Shelby Ellison part of team awarded Universities of Wisconsin Innovation Grant for research on improving Wisconsin soils

Shelby Ellison, assistant professor of plant and agroecosystem sciences, along with faculty members at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point were awarded one of three 2023 Universities of Wisconsin Innovation Grants. The group’s proposal, Phytoremediation of PFAS in Wisconsin Soils using Hemp and Alfalfa, received $175,000 in funding for the two-year project.

PFAS are man-made chemicals used in industrial applications and have been correlated with a number of health problems. The team will conduct research on the ability of hemp and alfalfa plants to remove PFAS from soil, determining how and where it is stored in plant tissues and how soil quality influences PFAS remediation. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources had identified more than 100 sites around the state known to be contaminated with PFAS or under investigation for PFAS remediation.

Shelby Ellison takes flowers from industrial hemp plants. Photo: Michael P. King/UW–Madison CALS

The UW-Stevens Point researchers involved in the project are: Brian Barringer, biology; Ann Impullitti, biology; Joseph Mondloch, chemistry; Shannon Riha, chemistry; and Bryant Scharenbroch, soil and waste resources. After the funding period, the faculty members will issue a progress report detailing the status of the project, work completed and the team’s vision for future research or project development.

“We are very excited to see this proposal’s future development and how its innovations will positively affect the Universities of Wisconsin, Wisconsin citizens and communities, and the state’s economic growth,” said Universities of Wisconsin President Jay Rothman.

From this year’s three finalists, a review panel will select a “big idea” winner to receive additional funding totaling up to $400,000 distributed over three years. Recipients will also be invited to a future UW Board of Regents meeting to present their winning proposal and its projected outcomes.

This story was adapted from a release prepared by UW-Stevens Point.