The University of Michigan has been awarded a five-year, $20 million grant from the federal government to form a research institute focused on sustainable management of the Great Lakes.
The Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research, which will be hosted by U-M and funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, represents a partnership among nine universities across the Great Lakes region, as well as multiple nongovernmental organizations and private businesses.
The institute’s primary NOAA research partner is the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory in Ann Arbor. Researchers from the cooperative institute and the NOAA lab will work together to study the most pressing issues in the Great Lakes, including weather and climate, invasive species, harmful algal blooms, and protection of ecosystem services.
The director of the new cooperative institute is U-M ecologist Bradley Cardinale, professor of natural resources, who was the principal investigator on the institute proposal. More than 30 U-M researchers and hundreds of students are expected to be involved in the institute’s work.
“The Great Lakes are so important,” Cardinale said. “They are the source of drinking water for 40 million people and are intricately linked to the health, identity and livelihoods of all who live in the Great Lakes basin.
“I am thrilled that NOAA has decided to fund a new institute that will bring together government agencies and universities, as well as private foundations and businesses that will work together to prioritize and lead the research needed to better manage the Great Lakes for its people.”
The Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research is one of 16 NOAA Cooperative Institutes across the country. They involve 42 universities and research institutions in 23 states and the District of Columbia.
CIGLR consists of a research institute hosted at U-M and a regional consortium. The research institute will recruit, train and retain highly qualified research scientists and research staff to work alongside researchers at NOAA’s Ann Arbor lab.
The regional consortium will broaden the intellectual expertise, research capacity and geographic scope of NOAA’s research programs in the Great Lakes region.
University partners in the consortium are Central Michigan University, Cornell University, Grand Valley State University, Michigan State University, Ohio State University, U-M, University of Minnesota-Duluth, University of Windsor and University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
U-M is pledging $2.53 million to the institute, in total cost-sharing and in-kind support, over the five-year cooperative agreement. Other university partners are collectively committing to $2.8 million in in-kind support. The grant recipient is U-M’s School of Natural Resources and Environment. Project leaders were informed of the award Tuesday.
The new institute will supersede the existing Cooperative Institute for Limnology and Ecosystems Research, a federally funded collaboration between U-M and NOAA’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory established in 1989.
The name change reflects the increasing breadth of the institute’s research. The work originally focused on natural science — mainly limnology and ecosystems ecology — and has evolved to interdisciplinary work that includes natural sciences, social sciences, engineering and landscape design.
“I am very excited about the new Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research,” said Debbie Lee, director of NOAA’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory in Ann Arbor. “This new institute expands on the valuable research and services provided by the former cooperative institute. I look forward to working with Dr. Cardinale and the fresh insight and energy he brings to achieving NOAA’s mission.”
While the new institute builds on the foundation laid by its predecessor, it will differ in several significant ways: greater investment by U-M, more impactful partnerships, more interdisciplinary research and quicker transitions from research to application.
Research at the new institute will focus on four themes in line with research areas at NOAA’s Ann Arbor lab: observing systems and advanced technology, invasive species and food-web ecology, hydrometeorological and ecosystem forecasting, and protection and restoration of resources. U-M researchers and students involved in this work will be based at the NOAA lab and will work in direct collaboration with scientists there.
A great strength of the regional consortium is its exceptional research capacity, Cardinale said.
More than 200 principal investigators at partner universities will share their intellectual and research capabilities, including 10 field stations, a fleet of 12 research vessels, more than a dozen engineering and design labs, a well-coordinated system of 38 mooring stations, mobile platforms and remote-sensing systems, and an unprecedented set of specialty labs in genomics, GIS/remote sensing, high-performance computing and physical/chemical analyses.
“The Great Lakes are too vast, and the problems too complex, for any one university to tackle alone,” Cardinale said. “We are very fortunate to have an outstanding group of top universities, as well as NGOs and private businesses, partner with us in forming the cooperative institute.
“This group has committed to work together with NOAA to strive for sustainability of the Great Lakes. So, while the new institute will be hosted at U-M, it’s really all about partnerships that are a boon for research throughout the Great Lakes as a whole.”
The research program includes private-sector partnerships with environmental consulting firms, technology development companies, Great Lakes industries and nongovernmental organizations that will help accelerate the transition of scientific research into applications.