Wisconsin Sea Grant Announces $2 Million to Fund Great Lakes Research, Including a Project at St. Norbert College

From Sea Grant, February 27, 2014
by Moira Harrington, moira@aqua.wisc.edu, 608-263-5371

Wisconsin Sea Grant today announced a $2 million omnibus grant to fund Great Lakes research, education and outreach, including a project at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and one at St. Norbert College.

"The world's largest freshwater system is at our borders. Lakes Superior and Michigan define our state's history, provide recreational opportunities and fuel our economy," Sea Grant Director Jim Hurley said. "A 2011 study found that 1.5 million jobs are tied to the lakes, with $62 billion in annual wages. Sea Grant's research, education and outreach is money well spent."

Flavobacterium columnare is a fish pathogen that can cause devastating losses for aquaculture operations. David Hunnicutt, associate professor of biology at St. Norbert College, has an ongoing project to explore the genetic makeup of the pathogen.

Professor Patrick Forsythe at UW-Green Bay will study the role wetlands play as refuge for fish. According to Forsythe, wetlands provide habitat for 90 percent of Great Lakes fish. He will look at how wetland degradation and wetland remediation affects the fishery.

The entire grant will support a total of 19 projects of exploration of the freshwater seas. In addition to the Green Bay- and De Pere-based work, scientists on the Madison, Milwaukee, Oshkosh, Stevens Point and Superior campuses of the University of Wisconsin System, as well as at Northland College and Marquette University will be engaged. Exploration of Wisconsin's shipwrecks through a longtime partnership between Sea Grant and the Wisconsin Historical Society is also part of this package.

In other projects, researchers will look at the health of the waterways, methods to prevent Great Lakes beach contamination, the impact of aquatic invasive species on the lakes' food webs and more.

Nearly 100 researchers, staff and students will be engaged in this work, said Hurley. The National Sea Grant College Program, which is administered through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce, is the source of the grant. "Our program is one of the nation's oldest and robust. In our 46th year, we are grateful to play a role in the sustainable use of the Great Lakes through science-based, unbiased information."

Wisconsin is home to one of 33 Sea Grant programs, located in all coastal states, Puerto Rico and Guam. Hurley said an important asset of such a comprehensive network is the ease of collaboration with neighboring states to leverage funding. In the next two years, Wisconsin will partner with the Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant Program to explore how the health of wetlands around Lake Michigan affects fish populations.

The Wisconsin Sea Grant projects include 15 all-new research undertakings, and four that are continuing from the previous funding cycle.

For more information about St. Norbert's project, contact Hunnicutt at david.hunnicutt@snc.edu or 920-403-3200.