Protecting the Great Lakes Ecosystem
The Laurentian Great Lakes is a truly exceptional ecosystem and resource—one that requires monitoring and protection. In 1972, the United States and Canada signed the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement to restore and protect the waters. The agreement was updated in 2012 to fortify water quality programs. As part of the agreement, administered in the United States by the Environmental Protection Agency, Lars G. Rudstam and Research Associate James Watkins, Natural Resources, are working with collaborators from Buffalo State University to study and monitor zooplankton, benthic invertebrates, and algae (chlorophyll) in the five Great Lakes.
The research aims to detect trends in abundance and species composition in key biological components of the Great lakes and the reasons for the trends. The team is also developing indicators of ecosystem health for the Great Lakes and discovering new invasive species. Cornell and Buffalo State researchers are collecting the data on the Great Lakes National Program Office month-long research cruises each April and August, aboard the Lake Guardian. The 180-foot ship has state of the art sampling equipment, including towed underwater vehicles with sensors for temperature, dissolved oxygen, light, particles, zooplankton, and chlorophyll, as well as onboard laboratory facilities. In addition to more traditional sampling methods, the team is exploring advanced technology—hydroacoustics and laser optical plankton counters—and comparing results to traditional measurements. Overall, these research efforts will improve the methods of study and lead to greater understanding and protection of the Great Lakes ecosystem.