UW System sustainability representatives gather in Madison

UW System attendees at UW Limnology
Attendees at the UW System Sustainability Conference gather in the basement wet lab at UW Limnology. (Photo by Nathan Jandl.)

For several years, a lively group of sustainability staff, faculty, and students has come together in the middle of the fall semester for the UW System Sustainability Conference. During these meetings, participants discuss best practices for sustainability initiatives, muddle over challenges, share successes, and identify opportunities for collaboration.

This year, the UW-Madison Office of Sustainability played host. In a large room at Gordon Dining & Event Center, representatives from eleven of the thirteen UW System schools, along with community members and other visiting speakers, explored a range of topics while also learning about some of UW-Madison’s prominent sustainability-related programs.

Below, we offer a few brief highlights.

  1. Lt. Governor Mandela Barnes welcomes attendees

The new Lt. Governor offered opening remarks for the conference, which included sharing some of his hopes and priorities as chair of Governor Evers’s Task Force on Climate Change. Barnes also discussed the importance of amplifying social sustainability efforts and touched on the lack of diversity that is typical in many sustainability offices.

Paul Robbins and Mandela Barnes
Lt. Governor Mandela Barnes (right) poses with Paul Robbins, who is Dean of the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, at the 2019 UW System Sustainability Conference. (Photo by Nathan Jandl).
  1. Tour of UW Limnology Wet Lab

Participants strolled over to the Lake Mendota waterfront to learn about issues facing the Madison chain of lakes as well as other water bodies throughout Wisconsin. In the UW Limnology wet lab, participants peered through microscopes at daphnia and invasive spiny water fleas, learned about the concept of a seiche, and witnessed first-hand the effects of major rainfall and high water levels on UW-Madison infrastructure.

UW Limnology dock
In the basement of the UW Limnology building, unusually high water levels on Lake Mendota made navigating the space a rather damp affair. (Photo by Nathan Jandl).
  1. Sessions on resilience and energy policy

How can UW System schools work together to influence the direction of energy policy in our state and at our campuses? How can universities assess campus resilience—as well as its counterpart, vulnerability—in the context of climate change? And what are some of the opportunities for deepening UW System’s resilience in the coming years and decades? These questions and many more animated two concurrent sessions.

Kate Nelson and Amy Seeboth-Wilson
UW-Milwaukee’s Chief Sustainability Officer, Kate Nelson, teams up with UW-Platteville’s Sustainability Coordinator, Amy Seeboth-Wilson, to lead a discussion on energy policy. (Photo by Nathan Jandl).
  1. UW-Madison Arboretum Tour

A cool, gray fall day greeted attendees at the UW-Madison Arboretum, where they split into groups to learn about stormwater management, native plant gardening, and prairie restoration. Participants were also treated to copious numbers of pollinators visiting the remaining flower blooms.

Bumble bees on goldenrod
Two happy bumble bees visit goldenrod blooms at the UW-Madison Arboretum in October. (Photo by Nathan Jandl).
  1. Closing keynote by Jessica LeClair

LeClair, who is a public health nurse and a clinical instructor at the UW-Madison School of Nursing, explored the intersection of climate, health, and equity. UW-Madison Green Fund Program Manger Ian Aley reported that LeClair “offered a succinct and powerful demonstration of the way that oppression affects us in our day-to-day lives, landing in our bodies, climate, and world.”

Jessica LeClair
Jessica LeClair offers her keynote address at the UW System Sustainability Conference. (Photo by Nathan Jandl.)


By: Nathan Jandl