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Great Lakes Research exhibit showcases university research

Joyce Nicholson, left, and Jeremy Brown, right, observe one of the many research displays at the Great Lakes Research Exhibit April 15 in Rowe Hall.

Faculty in the Institute for Great Lakes Research displayed their work to the public for the first time Wednesday in Rowe Hall's Museum of Cultural and Natural History.

The exhibit, titled "Changing Waters: Environmental Research in the Great Lakes" included research and "The Great Lakes Adventure," an interactive tour of the lakes for children.

The IGLR has 25 faculty, nine of whom had their work displayed on sections of the exhibit centerpiece. The institute was established in 2009, and has since produced 55 peer-reviewed articles and received almost $15 million in funding from 77 external research grants.

"There are certainly many threats to the Great Lakes, we have 180 exotic species in the great lakes today," said IGLR President Dan Uzarski. "On average, we receive a new one every eight months."

In addition to invasive species, pollution, harmful algae blooms and shrinking water levels put Michigan's waters at risk. The faculty of the IGLR address those concerns.

 College of Science and Technology faculty Deric Learman's work on microbes, which examines the advantages of the organisms that are traditionally viewed in a negative light. Learman said he was happy to spread his work to the public.

"We're here to educate not only people at CMU, but people outside the community," Learman said. "The more people can understand what's going on in their world, their environment, the better everyone will be."

Curator of natural history Kirsten Nicholson coordinated with faculty to accurately portray their research, and has been working assiduously with student employees and volunteers to present the information to the public.

"There was an enormous amount of student help," Nicholson said.

Museum assistants and graduate assistants built much of the exhibit, including the centerpiece and much of "The Great Lakes Adventure," and designed information placards to accompany the pictures.

"It's time intensive, but once it's finished it's always worth it," said Parma senior Dan Hills.

Students attended a workshop in December and learned the ins and outs of acrylics from artist Keeney Swearer. They applied this knowledge by arcing the title panel above each piece of the exhibit.

"It's changed the museum," said Grand Rapids senior Adam Weidenfeller. "We're hoping we can keep doing that in other ways."

This exhibit will remain free and open to the public for one year, according to Nicholson.

"I don't think people are really aware that we have some really elite researchers in that institute who are doing cutting edge research," Nicholson said. "It's definitely a collaborative approach, but I don't think people realize what a gem we have in them."