2015 State of the Strait conference offers ideas for future work

Scientists, educators and environmental advocates discuss science and data in the St. Clair-Detroit River System.

More than 100 scientists, environmental advocates, educators and students met on Dec. 9, 2015, at the State of the Strait conference to discuss science and data in the St. Clair-Detroit River System (SCDRS).

The purpose of this binational conference that convenes every two years is to provide a venue for participants to work to understand historical ecosystem conditions and assess current ecosystem status in order to achieve a better future for the SCDRS. Michigan Sea Grant helps plan the conference as a member of the steering committee. A State of the Straits report with extended abstracts, conference outcomes and recommendations will be published in 2016.

“The conference provided an opportunity for participants to explore current efforts and new ways to maximize the effectiveness of conservation efforts and incorporate socioeconomic factors into regional conservation planning,” said Steve Francoeur, conference co-chair and biology professor at Eastern Michigan University.

Presentations at this year’s conference included a discussion of a “blue accounting” framework led by Steve Cole of the Great Lakes Commission. Blue accounting is a strategy being employed by the commission to enable the Great Lakes community to create a consensus-based set of desired goals for Great Lakes water resources management; identify a logical set of strategic actions and process metrics for evaluating the effectiveness of the actions; determine how much and what types of data and information are necessary to support the selected process metrics; and optimize investments in regional information infrastructure.

Another interesting presentation was by Doug Pearsall of The Nature Conservancy, on developing a shared vision for conservation in western Lake Erie. The presentation encouraged further discussion on creating a process for identifying areas that are most important for restoration conservation efforts.

Other presentations covered topics including Lake Erie’s Biodiversity Conservation Strategy, The Upper Midwest and Great Lakes Landscape Conservation Cooperative and Coastal Wetland Conservation Design, Nutrient/eutrophication Dynamics Research in Western Lake Erie, and the EPA National Coastal Condition Assessment.

Common themes throughout the day included:

  • The need for setting a common agenda with agreed-upon goals, objectives and metrics for measuring success.
  • The need to share information with like-minded organizations to reduce duplication and increase collaborative opportunities.
  • Recognizing that more work needs to done on human well-being metrics and data in the region.
  • The role and importance of adaptive management.

For more about the State of the Strait conferences, including proceedings from past conferences and the 2016 report, visit the University of Windsor website.

Michigan Sea Grant helps to foster economic growth and protect Michigan’s coastal, Great Lakes resources through education, research and outreach. A collaborative effort of the University of Michigan and Michigan State University and its MSU Extension, Michigan Sea Grant is part of the NOAA-National Sea Grant network of 33 university-based programs.

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