Susan Bence

Environmental Reporter

Susan Bence entered broadcasting in an untraditional way. After years of avid public radio listening, Susan returned to school and earned a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. She interned for WUWM News and worked with the Lake Effect team, before being hired full-time as a WUWM News reporter / producer.

Susan is now WUWM's environmental reporter, the station's first. Her work has been recognized by the Milwaukee Press Club, the Northwest Broadcast News Association, and the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association.

Susan worked with Prevent Blindness Wisconsin for 20 years, studied foreign languages at UWM, and loves to travel.

Last Saturday, two dozen people gathered under the sizzling summer sun to play Water Story MKE.

It is the brainchild of Michael Timm, who teamed up with Reflo, a nonprofit dedicated to water sustainability to create the app.

Susan Bence / Milwaukee Public Radio

Bees first began to creep into Charlie Koenen’s life in 2002. Today his previous careers in computer programming and consulting might as well belong to someone else altogether.

Koenen is a beevangelist through and through. “I never would have predicted the path, but the importance is really astonishing - a beehive when it’s operating. That’s the amazement I want to give everybody,” he says.

Susan Bence / Milwaukee Public Radio

Milwaukee County’s green space - some 15,000 acres of parks – is in varied states of decay. A 2009 audit found Milwaukee County Parks facing $200 million in deferred maintenance and the backlog of capital and maintenance needs now total $246 million.

Virginia Small and Tom Tolan teamed up to write about what might be done to bring the luster back to the park system in this month's issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

Susan Bence / Milwaukee Public Radio

Alderman Tony Zielinski is concerned residents don’t fully understand both the risks and how they can protect themselves from lead exposure. His says his proposal would direct the Milwaukee Health Department to communicate more effectively – starting with the importance of water filters. Zielinski introduced the resolution at the Public Health and Safety Committee meeting Thursday.

Susan Bence / Milwaukee Public Radio

Update, July 19: Tuesday's common council meeting did not result in a step toward resolution of the Sturgeon Bay waterfront debate.  The proposed compromise  was being discussed, when the mayor announced he had to leave.  The council voted to adjourn.

The DNR is expected to hold a public hearing next month. City leaders may wait for that process to play out before considering its next step.   Original post, July 18:

Susan Bence / Milwaukee Public Radio

Molecular biologist Michael Schläppi experimented with rice varieties from around the globe for five years - testing how they stood up to Wisconsin weather in miniature paddies he built on his rooftop lab on campus.

He settled on a short-grain variety from Russia.

Two years ago, he took the experiment to a farm field outside Port Washington.

CITY AS LIVING LABORATORY

The City of Milwaukee is putting the finishing touches on a water and land use plan to help guide the future of the harbor’s 1,000 water-edged acres. The idea is to combine a robust working function while also breathing vitality into areas where there currently is none.

Lots of ideas are floating around.

Enter a New-York based artist by the name of Mary Miss. She uses the environment in unexpected and artful ways to draw people to outdoor spaces.

Susan Bence / Milwaukee Public Radio

The City of West Allis has been providing curbside recycling pickup for over two decades, but this week residents will find gleaming blue carts at their doorsteps. Up until, the city has used 30-gallon plastic bags.

West Allis is one of a handful of municipalities using the"bag" method.

Melissa Oberdorf remembers the days before West Allis trucks started hauling away recyclables. Her family members were early adopters.

Courtesy of Mandela Barnes

Update, June 16: 

The Milwaukee County Sheriff's Department has released dash-cam video from a deputy squad car, showing a longer version of what led up to Sunday's fatal shooting near Bradford Beach. A deputy fired shots into a vehicle that appeared to have been ignoring officers' warnings and attempting to flee along the crowded lakefront. The Waukesha sheriff's office continues investigating the incident.

Sam Kirchoff

A number of local citizens are concerned that scientific research is factoring less and less into policymaking. So, they formed Milwaukee Area Science Advocates, or MASA, to "champion science as a pillar of freedom and prosperity."

The idea to advocate for evidence-based policy decisions started brewing last winter, when a handful of people organized a March for Science in Milwaukee. It went well. On Earth Day, more than 3,000 people flocked to downtown.

Susan Bence

'Mushroom' Mike Jozwik has been forging in Wisconsin, and beyond, for years. When it comes to foraging, he says there's always something new to learn.

For those looking to get started, Jozwik shares a few tips:

The number one thing on Jozwik's list is to read up on the subject. "As much as people like relying on Facebook forums now, get a good book," he says.

Here are some of his favorites:

Susan Bence

Growing up in Racine, Mike Jozwik learned to forage with his parents, and loved it. So leading a gaggle of newbies on an expedition 100 miles west of Milwaukee is as natural to Jozwik as breathing.

On land owned by an amiable dairy farmer Jozwik befriended on Craigslist, Jozwik and the group comb wooded parcels. “We’ll be picking basically a bunch of different stuff out there today. Morels should be pretty good out there right now. This is probably the best chunk of the woods,” he explains.

Susan Bence

Northeast Wisconsin's Kewaunee County is home to 16 large dairy operations. On those CAFOs, or concentrated animal feeding operations, are tens of thousands of cows, who produce lots of manure. Neighbors have become increasingly worried that, that manure is contaminating nearby wells.

Though the county hugs Lake Michigan, it’s what is underground that makes the area particularly vulnerable to manure ending up where you don't want it – in the water people drink.

Susan Bence / Milwaukee Public Radio

Charles Fishman and Seth Siegel know a thing or two about water.

Fishman is author of The Big Thirst: The Secret Life and Turbulent Future of Water. Siegel wrote Let There Be Water: Israel’s Solution for a Water-Starved World.

They were among the 200 people interested in water issues who spent two days in Milwaukee this week. The draw was The Water Council’s 10th annual summit at which security was the theme.

Susan Bence / Milwaukee Public Radio

Mechanical engineering researcher Junhong Chen believes his wafer-thin sensor will help detect even trace amounts of lead in water.

PhD candidate Guihau Zhou is one of six students who have dedicated three years helping Chen develop the technology in his lab at the Global Water Center in the Walker's Point neighborhood.

Zhou demonstrates by extracting a drop of water from a vial and releasing it onto a wafer-thin sensor. I wager it would take 10 sensors to fill the surface of a DIME.

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