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Sea Grant money funds research on Great Lakes

Wisconsin Sea Grant announced a $2 million omnibus grant to fund Great Lakes research, education and outreach, including a project at the University of Wisconsin-Superior and one at Northland College.

“The world’s largest freshwater system is at our borders. Lakes Superior and Michigan define our state’s history, provide recreational opportunities and fuel our economy,” Sea Grant Director Jim Hurley said. “A 2011 study found that 1.5 million jobs are tied to the lakes, with $62 billion in annual wages. Sea Grant’s research, education and outreach is money well spent.”

Professor Nicholas Danz at UW-Superior will study the wetlands of the St. Louis River Estuary to better understand ways to manage the ecosystem.

Northland College’s Randy Lehr will look at the effect of climate change on Chequamegon Bay.

The entire grant will support 19 projects of exploration of the freshwater seas. In addition to the Superior- and Ashland-based work, scientists on the Green Bay, Madison, Milwaukee, Oshkosh and Stevens Point campuses of the UW System, and St. Norbert College and Marquette University will be engaged in exploration of Wisconsin’s shipwrecks through a longtime partnership between Sea Grant and the Wisconsin Historical Society.

In other projects, researchers will look at the health of the waterways, methods to prevent Great Lakes beach contamination, the impact of aquatic invasive species on the lakes’ food webs and more.

Nearly 100 researchers, staff and students will be engaged in this work, said Hurley. The National Sea Grant College Program, administered through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and U.S. Department of Commerce, is the source of the grant.

Wisconsin is home to one of 33 Sea Grant programs, located in all coastal states, Puerto Rico and Guam.

Hurley said an important asset of such a comprehensive network is the ease of collaboration with neighboring states to leverage funding. In the next two years, Wisconsin will partner with the Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant Program to explore how the health of wetlands around Lake Michigan affects fish populations.

The Wisconsin Sea Grant projects include 15 all-new research undertakings, and four continued from the previous funding cycle.