Coleman praises Great Lakes research
Proposed center comprised of several agencies would focus
on various specialties
By Dave Gershman
Ann Arbor News
Published September 29, 2005
Diving deeper into research on the Great Lakes, the University
of Michigan is working with five Ann Arbor-based organizations
that study the lakes to create a consolidated research
center on North Campus, U-M President Mary Sue Coleman
The center would bring the five agencies together in
one facility that would host 300 scientists and policy
U-M was once the pre-eminent center of Great Lakes research,
but slipped from that position over the years. Coleman
wants U-M to retake a lead role in research on the lakes,
which contain one-fifth of the world's fresh water, because
their health is so important to the state's economy.
Speaking in Ann Arbor Wednesday before the Great Lakes
Commission, a bi-national agency dedicated to the protection
of the lakes, Coleman said she sees great potential for
the facility proposed for North Campus.
"At Michigan, we love the synergy that comes when
faculty and students work across academic borders, because
we know interdisciplinary research leads to new discoveries
and new knowledge,'' Coleman said, according to a written
text of her remarks. "I believe the proposed Great
Lakes Research Facility has that same potential, and the
U-M is poised to support the greater collaboration it
offers in terms of research and teaching.''
It will be years, perhaps three or four, before the facility
can be created. Along with providing space for the Great
Lakes Commission, it would host the Great Lakes Fisheries
Commission, the state's Institute for Fisheries Research
and two federal offices - the Great Lakes Environmental
Research Laboratory, and the Great Lakes Science Center.
The agencies themselves won't merge; they will essentially
work out of the same building, but they could share laboratory
facilities and research libraries, saving money. They
currently work out of separate offices in Ann Arbor.
Each has a slightly different mission, but all conduct
research and policies that pertain to the lakes, from
how invasive species threaten the lakes to how much drinking
water communities outside the region should withdraw.
"We'd establish closer working relations with all
the different groups,'' said Thomas Crane, interim executive
director of the Great Lakes Commission. "We all compete
for limited resources. Being able to do joint funding
proposals would be a tremendous advantage.''
Researchers with different specialties would find it
easier to work together, which is necessary when tackling
problems in such a complex environment as the Great Lakes,
said Stephen Brandt, director of the National Oceanic
and Atmospheric Administration's Great Lakes Research
"You can't manage one component of the Great Lakes
without affecting all the other components of the Great
Lakes,'' Brandt said.
U-M staff also would work in the facility, and the five
agencies would have greater access to U-M resources and
graduate students than they do now.
Many details remain to be worked out - such as how the
facility would be funded, and whether it would be in a
brand-new building. Backers hope to secure some capital
funding from the state.
Brandt said it would be the only such facility in the
region and would attract visiting scientists.
Reporter Dave Gershman can be reached at (734) 994-6818