Two U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) grants are helping a Wayne State University researcher keep new non-native invasive species out of the Great Lakes and minimize the impact of those that are already there.
Jeffrey Ram, Ph.D., professor of physiology in the WSU School of Medicine, received a two-year EPA grant of $520,000 in 2010 to verify the effectiveness of ballast water treatment systems aboard ships bound for the Great Lakes. The project's goal is to develop land-based, nonindigenous systems to assess how well shipboard ballast water treatment systems work, as well as how long they last.
A second two-year grant of $500,000 received in August 2011 will be used to test an early warning system in Toledo Harbor (Maumee River and Bay) and western Lake Erie for the entry of invasive species into the Great Lakes.
"Invasive species rob people of value, just as surely as outlaws in the Old West robbed banks," Ram said. "I like to think of stopping invasive species from damaging our environment as a way of achieving some environmental justice."
Both grants are part of the EPA's Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), a large, multitarget program that awarded $450 million in grants in 2010 and is in the process of awarding another $330 million this year.
Invasive species comprise one GLRI target, and treating ships' ballast water helps to prevent such invasions. The introduction of non-native organisms via commercial shipping has had enormous negative economic and ecological effects on the Great Lakes, Ram said. Ballast water discharge by ships from foreign fresh-water ports are believed to be the source of zebra and quagga mussels, gobies and other species.
Ballast water also can transfer pathogens, such as viral hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS), that harm Great Lakes fisheries. While dumping foreign fresh water ballast and refilling with ocean water might prevent some species from making the trip to
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Wayne State University - Office of the Vice President for Research