Central Michigan University Great Lakes researchers are taking the tedium out of identifying lab specimens of invertebrates found in Michigan coastal wetlands, such as larval insects and snails.
Their work got a recent boost when CMU's
Institute for Great Lakes Research received additional grants of $400,000 and $226,000 from the
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the
U.S. Geological Survey to help protect and improve Great Lakes coastal wetlands.
This is in addition to the current $20 million Great Lakes coastal wetland grant led by Don Uzarski, IGLR director.
The first $400,000 grant was obtained by faculty member Andrew Mahon and Uzarski, who are working to develop a bar code system using DNA that will let researchers quickly and accurately identify lab specimens. The coding can save countless hours spent looking through microscopes, and the data will be entered into a national database for broad use.
"The ecosystem is providing free services to us like flood storage, filtering toxicants and cleaning our drinking water." — Donald Uzarski
It's important that researchers learn everything possible about the invertebrates, said Uzarski. They not only are an important source of food for fish, but by studying them researchers can determine water quality and how human actions can harm the ecosystem, he said. For example, how the health of mussels relates to the health of the rivers and streams in which they live.
The other $226,000 will help search for signs of human impact on ecosystem functions, such as diminished fish reproduction or poorer floodwater retention, nutrient cycling and the filtering of toxic substances, Uzarski said.
The benefit of the institute's work extends beyond the environmental and into financial, he said.
"The ecosystem is providing free services to us like flood storage, filtering toxicants and cleaning our drinking water. How much would it cost us to do that?"