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Testing the Waters - Page 3


From Six to Many

Two men
Back to UW Oshkosh: Brian Langolf ('02 and '05) is now the manager for the UW Oshkosh Aquatics Research Laboratory. He and Dr. Greg Kleinheinz (r) cruise down the Fox River on a water sampling foray.


The Wisconsin beach monitoring program began humbly in 2003 with six students in seven counties. Since then more than 150 graduate and undergraduate students have participated in the program, collecting and analyzing data, designed experiments and presented results at scientific meetings. The students have also worked with scientists from U.S. Geological Survey, the EPA, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and many others.

Brian Langolf was one of the first beach monitors in program. Langoff earned his undergraduate degree in microbiology in 2002 and his master’s degree in biology in 2005 from UW Oshkosh. After working as a researcher for Kimberly-Clark for six years, he came back to UWO as manager for the UW Oshkosh Aquatic Research Laboratory, which conducts water quality research in Winnebago County. He now supervises students in their water monitoring forays. “I guess I came full circle,” he says.

Langolf is proud of how the beach monitoring program has grown. He credits his work with the program in the early days with helping him land a job with Kimberly-Clark. “I got to work with various town boards, sit down in town board meetings, present research findings to them,” he says. “Employers are definitely looking for real world experience.”

Doing Science and Public Service

Student assistance
Hands-on teaching and learning: Student lab assistant Krystal Hug gets a hand from Dr. Greg Kleinheinz on the water sampling.

Krystal Hug finds her work with the water quality research program doubly satisfying. She enjoys working on a real-life problem and being part of the solution. “A lot of people don’t understand what is in the water,” says Hug, a biology major, who worked one summer at lab in Sturgeon Bay and now works as a lab assistant at the Aquatic Research Lab. “When we do beach sampling, people ask, ‘What’s going on? What are you doing?’ We tell them it’s a community-based project and that we’re making sure that water is safe for them and their children. It’s really rewarding because you know you are making a difference in the community.”

Program supervisor McDermott has seen dozens of students undergo a transformation during their internships. “The students usually start very green. They are a little nervous about what they are doing, but as they progress through a summer or through a semester, there is some point where they get it,” she says.

That moment comes, she says, when the students anticipate questions and offer solutions. “They say things like,  ‘Wouldn’t it be good if we could try this?’ Then I know that they have it, that they are really involved.”

McDermott is invested this program as a scientist, a teacher and a concerned citizen who truly appreciates water. “It’s one of our greatest assets, and I think we have to do everything to protect the waterways,” she says.

Colleen McDermott
Respecting the Waters: Dr. Colleen McDermott teaches her students to have a healthy respect for the waterways.

McDermott points out that the water in Wisconsin is of better quality than many parts of the country and the world. “We are absolutely fortunate that we don’t have huge contamination issues like we are seeing in the Gulf and other places,” she says. “All of us are concerned about beach health and water health, so I take it personally when people talk poorly about our waters. I can’t help it. They are my beaches.”