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Tucked along the Fox River away from the other University of Wisconsin Oshkosh labs is a little building with intelligent testing going on inside.

In the small building along Pearl Avenue, soon-to-be known as the Environmental Research and Innovation Center (ERIC) and formerly known as the Aquatic Studies Center, between 10,000 and 20,000 water samples are tested each year, including those for the City of Oshkosh.

Along with the new name of ERIC, the scope of the lab is growing, too, said Greg Kleinheinz, associate dean for auxiliary programming in the College of Letters and Science. Renovations this fall to the building will take the lab’s capabilities to the next level and allow for biogas testing work to begin.

Biogas tests are designed to assist municipalities, companies, farmers, agencies and others in developing solutions for using waste.

“We help put an economic value on waste products,” Kleinheinz said. “We hope we can help take what used to be a waste product and use it in a beneficial way.”

Biogas testing at ERIC comes as part of the partnership with BIOFerm Energy Solutions, the same company that helped construct UW Oshkosh’s first-of-its-kind commercial-scale dry fermentation anaerobic biodigester, which will benefit campus by providing about 10 percent of its electricity and heat.

The mission of ERIC is three-fold, Kleinheinz said. Of course the center’s aim is to provide educational opportunities for UW Oshkosh students through studies and lab support, but it also strives to be a partner for external businesses and a self-sustaining operation for the more than 30 students that are hired to work there in their area of study.

Students studying chemistry, biology, geology and other science outreach programs will benefit from the use of ERIC in the future, said Kleinheinz, as the renovates bring new lab spaces, staff work spaces and room for visiting scientists.

“Every college has a biology program, but the networking and experience in a lab is crucial,” Kleinheinz said. “The lab makes a lot of sense. This is a great example of UW Oshkosh thinking outside of the box and being more progressive.”

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