10.14.16

Peters, Stabenow & Colleagues Seek Information on NSF’s Great Lakes Research Priorities

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D-MI), along with Senators Debbie Stabenow (MI), Amy Klobuchar (MN), Tammy Baldwin (WI), and Sherrod Brown (OH), sent a letter to the National Science Foundation (NSF) to seek information on the agency’s Great Lakes research and education activities in light of a recent report guiding NSF’s research priorities. As the world’s largest system of freshwater lakes, it is imperative that the Great Lakes are an integral part of NSF’s ocean science research agenda.

“Given the importance of this region’s ecological stability to the national economy, we are interested in the NSF’s view on the impact the recent National Academy of Sciences report, Sea Change, will have on Great Lakes research and education opportunities in the future,” wrote the Senators. “The physical and economic scale of the Great Lakes region, and the overlap in research questions to those in the open ocean, suggest that the lessons from Sea Change may apply equally to the Great Lakes region.”

In 2014, the NSF requested a survey from the National Academy of Sciences in order to set research priorities for the next decade that will further scientific understanding of the oceans. The resulting report, Sea Change: A Decadal Survey of Ocean Sciences, 2015-2025, identifies eight high-level research priorities that are anticipated to be of greatest interest and relevance in the coming decade.Through this letter, the Senators are requesting information on how the priorities outlined in Sea Change can be applied to NSF’s future activities in Great Lakes basic research and education.

The letter also seeks additional information on funding and research for NSF’s Science, Engineering, and Education for Sustainability (SEES) initiative, which previously provided $1.8 million to researchers at Michigan Technological University to study renewable replacements for petroleum-based liquid transportation fuels. Also through SEES, NSF provided $1.9 million to the University of Michigan for research aimed at enhancing sustainability in coastal communities threatened by harmful algal blooms.

The full text of the letter is copied below and available here:

The Honorable France Córdova

Director

National Science Foundation

4201 Wilson Boulevard

Arlington, Virginia 22230      

           

Dear Dr. Córdova:

 

The Great Lakes region boasts a large geographic footprint, and is a strong driver of the North American economy. With economic output of $5.8 trillion, the region is responsible for nearly 1 million manufacturing jobs, and hundreds of thousands of jobs in tourism and recreation, shipping, agriculture, fishing, and food production. The Great Lakes region’s world-class fishery alone is valued at more than $7 billion annually.

 

As it is such an economically and socially important region, active research is ongoing in the fields of biology, chemistry, physics, and geology in an effort to understand the Great Lakes ecosystem. This work includes study of the natural processes that shape the ecosystem, as well as the effects of human activity on the lakes and their associated economic resources. This research includes subjects such as ensuring a reliable supply of clean water, study of invasive species like zebra mussels, long term coastal erosion monitoring, near-shore carbon-cycling processes, mitigation of heavy-metal-laden mining byproducts, and strategies for solving freshwater resource conflicts.

 

The NSF has provided several specific initiatives that offered opportunities to researchers and educators interested in the Great Lakes. One such example is the Coastal Science, Engineering and Education for Sustainability (SEES) program, which considered the North American Great Lakes eligible for participation. Additionally, NSF is funding a new site for the Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) program, which focuses on ocean or coastal ecosystems, and specifically included the Laurentian Great Lakes in this definition.

 

Given the importance of this region’s ecological stability to the national economy, we are interested in the NSF’s view on the impact the recent National Academy of Sciences report, Sea Change, will have on Great Lakes research and education opportunities in the future. The physical and economic scale of the Great Lakes region, and the overlap in research questions to those in the open ocean, suggest that the lessons from Sea Change may apply equally to the Great Lakes region. We would appreciate receiving information on the investment NSF has provided in recent years to support basic research and education activities related to the Great Lakes and information on future opportunities available to support Great Lakes related basic research and education activities.

 

We are all grateful for the efforts the Foundation makes on a continuing basis to maintain the health of the nation’s research enterprise, and we thank you for your continued commitment to science and education.