Newspaper Sections

Special Series


About SSFP

Environment News

Wisconsin Among the States Rejecting $10.5 Billion PFAS Settlement with 3M Company

by Alan Cruz, age 19

Attorneys General from 22 states, including Wisconsin, are denouncing a proposed lawsuit settlement that they argue would absolve manufacturing giant 3M from responsibility for the widespread contamination of water supplies with hazardous 'forever chemicals.'

The landmark $10.5 billion agreement aims to fund chemical testing and the installation of water filtration systems over three years. However, 3M doesn’t admit liability. Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances known as PFAS, have been found in aqueous firefighting foam and are by-products of numerous manufacturing processes. These persistent chemicals have been linked to various health issues, including cancer and reduced birth rates.

The settlement reached in June was initially perceived as a victory for public well-being. However, under an indemnification clause, the agreement could shift blame to water utilities, and require them to pay some of the $10.5 billion. [Read More]

Unveiling the Dangers of Light Pollution

by Valeria Moreno Lopez, age 16

Human activity has been a continuous danger to the environment and all living things. Right now, mounting research has put the spotlight on light pollution – the unrestrained and unnecessary use of artificial light. This type of pollution affects more than 80% of the world's population, with Singapore taking the lead.

Scientists have reported four main types of light pollution: sky glow, clutter, light trespass, and glare. Sky glow is the excessive brightness of the urban night sky caused by streetlamps, car lights, and factories. Living with high levels of this type of pollution makes it difficult to see stars at night, as it redirects their light and can obstruct the views of stars for astronomers and observers. Clutter is the unnatural grouping of lights, which are normally bright billboards and flashy tourist attractions. Since moonlight leads animals to their migration patterns, this often confuses animals and causes them to stray from their normal patterns. Light trespassing is light that reaches into an undesired space; such as light from a streetlamp seeping into a bedroom window. Lastly, glare is light that can cause discomfort and annoyance while driving, walking, or doing other daily tasks.

Beyond everyday tasks, light pollution is detrimental to human health and behavior. Light trespass, in particular, can disturb sleep and melatonin production, which requires surroundings to be fully dark to work properly. If not, many health issues develop, including fatigue, anxiety, stress, and sleep deprivation. Blue light, found in cell phones, computers, and even in popular LED light bulbs, also exposes people to the same damaging threats. Furthermore, studies reveal lower melatonin production is linked to cancer. As a result of this study, the American Medical Association advocates to control light pollution and discover the additional risks of nocturnal light. [Read More]

State DNR to Help Dispose of Firefighting PFAS Foam

by Makya Rodriguez, age 18

Wisconsin is trying to eliminate foams containing PFAS used by firefighters, a move that would benefit the environment by removing hazardous chemicals. PFAS, also known as poly-fluoroalkyl substances, are man-made chemicals. They are used on clothing, carpets, non-stick pans, cookware, and in firefighting foam. It’s a “forever chemical.”It’s family contains 5,000 compounds which are known to last forever in the environment and human bodies.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) wants to help firefighters clean PFAS chemicals free of charge. The DNR’s foam collection program is doing this with a state fund of $1 million. Of 72 Wisconsin counties, 60 want to cooperate on eliminating PFAS foam through the program. 25,000 gallons of the foam will be eliminated through North Shore Environmental construction.

Once the foam gets removed from certain locations, the program stated that it will send the waste to a hazardous landfill in Alabama. Lining the waterways of the landfill will ensure that PFAS won’t escape into the environment. Once in Alabama, it is said that the PFAS will be stored in cement, where it is better off than in local lakes, rivers, sewers, and drinking water. [Read More]

Manufacturing Giant Reaches Landmark $10.3 Billion Settlement to Address PFAS Contaminated Water

by Alan Cruz, age 19

Manufacturing giant 3M, known for producing household staples like Scotch Tape, Command Strips, and Post-it notes, has settled with numerous cities and towns across the nation for $10.3 billion. This agreement aims to tackle the persistent problem of water supply contamination caused by the presence of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) also referred to as "forever chemicals," which have been identified as posing threats to human health.

Under the agreement, 3M will pay the landmark sum over 13 years to support communities.

The long-anticipated settlement could reach a staggering $12.5 billion. The settlement follows lawsuits alleging that 3M knew about the health risks of these chemicals in its consumer products. However, 3M does not admit any liability. According to Scott Summy, one of the leading plaintiffs' attorneys, the funds will be used for testing and cleaning up water supplies. Before this, chemical companies Chemours, DuPont, and Corteva reached a separate $1.19 billion settlement over PFAS pollution. Together, these settlements mark significant steps in addressing the PFAS issue and protecting water sources. [Read More]

Can Human Medicine Cure a Coral Epidemic?

by Owen Ayite-Atayi, age 13

New research indicates that antibiotics used in humans can also help sick coral.

Corals are marine invertebrates that often form compact colonies of many identical individuals. Coral species include the important reef builder species that inhabit tropical oceans. The best known example on Planet Earth is the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia.

Recent research proves that certain antibiotics have a positive effect on corals as they try to recover from a tissue-eating disease. This disease is caused by bacteria located in the coral's outer parts. The bacteria start to form and latch onto the coral until it dies. [Read More]

Lead Poisoning Hinders the Recovery of Bald Eagles

by Makya Rodriguez, age 17

The mighty bald eagle is facing some tough times. In recent years, the population of our national bird has decreased by almost 4%, and lead poisoning is usually the reason.

A new nationwide study has found that up to 33% of examined dead bald eagles contained serious levels of lead poisoning. This clinical poisoning is mainly transmitted from an eagle’s prey such as fish or small animals. After consuming such prey, the eagles’ stomach acids break down neurotoxin and release lead into the bird’s bloodstream. The lead then travels to soft tissues around the body and eventually accumulates within the bird’s bones leading to the death of these beautiful animals.

In colder seasons eagles tend to go from natural hunters to scavengers. Scientists have found that eagles are more likely to get poisoned during the colder months when they depend more on the tainted remains of dead prey. [Read More]

Himalayan Glaciers Face up to 80% Ice Loss by 2100 Amid Rising Temperatures

By Valeria Moreno Lopez, age 16

Scientists believe that nearly a quarter of the world's population could face severe natural disasters by 2100 due to the alarming rate at which the Himalayan glaciers are melting. The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), based in Nepal, has warned that the glaciers could lose up to 80% of their volume if worldwide temperatures increase by 3 degrees Celsius or more.

ICIMOD, which aims to preserve life and biodiversity in mountain and downstream populations, has reported that one-third of the glaciers from Afghanistan to Myanmar could disappear even in the best-case scenario. However, over the years, the calculations have changed. If worldwide temperatures rise between 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius, less than half of the volume will be lost by 2100. Moreover, these temperatures could also exacerbate global droughts, wildfires, extreme floods, and food shortages. Professor Saleemul Huq, director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development, has stated, "In all three pillars of climate action - mitigation, adaptation, and loss and damage - we are at a standstill or going the wrong way, while the consequences of inaction are accelerating by the day."

Further research suggests that nearly 2 million square miles surrounding the highest mountain chain already show dramatic impacts. Due to the isolated location of Himalayan communities, immediate disaster response is challenging. Glacial water benefits crops and medicinal plants in nearby farmlands, but rapid melting will overwhelm them. The risk of constant floods, landslides, and avalanches soars, followed by a series of drought phases as the water dries up. Stretching from tropical rainforests to cold deserts in Asia, numerous rare species are in danger due to the region's shifting conditions. In particular, about 14 butterfly species are extinct in the Murree Hills of Pakistan, and other animals face breeding and developmental issues. [Read More]

Nature's Lumberjacks: How Beavers Shape Ecosystems and Cultivate Harmony

by Dayanis Cruz, age 13

Beavers are one of the greatest engineers in the world. They make improvements to their habitat by creating waterways, dams, and lodges. They can cause conflict with farmers by eating their crops, or by building a lodge near a pond or a river.

A lodge is a dome that is made out of sticks and mud. There are underwater entries that lead to greenery above the water levels. To make a peaceful pond, beavers create dam walls that stop the current of water systems. Many peer groups of beavers share dams for several generations, but sometimes the ponds will fill up with dirt, forcing beavers to find a new location.

Beavers feed and build new lodges in their environment at night. Through winter, they hardly ever emerge from their lodge since it keeps them warm, making it perfect for the winter season. [Read More]

Learn How to Help Wisconsin Pollinator Populations for a Blooming Ecosystem

by Camila Cruz, age 15

Many people undervalue our pollinators, but about 87% of flowering plants worldwide depend on them. And there are many ways we can help support them, from letting lawns grow to avoiding pesticides.

Pollinators are creatures that go from plant to plant to consume nectar and pollen. In doing this, they spread the pollen, helping plants reproduce. Pollen is necessary to fertilize plants. Some of the most popular pollinators in North America are hummingbirds, moths, flower flies, beetles, bees, butterflies, and, in the southwestern parts of the U.S. and Mexico, nectar-feeding bats.

Pollinators are very important to the environment and ecosystem. In the U.S., around 150 food crops depend on pollinators. Unfortunately, the population of pollinators is decreasing because of habitat loss, pests, nutritional deficiency, insecticides, and extreme weather events. [Read More]

Wisconsin Rejects $1 Billion Dupont Settlement, Seeks Higher Compensation Over PFAS Contamination

By Will DeFour, age 13

The average person consumes approximately half a gallon of water daily, but this water isn't pure, as filtration systems sometimes allow pollutants to pass through. One particularly infamous group of pollutants, known as "forever chemicals," poses significant threats to both the environment and human health.

These persistent pollutants are called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), an issue Simpson Street Free Press has been diligently covering for the past several years. They earned the name "forever chemicals" due to their indestructible resistance to biodegradation. PFAS are byproducts created during the manufacture of various products, including sticky notes, nonstick pans, packaging materials, carpets, and firefighting foam. These chemicals find their way into water sources such as the Mississippi River and local areas like Starkweather Creek, here in Madison. Even at extremely low concentrations, as low as 0.004 parts per trillion, PFAS can cause severe health problems, including low birth weight, kidney failure, and cancer.

Addressing these critical issues requires a reduction in PFAS contamination. Although the US Environmental Protection Agency and State Department of Natural Resources have attempted to establish regulations for these chemicals across the Midwest, their efforts have proven insufficient to halt the contamination. Consequently, over 20 states have denounced a proposed $10.5 billion settlement from a major PFAS producer, 3M. [Read More]

It's Stormwater Week in Wisconsin! Have You Seen one of these Murals in Your Neighborhood?

by Josepha Da Costa

It's Stormwater Week in Wisconsin. Did you know that when rainwater runs off the land and enters a storm drain, it often empties into a nearby body of water and remains untreated?

This poses a problem because increased urbanization in Dane County is creating more runoff. Many surfaces in urban areas are either impervious or absorb very little water, like roads and traditional lawns. Stormwater Week is dedicated to raising awareness about stormwater, and these dangers.

Before heavy development, natural land absorbed 80-100% of rainwater. Currently, in urbanized areas, anywhere from 40-100% of water does not get absorbed. All of the leftover water flows over the land to the nearest drain, picking up pollutants and sediment along the way. Since the stormwater drains to local lakes and streams, so do the contaminants. Nutrients in the runoff, like phosphorus, can cause massive algae blooms that wreak havoc on our natural bodies of water. [Read More]

Non-Native Honeybee Pollination May Decrease the Quality of Seeds Over Time

by Ayelen Flores Ruiz, age 13

Recently, researchers have observed that the quality of seeds from flowers pollinated by honeybees is decreasing. Pollinators hunt for flowers in search of nectar and pollen. They are important to the food system since they help produce seeds for the ecosystem.

The seeds’ poor outcome could be because honeybees tend to spend their time going from flower to flower within the same plant, transferring pollen back into itself and resulting in inbred seeds. The study was conducted by ecologists Joshua Kohn and Dillion Travis from the University of California.

The bees that were most prominent in the study were honeybees that are not native to the United States. Non-native species are outnumbering native species of pollinators. The study showed that non-native pollinators took pollen away from native plant species and spread it to other plants of the same species, resulting in negative outcomes for native plants. [Read More]

Secrets of the Ice: Archaeologists Discover Ancient Arrowhead inside a Melting Glacier

by Camila Cruz, age 15

As glaciers begin to melt, archaeologists in Scandinavia are discovering artifacts that help them learn more about the past. Recently, researchers found a well-preserved 1,500-year-old arrow, in what they believe is an ancient hunting ground.

The archaeologists who discovered the arrow are part of “Secrets Of The Ice”, a group of scientists and glacial archaeologists in Norway who explore and pinpoint glaciers. This arrow is not just any arrow. Not only is it believed to be older than the Vikings that inhabited the land from roughly 800-1100 AD, but it is also extremely well preserved.

The arrow was found between two rocks in Norway in an area where ancient people likely hunted reindeer. The archeologists think that the arrow was lost in the snow when one of the hunters missed a shot. Archaeologists believe the arrow was frozen into a glacier, and when the glacier melted it made its way down to where it was found. The fletching which helps stabilize the arrow while it’s flying is gone, but the arrowhead is still attached to the shaft, which is a unique discovery. [Read More]

Climate Change and Habitat Loss Unveil Causes of Virus Spread from Bats to Humans

by Ayelen Flores Ruiz, age 13

Recently a disease that jumped from wild bats to humans came to be known as COVID-19. When it was first diagnosed, people suspected the disease arose from bats and as time progressed, some even falsely accused Asian populations of spreading the disease. It was unclear what started the pandemic, and because of this, scientists started attempting to discover and understand the real cause.

Scientists have learned that animals carry viruses but usually, they have no effect on other animals or humans. This is because the species has already had the virus multiple times and their immune system knows it like a best friend. The virus can then find a new species and, if its immune system does not recognize it, the virus can trigger a disease occurrence. With this information, it makes it helpful to know where, when, and why viruses pass from animals to humans. Alison Peel, a Canadian specialist in wild diseases said, “It is not easy to track when viruses jump from their wild host to a new one.”

Peel has a team working towards finding an answer to what causes a virus to spread. They are working to prevent future pandemics from happening. The team saw that the bats' ecosystems were changing, which likely contributed to or even initiated the disease spread. In particular, the team started to think that climate change played a role in the reason why viruses become more widespread. With this head start, the team began analyzing the bats’ environment and discovered that bats were not getting enough food. [Read More]

Dane County Land Purchase Protects 14 Acres Along Black Earth Creek

by Kaleab Afeworki, age 11

Dane County recently purchased 14.6 acres of land along Black Earth Creek to preserve its “beloved natural resources,” according to Dane County Executive Joe Parisi.

Black Earth Creek, which runs through the village of Black Earth, Wisconsin, is a trout fishery that provides residents with a place for outdoor exploration. The property not only features a wide variety of green valleys but also serves as a trail connector for the Black Earth Creek Trail.

Parisi announced the proposal in March 2023, the Dane County Board approved a purchase price of $11,000 per acre the next month. This new purchase will work to preserve cropland and trout streams, along with expanding “outdoor recreation opportunities for Dane County residents and visitors,” Parisi added. [Read More]

Children of Color in Wisconsin More Likely to Test Positive for Lead Poisoning

by Hanna Eyobed, age 18

Low-income communities and children of color in Milwaukee are disproportionately harmed by lead poisoning. Affecting one of eight children across most regions of Milwaukee, lead poisoning is a prevalent problem with serious health effects that raise concerns.

Black children are four times more likely to be victims of lead poisoning than white children, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. With lead poisoning rates of 6.5%, Black children lead in the city of Milwaukee, followed by: Native American (3.2%), Asian American & Pacific Islander (3%), Hispanic (2.6%), and white (1.6%) children. The city has the highest lead poisoning rate for children under the age of six in Wisconsin. Lead poisoning can cause damage to the brain and nervous system along with halting development and growth in children. Fortunately, the percentage of children found with hazardous amounts of lead in their blood (5mgc/dl) has gradually decreased since 2001.

“Lead poisoning is an issue where there are disparities by both socioeconomic status and race and ethnicity,” DHS epidemiologist Maeve Pell stated. [Read More]

Wisconsin DNR Proposes New Rules for Endangered Species

by Lah’Nylah Bivens, age 15

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is planning to change the rules for handling endangered species.

The department is preparing to offer a blanket permit for “incidental takings” of endangered species, such as when surveys are being taken or when breeding is needed to regulate the population.

The blanket permit would allow people to handle endangered species, by removing or relocating animals and plants. These species would only be removed when they are in danger or when something is built that is disturbing the environment. [Read More]

Locks and Dams on the Mississippi River Need Fixing

by Alan Cruz, age 19

The Mississippi River is a lifeline for the American economy and global food supply, with around 175 million tons of freight transported on its waters every year. However, the century-old locks and dams that guide the barges along the river are well past their expected lifespan. Uncertainties about who should pay for maintenance and repairs only add to the resulting slower transit times and fears of a major breakdown in the future.

The upper Mississippi River has been a challenge to navigate for decades. Shallow waters often made it possible for people to walk across, hindering commercial traffic. To address this, a project was approved by Congress in 1930 to create a system of 29 locks and dams, stretching from Minneapolis to Granite City, Illinois. Water locks are navigational structures that regulate water levels in a river or canal to allow boats and barges to move between different water levels. These locks allow the Army Corps of Engineers to control the water levels in different sections, ensuring a minimum depth of nine feet for barges to pass through.

Today, towboats on the river push an average of 15 barges at once. However, when they reach the 600-foot-long locks, they simply don't fit, and splitting up the barges takes twice as long. Mike Steenhoek, the executive director of the Soy Transportation Coalition, describes the system as a garden hose connected to a fire hydrant. With farmers producing more corn and soybeans than ever before, delays have only worsened. [Read More]

Parasite Manipulation Alters Gray Wolf Behavior

by Amare Smith, age 19

There is a parasite called “Toxoplasma gondii” that changes the behaviors of gray wolves. The infected wolves make bolder decisions compared to the uninfected ones. Infected wolves are more prone to taking risks, and therefore there is a higher chance that they will leave their pack, create their own, or kill other wolves.

Research revealed that these parasites can negatively alter the wolves’ fate. For example, wolves leaving their pack or becoming leaders can cause them to starve or fight other wolves more frequently.

After analyzing 26 years' worth of data from 299 wolves in Yellowstone National Park, researchers have found that the cougar is also at high risk of contracting Toxoplasma gondii. It is believed that a feedback loop has been created in which infected wolves lead members of their pack into areas where cougars reside and therefore get more wolves infected. However, more research is needed to confirm this phenomenon. It was also determined that this parasite can control other smaller animals like mice. [Read More]

Wisconsin Launches Online Map to Track PFAS Pollution Across the State

by Alan Cruz, age 19

Wisconsin environmental regulators have taken a significant step in addressing the issue of toxic “forever chemicals” by unveiling an innovative online tool. The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) introduced an interactive map in October designed to track the presence of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination.

The newly launched online map combines data from various sources, including drinking and surface water monitoring programs, health consumption advisories, and a comprehensive database of contaminated sites. By consolidating this information into a single accessible platform, the DNR hopes to help people find out about how pollution is affecting them and their community.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has already identified these compounds as harmful at levels currently undetectable by existing technology. These synthetic chemicals, known for their resistance to environmental degradation, have been connected to severe health concerns such as low birth weight, cancer, and liver disease. [Read More]

Endangered Bird Species Makes a Comeback in Wisconsin

by Sofia Zapata, age 13

The Kirtland’s Warbler was one of the first birds that were on the endangered species list, created in 1973. This type of bird is a gray and yellow songbird, they are a beautiful and unique species.

The habitat of the Kirtland’s Warbler is in forests and grassy areas located in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Canada. During winter, these birds migrate to sunny places like the Bahamas. When they fly back to the U.S., they stop to rest in forests and marshes.

The primary conservation concerns are habitat loss or degradation and parasitism by Brown-headed Cowbirds. Partners in Flight, a conservation organization for birds, estimates the global breeding population at 4,800 individuals and rates the species a 16 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score, which is a rating given to endangered species. The group lists Kirtland's Warbler on the Yellow Watch List for species with restricted ranges. [Read More]

3M Manufacturing Company Contaminates Mississippi River with Forever Chemicals

by Alan Cruz, age 19

In the late 2000s, it became evident that "forever chemicals" were present in the bloodstream of almost every American. As a result, officials in Minnesota pressed 3M to lessen pollutants spilled into the Mississippi River at its manufacturing facility southeast of the Twin Cities. 3M is a global conglomerate that created these extremely toxic chemicals for use in their wide range of products, from adhesives to medical, building materials, and home cleaning supplies. Lawsuits spurred 3M to reduce pollution and clean up forever chemicals at locations close to another of its factories. These chemicals are known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl compounds (PFAS). In Illinois, it’s a different story. A 3M facility on the Mississippi River roughly 15 miles from the Quad Cities has been contaminating the air and water for more than a decade. Illinois state regulators have repeatedly failed to hold the company responsible.

The harmful effects of forever chemicals are just now becoming apparent. According to David Cwiertny, an engineering professor and director of the Center for Health Effects of Environmental Contamination at the University of Iowa, "It's difficult to comprehend how devastating this could be for people in the Mississippi watershed and the river's ecosystem." Cancer and other diseases are brought on by certain forever chemicals that build up in human blood, and take several years to exit the body. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) concluded that two of the PFAS that have been examined the most are so hazardous that there is truly no safe level of exposure.

A Chicago Tribune investigation revealed that Illinois officials knew about environmental pollution at a 3M facility in Cordova, Illinois as early as 2008. The federal government neglected to look into the well-documented threats in other regions where PFAS are manufactured, despite having a legal obligation to protect human health and the environment. The chemicals appear to have traveled well beyond the 3M facility in Cordova. [Read More]

Discharges of Nitrates Have Been Found in the Mississippi River

by Daniel Li, age 15

A harmful chemical produced by oil companies and slaughterhouses, known to cause cancer and birth defects, made up a vast majority of chemical pollution in 2020.

A recent study found that approximately 94.5 million pounds of nitrates were released into the Mississippi River alone in 2020, making up more than half of all released chemicals nationwide. These nitrates were the most abundant toxic substances found in U.S. waterways, primarily from industries such as petroleum refineries and meat and poultry processing plants. One hundred and seventy-five million pounds of nitrates alone were released by industries, comprising more than 91% of all toxic chemicals released by weight in the United States. These nitrates are primary sources of plant nutrients, but they are not as beneficial as they seem.

While in controlled amounts, nitrates are healthy for plants and commonly used in fertilizers, excessive amounts lead to rapid growth and accumulation of algae in marine or freshwater environments. These algae blooms can grow massive, dense “blankets” over bodies of water, blocking out sunlight. At the same time, as the amount of algae increases and dies, the decomposers in the water use more oxygen to break down the dead algae, leading to hypoxic waters, and stripping other aquatic life of oxygen. [Read More]

The Lifecycle of a Wolf Pup

by Joseph Zheng, age 9

In spring, females wolves give birth to newborn pups in dens after nine weeks of pregnancy.

One adult wolf fits perfectly into a single den, which is dug ten feet long prior to pregnancy. During the first month after the pups are born, the mother takes full responsibility for the wolf pack.

The puppies remain in their dens for the first few weeks to stay warm and protected as they are initially deaf. Each pup weighs about one pound. Their mother will start to breastfeed them until they are old enough to eat meat. After their first month, the responsibility of survival shifts from solely the mother to the entire pack. This caretaking method helps form a bond between the newest members and the rest of the pack. [Read More]

Monarch Butterflies are now on the Red List of Threatened Species

by Hanna Eyobed, age 17

Karen Oberhauser, one of the world’s top experts on monarch butterflies, has always pushed for greater awareness of the risks they face. That’s why she thinks it could be a good thing that monarchs were declared endangered in July. “Certainly it’s negative that monarchs have reached this point where they need to be listed. But it’s positive that they have this recognition and that, hopefully, this will bring more people on board to do what we can to preserve monarchs.”

Madison residents can help by planting the only food migratory monarch butterflies can eat as caterpillars: milkweed. Sam Harrington has been very impactful in the Madison community, she is a climate journalist who began making a difference in 2017, when she decided to put her parents’ lawn in Middleton to use by planting a quarter of an acre with plants native to Wisconsin. She planted species like yellow coneflower, royal catchfly, butterfly weed, and purple prairie clover. She eventually planted over 60 species and documented what was planted, what survived, and what animals they attracted. “It feels like an investment in the future, one that I want to live in, one that’s full of pretty flowers and butterflies and I have a good relationship with the land of the place where I’m from.”

Michelle Martin and her work with Monarch butterflies is another example of local change. In July of 2022, as she was inspecting her milkweed plants in her garden, she spotted a monarch egg. She then proceeded to carefully cut the piece of the leaf off, took the egg into her home, and put it on a fresh milkweed leaf in a habitat made specifically for butterflies. During the process of its birth, Martin was consistent in taking care of the caterpillar by adding fresh milkweed. As time went on she added sticks to the enclosure. The caterpillar hung from a chrysalis and after two weeks it hatched into an adult butterfly. After a couple of days, as the butterfly regained its strength, Martin released it. Martin isn’t the only witness to the butterflies she raises, as she is a teacher who shows this process to her class of two-year-olds at Big Oak Child Care Center in Madison. She understands the importance of nature in the lives of developing children and believes that implementing the process of raising monarch butterflies is transformative. It allows her students to be amazed and respectful of the beauty of nature and gives them a sense of urgency to protect it. [Read More]

Invasive Carp Enter the Wisconsin River

by Sofia Zapata, age 13

An invasive carp species that originates from Europe and Asia has been affecting many rivers in the United States, including our own Wisconsin River. If scientists don't resolve this issue or find ways to control the populations, this could be very dangerous for the existing 98 different species that reside in the Wisconsin River.

For over 100 years, the Asian carp has invaded the United States. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources says that the carp are traveling from Asia to the Mississippi River and followed by the Wisconsin River. This carp can be very dangerous for our rivers because they are really aggressive hunters, which initiates competition for other species.

Asian carp may live up to 20 years and as they grow, they mature between four to eight years in their life. They are an interesting species because of their jumping ability, however this can be dangerous to boaters. Specifically, adult Asian carp weighing 40-60 pounds can jump up to 10 feet above the water’s surface, unlike any other common species. [Read More]

Growing Population of Invasive Moth Species in Wisconsin

by Desteny Alvarez, age 18

Recently, we have seen a rise in the number of spongy moths in Wisconsin. These moths cause skin rashes and are a danger to our environment.

According to Wisconsin’s Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP), around 202,000 spongy moths, formerly known as gypsy moths, were trapped in the summer as part of a federal program. The average number in Wisconsin was 20.1 moths per trap. It was 9.3 moths in 2021. This increase was expected in Wisconsin’s central-eastern areas, smaller than expected in the southwest, as expected in west-central areas in the state, and even higher in northwest areas.

Spongy moths are an invasive species. Their caterpillars devourer leaves of trees and shrubs. If eaten by a large group of caterpillars, many trees lose their leaves and die. Caterpillar hairs also cause skin rashes or other reactions in some people. An aerial spray, used by DATCP, helps stop the moths. [Read More]

Scientists Say Invasive Species of Crayfish Might Leave Wisconsin on its Own

by Lah’Nylah Bivens, age 15

The rusty crayfish appeared in Wisconsin 50 years ago. Since this crayfish is not native to Wisconsin it is considered an invasive species. The rusty crayfish pushed native crayfish out of their dens and ate the native aquatic plants, causing harm to the lakes. This harmed the local spawning grounds, leaving fish unprotected.

Rusty crayfish may have found their way to Wisconsin by traveling in buckets to be used as bait. These crayfish are native to Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, and the streams of the Ohio River Basin states. They also can be found in New Mexico, Northeastern states, areas in Ontario, Canada, and states surrounding Wisconsin.

Crayfish reproduce at alarming rates due to the female rusty crayfish laying around 80 to 575 eggs at a time. It takes about three to six weeks, depending on the temperature of the water, for the eggs to hatch. Scientists have studied these crayfish over the years and have found that the population can die off naturally. Due to destroying their own habitats and fungal diseases, recent studies have shown that the rusty crayfish population has dropped to zero. [Read More]

Greenland’s Frozen Hinterlands are Melting Faster than Expected

by Theodore B. Morrison, age 15

Climate change has been impacting the planet for ages since humans started producing greenhouse gases. One impact climate change has had is the melting of the glaciers, which scientists have been trying to track for some time. One group has been following a particular ice stream to help keep track of the effects of climate change.

This group used GPS to track ice stream movements. The furthest point inland observed by this group transitioned from approximately 344 meters a year to 351 meters a year in three years. The quick movement of ice streams is projected to raise the global sea level by 14 to 16 millimeters by 2100. That is the same quantity of increase in global sea level rise by Greenland’s entire ice sheet in the last 50 years.

The tracking of this specific stream was motivated by the hope of discovering more about the effects of climate change. These sea level rises could change the world's coastlines and many scientists and climate activists hope to attempt to reverse or stop these effects of climate change on a warming planet Earth. [Read More]

Drought Causes Saltwater to Invade the Mississippi River System

by Dulce Vazquez, age 14

The Mississippi River water level is reaching historical lows. A part of the Mississippi River measured in New Orleans is just three feet above sea level, which is very unusual and damaging to the boats that rely on the river and causes wildlife to act in different ways.

A third of the rain that falls in the United States goes to the Mississippi River system. Less rainfall is coming from the Midwest, which scientists are describing as a drought. This drought is causing many problems for ships and barges as mud clogs pathways, creating navigation difficulties.

Water from the Gulf of Mexico is pushing up the river and filling up a gap. “As the flows in the Mississippi River drop, the Gulf of Mexico essentially comes upstream,” says a specialist from the Army Corps of Engineers. The last time something similar to this happened was 10 years ago, back in 2012. This could cause problems by getting into the water people drink. [Read More]

They like it warm: Africa’s Unique Penguins — by Dilma Attidekou, age 8

Penguins are known to live in cold areas. However, one species of penguins are born in Africa. These African penguins can live to be 15 years old, but many don't reach that age as their lifespan is decreasing due to human interaction and predator attacks. [Read More]

Megadrought in California Threatens Western Joshua Tree — by Sol-Saray, age 10

Have you ever heard of the Western Joshua Tree? The Western Joshua Tree is known for its spiky branches. It also looks similar to an acacia tree. [Read More]

Wisconsin DNR Drafts New Plan for Wolf Hunt — by Zayn Khalid, age 12

Hunters and animal rights advocates are frustrated with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) because they did not set a standard for wolf hunting. Animal rights advocates want wolf hunting to be illegal, but hunters want to hunt. What will the DNR do? [Read More]

¿Qué causa la industria del reciclaje fallida de Estados Unidos? — por Yoanna Hoskins, 17 años de edad

La pandemia causó muchos cambios en la sociedad, pero también resaltó cuestiones que antes habían pasado desapercibidas. El engaño de la industria del reciclaje de plásticos es solo un ejemplo. En particular, Covid-19 demostró cuán sensible es la industria del reciclaje de plásticos a las variaciones en los precios del petróleo. [Read More]

Low Water Levels in Mississippi River Expose Artifacts and History — by Owen Ayite-Atayi, age 15

The Mississippi River is the second longest river in the United States and is 2,340 miles long. Although the Mississippi River is a majestic river, there are still many mysteries in this river, especially regarding its artifacts. [Read More]

Should Farmers Switch to Solar? — by Camila Cruz, age 15

Solar panels are going to require millions of acres of land to be a viable solution against climate change. In particular, these acres are owned by farmers. Scientists are on a mission to make it work for both parties by putting solar panels in the same location as crops. [Read More]

The Science Behind Spring's Most Popular Weed — by Malak Al Quraishi, age 12

When you're picking weeds, you may wonder how dandelions spread so easily across the grass. You might ask yourself, why are dandelions so effective at spreading their seeds widely? [Read More]

First-of-its-kind Experiment Uses Lab-bred Trees to Stop Pollution — by Leilani McNeal, age 17

The U.S. Forest Service is trying a “first-of-its-kind” experiment that involves specialized trees that may keep contaminants from leaching out of landfills. [Read More]

City of Madison Continues to Make Progress in Composting Programs — by Mariama Bah, age 15

Citywide composting in Madison has had a challenging history, but supporters are still trying to make it a reality. Compost is a mixture of decomposed organic matter typically used as fertilizer as it is high in nutrients for soil. [Read More]

New Land Purchase Will Protect Wildlife and Wetlands in Dane County — by Dulce Maria Vazquez, age 14

Groundswell Conservancy is a not-for-profit conservation group that recently bought 34 acres of wetland habitat in Dane County. The land is located in the Town of Dunn near the Lower Mud Lake Natural Resource Area. This purchase will help groundswell achieve its mission of protecting wildlife habitats in Dane County and south-central Wisconsin. [Read More]

How One of China's Most Beautiful Attractions Saved Lives — by Sedona Afeworki, age 14

Where would be a good place to hide if something bad ever happened? The Guilin Hills is a place in China where many people hid during World War II and the following civil war when clashing armies turned the region into a battlefield. The hills also have a lot of caves, one of many ways they’ve played a role in Chinese history. [Read More]

Recent Drought Slows River Traffic on the Mississippi — by Dayanara Flores Gonzalez, age 15

Over 500 million tons of agricultural and other products are shipped through the Mississippi River every year. More than 40 percent of the global food supply starts at the River Basin. A phenomenon that happens about once a decade, the water level is at a record low of just three feet above sea level near New Orleans. [Read More]

Dane County Students Gather to Discuss Climate Change at Second Annual Conference — by Desteny Alvarez, age 17

For the second year in row, students from around Dane County will gather to address climate change issues. The second annual Dane County high school climate action conference will take place at the Alliant Energy Center on Saturday, November 12. [Read More]

Wisconsin Begins PFAS Testing this Fall — by Sandy Flores Ruíz, age 16

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, also known as PFAS, are a family of synthetic chemicals. They are used in everyday household products, such clothes, carpets, nonstick cookware, packaging, and firefighting foam due to their ability to repel water and stains. The PFAS family of approximately 5,000 chemicals are known as “forever chemicals” because they last for a long period of time in the environment and human body. Research suggests that these chemicals can cause various types of cancers, decrease birth weights, damage the immune and reproductive systems, impact hormone regulation, and alter thyroid hormones. [Read More]

What Fuel­s America’s Failed Recycling Industry? — by Yoanna Hoskins, age 17

The pandemic caused numerous changes in society, but it also highlighted issues that had previously gone unnoticed. Deception in the plastics recycling industry is just one example. In particular, Covid-19 demonstrated how sensitive the plastics recycling industry is to swings in oil prices. [Read More]

Wisconsin Considers Updated PFAS Rules — by Gabriella Shell, age 16

After failure earlier this year, the Wisconsin DNR is once again attempting to tighten restrictions on one of the state’s biggest water pollutants. [Read More]

It’s an “Interruption Year” in Wisconsin:
Snowy Owls Are Moving South
by Mariama Bah, age 15

Keep your eye to the ground and be careful when you’re walking in the Arctic Tundra, because you may find a snowy owl nesting site. Treeless, wide, hilly spaces are where snowy owls prefer to nest and hunt. These owls mainly eat small mammals, but their diet can range from rodents and rabbits to ducks and geese. [Read More]

State of Wisconsin Issues PFAS Warnings for Dane County Fisheries — by Makaya Rodriguez, age 17

PFAS, also known as (poly-fluoroalkyl substances), are man-made chemicals. They were used on clothing, carpets, non-stick pans, cookware, and as firefighting foam. PFAS are made to be stain and water-resistant. These PFAS chemicals are being found in many Wisconsin bodies of water, specifically in Dane County. [Read More]

Lluvia ácida: una consecuencia de la contaminación

por Jason Medina, 11 años de edad; traducido por Yoanna Hoskins, 17 años de edad

La lluvia ácida ha existido para 150 años, la misma cantidad de tiempo que el carbón se ha utilizado para poder. La lluvia ácida afecta el bienestar de los animales, las plantas, los árboles y los lagos.

Cada año, cien millones de toneladas de dióxido de azufre son liberadas a la atmósfera por la quema de combustibles fósiles. En la década de 1970, los Estados Unidos produjeron treinta y dos millones de toneladas. Cuando el dióxido de azufre está en la atmósfera y se mezcla con la lluvia, crea lluvia ácida. La acidez es una medida de la concentración de iones de hidrógeno (pH) y el valor más bajo de pH, más ácida se vuelve una sustancia. El pH del agua destilada es de siete y el del agua de lluvia natural es de alrededor de 5.6. La lluvia ácida está bajando el pH de algunos lagos debajo de cinco.

Casi 1,800 lagos en el sur de Noruega están más o menos desprovistos de peces. En la mitad de los lagos de Suecia, los peces están seriamente agotados y los ríos salmoneros también sufren mucho. En Canadá, unos cincuenta mil lagos también se han visto afectados, así como cientos de lagos en Adirondacks en el estado de Nueva York. Cuanto más ácida es la condición, más aluminio se disuelve en el suelo. [Read More]

First Plant Successfully Sprouts in Lunar Soil — by Daniel Li, age 15

The first seeds to ever sprout in lunar soil poked their heads above moon dirt at the University of Florida in May. Decades of research and experimentation led to this breakthrough which marks the first time terrestrial plants have grown in extra-terrestial soil. It also offers hope that astronauts will one day be able to grow food on the moon. [Read More]

New Report Exposes “Greenwashing” in the Clothing and Fashion Industries — by Sandy Flores-Ruiz, age 16

The Changing Market Foundation, an environmental advocacy group, said recently that certification systems claiming meant to check the sustainability practices of fashion companies fall short of public expectations. These practices support greenwashing in the textile industry. Greenwashing is the deliberate concealment of information by a company in order to project an image of environmental stewardship to the public. [Read More]

Scientists Look for Ways to Protect Wisconsin Walleyes — by Julian Medina Ruiz, age 14

Wisconsin lakes are facing a sharp decline in the walleye populations. This trend is most apparent in the northern part of the state. [Read More]

Scientists Study Effects of Climate Change in Lake Superior — by Moises A. Hernandez, age 17

About ten years ago, a bloom of cyanobacteria appeared in Lake Superior. Since that time, scientists have searched for answers as to why this problem occurs in this specific lake. [Read More]

Plastic Pollution Overwhelms America’s Recycling Systems — by Gabriella Shell, age 16

Generations of Americans have grown up on a doctrine of “reduce, reuse, recycle.” Everyone, from the oldest Boomers to the youngest of Gen Z know what to do when they see the little triangle made of arrows on the bottom of a plastic product: chuck it in the recycling bin. However, unbeknownst to the masses of routine recyclers, this casual recycling may be causing more problems than it fixes. [Read More]

Watch Out for Poison Hemlock in Wisconsin — by Anissa Attidekou, age 12

There are a wide variety of poisonous plants that are toxic to humans and animals. Some can lead to extreme pain and others can even be deadly. One of these deadly plants is named the poison hemlock. [Read More]

Public Service Commission Approves New Solar Projects in Wisconsin — by Mariama Bah, age 15

Last year the Wisconsin Public Service Commission (PSC) approved a $925 million investment by Alliant Energy to construct six solar farms across Wisconsin. The projects are currently in development. Recently, the PSC voted to approve Alliant Energy's plan to buy or build six more solar farms, an investment of an additional $620 million. [Read More]

Harriet Tubman Was an Expert Naturalist — by Katina Maclin, age 16

Harriet Tubman was an expert naturalist. The Underground Railroad’s most famous conductor used her understanding of geography, wildlife biology, and astronomy to guide people to freedom. [Read More]

New School in Fitchburg Uses Green Energy Technology — by Devika Pal, age 16

Forest Edge Elementary School in Fitchburg is the first Net Zero Energy school in Wisconsin. The school opened in September of 2021, and is part of the Oregon School district. The district’s Superintendent Dr. Leslie Bergstrom said the school’s goal is to create “the best design for student learning that also incorporated technologies to efficiently use and conserve energy.” [Read More]

Groundswell Conservancy Land Purchase Will Help Dell Creek Conservation Efforts — by Dyami Rodriguez, age 17

Buying land is a major factor in protecting the environment. To that end, the Groundswell Conservancy, along with other conservation groups, recently made a major purchase with the intent of protecting Wisconsin's environment. [Read More]

The Canola Flower: Beautiful and Delicious! — by Sol Saray, age 10

Canola is a flower that blooms in late winter to early spring representing Jeju Island in South Korea. It is a type of rapeseed and is part of the mustard family. There is even a festival named after the canola flower. [Read More]