Scholarship paves way for groundbreaking bluff erosion work

Sea Grant award to help Saukville woman study causes of Lake Michigan problem
Ozaukee Press Staff

A Saukville woman attending the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee is the recipient of a scholarship to conduct groundbreaking research on Lake Michigan bluff erosion.

Chelsea Volpano, 24, a 2012 Grafton High School graduate, has been awarded a $750 Carl J. Weston Memorial Scholarship from the University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute in Madison.

Volpano is a senior at UWM majoring in geophysics. After she graduates in spring, she plans on going on to graduate school to study geology, especially along the Lake Michigan shore, she said.

The scholarship recognizes “highly talented undergraduates who are conducting research,” said a Sea Grant press release announcing Valpano as a recipient.

Sea Grant is a federally funded program with centers in 33 states. Wisconsin’s is based at UW-Madison. 

Volpano will work as a lab assistant and field technician studying Lake Michigan bluff erosion from Racine to Kewaunee counties, she said.

“We’re trying to get as much of the coastline as we can,” she said.

She will be working with the Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey. The work includes creating high-resolution maps using unmanned aircraft, data processing and production of three-dimensional models.

Volpano, the daughter of Joseph and Patricia Volpano, said growing up she had always been impressed by the size of the lake bluffs, Lake Michigan and “the dynamic nature of the Great Lakes system.”

“I think growing up in a more rural area certainly influenced my appreciation for nature, which my parents both helped cultivate,” she said.

Her love of science also stems from her teachers at Grafton, she said. But she especially credited her summers of volunteer work at Pine View Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Little Kohler.

“I would specifically thank the director Jeannie Lord for her encouragement to get involved with the sciences,” she said.

After she earns her masters degree, her career goals may include working for the state or the U.S. Geological Survey, but she hasn’t ruled out pursuing a doctorate and a career in academia.

Volpano has received a number of other awards and grants for her academic work, but the Sea Grant scholarship is especially important to her, she said. 

“It allows me the opportunity to do research and work in my field of study. For my first three years of college I worked in restaurants to cover tuition. This scholarship helps to offset that cost and allows me to pursue opportunities relevant to my degree. 

“I really got lucky with this research opportunity. A lot of it involves things that just haven’t been done on the Great Lakes,” she said.



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