In addition to the most basic need for safe drinking water, the availablity of good quality freshwater affects nearly every aspect of modern life, including energy resources, food production, transportation, manufacturing, and recreation, as well as supporting ecological well-being and the ecosystem services on which life depends.
It is increasingly apparent that freshwater is the “defining resource of the 21st century”, and the critical need for water resources management is highlighted in the recently released UNESCO World Water Development Report. Water is central to economic development, as outlined for the Great Lakes region in several Brookings Institute reports, among others, and is the primary resource underlying the so-called “blue economy”. Both the driving need for and practical benefits of good water management are especially apparent in the Great Lakes, which hold nearly 20% of the available freshwater reserves on the earth, and stands to gain long-term, significant economic benefits with sustainable management practices.
 Prudmomme, Alex, The Ripple Effect: The Fate of Freshwater in the Twenty-First Century, Scribner, New York (2011).
Department of Biological Sciences
Dr. Trevor Krabbenhoft joined UB in January 2018 as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences. His research is focused on how fish respond to environmental change, including climate change, non-native species, contaminants, and overfishing. His central aim is to understand what fish can tell us about aquatic ecosystem health and help us key in on emerging issues.
Dr. Krabbenhoft’s research involves testing conceptual hypotheses and addressing applied issues related to aquatic systems. Much of his research involves the use of functional genomics and bioinformatics to address these questions at a mechanistic level, with the aim of refining predictions for future environmental change scenarios. This research has important management and conservation implications both locally for Great Lakes and more broadly for aquatic ecosystems in general.
This work relies heavily on interdisciplinary collaborations with other water-focused researchers locally at the University at Buffalo through the RENEW Institute, as well as globally with colleagues around the world.
Dr. Krabbenhoft teaches classes in ecology, evolution, and genetics at the undergraduate and graduate levels at the University at Buffalo.
Dr. Krabbenhoft received a B.S. in Zoology from North Dakota State University and an M.S. from the University of South Carolina. From there, he moved to the University of New Mexico where he received a Ph.D. on the reproductive timing and functional genomics of desert fishes. He has since conducted postdoctoral research at the University of New Mexico, Texas A&M University, and Wayne State University, focusing on ecological and population genomics of imperiled fishes, including in the Great Lakes. An emerging theme from his research is that many of the issues that plague arid-land rivers also affect the water-rich Great Lakes basin, despite being at opposite ends of the water-availability spectrum. This observation suggests the global relevance of these issues in a changing world.
The overall societal and scientific challenge we will address is sustainable management of freshwater coastal ecosystems, including ecosystem services for human and ecological health, and maintaining coastal geomorphic and socio-economic resilience in the face of future and uncertain stressors. These issues span a wide range of topics that require multidisciplinary approaches. “Grand challenges” that will guide development of this focus area include:
· What do we need to know to manage coastal sustainability?
· How do humans interact with freshwater ecosystems?
· How can we predict, plan for, prevent, and mitigate the impacts of HABS?
· How can we insure coastal health and resilience?
· How can we optimize the economic benefit of freshwater resources?
The long-term goal is development of an internationally recognized interdisciplinary center of excellence for freshwater coastal ecosystem science, engineering, management, and socio-economic impacts, with a focus on the Lower Great Lakes region.
This vision includes topics in freshwater quality and quantity, pollution source identification and reduction, modeling fate and transport of pollutants while developing advanced capabilities for forecasting with uncertainty and contributing to adaptive management, human/natural system interactions, and support of the “blue economy”, among others.
Primary long-term objectives include:
· Integrate human/natural system interactions in a modeling framework to better understand the role of water on human and ecological health under uncertain future climate scenarios, and to support management decision-making;
· Integrate expertise in uncertainty quantification and hydrodynamic/ecological modeling to create a unique intellectual resource that can impact understanding and modeling of the Great Lakes and other freshwater systems, to evaluate impacts of water use and extreme event management;
· Develop effective management strategies for freshwater resources, and promote adaptive management;
· Become a global leader in transdisciplinary and trans-boundary water governance; and
· Create infrastructure and innovation to support a “blue economy” for Buffalo and Western New York.
This focus area is a collaborative effort among faculty representing a wide range of expertise across several decanal units to address broad issues in resource management of coastal freshwater ecosystems, particularly considering uncertain future environmental conditions. These issues include the following system components:
· Physical – coastal hazards, extreme meteorological events, geomorphological impacts,
· Chemical – pollution from nutrients and persistent organics, emerging contaminants,
· Biological – eutrophication, algae blooms food web interactions, invasive species, and
· Social – economic resilience, human health, policy, and management.
Our initial focus on the New York portions of Lakes Erie and Ontario and their watersheds, serves as an important living laboratory and provides a place-based focus. This focus on freshwater coalesces a strong existing base of diverse faculty to develop coordinated, multidisciplinary approaches for research, education, and outreach in the science and management of coastal ecosystems. Near-term anticipated faculty hires in areas including aquatic ecology, limnology, air pollution, coastal engineering, and environmental economics will extend our ability to address a wider range of problems and compete for multidisciplinary funding opportunities.
The long-term goal of this focus area is development of an internationally recognized center of excellence in freshwater coastal ecosystem science, engineering, and policy, focusing on ecosystem quality and services, sustainable management, human and ecosystem health, and local and global responses to a changing environment. The major underlying theme is the reciprocal relationship between the human and natural subsystems. Human activities impact water quality through generation and dispersal of pollutants into the environment, which in turn have a direct impact on the coastal ecosystem. Direct and indirect anthropogenic loadings (industrial, municipal, agricultural, and stormwater runoff, air pollution), are the main pollutant sources, and the main contributors to degraded water quality. Water quality, along with natural system drivers, strongly impacts coastal ecosystem health and sustainability, affecting responses such as harmful algal blooms (HABs) and the ability of the system to sustain human and environmental health, and provide a variety of ecosystem services. Coastal resiliency is considered a function of the interactions between ecosystem (human and natural) health and natural processes such as geomorphological changes that might affect coastal protection and development. Managing this system involves controls on pollutant input and physical changes within the context of uncertain natural driving forces, including climate change. This focus area seeks to promote understanding of the relationships affecting coastal resilience, as and how resilience can be managed.