Background of the Lake Millennium Network
Lake Erie is in a stage of transition, reflecting human and environmental influences simultaneously acting on a poorly understood system. Managers and the public wish to know how best to use and preserve this resource. Scientists are trying to understand the underlying processes involved in these changes.
The Network brings together leading workers on Lake Erie to summarize changes that have occurred in the last 10 years, project trends into the next 3-5 years, and address the most pressing questions facing Lake Erie decision makers.
We hosted a series of workshops in 1998 and 1999, attended by Lake Erie resource managers and concerned individuals to identify and ordinate the most pressing problems and data needs facing Lake Erie.
Concurrently, we contacted an international panel of scientists to bring together the state of scientific knowledge on Lake Erie, forecast trends for the next few years, and identify critical research gaps. They were asked to cast their special expertise in the context of the previously identified management and data needs. The resulting binational conference attracted more than 175 people. A series of ongoing workshops is now being convened. Participants are digesting these data, summarizing knowledge gaps, and developing proposals for research strategies that will provide the data needed resolve the critical management issues.
We have presented the strategy of the Lake Erie Millennium Plan to state, provincial, national and binational groups of managers and scientists active in Lake Erie issues, and all have been positive and supportive. We believe that the plan will be successful precisely because of the focus on inclusiveness. The following information summarizes the plans as envisioned and the interested parties that have been identified to date.
Mission and Objectives
The Lake Erie Millennium Network (LEMN) (as the Lake Erie Millennium Plan) was initiated in 1998 by scientists at the University of Windsor, National Water Research Institute - Burlington, F.T. Stone Lab of Ohio State University, and US-EPA Large Lakes Lab at Grosse Ile, MI, to foster and coordinate research that will identify and solve basic ecological questions relevant to the Lake Erie Ecosystem through a binational, collaborative network.
To be relevant to regional and binational groups responsible for Lake Erie's health, the research must address lake management needs as well as further basic knowledge of the ecosystem. To this end, the active sponsorship of agencies and organizations whose mandate concerns Lake Erie was solicited. Twelve binational, national, regional, state, and provincial organizations have contributed funds to sponsor LEMN activities. Additionally, 13 collaborating organizations are active participants in the planning, information transfer or research aspects of the LEMN, providing in kind/and or technical support that further Network activities.
Goals of the LEMN are to: (1) collectively document the research and management needs of users and agencies; (2) summarize the current status of Lake Erie from process and ecosystem function perspectives; and 3) develop a framework for a binational research network to ensure coordinated collection and dissemination of data that addresses the research and management needs.
Activities and Plan organization are co-ordinated by 4 directors who are members of the convening institutions. The directors report progress and solicit input on direction from a Steering Committee made up of representatives of agencies who have a mandate that includes the status of Lake Erie.
Issues, Activities, and Products
The Network entails several overlapping groups of activities/issues:
Science Management Issues and Questions
Sponsors are asked to identify major questions and management issues that are priority concerns with respect to their mandate. In November, 1998, representatives from sponsoring and collaborating agencies participated in a Prevailing Issues workshop at which concerns/issues/questions were presented, clarified, and focused into an agenda of priority questions. The workshop proceedings are being compiled into a document that will guide the organization and emphasis of later events.
International Conference on Status of Lake Erie - Determining Fundamental Research Status and Needs
In April 1999, a binational scientific conference was convened at the University of Windsor. The goal was to summarize the status of Lake Erie.
Forty-eight 'experts' were invited to make platform presentations at the 3-day conference. Eleven contributed submissions were presented as posters during other dedicated sessions. The researchers were asked to draft a review paper documenting the following with respect to their area of expertise:
- Historical pattern in Lake Erie changes in status through the 1990s
- Best professional judgement for trajectory over the next 3-4 years
- Relevance of the topic to the priority questions (previously identified to them), and possible solutions
- Research/data necessary to improve predictions of trajectories and confidence in viability of solutions
- These items focused the direction and content of the individual platform presentations
The conference culminated in a round-table Research Needs Workshop to synthesize the information presented into some basic research findings and needs. The research/data necessary to resolve management questions were also addressed and integrated into the workshop conclusions.
Lake Erie at the Millennium - Changes, Trends, and Trajectories - A Compendium
Scientists' invited manuscripts are presently being peer reviewed, and will be compiled into a monograph that will become a compendium of the status of Lake Erie. Subject editors are writing summary chapters that integrate and focus the conclusions of groups of related chapters. This academic volume is envisioned to become a standard reference document for sources of background data, interpretation, and guidance for the Lake Erie community.
Production and publication costs will be funded from the Lake Erie Millennium Network budget (sponsors' prior contributions), by grant monies solicited directly for printing, and by conference registration fees.
Resolving Management Issues and Needs
Post-conference workshops have been convened to produce management summaries that are provided to sponsors as the 'best available' summary of relevant issues, together with recommendations for management and identification of research needs to resolve unknown aspects. Feedback from sponsors has assisted with the establishment of research programs to address managers' (sometimes revised) prioritized needs.
Resolving Fundamental Research Needs - Framework for a Binational Network
Since Fall 1999, LEMN-associated scientists and co-conveners have been invited to one or more 'research network' workshops with the aim of developing research strategies to address the most pressing research issues at the same time generating data that are needed to resolve uncertainties in the fundamental management issues (monitoring).
A series of linked research proposals have been generated and successfully funded by both US and Canadian granting agencies . Each national research group identifies the other as a partner. Explicit in the goals of research proposals is the need for longer-term (4-5 year horizon) commitment to the collection, compilation, interpretation and application of data to test specific, well-designed; a priori hypotheses. Proposals have emphasized the time frame required to implement scientifically sound work.
Because the sponsoring agencies have been involved in identifying the questions and needs, we have received their active support as funding and/or in-kind partners. This form of partnership underlies the spirit of research network programs both in Canada and the U.S. Concurrently, with establishment of the research network, efforts are made to facilitate compilation, dissemination and easy access to the data generated. Creation and maintenance of a Lake Erie data bank is a corollary aspect of the network that benefits from in kind support from sponsors and conveners.
Sponsorship and Funding/Resource Sources
The LEMN operating budget is used to organize and implement ongoing project activities including salaries for technical personnel, publishing costs, ongoing meetings, and the biennial conference. Sponsors include binational, federal, regional, and state/provincial agencies responsible for natural resources, environmental quality, and licensing as well as recreational and environmental groups, municipalities, industries, and foundations. In addition to directly inviting support from sponsors, we apply for grants to the Great Lakes Protection Fund, The Lake Erie Protection Fund, the US EPA, the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, and other organizations that provide seed resources for information exchange and the creation of new initiatives.