CMU to oversee $10 million Great Lakes Restoration grant

Great Lakes
MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich., Sept. 30, 2010 — Biology researchers at Central Michigan University are taking the lead on a $10 million grant designed to protect coastal wetlands in the Great Lakes. During the next five years, scientists will collect data to assess and track the health of surrounding wetlands — a move that environmental leaders say is critical to the economy, industry and future of conservation.
 
The coastal wetland monitoring program supported by the grant implements a monitoring plan finalized by the Great Lakes Coastal Wetlands Consortium in 2008, following nearly seven years of research and development. The plan is to monitor major components of coastal wetland conditions that include water chemistry, vegetation, invertebrates, fish and amphibian, and bird communities.
 
“This effort will benefit anyone living near the Great Lakes watershed,” said CMU biology professor Donald Uzarski. “We have found that these wetlands are very important to the overall health of the Great Lakes, which much of our economy relies on. We have already lost 50 percent of these systems from development and can not afford to lose more.”
 
Wetlands help support a $7.5 billion per year commercial and sport fishery, and they also filter pollution before it enters the Great Lakes. Additionally, they provide major breeding and migratory habitat for wildlife, and some coastal wetlands are crucial for flood control.
 
The Great Lakes watershed covers areas in Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, New York and Pennsylvania as well as two provinces in Canada.
 
“Great Lakes wetlands are important to Michigan's environmental quality and provide excellent habitat to a high number of wildlife species,” said Rebecca Humphries, director of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment. “The importance of this project is that we will learn how to better manage and preserve wetlands.”

Uzarski, who is director of CMU’s Biological Station located on Beaver Island, as well as director of Great Lakes and Environmental Research at CMU, said about 30 CMU biology students will be involved in research related to the grant each year. CMU also will collaborate with other universities and partners including the Department of Natural Resources and Environment.
 
Uzarski, who applied for the grant, recently was appointed by the Governor to serve on the Michigan Wetland Advisory Council. The grant is funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as part of an effort supported by President Obama’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. Uzarski brings more than a decade of research and expertise related to wetland science and the Great Lakes.
 
CMU researchers will set up monitoring plans for all of the Michigan shorelines of Lakes Michigan, Superior and Huron, while other collaborators will cover several hundred sites of shorelines connected to surrounding states and provinces.

“This program is vital,” Uzarski said. “It is important to the Great Lakes ecosystem, and therefore, it is important to our economy.”
 
For additional news from Central Michigan University visit the CMU Media Channel at http://www.cmich.edu/mediachannel.
 
Contact: Tracy Burton, 989-774-1072, tracy.burton@cmich.edu

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