interactions between environmental and health sciences and administrative law. These include the consideration of scientific expertise and environmental justice concerns by administrative and judicial systems, and as well as the role of scientific dialogues in food systems regulation, and the ways in which private governance incorporates scientific research.  Professor Tai was an adjunct law professor at Georgetown from 2002-2005 and a visiting professor at Washington and Lee University School of Law during the 2005-06 academic year. Teaching interests include administrative law, environmental law, food systems law, environmental justice, risk regulation, contracts (especially private governance and supply chains!), and comparative Asian environmental law.

Raised in the South by two chemists, Professor Tai decided to combine their chemistry background with a legal education to improve the use of science in environmental protection. At Georgetown, Professor Tai was the Editor-in-Chief of the Georgetown International Environmental Law Review and a member of the Georgetown Manfred Lachs Space Law Moot Court Team.

After graduating from Georgetown, Professor Tai worked as the editor-in-chief of the International Review for Environmental Strategies, a publication by the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies in Japan. Professor Tai has also served as a judicial law clerk to the Honorable Ronald Lee Gilman on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.  Professor Tai then worked as an appellate attorney in the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, briefing and arguing federal appellate cases involving a range of issues, from the protection of endangered cave species in Texas to the issuance of dredge and fill permits under the Clean Water Act.  From 2013-2014, Professor Tai served as a U.S. Supreme Court Fellow as a researcher in the Federal Judicial Center.

Explore More: 

On October 6 we re-sound the tocsin of climate change as Benjamin Zuckerberg of the Department of Forest & Wildlife Ecology speaks on Winged Sentinels: How Birds Are Coping with Climate Change.”

Description:  The evidence that wildlife are responding to modern climate change is now overwhelming. There is strong scientific consensus that environmental tipping points are being crossed, and many species are adapting (or failing to adapt) to novel climatic conditions. Birds serve as the proverbial “canary in the coal mine” when it comes to climate change. For this presentation, I will cover how birds are responding to a rapidly changing climate as well as extreme events. From changes in behavior to range-wide shifts, birds are the winged sentinels of modern climate change.  
Bio:  Growing up in Brooklyn, New York, Dr. Zuckerberg arrived a bit late to the wonderful world of ecology. He was, however, lucky enough to start studying birds as an undergraduate at Connecticut College, and went on to receive his Masters from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and Ph.D. from the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry where her focused on studying range shifts in bird distributions as a consequence of climate change. He then spent three great years as a postdoc and research associate at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Dr. Zuckerberg joined the faculty at UW-Madison in 2011 and has built a lab focused on studying how modern climate change impacts birds and mammals. He remains a strong advocate for the role of the public in collecting data on wildlife and feels that citizen science has opened entirely new fields in ecological research.


Remember, we’re now shifting to Hybrid so we can both Zoom and gather in a Room—Room 1111 Genetics Biotech Center, that is.  
Please share this missive with your friends & neighbors. 
If you’ll be watching for the first time, please register for the WN@TL Zoom at 
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.
WN@TL begins at 7:00pm Central
You can also watch the web stream at  
Hope to see you soon at Wednesday Nite @ The Lab!
Tom Zinnen
Biotechnology Center & Division of Extension, Wisconsin 4-H