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October 30, 2006

Contact: Ben Sherman
(301) 713-3066 ext. 178

U.S. Commerce Secretary Announced $2.5 Million to University of Michigan to Develop Forecasting for Dead Zones in Lake Erie

U.S. Commerce Deputy Secretary David A. Sampson today in Detroit announced NOAA has awarded $506,190 as the first installment in a five-year $2.5 million grant to the University of Michigan. The grant will be used to forecast the formation of hypoxia, or low-oxygen conditions known as dead zones in Lake Erie, and its influence on lake ecology and fish production potential.

"This investment reinforces President Bush's commitment to the Great Lakes," said Sampson. "By investing in cooperative projects like this, we can maximize our understanding of this vital ecosystem and improve our conservation of it."

Scientists at the University of Michigan and the Cooperative Institute for Limnology and Ecosystems Research (CILER) are working to develop a set of state-of-the-art models to understand a complex array of potential causes including nutrient pollution, invasive species, and climate change, and provide management alternatives to alleviate this serious threat to living resources in Lake Erie. This approach aims to improve the reliability of forecasts by integrating output from different models, each with different strengths and weaknesses.

Input and feedback from the management community is critical to the success of this project and key representatives of relevant agencies have been included in the development of this project. Ultimately, a set of management and policy options will be produced along with uncertainty assessments and technical guidance for implementation of a given course of action.

The Great Lakes are a major resource to North America, containing 18 percent of the world's surface freshwater and 90 percent of the United States' surface freshwater. They serve as the focus for a multi-billion dollar tourist and recreation industry, supply 40 million people with drinking water, provide habitat for wildlife and fish, and support transportation and diverse agricultural production.

"This award is an example of how NOAA is expanding the development of ecological forecasting," said retired Navy Vice Adm. Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. "NOAA has long been a leader in the forecasting of weather, climate, and fish stocks. Ecological forecasting is a tool that synthesizes complex scientific information in a way that can support successful ecosystem approaches to the management of the nation's coasts, oceans, and Great Lakes."   

Lake Erie, the smallest by volume and shallowest of the Great Lakes, has historically experienced hypoxic, or low-oxygen conditions, often referred to as a dead zone because of its devastating impact on aquatic life. After a period of decline in hypoxic events during the 1980s and early 1990s, hypoxia has once again become a critical issue in the lower Great Lakes, especially western Lake Erie.

NOAA's Center for Sponsored Coastal Ocean Research (CSCOR) is committed to developing predictive capabilities for coastal ecosystems, and to supporting the transition of science results to management tools. This project will advance ecological forecasting capabilities in support of regional ecosystem-based management and NOAA’s ecosystem and climate goals, and is an example of the types of ecological forecasts that can be developed by top academic and NOAA scientists working in concert with coastal managers.

In fiscal year 2006, CSCOR provided approximately $10 million in competitive grants to institutions of higher education, state, local, and tribal governments, and other non-profit research institutions to assist NOAA in fulfilling its mission to study our coastal oceans. NOAA-sponsored competitive research programs such as Eco-Forecasting Program demonstrate NOAA's commitment to its historic responsibilities of science and service to the nation for the past 35 years.

In 2007 the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an agency of the U.S. Commerce Department, celebrates 200 years of science and service to the nation. From the establishment of the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey in 1807 by Thomas Jefferson to the formation of the Weather Bureau and the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries in the 1870s, much of America's scientific heritage is rooted in NOAA.

NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and information service delivery for transportation, and by providing environmental stewardship of our nation's coastal and marine resources. Through the emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), NOAA is working with its federal partners and more than 60 countries to develop a global monitoring network that is as integrated as the planet it observes.

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