Global pressures on water is greatest issue facing the future of the Great Lakes, scientist believes

Regier credits MSU with helping to build cooperative network of fisheries scientists

Henry Regier, professor emeritus at the University of Toronto, received an honorary doctorate of science at MSU's graduation ceremony in December 2017.
Henry Regier, professor emeritus at the University of Toronto, received an honorary doctorate of science at MSU's graduation ceremony in December 2017.

Michigan State University recently recognized Henry Regier, professor emeritus at the University of Toronto, with an honorary doctorate of science at the Dec. 16, 2017, graduation ceremony.

Regier’s six-decade-long career contributed substantially to fisheries science and management in the Laurentian Great Lakes. As program leader for Michigan Sea Grant Extension, and a practitioner on Great Lakes Fishery and aquatic resource management, I was happy to have the opportunity to talk with Regier when he visited MSU’s East Lansing campus and I was inspired by our conversation.

Finding his life’s work  

Regier was born in the bush in Northern Alberta and grew up on a farm, and eventually completed an undergraduate degree at Queen’s University. Before he graduated, a faculty member suggested a summer job conducting stream surveys near Toronto, Canada. It was the summer stream survey job sampling for small trout that hooked Henry on a career in fisheries. The faculty member was a Cornell University alum, which eventually led Henry to a graduate program at Cornell in 1961.

As a graduate student, Regier worked with Cornell Cooperative Extension. He traveled around New York state helping farmers with farm pond management, mainly for bass, bluegill, and shiner. His office was in Fernow Hall, and he had one of the famous “attic” offices where when it snowed outside, it also snowed inside. After extensive renovation, Fernow Hall now is a LEED Gold Certified Sustainable Building.

As a doctoral student, Regier completed coursework in fisheries science (ecology), biometrics, and economics similar to what we now call environmental economics. After earning his doctorate, Regier held several different positions and eventually returned to Ithaca as the Assistant Unit Leader of what is now known as the U.S. Geological Survey Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit

Cooperative network key

Above all other aspects from his 60-plus year career in fisheries management, Regier emphasized how enjoyable and valuable the cooperative network of fisheries scientists working in the Great Lakes basin has been. He credited Michigan State University with stimulating this collaboration going back to the 1860s shortly after MSU was established. Over the years, he has felt at home wherever he traveled and also recognized all of the Land Grant universities in the Great Lakes basin have contributed to this impressive network of fishery scientists.

Greatest issue facing the Great Lakes

Regier also believes the impact of global pressures is the greatest issue facing the future of the Great Lakes. Global pressures on water for fish, industrial, human health, and other uses have the potential to impact the plentiful water resources of this region. Upon reflecting on his work, Regier views the contributions of his long career as being that of a scientist working to alleviate the impacts on ecosystem health of the Great Lakes. “This can be challenging and frightening,” he added. 

In wrapping up our conversation, I asked Regier what he was reading. He showed me a book from 1900s on lake whitefish production and said he was looking forward to learning more about the historical approach to fish stocking. A good reminder that even after 60 years of study, there are always new things to learn.

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.

Did you find this article useful?


You Might Also Be Interested In