Mike Mckay on Detroit River pierMike McKay, director of the Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research, is pleased his collaboration with the Great Lakes Center for Fresh Waters and Human Health at the University of Michigan will continue.

UWindsor partners land $6.5 million in U.S. federal funding to continue Great Lakes research

A Great Lakes research centre that studies the link between climate change, harmful algal blooms, and human health is getting $6.5 million US to continue its work and relocate to the University of Michigan, bringing it closer to its research partners in Windsor.

The Great Lakes Center for Fresh Waters and Human Health will be able to continue its work, thanks to funding from the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Mike McKay, director of UWindsor’s Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research, is a co-investigator with the center. Before coming to GLIER, McKay was a principal researcher at the center when it was founded at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, and has continued his research partnerships with scientists there.

“This is wonderful news for the University of Michigan, but also for research partners here at GLIER and the University of Windsor,” Dr. McKay said. “Renewal is a testament to the strong foundational work on harmful algal blooms conducted through the center over the past five years and we are excited to be able to continue to work closely with an expanded network of research partners throughout Michigan, Ohio, New York, Virginia and Tennessee.”

The center is collaborating on INSPIRE, a UWindsor-led research project that will help Canada respond to future pandemics by strengthening the country’s biomanufacturing sector. The federal government earlier this month announced $15 million in funding for INSPIRE to study biomanufacturing and health sector supply chains, bolster cross-border trade and mobility, and explore new technologies in pathogen surveillance.

“The Great Lakes Center for Fresh Waters and Human Health is a key cross-border partner in INSPIRE,” McKay said. “I’m heartened to learn of the U.S. federal support for the center’s work and that research projects already underway can continue.”

With the University of Windsor as its only Canadian partner, McKay has collaborated with the center’s scientists on research discerning the environmental drivers of harmful algal blooms. These blooms of cyanobacteria, commonly referred to as blue-green algae, produce toxins that can pose a challenge for treatment of drinking water and also become airborne when waves crash along shorelines.

Climate change has led to the proliferation of harmful algal blooms. Once common only in western Lake Erie, such blooms now occur in all five Great Lakes due to increased precipitation, more powerful storms, and the warming of lake waters.

The Great Lakes Center for Fresh Waters and Human Health was founded in Bowling Green State University in 2018. Due to the retirement of its founding director George Bullerjahn, the center’s administrative home is moving to Ann Arbor under the leadership of Gregory Dick, an environmental microbiologist at the University of Michigan. Dr. Dick is also the director of the Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research, a partnership among the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, regional universities, and other stakeholders within the Great Lakes basin. The University of Windsor is the only Canadian university with membership in this consortium.

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