Our Cup Spilleth Over: Science on Tap Keeps Getting Better

The initial Science on Tap discussion brought a standing-room only crowd. Photo: Carol Warden
The initial Science on Tap discussion brought a standing-room only crowd. Photo: Carol Warden

When we arrived at the Minocqua Brewing Company that cold and snowy February night back in 2013, we weren’t sure what to expect from our first-ever science cafe event. “Science on Tap-Minocqua,” the brainchild of Trout Lake Station director, Tim Kratz, was an attempt to introduce folks to some of the science we do at the Center for Limnology and, especially, at our research station up north. Not only does our research often matter to people who care about Wisconsin waters, as part of a public institution, those same people support our work.
We wanted to create a place where we could have a dialogue and folks would feel comfortable asking questions and offering comments about issues affecting Wisconsin residents. But, standing-room only crowds? For science? No way, we thought. Science is a hard sell.
Happily, we thought wrong. On that first frigid night, more than 200 people packed the room and spilled into other parts of the restaurant. And, since then, it’s just been getting better.
And you don’t have to make it to Minocqua to follow along. We now offer live streaming of all Science on Tap events, so viewers can follow along and even send in a question or two to have answered by an expert. And if you miss the show, no worries, we’ve got them all archived on our YouTube channel!

In fact, so many science-hungry audiences keep turning up on the first Wednesday of each month, that we’ve expanded our topics to include research from throughout the University of Wisconsin and all over the state. Some recent Science on Tap talks have concerned vitamin D and its effects on healthy aging, carnivores in the Northwoods, and ticks and tick-borne diseases. Next month, Maggie Turnbull, a UW alum and freelance astronomer, will talk about her work with NASA as she tries to identify potentially “habitable” planets in our solar system. And, in June, we’ll host an important panel discussion of the proposed Gogebic Taconite iron mine and take our first-ever Science on Tap field trip to see some of the area up close.
It’s all just part of our effort to get good, solid science out into the social sphere, where we hope it can be used to help all of us here in Wisconsin make good decisions, craft sound policies and, of course, engage in a civil and casual conversation about big, important issues!

Science on Tap-Minocqua wouldn’t be possible without the strong support of the Minocqua Public Library, Lakeland Badger chapter of the WAA, UW’s Kemp Natural Resources Station and, of course, the Minocqua Brewing Company.