Dr. Todd Wellnitz, an assistant professor of biology at University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, has received a $740,000 National Science Foundation Career Grant.
The grant allows Wellnitz to research at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory, where he will study the amount of water needed to support an aquatic ecosystem. His project will examine the link between algae, streams and the creatures that feed on algae.
The project aims to explain how an imbalanced ecosystem and fast-moving water affect the type of algae that grows in a running stream and the impact it has on algae-feeding animals, such as insects. "No one knows how much water a stream needs to function ecologically," Wellnitz said. "So this project is a way to assess minimum stream flows."
The grant Wellnitz received will reunite him with the Rocky Mountains area, where he originally conducted his research in the Colorado River.
Wellnitz said he hopes his research will help make a connection between the Rocky Mountain streams and those found throughout the world.
The grant is significant for the university, Wellnitz added, because it shows that UW-Eau Claire supports a partnership between faculty and student research.
Wellnitz said he plans to recruit students of Hmong ancestry to research with him in the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory as well, further demonstrating that teaching and learning opportunities are available outside the classroom.
"This shows that cutting-edge research is worth funding," said Wellnitz.
According to a press release from the NSF, the foundation has an annual budget of $5.58 billion and more than 40,000 requests for funding are issued annually.
The grant directly impacts both the university and the biology department. While part of the grant goes to the university, other portions go to the biology department and Wellnitz himself.
In order to receive the grant, Wellnitz sent the National Science Foundation a 15-page detailed description about why and how the research would be conducted.
According to the NSF website, the organization grants awards to more than 2,000 universities and research organizations throughout the United States as a way to support research opportunities.