Extension announces 2024 Wisconsin Idea Collaboration Grants

UW–Madison Extension is excited to announce the 10 projects selected to receive the 2024 Wisconsin Idea Collaboration (WIC) Grants. This year’s projects engage nine UW schools and colleges. Research topics include the economic benefits of broadband, water quality, PFAS and more. WIC Grants is a collaboration of Extension and the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research.

“Extension is a bridge between the cutting-edge research here at UW–Madison and the people, farms, businesses, nonprofits, tribes and governments across the state. Connecting the campus to communities is an important component of Extension’s mission, and we are using the Wisconsin Idea Collaboration Grants as a way to spur new connections, new findings and new solutions for communities all over Wisconsin,” Karl Martin, dean and director of Extension, said.

Now in its third year, WIC Grants invests in the Wisconsin Idea by encouraging UW–Madison faculty and staff who have not historically partnered with Extension to engage in applied research and outreach. Continue reading to learn more about the selected projects.

A Remedy for Polarization? Evaluating Citizen Conversations across Political Difference
Susan Webb Yackee (Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs), Benoy Jacob (Extension)

Polarization has risen sharply since the 1980s, and many Americans feel animosity toward those with different political views. This proposal will bring a first-of-its-kind study to assess remedies for polarization.

Linking College-Based Substance Use Experiences in Daily Life to Later Young-Adult Health and Social Outcomes: Implications for Research and Outreach
Lauren M. Papp (School of Human Ecology)

Substance misuse has major public health impacts, to which young adults are especially vulnerable. This project will collect data to inform an evidence-based approach to reducing substance use during a critical but often overlooked developmental period — early adulthood.

Developing Trauma-Informed Rent Smart Programming for Domestic Violence Survivors
Mariel Barnes (Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs), Jackie Carattini (Extension)

Stable housing remains a barrier for survivors of domestic violence. Extension’s Rent Smart Program teaches participants the knowledge and skills necessary for a successful renting experience, and this project will build upon that programming to address the unique challenges faced by survivors of domestic violence.

Amigos de los Anfibios: Engaging with Spanish-Speaking Families to Understand Threats to Wisconsin’s Freshwater Resources and Amphibian Communities
Jessica Hua, David Drake (College of Agricultural and Life Sciences)

Wisconsin’s freshwater resources are critically important and face diverse challenges, which citizen science initiatives can help address. This project will develop outreach materials for Spanish-speaking residents to participate in research and outreach activities. Ultimately, this project’s aim is to make science more accessible by addressing language barriers.

Developing an Open Source Crop Disease Forecasting Tool
Allison Kittinger (Data Science Institute), Damon Smith (College of Agricultural and Life Sciences)

Plant pathogens cause $21 billion in crop loss annually in the United States. This project will make digital crop disease forecasting tools more accessible to Wisconsin farmers through targeted outreach.

Evaluating PFAS Concentrations throughout the Process of Making Maple Sap Products and Elucidating the Major Source(s) of PFAS Up Taken by Maple Trees
Gavin Dehnert (Aquatic Sciences Center), Chad Cook (Extension)

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are synthetic chemicals that have been used in several household products for decades. However, PFAS have been found to pollute ecosystems and even cause health problems. This project will research what risks may be associated with PFAS in maple sap products and develop outreach materials for maple sap producers in both tribal and non-tribal communities.

Enrollment Barriers, Procedural Denials, and Loss of Medicaid Coverage: A Randomized Trial to Identify and Implement Effective Outreach Solutions
Rebecca Myerson (School of Medicine and Public Health), Allison Espeseth (Extension)

Over one million Wisconsin residents are enrolled in Medicaid, and beneficiaries must renew coverage annually. This project will evaluate circumstances leading to dropped enrollment and develop targeted outreach materials toward beneficiaries who lost coverage due to procedural reasons (e.g., missing or incomplete information) to minimize gaps in health care.

Towards Understanding the Impacts of Broadband on Wisconsin’s Digital Footprint
Jacob Thebault-Spieker (The Information School), Steven Deller (College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, Extension)

Broadband has strong potential to benefit communities by increasing their visibility, or digital footprint. This project will research how broadband rollout impacts communities’ digital footprint and work with communities to better understand its benefits.

Adapting Dairy Buildings to Cope with Climate Change: A Collaborative Effort between UW–Madison and Agriculture Institute Dairy Extension Educators
Christopher Choi, Neslihan Akdeniz (College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, Extension)

Dairy cows suffer physical stress when subjected to excess heat, which causes health problems and costs the U.S. dairy industry about $1.5 billion annually. This project will research a ventilation system that delivers air jets to individual cows’ stalls, which will increase milk yields and increase the welfare of cows and dairy workers alike.

Working in Partnership to Improve the Understanding of Water Quality along Lake Superior’s Wisconsin Coastline
Hilary Dugan (College of Letters & Science), Kaitlin Reinl (Extension)

Lake Superior has experienced several cyanobacterial blooms, many of which are toxic and represent a major public health threat. This project will develop and implement a strategy to monitor blooms and generate data which will be shared with regional partners to prevent blooms.