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The University of Wisconsin-Superior's Lake Superior Research Institute is a finalist for $971,714 in federal funding to work with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources in monitoring the condition of coastal wetlands, tributaries and near-shore waters of Lake Superior in northwestern Wisconsin.
Money for the project is part of the $161 million federal Great Lakes Restoration Initiative available through the Environmental Protection Agency. GLRI grants will fund projects that address the most important Great Lakes priorities, includinghabitat and wildlife protection and restoration, coastal wetland assessment,reducing toxic contaminants, restoring the Great Lakes Areas of Concern, protecting beaches and beachgoers, keeping out invasive species and reducing polluted land-based runoff.
LSRI is among 271 finalists invited by the EPA to submit final applications for funding. Final word on the grant is expected this summer.
"We're excited about this because little monitoring has been done on the Lake Superior coast," said LSRI researcher Amy Eliot. "The DNR has wanted to conduct an assessment of the Lake Superior basin for years but funding has not been available."
The three-year grant will enable LSRI scientists to work with the DNR to beginimplementing the agency's Lake Superior Near-Shore Monitoring Plan.
Eliot said LSRI scientists will establish 71 permanent monitoring sites for collecting biological, physical, and chemical data. Information collected from the sites will enable scientists to take a long-term look at the ecological condition of the coast so they can prioritize problems and manage and protect the resource.
Scientists will set up 17 monitoring stations in coastal wetlands and 34 stations in tributary streams. Most are located in Douglas and Bayfield counties, with remaining sites located in Ashland and Iron counties.
Scientists will use the stations to analyze water quality as well as observe the number, variety and health of invertebrates, plants, amphibians and birds. That information will be compiled into an index that reveals the overall "health" of a wetland or river and will be comparable to other work going on in the Great Lakes. The work will include analyzing the land cover in the watersheds around the estuaries.
LSRI researchers already are familiar with this type of research. Eliot and researcher Sue O'Halloran have spent the past several years working with coastal wetland health indicators developed by the Great Lakes Coastal Wetland Consortium, a group of scientists around the Great Lakes.
As part of the project, LSRI scientists also will establish monitoring stations in 20 near-shore areas of Lake Superior. Some stations will be locatednear manmade structures such as breakwalls while others will be located near the mouths of high-quality streams.They will monitor organisms that live in the lake water and bottom sediment and analyze the stomach contents of larval fish to gain a better understanding of the food web.
Eliot said LSRI scientists hope to begin the work this summer. Much of this year's effort will go toward planning but some stream monitoring is expected to occur. Field work will hit full stride over the next two years.
"It will involve a lot of field work, starting in April and Mayof 2011 with amphibian and bird monitoring and going through late summer and early fall doing invertebrate, plant and water quality monitoring in the estuaries," Eliot said. Winter will be spent analyzing samples and sharing data with other groups working around the Great Lakes.
Eliot and colleagues expect to give a public presentation on the results of the project in spring 2013.
The Lake Superior Research Institute conducts environmental research and provides environmental education and public information for the Great Lakes region. It is funded primarily through grants and other external funding. Scientists and staff members associated with LSRI possess a wide range of expertise in chemistry, biology, toxicology, microbiology, geology, statistics, database management, data processing, computer programming, and geographic information systems. Many UW-Superior students participate in LSRI research as research assistants or interns.
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