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Minnesota Sea Grant Celebrates 30 Years of Superior Science

July 14, 2005

Hypothermia research that leads to new products for a flotation device manufacturer, discovering the diving reflex, which changes the way people submerged in cold water are revived, and new environmentally friendly control measures for use against invasive fish such as the Eurasian ruffe and sea lamprey–these are only a few of many ways that Minnesota Sea Grant has added to knowledge about Lake Superior and Minnesota’s inland waters.

Over the past 30 years, Sea Grant has distributed millions of publications in print and on the Web that are used in places ranging from schools to bed and breakfast inns. The program has gained a reputation as a leader in outreach, helping fishery industry leaders, the academic community, environmental groups, and natural resource agencies with their outreach needs. Its researchers have conducted nearly 150 projects, awarded 188 graduate student research assistantships, and published over 200 outreach publications.

One of 30 Sea Grant programs located at universities on marine and freshwater coasts around the country, Minnesota Sea Grant began in 1975 when an extension office was established on the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD) campus. This outreach and education focus expanded in 1977 to include research when four fisheries projects were funded. The program, then directed from the Twin Cities campus, became a full member of the national Sea Grant network in 1985 when it was awarded college status. All but three staff in the Twin Cities moved to UMD in 1994, and full administration for the program was moved to UMD in 2004.

According to UMD Chancellor Kathryn A. Martin, “The University of Minnesota Duluth, given its unique location on Lake Superior, seemed an appropriate headquarters for the Minnesota Sea Grant Program. This program has been instrumental in developing a teaching agenda, both for students and faculty in the Duluth community, but also for the greater Minnesota community, and with national impact. The UMD Sea Grant agenda focuses on the exploration of the largest freshwater lake in the world and the life that inhabits it. Minnesota Sea Grant consistently focuses on maintaining the wonders of our magnificent and important freshwater resources!”

Individual Sea Grant programs are a partnership between the federal government (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) and the land grant university in the state.

“In our case,” said Minnesota Sea Grant Associate Director Jeff Gunderson, “we are located administratively at UMD, but we provide funds and have programming throughout the University of Minnesota system as well as other public universities in the state.”

Those programs have included week-long Sea Camps that exposed hundreds of area children to the wonders of Lake Superior; American Indians in Marine Sciences, which trained local tribal college students for careers in aquatic science; establishment of the Aquatic Invasive Species Information Center, which is a respected source of information about exotic species and issued the first alerts when Eurasian ruffe and round gobies were found in the Duluth-Superior Harbor.

Currently, Minnesota Sea Grant is training shoreland property owners in stewardship techniques, linking the UMD Education Department with the Great Lakes Aquarium, offering fellowships to graduate students working on aquatic research projects, and funding cutting-edge fish genetics research that could apply to human health conditions.

The program plans to continue to pursue relevant aquatic science projects.

“The challenges of managing freshwater resources create incredible opportunities for universities in the Great Lakes Basin,” said Gunderson. “In cooperation with the people of the region, universities can make significant contributions to preserving the Great Lakes through research, education, and outreach.”

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