We love water (and football)!! by Chelsea Weiskerger (Environmental Engineering)

Here’s a riddle – what do football and water quality have in common? Probably not a whole lot, but during the week of November 6, 2017, they shared Green Bay, Wisconsin.

The Green Bay Packers played the Detroit Lions on Monday, November 6. Less than 24 hours later, over 300 water quality, beach, and Great Lakes researchers arrived for the Great Lakes Beach Association/State of Lake Michigan conference. Policy-makers, resource managers, students, professors, and government researchers came together to discuss issues surrounding the Great Lakes basin, including water quality, harmful algal blooms, invasive species, and moving forward with conservation management plans for Lake Michigan.
I found myself at the conference to present a poster titled “Using Water Quality Parameters to Predict Light Attenuation in Western Lake Erie”. This was the product of a summer research fellowship that I completed in conjunction with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory and Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research. It involved a lot of statistics, and can be really powerful in helping us understand feedbacks between sunlight and water conditions in the Great Lakes region. The end predictive framework can be used in bigger models to help predict water quality and safety for humans, without having to actually sample water.

While at the conference, I also got to talk with other researchers about ideas for my dissertation work. It was fantastic to bounce ideas off of the leading experts in the field, and solidify some of my experimental thoughts.
I have attended the Great Lakes Beach Association conference in years past, but this year was different – there was more of a focus on social aspects of great lakes management. One of my favorite discussions from the conference went beyond technical research, to evaluate the progress that the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) has made in the management and restoration of ecosystems in the region. The project analyzed transcripts from interviews with governmental managers, to determine whether the goals of GLRI are being met, seven years after its implementation. The talk drew a large audience, and sparked several follow-up discussions regarding how we can better manage great lakes systems for future use.
There were several football-related conversations at the conference too, stemming from the game on November 6. Researchers came from both Wisconsin and Michigan, so there was some healthy competition, and the football game provided a nice icebreaker for everyone.
Many thanks to ESPP for supporting this trip – I had a wonderful experience at the 2017 GLBA/SOLM conference! I look forward to future similar conferences, where I can continue to share my ideas and learn more about research and outreach in the Great Lakes.

The blog of the Environmental Science and Policy Program at Michigan State University