Wisconsin's Public Liberal Arts College

Historical Projects


Lake Superior Research Institute

Historical Projects

1970s Top of Page

The major areas of research and environmental education focused on:  evaluating the western Lake Superior watershed for the effects of red clay erosion on water quality by monitoring vegetative cover, soil content, hydrology, and impacted aquatic life; atmospheric monitoring of air quality for Superior, Wisconsin through measurements of suspended particulates, ozone, and the oxides of nitrogen and sulfur; monitoring the environmental status of the Duluth-Superior Harbor and western Lake Superior through fish surveys, chemical and geological assessments, biota inventories, and harbor development evaluations; and developing programs for pre-college students to explore scientific careers.  Example funding agencies during this decade were:  University of Wisconsin Resources Center, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, National Science Foundation, U.S. Department of the Interior, and Wisconsin Coastal Zone Management Program.

1980s Top of Page

The major areas of research and environmental education focused on:  development of aquatic and sediment bioassay procedures; large-scale aquatic toxicity testing of industrial and agricultural chemicals for the development of toxicological databases and predictive toxicological models; development of freshwater criteria documents and protocols for selected chemicals; monitoring fish and plankton populations in the Great Lakes and inland lakes; assessing trace organic compounds in the environment; air quality monitoring; conducting bioassessments of exotic species in the western Lake Superior watershed; designing pond ecosystems for field evaluations of environmental contaminants; evaluating biodegradation technologies used for aquatic risk assessments; and the expansion of pre-college educational programs that added student internship projects in environmental research.  The acquisition of the RV L.L. Smith Jr. broadened the Institute's capability to teach aquatic environmental principles through ecology cruises.  Example funding agencies during this decade were:  U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Battelle Memorial Institute, University of Wisconsin Sea Grant College Program, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, and various private environmental consulting firms.

1990s Top of Page

Education became more of a focus, as efforts of public environmental outreach programs were developed through: the University of Wisconsin Elderhostel Program (learning experiences for senior citizens), environmental workshops for primary and secondary grade students, ecology cruises for students and the general public, the Envirovet Program (a collaborative effort with the University of Illinois where Institute staff trained veterinarians, veterinary students, and wildlife biologists on principles of ecosystem health), and an assessment of human populations at risk due to environmental contaminants (programs were designed for Native American communities monitoring fish consumption).  New initiatives for developing large-scale consortiums for collaborative environmental problem solving emerged as Institute staff provided support to the St. Louis River System Remedial Action Plan and the International Joint Commission.  Institute research projects continued in the areas of:  toxicological testing; development of freshwater aquatic criteria for chemicals in the environment; microbial degradation of chemical contaminants using field studies and mesocosms; and exotic species monitoring.  New research initiatives were begun in the areas of:  chemical analyses of mercury and heavy metals in aquatic and terrestrial life; development of sediment bioassay procedures; studying and assessing the metabolic processes in fish; ecological monitoring of macroinvertebrate populations as an indicator of ecological health and the effects of ballast water on ecosystem dynamics.  Example funding agencies during this decade were:  Superior School District, Eisenhower Professional Development, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, Chemical Manufacturers Association, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Great Lakes Protection Fund, Northeast-Midwest Institute, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

2000s Top of Page

New research initiatives emerged, as the Institute received funding for the largest biological monitoring study in its 30+ year history in 2001.  In cooperation with the Great Lakes National Program Office of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Institute staff monitor the chlorophyll, benthic, and plankton communities throughout the Great Lakes.  Changes in the diversity and abundance of these populations can indicate degradation in ecosystem health.  Ecological trends are examined as data are compiled into spreadsheets, graphs, and GIS maps.  The Ballast Water Treatment Demonstration Project, which began in 2005, examines the effects of ballast treatment technologies to minimize the introduction of exotic species by commercial ships.  This study has an international focus, as it draws together scientists and policy analysts from interdisciplinary expertise.  Macroinvertebrate monitoring efforts increased, as Institute staff conducted field surveys of rare and endangered species, surveys on chemically contaminated sites, and macroinvertebrate assessments on areas that had been environmentally reclamated.  Environmental education expanded during this decade, as large-scale efforts to train land-use managers, secondary education teachers, citizens' monitoring groups, and the general public in community water resource issues emerged through projects such as the Western Lake Superior Nemo Program, A View from the Lake, and Watershed Connections.  Research efforts in aquatic and sediment toxicity testing continued with projects involving nonylphenol, tire shreds, landfill effluent, and contaminated sites within the Lake Superior Watershed.  Chemical monitoring of contaminants in fish and other aquatic life continues to be a priority for the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission.  A survey of native and invasive plant species contained in the western Lake Superior Watershed was begun in 2006.  Example funding agencies during this decade are:  Great Lakes National Program Office of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Grand Portage Reservation, and the Minnesota Department of Transportation.


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