Series

WisContext presents excerpts from books published by the Wisconsin Historical Society Press to provide a deeper look at how the history of the state has influenced its contemporary landscape. These selections focus on events and experiences that illustrate historical changes in Wisconsin related to demographics, health, the economy and the environment — issues that have left an imprint on the state and continue to resonate in the 21st century.More
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Chickens
An unprecedented avian influenza epidemic struck the poultry industry in the U.S. over the spring and early summer of 2015. It was concentrated in several Midwestern states, with Wisconsin seeing infections in several counties that are home to major turkey and chicken operations. Both federal and state government agencies worked in tandem with poultry farmers to halt and prevent further spread of the disease, resulting in the destruction of more than 1.9 million birds in the state. The epidemic was a serious agricultural challenge for the nation, driving up egg prices and spurring officials and poultry producers to strengthen biosecurity measures intended to limit the spread and impact of animal diseases.More
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Bats are both familiar and exotic, and inspire intense emotions among people who encounter them. Beyond their cultural status, though, many types of bats play an important economic role in agriculture and tourism by feeding on copious numbers of insects. Wisconsin lies within the range of at least eight bat species, with half migrating south in winter while the remainder hibernate in caves, mines and structures. Hibernating species face an unparalleled threat from an invasive fungus that causes a disease called white-nose syndrome. But Wisconsin is also a center of scientific efforts to save these species. Legions of volunteers collect crucial data about the number and health of the state's bats, and scientists are working to develop a vaccine against the deadly fungus.More
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The health system in the U.S. is built upon a complex and interlocking series of relationships between medical providers, insurers, the federal and state governments, employers and the people who require preventive care and treatment throughout their lives. The enactment of the Affordable Care Act, one goal of which was securing coverage for more Americans, has profoundly transformed this system since its implementation, including in Wisconsin. At the same time, the political contentiousness of the law has added complexity and uncertainty to the health care decisions Americans make, and the future of the health care system continues to be an open question.More
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Phosphorus is an essential building block of life, but it's also one of the world's most common and troublesome pollutants. Intensive agriculture unleashes excess levels of phosphorus in the form of manure and other fertilizers. What plants don't consume of this essential nutrient lingers on the ground or makes its way down into soil. Rain pushes this phosphorus into streams, rivers, lakes and groundwater. When too much enters a body of water, it can fuel blooms of noxious and sometimes toxic microorganisms — a frequent problem in lakes around Wisconsin and in the Great Lakes. Farmers, scientists, environmentalists, and state and local officials are struggling to reach a consensus about how to manage this nutrient pollution while maintaining a robust agricultural industry.More
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