NASA MUREP grant to fund study of Great Lakes vulnerability to global change
NASA’s Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP) Ocean Biology and Biogeochemistry (OCEAN) has awarded $750,000 to a multi-institution project to study the vulnerability of the Lake Huron ecosystem to global change.
Dr. Bill Currie, a professor at the U-M School for Environment and Sustainability, is co-principal investigator of the research project, along with Jason Martina, the project lead investigator in the Department of Biology at Texas State University. Other participating universities are Michigan Technological University, Michigan State University, University of Northern Iowa, and the University of Texas-Dallas.
The project has two primary goals. The first goal is to increase the participation of underrepresented minority students in earth sciences and remote-sensing and modeling research funded by NASA. The second goal is to assess changes in aquatic ecosystems around Lake Huron in response to pressures of nutrient inflow, invasive vegetation, and water-level changes over a 30-year period.
A cohort of minority students will travel to the Great Lakes region from Texas each summer to participate in this research. The students will be mentored and trained by Currie and other researchers from the participating universities.
“This is a great fit for SEAS because we are strongly committed to increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion in the fields of environment and sustainability research,” said Currie. “Undergraduate minority students from two Texas universities will be funded to travel to the Great Lakes region as part of this program, and they will have the opportunity to interact with Michigan students. Our hope is that the undergraduates from Texas may choose to apply to our graduate programs.”
Currie, who is interested in a wide range of sustainability issues in the Great Lakes region, noted that the project “will involve linking models and remote-sensing data across scales to understand the effects of nutrient delivery to coastal ecosystems and coastal waters. It’s interesting that the funds come through the NASA OCEAN category, but they agreed with us that Great Lakes coastal ecosystems are equally important.”
Water levels in the Great Lakes can fluctuate dramatically over time. Some of the fluctuations are believed to be tied to climate change, but the impact is difficult to predict. During periods of low water levels, emergent wetlands colonize the shoreline and act as a buffer against the inflow of excessive nutrients to the Great Lakes. During periods of high water, the wetlands are inundated, and that emergent coastal vegetation is eradicated. With unchecked inflows of nutrients into the lakes, large algae blooms can follow. As the algae decomposes, it robs the water of oxygen, leading to fish die-offs.
NASA’s MUREP program is designed to increase the number of underrepresented and minority undergraduates in STEM research fields.
This is an edited version of a press release produced by Texas State University. The original version can be read here.