EcoTrack 11: Great Lakes Day

By Chris Vickers - email | bio

TOLEDO (WTOL) - The importance of Lake Erie will be honored next week with Great Lakes Day. However, every day research is conducted to secure the lake's unique and valuable ecosystem.

Ongoing research is using genetics to track invasive species in the Great Lakes. Their research and message says a lot, and now they're taking it to Washington D.C. to be heard.

Lake Erie is our precious resource. From it, a lot of good environmental news comes "One of the good things is that our fishery stocks look pretty good. We've maintained most genetic diversity we think pretty well, and I believe our management agencies really are focused on conservation," said Dr. Carol Stepien, Director of UT Lake Erie Center.

Dr. Stepien conducts research at the University of Toledo Lake Erie Center. Just days from now, she joins dozens of other agencies meeting in Washington D.C. to collectively raise awareness for the Great Lakes region.

Dr. Stepien said, "The objective is to present a unified force to the federal government to actually invest and help clean-up the Great Lakes because we have the largest water supply in our country."

It's not just the water that is important, but the creatures that live within it.

Lake Erie has a very diverse fish population, but some of those species are actually affecting the health of the lake.

Lake Erie is known for its robust walleye populations, however there are some unwanted guests: goby fish and zebra mussels.

"They're here to stay, along with the dry seeded mussels, so there is nothing we can do about them. But we can close the door on future invasions and keep other species out," said Stepien.

Part of that research includes tracing DNA and studying the genetics of invasive species to determine where they came from, all to protect the future health of the Great Lakes.