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WisBusiness: Head of UWM freshwater science program points to signs of progress

By David A. Wise

MILWAUKEE -- Construction to expand the UWM School of Freshwater Sciences' Great Lakes Research Facility is slated to begin next month, the school's founding dean, David Garman, said Tuesday.

Work on the $53 million expansion project adjacent to the harbor on West Greenfield Avenue is expected to take 18 months, he told Milwaukee Rotarians at their weekly luncheon. The school held an official groundbreaking July 6.

In addition to classrooms and laboratories, the building will house the Center for Water Policy, the Great Lakes Genomics Center, and include an expanded aguaculture lab.

Much of Garman's talk focused on water sustainability around the world and innovative ways communities have solved their water issues.

“Water, I believe, is a sustainability issue now. It's not something to be put off,” he said, adding that while that in many cases the technology exists to solve the problem, there are barriers such as international laws and a lack of community will.

“We at the School of Freshwater Sciences are committed to finding these solutions, to making things happen,” Garman said, “and to provide those solutions to the community, to industry, and to providing a new generation of sciences and engineers who, in fact, will solve the water problems of the world.”

The school has grown to 50 graduate students in its first two years, and the goal is to hit 150 within four years, he said.

Garman said his charge as dean is to internationalize the school, interact with the community and ensure academic excellence.

As part of that, the school is working with Water Council on a water technology accelerator, he said, which will partner the School of Freshwater Sciences and the College of Engineering with industry to advance water technology. Renovations to the building in the Walker's Point neighborhood, in which UWM will lease space, are expected to be completed in the spring.

The school is also working with the UW System and the Washington D.C. based Business-Higher Education Forum to lead a five-campus and K-12 initiative to boost science, technology, engineering and math education with a focus on water technology and research.

The school has been pioneering work on urban fish farming, he said, and has worked with local organizations such as Growing Power, which grows vegetables and raised fish within the city. The technologies being developed can be exported, Garman said, and can focus on small scale operations up to large ones that can produce millions of pound of fish annually.

He urged Rotarians to join in the school's efforts in STEM education, and encouraged them to seek out the school for research and development efforts.

Garman, who came to Milwaukee last year from Australia, said water is a “key feature of the landscape” in Milwaukee and pointed to bright spots in the city, particularly urban waterways that are natural ecosystems that support salmon, trout and bass fisheries.

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