Milwaukee County Historical Society

Interview with Rebecca Klaper, October 28, 2021

MCHS Oral History Collection
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00:00:26 - Background Information

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Partial Transcript: [John]: So, to start Rebecca, some background questions, where and when were you born?

Segment Synopsis: Rebecca Klaper, Vice Dean for University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee's School of Freshwater Sciences, gives some background information about her life, including where she was born, her parents as figures in public schooling, and her enjoyment of science and math classes transforming into a major in biology in college.

Keywords: Biology; High School; History; Parents; Public School; Teacher

Subjects: Aurora, IL; Family; School; Science; University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign; Wheaton, IL

GPS: Link to map
Map Coordinates: Wheaton, IL
00:02:18 - Choosing a Life in Science

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Partial Transcript: [John]: What point growing up did you think: "I want to be a scientist?"

Segment Synopsis: Klaper describes how she began to want to become a scientist, from her fascination with Jacques Cousteau on PBS ultimately leading to her working with scientists in a lab, like she does now, that she "really understood" what scientists do.

Keywords: Public Broadcasting Service; Scientist

Subjects: Career; Jacques Cousteau; Science

00:03:21 - Post College Education

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Partial Transcript: [John]: So you-you went to the University of Illinois, did you go to grad school after that?

Segment Synopsis: Klaper describes her semester experience at the Marine Biology Lab in Woods Hole, causing her to do technician work for a semester before going to graduate school. When choosing graduate schools, she used her previous Chemical Ecology Experience to achieve a degree in entymology, and eventually earned her PhD studying natural plant products affecting insect populations. She then goes on to describe that between her degrees, she did a "postdoc" research project and did a fellowship with the EPA in Washington DC, studying the impact of man made chemicals on organisms, heavily relating to the work she does now.

Keywords: Chemical Ecology; Greaduate School; Marine Biology; Postdoctoral Research

Subjects: Entymology; Insect; School; Science; United States Environmental Protection Agency; Woods Hole, MA

GPS: Link to map
Map Coordinates: Washington, DC
00:06:07 - UWM Freshwater Sciences Work

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Partial Transcript: [John]: And so was UW Milwaukee your first um-job out of grad school then?

Segment Synopsis: Klaper describes her work at UWM after her fellowship with the EPA, describing her skills being a "perfect fit" with what the school needed in terms of working in genomic technologies. She also describes her appreciation for Lake Michigan, considering it a highlight her experiences visiting Chicago.

Keywords: EPA; Freshwater; Genome; Genomic Technology; Grad School; Water

Subjects: UWM School of Freshwater Sciences; University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

00:07:25 - Vice Dean: Professor, Administrator, and Researcher

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Partial Transcript: [John]: Sure, so what is-um, you became Vice Dean of the school recently?

Segment Synopsis: Klaper goes through her various responsibilities as both a professor at UWM, teaching classes and researching, but as the Vice Dean she is responsible for "Elevating the school," thinking more big picture in ways that could advance the reputation of the School of Freshwater Sciences, highlighting one of the new major pushes being a new undergraduate major in Freshwater Science. She then details the nature of her research, in understanding how man made products go from being used to affecting our water sources, and organisms within. In terms of Milwaukee, she notes how her team goes through different monitoring pharmaceutical chemicals affecting aquatic wildlife.

Keywords: Genomics; Research; Teaching; Vice Dean

Subjects: Administrator; Milwaukee, WI; Professor; School; UWM School of Freshwater Sciences; Wildlife

GPS: Link to map
Map Coordinates: Milwaukee, WI
00:10:46 - History of the School of Freshwater Sciences

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Partial Transcript: [John]: Pulling back a bit about the school, um, do you know much about the history of how the school got to be here, or apart of the University?

Segment Synopsis: Klaper goes through the history of the UWM School of Freshwater Sciences, as she started it was the "Great Lakes Water Institute", with many researchers focused on water research. Many of them had students partnering with them, so they decided to instead of funneling the students through different programs, to become a school within the university themselves. They began with two graduate degree programs, and has "grown tremendously", especially citing the new undergraduate degree program.

Keywords: Faculty; Freshwater Science; School; Science; Students; Water

Subjects: UWM School of Freshwater Sciences; University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

00:12:39 - Changes in Water Research/Climate Change

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Partial Transcript: [John]: How exciting. Um, how has uh-has the study of freshwater sciences changed?

Segment Synopsis: Klaper describes how the study of freshwater sciences has changed over the years, explaining that through new technologies they are able to explore into the realm of nanograms as well as genomic technologies assisting in the study of bacteria in the environment. She also discusses how climate change has impacted the water, discussing a former colleague's work into how it affected the watershed of Green Bay.

Keywords: Freshwater Science; Genome; Science; Water; nanogram

Subjects: Climate Change; Genomic Technology; Green Bay, WI; Technology; UWM School of Freshwater Sciences

GPS: Link to map
Map Coordinates: Green Bay, WI
00:14:46 - Importance of Freshwater Science/Challenges

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Partial Transcript: [John]: Um, so why is it important for the public to learn more about freshwater?

Segment Synopsis: Klaper describes why the public should care about freshwater sciences, as she points out that many industries as well as everyday human living is dependent upon it. She then goes through the largest challenges involved in the work in Milwaukee, citing the climate change shifting the variability in water systems, as well as population growth with increasing construction affecting "what ends up washing into our waterways."

Keywords: Freshwater Science; Population Growth; Science; Water

Subjects: Agriculture; Business; Climate Change; Human; Industry; Public

00:16:07 - Representative Object: Daphnia

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Partial Transcript: [John]: Um, kind of a fun question to wrap up, so we're a historical society we have collections, we put on exhibitions. If there was going to be a Rebecca Klaper display on an exhibit, what artifact of your life would you choose to display?

Segment Synopsis: For her "Science Life" representative object, Klaper chose a Daphnia, small crustaceans that she uses in her research, claiming to want to represent their "beauty", as well as their sensitivity being a sort of litmus test for chemicals impacting aquatic species. They are used worldwide as this "model species", even by the EPA.

Keywords: Daphnia; Milwaukee County Historical Society; Object

Subjects: Artifact; Research; Science; United States Environmental Protection Agency

00:17:53 - Water Availability around Milwaukee/Great Lakes

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Partial Transcript: [Rebecca]: I would say one more thing about the importance of water in the Milwaukee area and things that are coming up.

Segment Synopsis: Klaper discusses the significant issue of those people and communities that are "water stressed" from right near the Milwaukeeans living on Lake Michigan, as those surrounding areas just outside the Great Lakes are facing water scarcity, especially due to climate change. She talks about other researchers in the School of Freshwater Sciences looking into just that.

Keywords: Lake Michigan; Mississippi River; Quality; Water

Subjects: Availability; Climate Change; Milwaukee, WI; Water Quantity; Water Scarcity

GPS: Link to map
Map Coordinates: Milwaukee, WI
00:19:18 - Collaborative Approach

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Partial Transcript: [John]: I say I had-that was my last question, but it's not.

Segment Synopsis: When asked how important the "collaborative approach" to water research with other water-related institutions is, claiming it to be vitally important with Milwaukee-based institutions, but also their partnership with other national and international universities with their research. Another new collaborative effort is the UW-systems "Freshwater Collaborative", which aims to link up researchers and students dealing with water issues.

Keywords: Collaboration; Freshwater Science; Nanotechnology; Science; Water

Subjects: Freshwater Collaborative of Wisconsin; Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District; University; University of Wisconsin System