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Category: UW Experts in the News

Wisconsin’s next partisan battle will be over the balance of power on its Supreme Court

Wisconsin Public Radio

Quoted: It is a highly consequential election because it’s going to determine the balance of the court until at least 2025,” said Robert Yablon, an associate professor at the University Wisconsin-Madison Law School.

Although Wisconsin’s Supreme Court elections are officially non-partisan, UW-Madison political science professor Howard Schweber notes highly partisan issues are at stake. That includes abortion rights, gerrymandering and the way elections are run.

“Even 15 years ago, Wisconsin judicial elections really were kind of genteel affairs,” Schweber said. “And then they got very, very viciously partisan, primarily because Republicans and conservative groups made a very concentrated effort to capture the court, through what in Wisconsin, at least, were really unprecedented styles of campaign ads, highly partisan appeals.”

Schweber said that strategy proved largely successful, although Democrats were able to narrow the court’s conservative majority in 2020 when Democrat-backed Jill Karofsky beat former Justice Kelly. Kelly, who’s running this again this year, was first appointed to the state highest court by Republican Gov. Scott Walker to fill a vacancy.

Extreme rains and the ‘monster’ below: Study finds lag time between extreme storms and algal blooms

Wisconsin Public Radio

Quoted: In Madison, a four-inch rainfall in one day that used to occur once every five years now happens every other year, according to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. That got University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Steve Carpenter wondering whether extreme storms would lead to an increase in toxic blooms.

“I had thought maybe get a rainstorm, get a bloom, but it’s not that simple,” Carpenter said, who is lead author of the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Carpenter, emeritus director of UW-Madison’s Center for Limnology, worked with other researchers to examine data collected from Lake Mendota. He said around three-quarters of all phosphorus pollution stems from extreme storms. While those storms play a large role, they don’t necessarily trigger a bloom right away.

UW Health expert says testing most kids for RSV may be unnecessary


Dr. Gregory DeMuri, who specializes in Pediatric Infectious Disease at UW Health Kids compared it to having a bad cold, “I think the biggest thing is most kids have already had RSV and they haven’t been tested. We didn’t do this before COVID, for most children, and that’s because most kids get over it on their own and it’s mainly going to be just a bad cold.”

This strange vine can mimic other plants. How?


Scientists have long known that plants have photoreceptors and can detect the presence of light, often in highly sophisticated ways. They can, for example, sense the color and direction of a beam, according to Simon Gilroy, a professor of botany at the University of Wisconsin Madison. That’s what the telegraph plant is doing when it swivels its leaves toward the light.

2022 was the ‘keep things as they are’ election

Washington Post

There’s another aspect of the midterm elections that reinforces the point that it didn’t involve much change. As University of Wisconsin Madison political scientist Barry Burden pointed out on Twitter, a victory in Georgia’s upcoming Senate runoff election by Sen. Raphael G. Warnock (D) would mean that, for the first time since senators were popularly elected by voters, no incumbent will have lost his or her seat.

Confused about health insurance during open enrollment? A navigator can help.

Wisconsin Watch

Health insurance can be confusing.

Meet Quentella Perry, who helps people plow through the complexities while working for Covering Wisconsin, a nonprofit organization based at the University of Wisconsin-Madison that educates people about health insurance and helps them choose a plan.

Just as accountants are busy during tax time, Perry and her colleagues have their hands full helping people navigate the choices offered during the Affordable Care Act open enrollment period from Nov. 1 to Jan. 15.

What causes lake-effect snowstorms? And why are the eastern Great Lakes most at risk?

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Noted: It’s not exactly clear how lake effect snow will change with climate change, said Steve Vavrus, a climate and atmospheric scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

He called it a “climatic tug-of-war.”

On one hand, a warmer climate may cause fewer cold and dry air masses pushing down from the Arctic and sucking up the moisture over the Great Lakes. That would mean fewer and less intense storms, said Vavrus.

On the other hand, a warmer climate should lead to less ice on the lakes, giving more time for the warm lakes to come into contact with cold air in the atmosphere during the winter. That would favor more storms, said Vavrus.

‘Avatar’ and the Mystery of the Vanishing Blockbuster

The New York Times

According to Derek Johnson, a professor of media studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the author of “Media Franchising,” one major feature of a franchise versus a movie is not just its multiple sites of production — the theme park, the toy, the television show — but also its orientation toward the future. In order to survive, it must maintain a careful balance between novelty and familiarity, courting the next generation of fans without driving away too many of the old ones.

Wisconsin researchers have tracked neutrinos to distant galaxy, supermassive black hole: Discovery comes from UW-Madison’s IceCube Neutrino Observatory below surface of South Pole

For the first time ever, an international team of scientists has traced neutrinos coming from the galaxy NGC 1068 in the constellation Cetus. The “ghost particles” appear to be accelerated toward Earth by a supermassive black hole.

In a scientific breakthrough, the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s 1-billion-ton IceCube Neutrino Observatory, buried around 1 mile under the ice at the South Pole, detected the neutrinos.

Report: Public development subsidy deals should guarantee better jobs, working conditions

Wisconsin Examiner

A proposed development that would bring a new soccer stadium to downtown Milwaukee should include guarantees of good wages and a path to union representation for workers in the stadium district in return for public subsidies, a new report recommends.

The report, “Worker Power Levels the Playing Field,” was released Tuesday by COWS, a think tank at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. It says taxpayer-funded support for the proposed Milwaukee soccer stadium project, dubbed the Iron District, should come with strings that ensure local hiring and strong job standards even after the project is built out.

“It’s important for Milwaukee to see itself as a national leader in this way and to reapply the lessons from the Deer District as new development is considered,” says Laura Dresser, associate director of COWS. Dresser is coauthor of the report along with Pablo Aquiles-Sanchez, a COWS research analyst.

Wisconsin’s pandemic-era high school students are now in college. Some need more help

Noted: At UW-Madison, the most selective school in the state, it’s too early to say what, if any, academic recovery will be needed, according to John Zumbrunnen, the university’s vice provost for teaching and learning. There hasn’t been a spike in tutoring sessions. Nor has there been a higher rate of D and F grades awarded. But the university offered two semesters of a pass/fail grading policy, which “muddies the data picture for us.”

That’s not to say Zumbrunnen hasn’t fielded concerns from some instructors. In math, there’s been a slightly larger share of students placing into pre-calculus instead of calculus. A STEM instructor told him this year’s crop of students scored lower on a basic exam than in past years. He’s heard from a social sciences instructor who felt that students this fall weren’t quite as ready to read at a college level than in past years.

Fine arts, communications degrees qualify as STEM for immigrants

Inside Higher Ed

But whether graduates of STEM-designated degree programs take advantage of the extended visa option may not matter. That’s because colleges find that reclassifying degrees as STEM benefits them in other ways. For example, in 2016, when John Karl Scholz was dean of the College of Letters and Sciences at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, he sought to reclassify his institution’s economics program. Speaking with Inside Higher Ed this month, Scholz, who is now provost, shared the impact.

“The new designation is helpful in recruiting and supporting students who are considering multiple institutions for their graduate work,” Scholz said, adding that Madison’s economics programs had always been more quantitatively focused, and the reclassification reflected that.

Rash of illnesses among Wisconsin kids keeping caregivers home from work

Quoted: Laura Dresser, associate director of COWS, a University of Wisconsin-Madison think-tank, said there’s also been a fundamental change in how employers and employees navigate illness.

“There is this thing that’s changed about what we do when we’re sick, when our kids are sick, what our child cares will accept or tolerate when our kids are sick,” Dresser said. “I think people send their kids or themselves to school or work sick less often than we used to.”

She expects people having more access to sick time hasn’t had a major impact in their decision to take time off.

“The fact that more workers get paid now when they’re sick than used to makes it slightly more likely that they’ll stay home,” Dresser said. “But even in the olden days, they stayed home when their kid was sick, they just didn’t get paid.”

Triumph of the turkeys: Wild birds flourish in Wisconsin cities and suburbs

Wisconsin Public Radio

When Audrey Evans works from home, a throaty warble is her soundtrack.

Her building for graduate students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison isn’t air-conditioned, so during the warmer months, Evans likes to open the windows.

“I’ll be working away at my computer, and I’ll hear turkey noises,” said Evans, who created the Instagram account “Turkeys of UW Madison” as a fan page dedicated to the urban birds. “It’s always like the perfect opportunity to take a break and go look out my window to see the turkeys right underneath it.”

How to Manage Credit Card Debt When Holiday Shopping

The New York Times

Regardless of your age, if your finances are tight, it’s best to say so. “There are years when we can be more generous, and years when we can’t,” said J. Michael Collins, faculty director at the Center for Financial Security at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. “We make money a taboo, but it’s OK to be transparent.”

Indictment of monkey importers could disrupt U.S. drug and vaccine research


The indictment, which carries multiple felony charges, will likely exacerbate the shortage of these monkeys, used in everything from drug safety testing to vaccine research, says Dave O’Connor, a virologist at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, who studies infectious disease in cynomolgus macaques. Still, he says, the main priority should be stopping this illegal trade, both for the science and the animals themselves. “These sorts of unscrupulous actors give a black eye to an already heavily scrutinized industry.”

The rule you need eight glasses of water a day is nonsense: study

New York Post

“The science has never supported the old eight glasses thing as an appropriate guideline, if only because it confused total water turnover with water from beverages and a lot of your water comes from the food you eat,” said study co-author Dale Schoeller, a nutritional sciences professor at the University of Wisconsin–Madison who’s studied water and metabolism for decades.

Here’s how Wisconsin teachers are combatting political divisiveness in classrooms

Wisconsin State Journal

A hands-on simulation called PurpleState being used for research at UW-Madison’s School of Education aims to give students experience in dissecting political messaging and discourse.

‘We want people to feel the energy’: Arts groups work to woo patrons back to performances

Wisconsin State Journal

As with health care, the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated trends that were already underway — and are linked to larger social issues, said Sarah Marty, director of the Bolz Center for Arts Administration at the UW School of Business, and producing artistic director for Four Seasons Theatre.

Today, “people are spreading their arts dollars around to different art forms,” Marty said. “That’s wonderful for the audiences, but difficult for the arts organizations.”

RSV surge raises questions about repeat cases: Can you or child get it again?

Fox News

But these patients only account for a third of hospitalizations, said Dr. James H. Conway, pediatric infectious disease physician and medical director of the immunization program at UW Health Kids in Madison, Wisconsin.”About two-thirds of the kids who get admitted with RSV are actually healthy, normal kids,” said Conway, who’s also a professor of pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.

Wisconsin Republicans fell short of a legislative supermajority, but they now have enough senators to impeach state officials, speed up bills

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Quoted: “It seems like a very remote possibility. No one’s really talked about it in a meaningful way. However, in the last four years, we’ve really seen the rise of hardball tactics between Republicans in the Legislature and Gov. Evers,” said Barry Burden, University of Wisconsin-Madison political science professor and director of the university’s Elections Research Center.

Burden said though the bar is high to impeach state officials, especially high-ranking ones elected statewide, politics in Wisconsin has become even more of a blood sport in recent years under divided government, making anything a possibility.

“The last four years have not really been cooperative lawmaking in any way,” Burden said. “There really is not a premise for cooperation between the branches and now Republicans have a bigger and more conservative majority, they’re going to feel emboldened. So it’s possible that some of what seemed like extreme tactics, like impeachment, might be on the table.”

Rising food costs take a bite out of Thanksgiving dinner

Associated Press

The good news? Not every item on holiday shopping lists is significantly more expensive. Cranberries had a good harvest and prices were up less than 5% between the end of September and the beginning of November, said Paul Mitchell, an agricultural economist and professor at the University of Wisconsin. Green beans cost just 2 cents more per pound in the second week of November, according to the USDA.

Disagreement over rape, incest exceptions in Wisconsin abortion ban has political and legal ramifications

Wisconsin State Journal

“An agreement to update the disputed law could very well undercut the current legal challenge,” said UW-Madison Law School associate professor Robert Yablon. “If an amendment were to build on the 1849 law, that could well be interpreted as an acknowledgement that the 1849 law (as amended) continues to apply.”

“If those exceptions were instead adopted as stand-alone measures separate from the disputed law, it might be less likely that the current lawsuit would be affected.”

Lack of units in Madison, ever-growing population results in racial disparities in housing

Madison Commons

Quoted: University of Wisconsin–Madison urban planning professor Kurt Paulsen describes the overarching narrative in Dane County as a shortage of housing, which means prices are rising and affordability will continue to be a struggle in Madison.

“On the extreme end, people who have [lower] income spend more than 50% of their income on rent,” said Paulsen. “You see people being doubled up [which] is overcrowding the housing. Young people can’t afford to buy a starter home. You see homelessness and of course it manifests itself in tremendous racial disparities in housing burdens and homeownership.”

Fact-checking 19 claims from Trump’s speech announcing his 2024 run

The Washington Post

Trump is exaggerating how many people illegally cross the border. Moreover, most independent research contradicts the idea that illegal immigrants bring more crime. A 2018 study published in the peer-reviewed journal Criminology, led by Michael Light, a criminologist at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, examined whether places with higher percentages of undocumented immigrants have higher rates of violent crime such as murder or rape. The answer: States with larger shares of undocumented immigrants tended to have lower crime rates than states with smaller shares in the years 1990 through 2014.

Tyson Says Its Nurses Help Workers. Critics Charge They Stymie OSHA.

Civil Eats

Alexia Kulwiec, associate professor of law at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, teaches labor and employment law and is an expert in national labor policy and workers’ compensation. She said of the on-site health clinics at Tyson, “Their whole goal is not to find serious health problems and to keep costs down. . . .  It is really circumventing the whole purpose of worker’s compensation to start with.”

Wisconsin-based company under investigation for allegedly using child labor

Wisconsin Public Radio

Quoted: Laura Dresser, associate director of the COWS economic think tank at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said the labor shortage may make some companies more likely to violate protections for minors.

“It is probably the case that tight labor markets mean that there may be more sorts of violations like this because firms are desperate to fill jobs and may cut corners in order to do so,” she said.

Child labor laws help to ensure that minors are able to gain an education and receive a high school diploma, Dresser said.

“If we’re going to prioritize and require that students be enrolled in school and do everything we can to encourage them to graduate, then kids shouldn’t be working on overnight shifts (and) they shouldn’t be working excessive numbers of hours,” she said.

Rising food costs take a bite out of Thanksgiving dinner

Washington Post

The good news? Not every item on holiday shopping lists is significantly more expensive. Cranberries had a good harvest and prices were up less than 5% between the end of September and the beginning of November, said Paul Mitchell, an agricultural economist and professor at the University of Wisconsin. Green beans cost just 2 cents more per pound in the second week of November, according to the USDA.

Wisconsin’s voter turnout was high in this November’s election, but still lower than 2018

Wisconsin Public Radio

Quoted: Barry Burden, a political science professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, attributed high turnout in recent congressional elections in part to the effect of former President Donald Trump, who was elected in 2016.

“Increasing turnout everywhere, not just in Wisconsin, really is a phenomenon that happened after Trump took office,” said Burden, who directs the university’s Elections Research Center. “He’s no longer in office, but I think is enough of a presence in American politics and it was enough of a factor in this year’s elections that it continued to bring out lots of Democratic voters and lots of Republican voters.”

Wisconsin’s biohealth industry is growing quickly, fostering innovation

Wisconsin Public Radio

Quoted: In fact, the state’s higher education system is a major reason the industry is thriving, according to Dr. Zachary Morris, a researcher and associate professor for the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s School of Medicine and Public Health.

He said colleges and universities throughout Wisconsin are producing the highly-skilled workers that the biohealth sector needs, and research being done at those institutions also is helping to strengthen the industry.

“The universities, through the faculty, are in many cases steering or developing innovative technologies that these companies are then helping to spin out and commercialize,” he said.

Meat cultivated at UW-Madison offers glimpse into possible food future

PBS Wisconsin

An unconventional yet burgeoning project looming on the horizon of the grow-your-own movement is the development of cultivated, or cultured meat. It is real animal meat and seafood that is produced by cultivating animal cells, according to the Good Food Institute (GFI). Backers say it reduces the land and water pollution caused by large-scale meat agriculture.

Masatoshi Suzuki is a researcher and professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In recent years, Suzuki’s lab has worked in collaboration with GFI to create a prototype of a beef patty grown from the stem cells of a cow.

How the global donkey skin trade risks spreading deadly diseases

National Geographic

“The report draws attention to a form of international trade and movement that most people don’t know about,” says Tony Goldberg, an epidemiologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who was not involved in the research. “It’s becoming increasingly apparent that globalization is not only a problem for human diseases but also animal diseases.”

Republicans tout benefits of fossil fuels at climate talks


Andrea Dutton, a professor of geoscience and MacArthur Fellow at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said that’s not possible.“Burning fossil fuels releases greenhouse gases that are causing temperatures to rise rapidly, and this is the major contributor to the global warming we are experiencing,” she said in an email. “This is not a matter of belief but rather a matter of scientific evidence.”

From Ian to Nicole: The Five Worst Hurricanes of 2022 So Far, Ranked


“The season is not yet over, which means 2 things: 1) there might yet be additional damaging storms (see Hurricane Nicole right now!) and 2) it takes time for the full economic and noneconomic losses for big storms to become apparent,” Daniel B. Wright, a civil and environmental engineer at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Hydroclimate Extremes Research Group, told Newsweek in written comments.

Wisconsin Democrats Appear to Have Prevented a GOP Supermajority in State Legislature

Wall Street Journal

The Wisconsin legislature has been controlled by Republicans for several election cycles, after they were able to redraw legislative maps that put them firmly in control of legislative districts, even though Democrats tend to hold their own in statewide races, said Michael W. Wagner, a professor in the University of Wisconsin Madison’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

A Day in the Life Used to Be 17 Hours


To determine the distance of the Moon, scientists studied rhythmic patterns in Earth’s orbit and axis called Milankovitch cycles, explained Margriet Lantink, a geologist at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and lead author of the new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

Respiratory illness surge forces Children’s Wisconsin to adjust appointments, surgeries

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Quoted: At American Family Children’s Hospital, RSV is contributing to a very busy time at UW Health Kids. Currently, RSV hospitalizations make up approximately 10% of the patients admitted, according to Dr. Joshua Ross, the chief medical officer and pediatric emergency medicine physician, UW Health Kids.

“We are seeing a record number of patients in our pediatric emergency department, with most coming in due to upper respiratory illnesses like RSV,” Ross said.

Absentee voting numbers in Wisconsin soar over the 2018 midterms

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Quoted: “There is substantial voter engagement in this year’s elections,” said Barry Burden, director of the Elections Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, “but the larger number of early votes compared to 2018 is more a sign of changing preferences about the method of voting than a sign of much higher turnout,” Burden said.

Midterm elections 2022: 3 factors driving the return of ticket-splitting 


“It reached its height in the mid to late ’80s, especially at the federal level, [with] people voting [differently] for president and Congress,” Barry C. Burden, a professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, told Vox. But as political polarization, the decline of local news, and the nationalization of local politics have increased in the past two decades, split-ticket voting has been dying a slow death.

“Very few states [have] senators of different parties, and they’re even elected in different years,” Burden, who co-wrote a book on this history, said. “Even the number of split Senate delegations, where senators are from different parties, is now at a relative low.”

What is inflation and what causes it?


“We may see prices rise on certain things like gas or milk, but it’s not necessarily inflation unless you see prices rising sort of across the board, across many different products and services,” says Jordan van Rijn, who teaches agricultural and applied economics at the University of Wisconsin’s Center for Financial Security.

Suzanne Eckes, a professor of education and law at UW-Madison, said she understands the “sense of urgency around many of these issues” given her own background as a classroom teacher. “Having been a former public high school teacher, I know the stakes are high and feel that I can speak to this group — I don’t want to say more easily than others — but I understand a lot of the issues, and having been a practicing attorney can kind of break down some of the legalese into what do you need to know? What are the key takeaways from a specific case or a regulation or federal or state law?” Eckes said.

The Capital Times

The UW-Madison School of Education hosted an event this fall meant to help teachers facing these challenges in classrooms.

Suzanne Eckes, a professor of education and law at UW-Madison, said she understands the “sense of urgency around many of these issues” given her own background as a classroom teacher.

“Having been a former public high school teacher, I know the stakes are high and feel that I can speak to this group — I don’t want to say more easily than others — but I understand a lot of the issues, and having been a practicing attorney can kind of break down some of the legalese into what do you need to know? What are the key takeaways from a specific case or a regulation or federal or state law?” Eckes said.

U.S. democracy slides toward ‘competitive authoritarianism’

The Washington Post

Seeing all this, Democrats, including President Biden, have made desperate appeals to voters to take to the electoral ramparts and protect the nation’s democracy. But these entreaties may prove insufficient, suggested Mark Copelovitch, a political scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, at a time when Republican messaging about gas prices and economic pressures have consumed the conversation. “There’s an ‘in your face’ aspect to this that is much more tangible than ‘democracy is about to collapse’ or ‘Wisconsin’s electoral and legislative institutions no longer meet basic criteria of democracy,’” he wrote to me in an email.

Farmers split their support in Wisconsin governor’s race

The Capital Times

“Having a governor who would work closely with our congressional representation in D.C. to move forward on something like a new worker visa program for dairy workers, I think would be huge,” said UW-Mad​​ison political science professor David Canon. “That’s another issue I’d put toward the top of the list in terms of being really important for the future of dairy in the state.”