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.

Ways to Connect

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Roy Norton is Consul General of Canada in Chicago. Wisconsin is one of three states, along with Illinois and Missouri, in his purview.

This week the Consul General is visiting communities around Wisconsin. Much of his visit involves strengthening business ties between the state and Canada.

But Monday, Norton was in Milwaukee at the UW-Milwaukee School of Freshwater Sciences, discussing another key issue – invasive species plaguing the Great Lakes.

Milwaukee Riverkeeper

The Wisconsin DNR is being accused of failing to comply with the Clean Water Act. Sixteen citizens are claiming that Wisconsin has had “long-standing water problems from poor implementation and enforcement” of the Act.

Tuesday, Midwest Environmental Advocates filed a request with the EPA demanding an investigation.

The DNR released a statement to WUWM saying:

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Before the Clean Water Act, what came out of wastewater pipes was essentially unregulated.

When Dave Fowler moved here decades ago to work for Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District, the Milwaukee River was not a destination.

“Back in 1980, when I was on that river on a barge, I wouldn’t have wanted to eat my lunch out there. Now I’m seeing hundreds and hundreds of kayakers and boaters enjoying the downtown of Milwaukee because the river and the harbor is now considered a recreational opportunity, not an open cesspool,” Fowler says.

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The Clean Water Act sprang to life in 1972, largely due to public outrage. Lakes and rivers around the country had become increasingly toxic.

The Cuyahoga River in Ohio caught fire because of all the pollutants in it; nearby in Lake Erie massive numbers of fish died.

Wisconsin faced major obstacles. Engineer Lyman Wible worked with the Department of Natural Resources’ water resources team. He paints a bleak water quality picture statewide.

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Every year the Catholic, liberal arts college for women on Milwaukee’s south side hosts a community conference. Alverno psychology professor Joyce Tang Boyland was part of the team who put together this year’s A Tapestry of Sustainability event.

The conference takes place all day Friday on the Alverno College campus and folds in speakers, including former Milwaukee mayor John Norquist.

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In the 1960s, lining urban rivers with cement was considered to be state-of-the-art storm water management. But the practice  proved otherwise, in places like Milwaukee's south side where the Kinnickinnic River flows.

Over the years, during major storm events water has over-topped the concrete, causing damage and tragically, sometimes taking lives.

However, heaps of work and partnerships are going into naturalizing it. 

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Some educators in northern Wisconsin aren't letting the fact that climate change is a politically charged issue sway them from teaching about the subject.

Cathy Techtmann is among them. The UW-Extension environmental outreach specialist decided it was time to rethink climate change education.

“The old model purely based on science were just not resonating with people,” Techtmann says. “A lot of people realize that there’s cultural component, not just a scientific piece but also a cultural piece that makes the issue come alive to people.”

Climate change tends to make the news pretty regularly. Despite the coverage, many believe too little is being done to curb emissions and slow the global warming trend, others dismiss concerns with equal conviction.

A program in far northern Wisconsin along Lake Superior is trying to change minds through education.

Called G-WOW, the model not only integrates scientific climate change research, but a glimpse of how Lake Superior’s coastal environment, people, cultures and economies stand to be impacted by climate change.

Charlie Luthin

A new state recreational area – called Sauk Prairie – is slowly taking shape in south central Wisconsin, south of Baraboo. Planning has been slow, partially because of the site’s unique history.

The public space will occupy about one-third of some 7,000 acres which for decades served as one of the world’s largest ammunition plants.

Despite that use, remnant woodlands and grasslands are considered to be exceptional resources.

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Glendale-based produce wholesaler, Maglio Companies, has teamed up with Growing Power for an experiment.

This summer, the Milwaukee-based national leader in urban farming installed eleven hoop houses next to Maglio’s headquarters, just off I-43, to grow some of its own food. Inside, tomatoes grow in lush profusion.

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In 1990, volunteers hatched an idea to kindle ecological understanding and stewardship among people in the neighborhood near Milwaukee’s Riverside Park. Their idea involved the environment, but their goal was to reduce the crime that gripped the neglected park.

That vision resulted in not just the flagship Urban Ecology Center, but two additional centers in Washington Park and the Menomonee Valley, which all play pivotal roles in their respective neighborhoods.

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It's difficult to keep up with the status of the dam, but probably not for the citizens of Glendale. It's where the dilapidated 70-plus-year-old structure stands in the Milwaukee River. Tuesday night, Glendale held a public information session to bat around the issue yet again.

Milwaukee County Board Chairman Theodore Lipscomb says many people don’t realize the dam has restored the Milwaukee River upstream to its more natural state.

A Marquette University molecular biologist is experimenting with growing rice in the Midwest.

In the U.S., most rice is grown in Arkansas and California. But with drought conditions in California and the uncertain impacts of climate change, scientist Michael Schläppi has been trying to grow the water-intensive crop in a Wisconsin lab and field.

Four years ago, Schläppi began stress-testing rice using special climate-controlled growth chambers in his Marquette University lab.

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If the term is new to your vocabulary – permaculture combines natural landscaping and edible gardening, with the aim of mimicking patterns and relationships found in nature.

Today through Sunday the 2015 Wisconsin Permaculture Convergence is underway on a small farm outside Fredonia, Wisconsin. Summer fruit tree grafting and the ins and outs of fermentation will be among a multitude of topics of discussion.

Bryce Ruddock is a human lexicon of all things permaculture.

M Maternowski

In 1996, USGS scientists embarked on a 24 hour inventory of a park in Washington D.C. Their aim was to identify every plant and animal species on the grounds, and the term BioBlitz was coined.

Ellen Censky, now Senior Vice President and Academic Dean of the Milwaukee Public Museum, participated in her first BioBlitz in 1997 in Pittsburgh, PA. When a job took her to the Univeristy of Connecticut she initiated a BioBlitz there. It received national attention.

Censky decided to write a handbook at the time “because I was getting calls from all over the country.”

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