GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay plans to offer a new undergraduate degree in water science this fall in part to fill a worker shortage as the state invests more into water quality programs.
The school’s new water science major is the first of its kind in the University of Wisconsin system, said John Luczaj, a geoscience professor at the Green Bay campus. The major will combine science with courses in public policy, Luczaj told Wisconsin Public Radio.
“There’s no one particular field called water science that the U.S. Department of Labor classifies,” said Luczaj, who’s also helping coordinate the degree. “But what we see is that water touches nearly every field of science and technology and public policy.”
The new degree comes as Gov. Tony Evers recently included borrowing up to $70 million in the state budget for water quality programs. Evers pledged to address drinking water contamination during his first year in office.
But the industry is struggling to meet the demands for the programs with an aging workforce and a shortage of trained new talent.
The water science degree “will give our students something new, that they can package together and go out in the working world and focus on water problems,” he said.
Students have bodies of water such as Green Bay and Lake Michigan in the campus’ backyard, and can study groundwater issues related to nitrates, bacteria and viruses in the karst areas of eastern Wisconsin, Luczaj said.
“Nutrient runoff problems with nitrogen and phosphorus in the bay of Green Bay that produce cyanobacterial blooms and cause a hypoxic zone or a dead zone in the bottom of Green Bay — these are all big challenges that are going to continue for some point in the future,” he said.