A PERManent future for natural resources

In 1993, the Partnership for Ecosystem Research and Management (PERM) program between Michigan State University and the Fisheries and Wildlife divisions of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) was formed.

November 11, 2013

In 1993, the Partnership for Ecosystem Research and Management (PERM) program between Michigan State University and the Fisheries and Wildlife divisions of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) was formed.

Twenty years later, it’s clear that PERM has done exactly what it was meant to do.

“The primary goal of the partnership was to enhance the research capability of our partner agencies by funding faculty positions that would attract experts to work on issues of relevance to the partners,” said Mike Jones, chair of MSU’s Fisheries and Wildlife Department. “We have clearly met this goal. PERM has supported 15 faculty members since its inception, and their research has made huge contributions to the mission of our partners.”

Jones points to critical advice and technical support for management of fisheries in tribal treaty waters of the Great Lakes, and research on natural compounds that have great potential to enhance sea lamprey control, as just two of the tangible results from the partnership.

“PERM faculty members have also provided key socioeconomic analyses of fish and wildlife recreational activities and their value to the state,” he said. “These are just a few of the results of 20 years of work.”

PERM's novel approach to promoting cooperation among its partners, facilitating cutting-edge natural resource research, and applying results to resource management soon attracted other partners including the MDNR's Forest Management Division, the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, and the U.S. Geological Survey.

PERM faculty members bring a common ecosystem perspective and emphasis on state-of-the-art qualitative and quantitative approaches to meet the needs of partner agencies. The research efforts of PERM faculty are augmented by graduate research assistants, visiting professors, academic specialists, postdoctoral associates, and undergraduate interns. In addition to addressing research needs of the partner organizations, PERM faculty provide significant technical and outreach expertise that serves agency information and technology transfer needs as well as builds capacity to make sustainable decisions about Michigan's ecosystems.

Jones said that the intangible outcomes of the partnership are equally, if not more, important.

“Perhaps the greatest intangible is the value that the agencies place on having experts that are familiar with their needs and issues, but who are able to offer an objective, third-party view on contentious issues,” he said. “We have also had many students who have been supported by PERM faculty and project funding, who have gone on to successful careers working for our partner agencies.”

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