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Highlighting Fresh Water

Carl Richards

It’s huge, it’s cold, it’s beautiful, it’s treacherous, it’s a fisheries and water quality manager’s nightmare; these all describe Lake Superior. Because ours is the only Sea Grant program exclusively focused on this grand lake, we are acutely aware of the importance and significance of Lake Superior to this region and its economies. But it’s the lake’s ecosystem that provides the beauty and functions of the lake that we’ve come to appreciate.

This intriguing mix of physical and biological processes occur over scales of space and time ranging from the diatoms attached to a rock pebble on Park Point beach to the circulation patterns moving fish and nutrients among the eastern and western basins of the lake... from the moments it takes a biochemical reaction to occur inside a bacterial cell in the St. Louis River to the eons it takes to sculpt the rock formations of the North Shore. Although we understand many aspects of ecosystem processes there is still much to be learned in order to continue to enjoy, use, and manage Lake Superior’s resources.

Minnesota Sea Grant’s research program is an important tool for fostering needed scientific information about the lake. However, one of the greatest challenges we and other scientists and resource professionals around the lake face on a daily basis is public education. What people do affects the lake. There’s no getting around it. And the issues concerning the lake and the linkages between these issues and the lake’s ecosystem are complex. So, it’s important to explain how the lake’s ecosystem works in a way that sparks understanding and encourages people to work to maintain a healthy lake into the future.

We welcome our new neighbor in Duluth, the Great Lakes Aquarium, as a partner in fostering this education process. Although the lake’s ecosystem is beautiful and dynamic, it’s often difficult to envision. The Great Lakes Aquarium has done a masterful job of bringing elements of that complex system into a format that allows the people to glimpse some of the complexities of that system in a fun and informational way. We look forward to working with the Great Lakes Aquarium in continuing to communicate the importance and complexities of this amazing lake well into the future.

Welcome Great Lakes Aquarium!

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Carl Richards
Minnesota Sea Grant Director

By Carl Richards
September 2000

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