Researchers at the University of Windsor score 1.9-million grant to study Great Lakes

Researchers at the University of Windsor are for once cheering over the current Canadian-American exchange rate. They’ve just landed a 1.9-million USD grant to study the Great Lakes, an amount that equals nearly 2.5-million CAD.

Provided by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the grant will allow researchers, including biology professor Jan Ciborowski, to continue their work monitoring the health of the Great Lakes’ coastal wetlands.

As part of the Great Lakes Coastal Wetlands Monitoring Program, Ciborowski and his team of researchers are currently studying wetlands that are at risk and the actions that can be taken to protect them in the future. They also monitor how much environmental stress a wetland can tolerate before the fish, birds, and amphibians start to deteriorate. Once researchers collect all this information, they upload their results to a shared website that’s accessible to government agencies like Environment Canada and the US EPA. From there, governments can start planning their own conservation or restoration efforts.

“Our researchers have classified whole areas as doing better, the same, or worse, and this information is readily available on the website,” Ciborowski said in a statement. “It’s a grand and unifying idea because we can compare what is happening in different areas and determine if the patterns of change are local or regional issues.”

For example, if Ciborowski and his team notice a decline in a specific fish population along the Canadian sides of Lakes Ontario, Erie, and Huron, they can easily refer to the central website and see if the same population is threatened on the American side too.

In total, the agency granted $10 million to scientists, researchers, institutions, and agencies that surround the lakes in both Canada and the United States. Along with the University of Windsor, the Canadian groups Bird Studies Canada and the the Canadian Wildlife Service also received grant money. In total, the program is studying 1,200 coastal wetlands on a five-year basis.

Since its launch five years ago, the Great Lakes Coastal Wetlands Monitoring Program has brought together scientists from across Canada and the U.S. with one collective goal in mind: better understanding and preserving the Great Lakes. It’s a well-rounded approach that Ciborowski thinks is the only way to truly protect the ecosystem.

“What is most amazing is the size of this collaboration. There are 50 lead scientists working together to collect and interpret data from across the whole Great Lakes—information that doesn’t just sit on computers, but is shared and used by municipal, state, and provincial agencies in a way that was previously unimaginable,” said Ciborowski. “Problems of this scale are so big that no individual institution can hope to address them…this project has the scope to let us look at the problems and restoration strategies holistically.”