Ohio State’s Sea Grant Program Highlighted at Sidney Rotary Meeting

(Photo provided)
Ohio Sea Grant Director Dr. Christopher Winslow speaks with Sidney Mayor Mike Barhorst following his presentation on the research being conducted at F. T. Stone Lab on Gibraltar Island in Lake Erie.

Ohio Sea Grant Director Dr. Christopher Winslow addressed the Rotary Club of Sidney at their weekly meeting.  Winslow served as interim director of The Ohio Sea Grant Program from the time of the retirement of long-time director Dr. Jeffery Reutter in March 2015 until his recent appointment as director of the program.

Ohio Sea Grant, a part of The Ohio State University, operates out of a facility on Gibraltar Island in Lake Erie.  “For more than 30 years, Ohio Sea Grant has worked to protect the environment of Lake Erie and the Great Lakes,” Winslow told the Rotarians.  “With a strong combination of research, education and outreach efforts, as well as partnerships with academia, governmental agencies and the private sector, Ohio Sea Grant works with the Lake Erie community to solve the region’s most important environmental and economic issues.”

Stone Laboratory, Ohio Sea Grant’s education and outreach facility on Lake Erie, serves scientists from across the Great Lakes region, offering lab facilities, field work equipment, research vessels and housing for researchers studying Lake Erie.  Stone Laboratory is located on Gibraltar Island.

“Together, Ohio Sea Grant and Stone Lab provide the science behind informed policy and management decisions on science education, the Lake Erie ecosystem and its economic impact on the region,” Winslow said.  “Tourism in Ohio is a $40B industry.  If we were to just look at the eight Ohio counties that touch Lake Erie, tourism from just those 8 counties accounts for 30% of that total.  In fact, one in eight jobs in those eight counties is tied to tourism.”

“Lake Erie is the eleventh largest lake on Earth by surface area,” according to Dr. Winslow.  “Of the five Laurentian Great Lakes, Lake Erie is the southernmost, the smallest by volume, the shallowest, and also the warmest.  It is the most biologically productive, supporting the largest Great Lakes sport fishery.”

“Lake Erie has three distinct sub-basins: a very shallow western basin and related islands; a deeper central basin; an even deeper eastern basin that drains into the Niagara River and Lake Ontario. The lake provides drinking water to more than 11M residents and supports a $1.5B sport fishing industry. Lake Erie is a vital resource for the binational Great Lakes region,” Dr. Winslow noted.

“Eutrophication is a serious global problem that has re-emerged, resulting in harmful algal blooms in the western basin of Lake Erie, offshore anoxic zones – also known as dead zones – in the central basin, and nuisance levels of Cladophora in the eastern basin,” Winslow continued.  “All of these problems are linked to excessive loading of nutrients, particularly phosphorus.”

“The primary sources of phosphorus in Lake Erie are urban point and nonpoint sources, and agricultural nonpoint sources.  Urban area loadings are associated with municipal and industrial facility point source discharges, combined sewer overflows as well as stormwater runoff containing nutrients from the land, including residential fertilizers.  Agricultural nonpoint source pollution occurs primarily in the form of farm and field runoff, which results mainly from fertilizer and manure applications,” Winslow stated.

“Every state that discharges water into the Great Lakes excepting Indiana has signed an agreement with Canada to reduce toxins in the lake by 40%,” Winslow explained.  “If we can do that, we believe that we can eliminate the harmful algal blooms that have created headlines in cities like Toledo, when the water treatment plant was forced to shut down because of the toxins in the water.”

“Ohio Sea Grant research focuses on critical issues facing Lake Erie, from harmful algal blooms to invasive species to climate change and economic development,” Winslow told the Rotarians.  “Collaborations with a wide range of partners helps to ensure that our research is relevant and applicable to current problems.”

In responding to questions regarding funding, Winslow noted that in the budget proposed by the President, the Sea Grant Program would go unfunded.  “That happened once before during President Regan’s first term, and Congress restored funding.  We are hopeful that there will be enough pressure in the 33 states that have Sea Grant programs that funding will once again be restored.  It would not mean the end of the program, because we receive funding from multiple sources, but it would greatly hamper the research that is being conducted at Stone Lab.”

Rotary is an international service organization whose stated human rights purpose is to bring together business and professional leaders in order to provide humanitarian services.  The Sidney Rotary Club meets weekly on Mondays at Noon at the Moose Lodge.  Membership information is available by contacting any Rotarian.