The Big Blue-Green Algae Monster from Lake Mendota:Will It Eat You?;Grassland 2.0:Restoring People&Prairie to Agriculture;WN@TL goes dark on Dec.22 and Dec.29

Come Explore the Unknown!   
Zoom at  In person: Room 1111 Genetics Biotech Center, 425 Henry Mall, Madison.
For December 8, 2021            
Hi WN@TL Fans,
When I first arrived at UW-Madison in early January 1982, the Midwest was locked in a bitter arctic blast, with temperatures scraping down to -25F and beyond.  From the 8th floor of Russell Labs, Lake Mendota stretched out as one solid slab from the UW crew house to Governor’s Island.  I had seen the lake only in its fluid form during summer visits in 1979. I was astonished to see the entire span frozen, motionless, not a riffle, only wisps of snow blowing across the miles of wintry steppe.
And then there were the ice fishing shanties. What mad pursuit was this?  What breed of humans would trudge out upon this horizontal glacier, a four-foot auger in one hand, a five-gallon bucket bristling with stubby fishing poles in the other, a bottle of brandy in one pocket and a flask of schnapps in the other, merely to pluck the crappie and perch from below?   Down in Dixon, Illinois, where I grew up, folks rarely ventured out upon the frozen Rock River, for the current continued to flow beneath. Only the daring or the daft walked out on the white crust. You could get arrested, if you lived.
I began to get the impression that Madisonians had a different relationship with their lakes than my hometownians had with their river.
That winter Mendota remained locked rock solid all through February and March.  From our vantage point atop Russell Labs, as April approached we could see Wingra open up and Monona melt.  But it was big news that ricocheted through the building when someone first noticed that Mendota had at last returned to being a liquid lake:  Mendota was once again alive.
For the next two months the big lake was a basin of clarity, a lively limn, great for a swim or to just stick your toe in.  But in early June came the tinge and then the cringe, as week by week the algae came ablooming, and the northwest winds that swept in from across Picnic Point blew the green scum ashore at the Terrace.
To this day I like to envision Mendota as it clearly is in early May, when standing on a dock you can see its bottom on a calm sunlit Saturday.
On December 8 Trina McMahon of the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering speaks on
“The Big Blue-Green Algae Monster from Lake Mendota: Will It Eat You?”

Description:Lake Mendota is an amazing resource for the City of Madison and the UW. It isalso known as the best studied lake in the world. However, if you’ve spent time near theshoreline or on the lake, you know that it can get pretty ugly in the summertime. Blue greenalgae have plagued the lake since at least the 1850’s and continue to contribute to beachclosures and generally poor water quality. They make toxins that poison dogs and occasionallyhumans. Why do these nasties appear in our lakes every summer? How worried should wereally be about swimming and water skiing in the lake? What can we do to make them go away?The McMahon lab studies the water microbiome and this WN@TL will focus on our recentfindings related to the blue-green algae specifically.

Bio:Professor Katherine (Trina) McMahon is a professor at the University of Wisconsin –Madison. She obtained her BS and MS in Civil and Environmental Engineering at the Universityof Illinois at Urbana Champaign, and her PhD in Environmental Engineering at the University ofCalifornia at Berkeley. Her research interests lie at the intersection of water quality andmicrobiology with a focus on biological wastewater treatment and freshwater microbial ecology.Trina is passionate about professional development related to teaching, especially for pre-faculty.
On December 15  Randy Jackson of the Department of Agronomy and the Wisconsin Energy Institute speaks on 
“Grassland 2.0:  Restoring People & Prairie to Agriculture.”

Description: Grassland 2.0 is a USDA-funded project focused on transforming agriculture in the upper Midwest from grain-based to grassland-based livestock production. The benefits of such a transformation would be restoring critical functions of the original prairie — soil building, clean water, biodiversity — as well as increased profitability, which should keep more and more diverse farmers on the land. Our approach combines top-down efforts to raise awareness by developing this narrative and bottom-up efforts to build-out place-based conversations about how to make this transformation happen.

Bio: Jackson earned his BS in Environmental Science from UC Riverside, MS in Natural Resource Sciences from Humboldt State University, and PhD in Ecosystem Sciences from UC Berkeley. Currently, he is Campbell-Bascom Professor of Grassland Ecology in the Department of Agronomy at UW-Madison. His group explores how agroecosystems accumulate and retain carbon and nutrients while supporting biodiversity. He helps direct Grassland 2.0 and the Wisconsin Integrated Cropping Systems Trial, a 30-yr-old experiment comparing ecosystem services provided by a range of cropping systems typical of the upper Midwest.

Explore More:

WN@TL goes dark on December 22 (Merry Christmas!) and again on December 29 (Happy New Year!).   
We launch 2022 with clear eyes on January 5 as Jenyne Loarca provides insights into the genomics & genetic diversity of carrots resulting from analyzing 695 varieties in the field and the lab.
Remember, we’ve now shifted to Hybrid so we can both Zoom and gather in one Room—Room 1111 Genetics Biotech Center, 425 Henry Mall, Madison WI.  
Hope to see you soon at Wednesday Nite @ The Lab!
Tom Zinnen
Biotechnology Center & Division of Extension, Wisconsin 4-H
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 for one last time on October 20.  The web stream thereafter will redirect viewers to the WN@TL YouTube livestream.

UW-Madison:  5.9 million owners, one pretty good public land-grant teaching, research and extension university. 

Visit UW-Madison’s science outreach portal at for information on the people, places & programs on campus that welcome you to come experience science as exploring the unknown, all year round. 
Here are the components of the WN@TL User’s Guide
1. The live WN@TL seminar, every Wednesday night, 50 times a year, at 7pm CT on Zoom
2. The WN@TL YouTube channel
3. WN@TL on the University Place broadcast channel of PBS Wisconsin 
4. WN@TL on the University Place website 
Park for a small fee in Lot 20, 1390 University Avenue, Madison, WI