Springtime is a season for change; in the Great Lakes, as temperatures climb and ice melts, the lakes “turn over” and their waters mix, replenishing oxygen and nutrients throughout the water column. Similarly, turnover in members and leaders of IJC Great Lakes advisory boards brings new expertise and resources to ongoing and new projects this spring. The boards have been able to overcome logistical challenges of COVID-19 to continue forging ahead on projects and reports.
After more than six years of service, four as US co-chair of the Great Lakes Science Advisory Board’s Research Coordination Committee (RCC), Dr. Deborah Lee has turned over her seat to Ohio Sea Grant College Program director Dr. Christopher Winslow.
“While I continue to co-chair the IJC’s Lake Champlain-Richelieu River study board, I am confident that the RCC remains in capable hands under Dr. Winslow’s leadership,” said Lee, who is director for the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory. The RCC members are government and nongovernment research managers and the board provides research advice to the IJC and Great Lakes Water Quality Board. Winslow leads the committee along with Dr. Gavin Christie, RCC Canadian co-chair and division manager at the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans Great Lakes Laboratory for Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences.
“It is my privilege to provide leadership on projects like the Decadal Great Lakes Science Plan that aims to map out the research needed to support restoration decisions,” Winslow said.
After circulating a set of two surveys this past fall and winter, the Science Advisory Board will hold a virtual expert workshop this spring as it continues to identify components of the science plan. Another RCC project identifying gaps in knowledge and research on Great Lakes connecting waters is expected to wrap up this year.
McMaster University Professor Dr. Gail Krantzberg is already a familiar member of the IJC Great Lakes family, serving as director of the IJC’s Great Lakes Regional Office in Windsor, Ontario, from 2001 to 2005. Now, Krantzberg is succeeding River Institute Executive Director Dr. Jeffrey Ridal as Canadian co-chair of the Great Lakes Science Advisory Board’s Science Priority Committee (SPC).
The SPC consists of predominantly academic and nongovernment scientific experts and, like the RCC, advises the IJC and the Great Lakes Water Quality Board on specific scientific questions. Krantzberg joins Dr. Carol Miller, US co-chair and director of Healthy Urban Waters at Wayne State University, to lead the SPC.
Reflecting on his seven-year tenure on the SPC, Ridal said, “I am proud of our accomplishments advancing understanding of important Great Lakes water quality priorities and emerging issues, including reporting on potential impacts of crude oil transport and the cumulative impact of interacting ecosystem stressors.”
“Science and its policy implications are indivisible, and I am privileged to collaborate with my colleagues from across the IJC advisory boards on our cutting-edge projects,” said Krantzberg.
In addition to collaborating with the RCC on the Decadal Great Lakes Science Plan, the SPC is working with the RCC, the Great Lakes Water Quality Board and the Health Professionals Advisory Board on phase two of developing a Great Lakes Early Warning System to anticipate and respond to potential ecological threats, among other ongoing projects.
The SPC continues to discuss the findings and recommendations of its 2020 report “Understanding Declining Productivity in the Offshore Regions of the Great Lakes” with water quality and fisheries experts and managers. A short video summarizes the report’s findings and recommendations, with a longer video providing details from experts who conducted research supporting the report’s conclusions.
This spring, the IJC Great Lakes Water Quality Board (WQB) completed the telephone survey for its third Great Lakes Basin Poll. Building on its first poll in 2015 and second poll in 2018, the third poll will expand beyond the telephone survey data to include an online poll this summer. The final report is expected later this year.
Building on its series of webinars seeking feedback on its 2019 report on “Oversight of Animal Feeding Operations for Manure Management in the Great Lakes,” the WQB will continue this work into the next few years, exploring next steps toward implementation of a Great Lakes manure management framework. The WQB also continues its work on understanding decommissioning of nuclear facilities in the Great Lakes basin. The final report is expected in mid-2021.
Finally, the Health Professionals Advisory Board (HPAB) expects to release two long-term project reports this year, including its two-phase study understanding the patterns of acute gastrointestinal illness from drinking water sources in the Great Lakes, and a phase one report of a proposed basinwide water quality study that explores various sources of transboundary water contamination.
The HPAB and the SPC also will continue partnering with the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne’s Environmental Program to explore approaches supporting a fish consumption advisory framework that considers a wider set of factors and address the concerns of fishers and Indigenous nations around the St. Lawrence River Area of Concern.
Allison Voglesong Zejnati is public affairs specialist at the IJC’s Great Lakes Regional Office in Windsor, Ontario.