Fall 2023 eNewsletter

CIGLR SPOTLIGHT: Lake Superior State University and Soo Locks Engineers Day: Making a Great Lakes Impact

Lake Superior State University Center for Freshwater Research and Education is uniquely positioned at the intersection of the St. Marys River and Lakes Superior and Huron in Sault Ste. Marie. Photo Credit: Abigail Goodman.

Every year on the last Friday of June, Michigan’s oldest city, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, is bustling with thousands of people interested in Great Lakes history, engineering, natural resources, fisheries, and more. Those in attendance for Soo Locks Engineers Day have the opportunity to view mammoth freighters and the “Soo Locks” in operation, a remarkable feat of engineering and human inventiveness that connect Lakes Superior and Huron. Engineers Day is also an opportunity CIGLR and the local Lake Superior State University (LSSU) to share fun activities and engage with visitors about Great Lakes science.

LSSU is uniquely positioned at the intersection of the St. Marys River and Lakes Superior and Huron in Sault Ste. Marie. LSSU joined CIGLR as a Regional Consortium member in 2022, expanding its long tradition as leaders in Great Lakes fisheries management, aquatic science, and education with the new Center for Freshwater Research and Education (CFRE). The state-of-the-art CFRE facility features a mesocosm laboratory, teaching labs for undergraduate students, office spaces, and a Great Lakes Discovery Center that is open to the public. Capitalizing on its extraordinary location and success in Great Lakes research, LSSU announced in July 2023 the creation of the College of Great Lakes Ecology and Education. The new College will train the next generation of conservationist leaders and teachers, deliver high-impact student resources, partner with the public and private agencies on environmental causes vital to the area, and more.

Kevin Kapuscinski, PhD, joined LSSU in 2014 and serves as an Associate Professor and Assistant Director of Research for the CFRE. “Being a member of CIGLR’s Regional Consortium has enhanced our research collaborations across the basin, and the ability to engage new partners has been a tremendous benefit,” said Kapuscinski. “As an example, the CIGLR-funded summit focused on oil spills under ice helped us kick-start research efforts in this area as CFRE prepared to house the United States Coast Guard’s Great Lakes Oil Spill Center of Expertise. And now, another tremendous resource for our students and the Great Lakes community is LSSU’s new College of Great Lakes Ecology and Education. As we continue to build research infrastructure at CFRE, collaborations fostered by CIGLR will be essential for maximizing research productivity and benefits gained by our faculty, students, and partners.”

LSSU mesocosm facility. Photo Credit: Abigail Goodman.

CIGLR’s Abigail Goodman (Communications Assistant) and Aubrey Lashaway (Communications Specialist) visited LSSU’s CFRE and facilities while representing CIGLR at the 2023 Soo Locks Engineers Day. “We were treated to a private tour by Dr. Kapuscinski and CFRE’s Education and Outreach Specialist, Ms. Beth Christiansen,” said Goodman. “The Great Lakes Discovery Center is full of hands-on learning activities including tanks full of invasive sea lampreys and mysterious, prehistoric lake sturgeon. The in-house mesocosm lab is another amazing asset and teaching resource. Water is delivered straight from the St. Marys River, purified in biological filter tanks fitted with degassing units, and sent to round tanks with controlled heating, offering a controlled environment for experiments that replicate the natural world. There are large sunlit classrooms and laboratories with views of the beautiful St. Marys River and a student-run fish hatchery. LSSU CFRE’s location and facilities make it a prime resource for Great Lakes research and community interaction.”

CIGLR presented with our partners from LSSU at the 2023 Soo Locks Engineers Day. “Canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic, re-engineered in 2021 to ensure social distancing, and opened with restrictions in 2022, the 2023 annual Soo Locks Engineers Day was ready to celebrate the Great Lakes again,” said Goodman. “More than anything, this event was a reminder that we don’t work in a bubble. CIGLR’s research efforts are aided by a complex and sophisticated network of learning centers that include LSSU and span across not only geographic locations, but also fields of study and institutional levels. We spoke with thousands of people from varying backgrounds and interests in Great Lakes science.”

Aubrey Lashaway (L) and Jacob Heck (R) (NOAA National Geodetic Survey, Great Lakes Regional Geodetic Advisor) talk with guests at the Soo Locks Engineers Day. Photo Credit: Abigail Goodman.

One of CIGLR’s and LSSU’s highest priorities is making our science accessible to the public. Goodman spoke with fellow Engineers Day presenter Rebecca Kilponen – Academic Assistant for both the LSSU School of Engineering and Technology and the School of Computer Science and Mathematics – as she handed out miniature 3D-printed anchors to delighted children. Kilponen said, “My job is to guide and inspire LSSU students as they embark on careers in freshwater conservation, fisheries management, and environmental sustainability. What better place for the engineering department to be than at Engineers Day?! Lake State loves the community. Lake State loves Sault Ste. Marie. Anytime there’s a community event, we try to get out there.”

CIGLR’s Regional Consortium, including our LSSU partners, strives to unite scientists and communities across the region under the common cause of protecting the Great Lakes. CIGLR Communications Specialist Aubrey Lashaway said, “At special events like Engineers Day, we love to entertain a diverse group of visitors who share their favorite Great Lakes stories, take educational materials with them, and are looking for swag to share their Great Lakes pride.”

“The 2023 Soo Locks Engineers Day was my first experience sharing CIGLR science and meeting with the greater Great Lakes community,” said Goodman. “It’s inspiring to see the region and our partners growing, thriving, and working together.”