Research vessel AquariusThe RV Aquarius, a 40-foot research vessel that can deploy a variety of water and biological sampling devices, electronic monitoring equipment, and lake-bottom-imaging devices, is among the GLC’s fleet.

Great Lakes Center Plans for the Future

The Great Lakes Center’s (GLC) Strategic Plan for 2009 to 2014 defines the center as “a multidisciplinary research, education, and service institute with a primary focus on the Great Lakes.” While conducting research is the major responsibility of all GLC personnel, that research also helps to fulfill the center’s education and service goals.

GLC facilities include a waterfront site on the Black Rock Canal where the Lake Erie Field Station, the Dick Smith Teaching Pavilion, and the college’s fleet of research vessels are located. The Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry Lab is located in the Science Building, along with the Watershed Research and Aquatic Ecology labs.

GLC personnel include director Alexander Y. Karatayev; office assistant Cathy Nasca; and full-time research scientists Lyubov Burlakova, Subodh Kumar, Sergey Mastitsky, and Jagat Mukherjee. Three GLC research scientists also hold half-time faculty positions: Christopher Pennuto, associate professor of biology; Alicia Perez-Fuentetaja, associate professor of biology; and Charlotte Roehm, assistant professor of geography and planning. Caleb Basiliko is the boat captain and research fleet manager; Mark Clapsadl is the field station manager, research scientist, and a boat captain. Many other faculty members are affiliated with the GLC.

“Most of the research we do is collaborative,” said Karatayev, the center’s director since 2007. Karatayev, who earned two doctoral degrees—a doctor of philosophy and a doctor of science—in hydrobiology from the Belarusian State University, has longstanding associations with researchers around the world. He belongs to several professional societies including the American Society of Limnology and Oceanography, the International Association for Great Lakes Research, the International Research Consortium on Molluscan Symbionts, and the International Group on Aquatic Alien Species. One of his research interests is invasive species, including the zebra mussel.

The GLC accomplishments over the past five years include extensive publications and presentations, $3.8 million in funded research, advisement of 30 graduate students, and many opportunities for undergraduates to participate in GLC projects. The GLC also offers its resources to help all departments on campus to “fulfill their teaching missions.”

To achieve its goal of being recognized as “a regional, national, and international center for research excellence in aquatic and watershed studies,” the GLC is taking measures to advance its reputation. The center has already joined a group of American and Canadian agencies that are cooperating on a long-term project to evaluate trends in water quality and to provide early detection of non-native species in Lake Erie. The project is expected to provide sorely needed data to scientists and policymakers, to increase the interactions between GLC personnel and entities responsible for monitoring all environmental issues relating to the lake, and to ensure that the GLC is at the forefront of emerging issues.

Much of the research conducted at the GLC focuses on issues related to Lake Erie. However, Karatayev said that nationwide and international projects are also considered high priority, because many issues affecting the Great Lakes affect other bodies of water around the world. In addition, international projects expose GLC scientists to the cutting edge of modern science, facilitate collaboration, and greatly increase visibility of the center’s activity in the scientific community.

“In the thirteenth century, Vikings introduced the first North American invasive species to Europe,” Karatayev said. “The American crayfish is a big problem overseas, too.” He predicts that as water quality improves in developing countries, more aquatic species will flourish, and global trade routes will introduce them as invasive species around the world.

With interdisciplinary research already under way with collaborators around the world, the GLC is in a strong position to make an even greater contribution to the body of scientific knowledge.