|NRRI field crew Matt Santo, Charles Schueller, and Robert Hell at wetland near Suamico Wisconsin.|
UMD's Natural Resources Research Institute (NRRI) received five more years of funding from the federal Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to assess the condition of vital wetlands. The EPA’s Great Lakes National Program Office announced that $10 million is awarded to the Great Lakes Coastal Wetland Consortium, of which NRRI will receive $2.4 million to work on the western end of the Great Lakes.
NRRI Aquatic Ecologist Valerie Brady is the lead researcher on NRRI’s portion of project which will take her field crew from Thunder Bay, Canada, to Green Bay, Wisc. They will gather data to evaluate wetland condition, identify very good wetlands that need protection and gauge restoration efforts. Brady is also coordinating the four other field teams across the entire Great Lakes project. Over the next five years, 1,000 wetlands will be visited and precise protocol will be followed to gather data. NRRI is charged with sampling 200 of those sites.
“The challenge is in getting all the teams to gather the same data in exactly the same way at each location, basically getting a snapshot of how the wetlands are doing,” said Brady.
In the Duluth area, NRRI is collecting data in the St. Louis River estuary where restoration efforts are underway. Information gathered before the restoration will show the success of the effort.
Wetlands in the Great Lakes’ coastal areas play an essential role as habitat for unique plants, insects, birds and other animals. Wetlands also filter pollutants, reduce coastal damage during high water years and provide important spawning and nursery areas for fish.
“Each of the Great Lakes has a unique variety of marshes, swamps, bogs and wet meadows,” Brady explained. “The overall goal of this project is to keep watch on the wetlands so that if there’s degradation, we can fix it before it’s too late.”
Launched in 2010, federal funding of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is accelerating efforts to protect and restore the largest system of fresh surface water in the world.
“The Great Lakes are a natural treasure that we should be protecting so everyone can enjoy their beauty,” said Senator Al Franken. “Continuing this important funding will help the Natural Resources Research Institute and the University of Minnesota Duluth keep the Great Lakes clean and safe for generations to come.”
Central Michigan University is leading the overall project. Other institutions involved are The College at Brockport SUNY, University of Wisconsin campuses of Green Bay and River Falls, Lake Superior State University, University of Notre Dame, Grand Valley State University, University of Windsor, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, the U.S. Geological Survey, Environment Canada and Bird Studies Canada.
The mission of the Natural Resources Research Institute is to deliver research solutions to balance our environment, resources and economy for resilient communities.
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