From many perspectives, it appears that Michigan’s environment is under attack.
Residents have experienced or read about lead in public drinking water, invasive fish and other species in our lakes, and cancer-causing PFAS chemicals in our groundwater.
“But knowledge, education and science are the first steps to making sure that we protect people from these threats, and that’s what you do here at Central Michigan University,” said U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint Township during his keynote address at CMU’s fifth annual Great Lakes Science in Action Symposium.
Through lectures in classrooms, experiments in laboratories, and research by the 30 faculty members of the
Institute for Great Lakes Research and at the
Biological Station on Beaver Island, CMU is finding answers to these threats, said Kildee, a graduate of CMU.
Kildee emphasized that knowledge developed through research is key to informing policymakers and helping them pass that knowledge in a way the public can understand.
“This is all connected,” he said. “You are doing really important work here, and that’s what makes me so proud to be a Chip.”
He emphasized how the water of the Great Lakes is vital not only to our lives, but also to our economy.
Kildee praised the recent ruling by the federal government to continue funding the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. That decision was aided by a
study conducted by CMU and the University of Michigan that estimated
every GLRI dollar spent on lakeshore community restoration projects from 2010-16 will produce $3.35 of additional economic output in the Great Lakes region through 2036. The initiative launched in 2010.
Kildee also praised CMU as the recognized leader in studying the Great Lakes. CMU is overseeing its second $10 million EPA grant since 2010 to conduct Great Lakes wetlands research and allocates funds through this grant to nine other universities and three governmental agencies.
Following Kildee’s address, panels of legislative aides and representatives from the IGLR addressed Great Lakes-related issues.
In introducing the panel discussion on the impact of public policy on the Great Lakes, Ian Davison, interim senior vice provost for academic affairs and professor of biology, said that although our legislative process isn’t ideal, without those laws the Great Lakes would be immeasurably worse than they are today.
He noted Central’s role in informing public policy, a comment backed up by panelist Jordan Dickinson, senior legislative assistant to Kildee. He visited Beaver Island to learn about the impact of invasive species to help Kildee make informed policy decisions.
A second panel focused on training the next generation of Great Lakes scientists and emphasized that research is key to the education experience.
Usazrski said someone told him the Biological Station seemed to be focusing more on research and less on education.
“That was hard to digest,” he said, “because classroom education goes along with field research. We can’t replicate in the classroom what happens in the field.”
Here’s a look at Great Lakes-related CMU research in 2018: