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Communication Associate: Public Relations | Lori Melton | | (218) 726-8830

September 11, 2013
June Kallestad | Public Relations Manager | Natural Resources Research Institute | 218-720-4300 |

NRRI Receives Funding to Research Impacts of Human Activities in Great Lakes Basin

The Natural Resources Research Institute (NRRI) at the University of Minnesota Duluth will take part in a $2.9 million research effort for Great Lakes restoration projects funded by the University of Michigan Water Center. The two-year grants, which range in size from $155,358 to $458,290, were awarded to multidisciplinary teams led by researchers at universities in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, and New York.

The projects will support efforts to: restore native fish migrations across the Great Lakes Basin, assess strategies to restore the health of the Green Bay ecosystem under a changing climate, improve water quality in the Western Lake Erie Basin, guide ecological restoration of Saginaw Bay, assess the effectiveness of wetlands restoration projects in the Lake Ontario/St. Lawrence River watershed, determine the relative contributions of agricultural runoff and sewage discharge in fecal pollution entering lakes Michigan and Erie, and map Great Lakes environmental stressors.

NRRI Interim Director Lucinda Johnson received $458,290 to lead research on "A comprehensive stressor-response model to inform ecosystem restorations across the Great Lakes Basin." The project will combine data from two recent studies that characterized the impacts of human activities across the Great Lakes Basin: the Great Lakes Environmental Assessment and Mapping Project (GLEAM) and the Great Lakes Environmental Indicators (GLEI) project. The new Water Center-funded effort will combine GLEI and GLEAM stressor maps into a single composite map spanning the entire basin. In addition, the researchers will identify and calibrate indicators of biological conditions for nearshore and offshore habitats using GLEAM/GLEI stressors. Co-researchers are J. David Allan, University of Michigan and Jan Ciborowski, University of Windsor.

The Water Center engages researchers, resource managers, policymakers and nonprofit groups to support, integrate and improve freshwater restoration and protection efforts. During its first three years, the Water Center is focusing on the Great Lakes, working to enhance regional dialogue and collaboration to identify and fill priority knowledge gaps.

In selecting the eight grants, special emphasis was given to proposals that integrated one or more focus areas of the federal Great Lakes Restoration Initiative — cleaning up toxics, combating invasive species, restoring habitat and ridding nearshore waters of polluted runoff — or that evaluated the potential effects of climate change on Great Lakes restoration efforts. In all cases, the U-M funding will be used to support existing restoration and protection efforts in the Great Lakes, not to establish new projects.

A fact sheet about the NRRI project can be viewed here:

Detailed descriptions of all eight University of Michigan Water Center projects are available at:

The eight project teams include 73 researchers from 16 universities in the United States and Canada, nine agencies, two consulting firms, two non-governmental organizations and one tribe.

In May, the U-M Water Center awarded 12 smaller research grants, totaling nearly $570,000, to support diverse projects, including efforts to track the remediation of harmful algae blooms, assess the effectiveness of techniques to control non-native weedy plant invasions, study chromosomal damage in tree swallow nestlings, and monitor fish responses to restoration activities.

The Great Lakes hold 20 percent of the world's freshwater. The region includes more than 10,000 miles of coastline and numerous globally rare plant and animal species. In addition, the Great Lakes support a wide range of recreational and economic activities, including vibrant tourism and a sport fishing industry that contributes $4 billion to the economy.

A center of U-M's Graham Sustainability Institute, the Water Center was made possible by a $4.5 million, three-year grant from the Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Family Foundation and additional funds from the university. "We are very pleased with these new grants as well as the center's collaborative approach," said foundation President John Erb. "In addition to supporting critical research, the center is enhancing the dialogue among Great Lakes science leaders and between science leaders and policy leaders from government and nonprofit organizations."

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