PERM celebrates 25 years of serving the state

The Partnership for Ecosystem Research and Management (PERM) formed a quarter century ago so researchers could tackle rapidly emerging issues.

Michigan beach at sunset

Going strong for more than 25 years, the Partnership for Ecosystem Research and Management (PERM) between Michigan State University and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) helps create research that can be applied to rapidly emerging issues, including invasive species.

Since starting PERM, the relationship between MDNR and MSU has only gotten deeper, said Dan Eichinger, MDNR director. The more enmeshed we get in our ongoing research partnerships, the more we have come to depend on the work that is coming out of MSU.

Today, there are 15 PERM faculty members at MSU.

The partnership not only provides critical funding and access to research sites, but it also provides the platform to address our land-grant mission, said Doug Buhler, director of MSU AgBioResearch. The relationships that the partnership fosters are invaluable to working together to solve problems, create new opportunities and deliver our message to stakeholders.

PERM began as a relationship between MSU and the Fisheries and Wildlife divisions of MDNR. The partnership has expanded to include the MDNR Forest Resources Division and the Great Lakes Fishery Commission (GLFC).

The most recent relationship we’ve opened with the college is with MSU AgBioResearch to really try to understand more on chronic wasting disease, Eichinger said. We are trying to garner some of the world- class research on how our agency can respond to that disease and how we can push that information out.

The partnership has also contributed to the success of the GLFC, which coordinates fisheries research and fishery management among U.S. and Canadian agencies in charge of managing the Great Lakes. This was further enhanced by the creation of the MSU Quantitative Fisheries Center in 2005.

The modeling work that we’ve done on the fisheries and Great Lakes is really significant, Eichinger said. I can’t tell you the confidence it instills in anyone who has a management responsibility over a fishery system that big when you are able to model fish mortality, changes in water quality and all the underlying ecological changes we have perceived in the lakes over the past number of years. Eichinger, who holds a bachelor’s degree in political theory and constitutional democracy and a master’s degree in fisheries and wildlife from MSU, said PERM has become efficient at responding to immediate issues. Ultimately, he would like the MDNR and MSU to begin addressing potential issues before they emerge.

We’re really going to have to challenge ourselves to look over the horizon and anticipate challenges so we can schedule research that is going to help us answer some fundamental questions in anticipation of problems we foresee, he said.

This article was published in In the Field, a yearly magazine produced by the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources at Michigan State University. To view past issues of In the Field, visit For more information, email Holly Whetstone, editor, at or call 517-355-0123.

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