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Last update: 7/17/08

[University of Wisconsin-Green Bay News Release]

For Immediate Release:

July 17, 2008

UW-Green Bay leads Great Lakes study with EPA grant

Photo: Prof. David Dolan.

GREEN BAY — The Environmental Protection Agency and UW-Green Bay Prof. David Dolan don’t want Green Bay — or any of the Great Lakes for that matter — getting too green.

To help control future algae blooms and excessive weed growth, the EPA wants to analyze the phosphorus loading levels of the Great Lakes.

Dolan received a $285,463 grant from the EPA recently to head the project, which looks to compile data and determine the amount of phosphorus entering the Great Lakes. The project is titled “Great Lakes Total Phosphorus Models and Loads: A Fifteen Year Update.”

Phosphorus, a chemical often found in natural and manmade fertilizers, promotes weed and algae growth in lakes, streams and rivers. Too much phosphorus can cause adverse effects on fisheries, shorelines and water quality, leading to declining angling opportunities, closing beaches, and unsafe drinking water.

“Through this grant we’ll be tracking the input of phosphorus into the Great Lakes,” Dolan said, referring to a team of researchers he’ll partner with. “It was done in the 1970s, but the funding for it stopped in the 1990s because the symptoms started to improve. Then, the phosphorus levels came back up.”

Phosphorus levels have been documented in Ontario, Canada, and the states surrounding the Great Lakes, but they have not recently been compiled in a centralized database, Dolan said.

Having the data compiled will allow researchers to determine how much phosphorus is entering the lakes above set lake goals. Officials can then start debate about what can and should be done to solve the problems, Dolan said.

“Nobody has put the data into the big picture,” he said. “There are target levels for each lake — how much phosphorus can go in without damaging it — but nobody has recently put the information together to compare it with the targets.”

When the two-year study is complete, officials in the United States and Canada can decide the best practices to reduce phosphorus loading in the most problematic areas and, potentially, reverse problematic effects.

The study will start in August, focusing on lakes Michigan and Huron. Lakes Ontario and Superior will be studied between 2009 and 2010. Data from Lake Erie is being compiled in a separate study and can be incorporated easily, Dolan said.

The grant will allow the opportunity for about a half-dozen UW-Green Bay students to have hands-on work. Dolan is looking to hire two graduate assistants and several undergraduate students to help with the study. Theresa Qualls, from the UW Sea Grant Institute at UW-Green Bay, is also providing research assistance.

The grant will also fund researchers from Tufts University in Massachusetts, an ecosystem modeler from LimnoTech Inc., in Ann Arbor, Mich., and a private systems analyst to maintain the database.

Prof. Dolan is a professor in UW-Green Bay’s Natural and Applied Sciences area. His specialty is statistics. He has conducted research on fish populations in northern Wisconsin lakes, and the ecological effects of abandoned mine sites in Colorado.

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08-164 | Contact: Mike Heine, (920) 465-2526

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