NSF Project Underway: People, Climate Change and Lake Erie

Feb. 22, 2012

A new four-year, $1.5 million project, funded by the National Science Foundation, will combine decision-making models with hydrological modeling and future climate change scenarios to examine how people's actions in the Maumee River watershed affect water quality in Lake Erie. Eric Toman and Robyn Wilson of SENR will be part of a team working on this project to examine how watershed management practices like the application of agricultural fertilizers impact water quality in Lake Erie. They will also study how public perception of the health of the lake may influence those practices and how those relationships are likely to change under climate change scenarios.

The researchers will interview different groups of people living within the Maumee Bay watershed, comparing agricultural and urban populations as well as populations close to and farther away from the lake. Findings from these groups will be combined with results from workshops with scientific experts, government officials, watershed managers, and a general population survey. They will also focus on farmers within the watershed, their agricultural practices, and what influences their land management decisions. The Maumee River watershed in western Ohio is the largest watershed in the Great Lakes basin, stretching from southern Michigan to Lima and from Fort Wayne to Toledo.

The research team also includes Jay Martin from FABE, Stu Ludsin from EEOB, Carlo Demarchi from Case Western, and Elena Irwin and Brian Roe from AEDE. The goal is to determine the link between people’s perception of Lake Erie, how that perception impacts the health of the lake, and how the health of the lake in turn influences people’s perceptions of the ecosystem. They also want to create models that predict the effects of this linkage in future land management scenarios, such as the development of new land use guidelines.