The Fund for Lake Michigan has approved a grant to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee School of Freshwater Sciences to sequence the DNA and analyze the genetic makeup of three aquatic species, including Yellow Perch and the Green Bay Mayfly.
The Lake Michigan Genome Project will help safeguard and restore the Great Lakes fishery, promote species diversity and improve aquatic habitat, according to a statement from the fund.
“Our partners in Milwaukee are doing impressive, forward-thinking work,” said Vicki Elkin, executive director of the fund. “By using the knowledge and technology our local water economy offers, we’re maximizing the impact of our investments.”
The UWM study is one of 22 recent awards totaling $1.6 million from the Fund for Lake Michigan. The Milwaukee-based foundation is working to restore habitat, improve water quality, promote tourism and lay the foundation for stronger ecosystems, communities and economies.
“We’re incredibly excited,” said J. Val Klump, dean at the UWM School of Freshwater Sciences. “This genomic data will open up new avenues of research and greatly expand the scientific understanding of the impact of human activities, climate change, emerging contaminants and other factors on Lake Michigan’s health.”
UWM hopes to develop a library of whole genome sequences for the most ecologically and culturally important Lake Michigan species.
The school is starting with perch and the mayfly because of their immediate importance to research or restoration projects. A third species to be sequenced may include important fisheries species such as Lake Whitefish, Lake Trout, Northern Pike, or Muskellunge.
Meanwhile, a grant to the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission will help address chloride levels in local waterways. This is a growing problem as salt from road deicing, water softeners and other sources accumulates in surface and groundwater.
In the Kinnickinnic River Watershed, for example, more than 25 percent of samples exceeded chronic or acute standards for chloride toxicity.
“Chloride contamination is a serious but under-publicized threat to fresh water systems in the Great Lakes region,” said Elkin. “Salt levels have been increasing for decades and are creating toxic conditions for plants and aquatic life.”
Another grant will fuel the redevelopment of Milwaukee’s Inner Harbor with improved water quality and an inviting shoreline. Highlights include a trash wheel along the Kinnickinnic River and a new public park with water access at the end of Greenfield Avenue.
“We are grateful for the Fund’s ongoing support of our work to create a vibrant waterfront where businesses can thrive, people can come to play, and clean land and water can support a healthy ecology,“ said Lilith Fowler, executive director of Harbor District Inc., the organization leading the Inner Harbor revitalization efforts.
To date, the fund has awarded 270 grants totaling over $18 million to non-profit organizations and local government agencies, who partner with the private sector on water quality improvement projects that promise broad social, economic and environmental returns.
Launched in 2011, the Fund for Lake Michigan supports investments throughout the Lake Michigan watershed that improve water quality, create jobs, raise real estate values, revive communities, clean waterfronts, support habitats and drive tourism.
The Fund for Lake Michigan, a private foundation based in Milwaukee, was established in 2011 as part of an agreement between We Energies, Madison Gas and Electric, WPPI Energy, Clean Wisconsin and Sierra Club to safeguard the lake and improve water quality in the region. The fund supports efforts, particularly in southeast Wisconsin, that enhance the health of Lake Michigan and its shoreline and tributary rivers for the benefit of the people and communities that depend upon the system for water, recreation and commerce.