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Great Lakes Article:

Coleman praises Great Lakes research plan
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 said Wednesday.

The center would bring the five agencies together in one facility that would host 300 scientists and policy analysts.

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 Laboratory.

"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 or dgershman@annarbornews.com.


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