This week the University of Michigan’s Cooperative Institute for Limnology and Ecosystems Research (CILER) is convening top scientists from around the Great Lakes to participate in the first of three mini-summits focused on identifying the most pressing research and management needs to achieve sustainability in the Great Lakes.  The mini-summits are centered on each of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory’s (GLERL’s) research programs – Understanding Ecosystems, Forecasting Environmental Change, and Developing Advanced Technology and Observing Systems – and are designed to strengthen CILER’s goals of advancing Great Lakes research and supporting NOAA’s mission.

The first summit, The Superior Challenge, will look at how major weather events impact one of the largest lake ecosystems in the world.  Specifically, this group of scientists will examine how the 2015-16 El Niño event has impacted Lake Superior and will continue to affect it in the coming months. This includes impacts on winter ice cover, summer water temperature, evaporation, lake levels, fish abundance, and societal impacts.  In addition to using the El Niño event to improve predictive models, the group will also help set a new agenda for research in the coming decade.“People who enjoy the Great Lakes for recreation and who rely on these water bodies for jobs, drinking water, or shipping need to know how environmental change is going to impact their lives.

This summit is an important step toward developing the scientific tools that can help us foresee the future of the Great Lakes,” said Brad Cardinale, Director of the Cooperative Institute for Limnology and Ecosystem Research.

“We’re taking an intentionally bold step here,” said John Lenters, a senior scientist at LimnoTech in Ann Arbor. What we’re basically challenging the scientific community to do is forecast the impact of a large climatic event on the world’s largest lake, from the physics to the fish. To our knowledge, this type of large, concerted effort has never been attempted before.”

The workshop organizers acknowledge that some aspects of this “Superior Challenge” will be too daunting to fully address at this time. But the intent is that the gaps that are identified will advance our understanding of the Great Lakes and lead to new scientific research and innovation.