Great Lakes Science Plan Among Highlights from IJC Boards at Conference

Photo of Rachel Wyatt
Rachel Wyatt
Gail Krantzberg Great Lakes Science Plan IAGLR 2024

For a week in May, it wasn’t just the fish making a splash at the Windsor, Ontario, waterfront. 

The International Joint Commission (IJC) staff and board members joined the International Association for Great Lakes Research’s (IAGLR) annual conference from May 20-24. Hundreds of researchers and water quality professionals, including representatives from government agencies and private industry, participated in presentations, discussions and events. 

Members of various IJC boards across the Great Lakes and IJC staff were among the presenters.  

Great Lakes Water Quality Board member Kelsey Leonard provided a plenary talk on Indigenous-led conservation and legal innovation with the Great Lakes ecosystem. Leonard focused on efforts and the legal frameworks of Earth Law, which seeks to restore water health and responsibilities.  

Attendees also could catch presentations from the Health Professionals Advisory Board (HPAB),  Great Lakes Science Advisory Board (SAB) and Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Adaptive Management Committee (GLAM). 

Toward a Great Lakes Microbial Water Quality Assessment

HPAB co-chairs Tom Edge and Joan Rose led a session on how new technologies, such as advances in pathogen detection and enhanced analytical capabilities using artificial intelligence, could better our understanding of the human health risks posed by changes in microbial water quality in the Great Lakes. 

The connection between microbial water quality and human health is of great interest to HPAB, which advises the IJC on public health issues related to transboundary environmental health. HPAB is exploring ways to better implement molecular water quality assessment methods across the basin, including the use of cutting-edge DNA to pinpoint the sources of microbial pollution

Great Lakes Science Plan 
IAGLR attendees packed the room to participate in the Great Lakes Science Advisory Board’s session focusing on developments toward the Great Lakes Science Plan, which looks to set a roadmap to fill key science gaps over the next generation.

Project co-leads Val Klump and Gail Krantzberg kicked the session off with an update on progress toward developing the Science Plan and the work ahead. In coming months, they will host a series of workshops to confirm science gaps and needs, identify sustainable governance arrangements and estimate the needed level of investment in a basinwide Science Plan. The first of these workshops took place in early June, bringing together experts from across the basin for the first of two discussions to explore government and management options for the proposal. 

The Science Plan highlighted how other board projects dovetail into the overarching need for a comprehensive Science Plan, including explorations of winter science gaps and needs and the status of microplastics in the Great Lakes, how to enhance community science efforts, an early warning system to detect water quality threats and work to incorporate Traditional Ecological Knowledge into the IJC’s fulfillment of its responsibilities under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. 

iaglr information table 2024 great lakes conference

The IJC information table at the International Association of Great Lakes Research annual conference. Credit: IJC staff

Supporting Great Lakes Adaptive Management  

The long history of binational water management in the Great Lakes has resulted in a unique evolution of hydroclimate data, models and their applications to water management. Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Adaptive Management committee members led a day-long session at IAGLR about the latest advances in hydroclimate data for adaptive management in the Great Lakes.

Robust hydroclimate data provides the foundations of the committee’s adaptive management framework, which helps support decision-making by the IJC and the International Lake Superior Board of Control, International Niagara Board of Control and International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board of Control. Hydroclimate modeling is critical to GLAM’s work on the continued monitoring of regulation plan performance, including its current Expedited Review of Plan 2014 for Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River. GLAM’s work on Plan 2014 has led to advances in ice forecasting, future climate change scenarios and machine learning applications. 

The IJC’s boards plan to be back near year at the 2025 IAGLR annual conference in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 


Photo of Rachel Wyatt
Rachel Wyatt

Rachel Wyatt is the communications officer at the IJC’s Great Lakes Regional Office.