KEDA hosts Great Lakes center director

HOUGHTON – Michigan Technological University’s new Great Lakes Research Center is a key part of work to ensure the future vitality of the lakes, its director told the Keweenaw Economic Development Alliance board Wednesday.

The $25 million, 50,000-square-foot building opened in August. Four new faculty members were hired last year, with another two on the way, said Guy Meadows, director of Great Lakes Initiatives.

The research center has a distinctive arrangement. Meadows reports directly to the university’s vice president for research. However, faculty at the university still report to their respective departments.

“It’s a unique approach in university settings, it’s probably a unique approach in business settings, to have people work together because they want to, not because they’re required to,” he said.

The center’s major areas of focus are aquatic ecology and ecosystem dynamics, Great Lakes Research Center and marine operations, marine technology and engineering, aquatic resources and human dimensions, and education and outreach.

The Great Lakes have 84 percent of North America’s surface freshwater, with half coming from Lake Superior. But there are several concerns, including invasive species, nutrient pollution, habitat degradation and the number of western cities that will look to the Great Lakes to sustain their water use.

“This is certainly a compelling reason why to have a Great Lakes Resource Center and protect that resource,” Meadows said.

While Tech is capable of day trips with the Agassiz, the center is working in collaboration with the U.S. Geological Survey and other agencies to get a vessel capable of week-long trips. Other items include advanced sonar systems and advanced monitoring platforms.

Another area is deep water wind development, which will take advantage of greater wind speeds 15 to 20 miles offshore and free up valuable coastal land, Meadows said.

The group also has a series of partnerships with companies such as Kohler, with which it is studying areas such as sustainable water use, and Mercury Marine, which is now using the GLRC as a research facility.