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UB and 20 other U.S. and Canadian Universities Launch Great Lakes Protection Project

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The Great Lakes Futures Project will involve scholars and practitioners across the disciplines to outline alternative Great Lakes futures through science-based scenario analysis

Published June 19, 2014

“With the recent release of the revised Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, this is a critical time to take action, engaging across the disciplines and our border to chart a more protected future for this precious resource”
Kathryn Friedman, Research Professor of Law and Policy
UB Regional Institute

The University at Buffalo and 20 other U.S. and Canadian universities and institutions will join forces to propose a set of long-term research and policy priorities to help protect and restore the Great Lakes and train the next generation of scientists, attorneys, planners and policy specialists who will study them.

The Great Lakes Futures Project will involve scholars and practitioners across the disciplines to outline alternative Great Lakes futures through science-based scenario analysis. The project is an outgrowth of the Transborder Research University Network (TRUN), a consortium of research universities along the U.S.-Canada border region that UB President Satish K. Tripathi helped found in 2008 during his term as provost.

Kathryn Friedman, director of cross-border and international research and research professor of law and policy at the UB Regional Institute in the UB School of Architecture and Planning, will serve on the project's leadership team along with researchers at Western University and McMaster University in Ontario as well as the University of Michigan.

"With the recent release of the revised Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, this is a critical time to take action, engaging across the disciplines and our border to chart a more protected future for this precious resource," said Friedman, who serves as U.S. principal investigator on the initiative.

The Great Lakes Basin is home to more than 35 million people -- 30 percent of the Canadian population and 10 percent of the U.S. population. The economic output of the basin is one of the largest in the world (more than $4 trillion gross regional product), and the area is expected to grow by 20 million people over the next 20 years. While the basin contains more than 80 percent of the water in North America and 21 percent of the world's surface fresh water, demands from within and outside the basin are substantial and escalating.

This unprecedented collaboration of U.S. and Canadian academics, governments, non-government organizations, industry and private citizens will address such questions as "How can this water and watershed be managed?" and "What are the environmental, social, economic and political impacts of those management plans?"

In addition to Friedman, the Great Lakes Futures Project will be led by Irena Creed of Western University, Gail Krantzberg of McMaster University, and Donald Savia, director of the University of Michigan's Graham Sustainability Institute. The project will be managed by Katrina Laurent of Western University.

The assessment will begin with development of white papers outlining critical drivers of change in the Great Lakes Basin over the past 50 years and the next 50 years, including climate change, the economy, biological and chemical contaminants, invasive species, demographics and societal values, governance and geopolitics, energy and water quantity.

These papers will be developed by teams of graduate students from Canadian and U.S. universities under the mentorship of experts in Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin research. Students in UB's Department of Urban and Regional Planning will be among those participating under the guidance of Assistant Professor Himanshu Grover, whose research explores climate action planning and mitigation.

UB has been at the forefront of scientific research for the Great Lakes for decades through its Great Lakes Program. The Great Lakes Futures Project is intended to take UB's engagement to the next level through research that advances understanding of complex international policy.

These assessments will drive scenario analyses and policy briefs presented to government officials and residents of the Great Lakes region in both the U.S. and Canada. The Great Lakes Futures Project will also produce scholarly and popular publications and will conduct public events with schools and community groups. In addition, it has the potential to create a bi-national academic forum, research collaborations and a think tank. This initiative lays the foundation for two major federal grant opportunities for training of highly qualified personnel whowill work on improving the status of the Great Lakes.

Eighteen U.S. and Canadian universities and colleges have provided cash support to the project. They are: University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Wayne State University, University at Buffalo, Guelph University, McMaster University, Queens University, Trent University, University of Toronto, University of Windsor, Ryerson University, Waterloo University, Western University, York University, McGill University, Seneca College, Université de Montréal and the Université du Québec à Trois Rivière.

Funding also was provided by the Group for Interuniversity research in Limnology and Aquatic Environment, Michigan Sea Grant and New York Sea Grant.

The Transborder Research University Network expands and supports cooperation among research universities in the border region of Canada and United States through collaborative/consortial research; joint applications for external funding; cooperative academic programs; faculty and student exchanges; shared facilities, library materials and electronic resources; and joint conferences, symposia and workshops.

Learn more about the Transborder Research University Network at http://wings.buffalo.edu/intled/trun.