Judges’ Queries and Presenter’s Replies

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Presentation Discussion

  • Icon for: Brian Drayton

    Brian Drayton

    Faculty
    May 21, 2012 | 09:38 p.m.

    This is a very ambitious effort. I am curious how much baseline or historical data you have to compare your 5-yr results to? Even if this only exists at some points, it would obviously make for some really interesting opportunities.
    Also I am curious how you factor in fluctuations in lake level, which (I believe) have been quite considerable in the past few years.

  • Icon for: Matthew Cooper

    Matthew Cooper

    Presenter
    May 22, 2012 | 03:40 p.m.

    Hi Dr. Drayton,
    Thanks for your interest in the project. We do have some longer-term data but they are scant and suffer from diverse sampling techniques. In fact, the inconsistency in monitoring/sampling techniques is what drove the development of standardized protocols and the implementation of this large coordinated effort. States, provinces, even counties, and watershed groups were all doing things a little different which precluded large-scale analyses. Since our group was involved with the initial protocol development beginning in the late 90’s we have data from a number of sites that spans 14 years with identical methodology. Hopefully this monitoring program or some variation on it is carried well into the future so we gain the ability to look at long term trends. As for water levels, this is a very important aspect of all ecological research along the Great Lakes coast. Our sampling is stratified by vegetation zones, which migrate up and down-slope, so some of the variability due to water level fluctuations is accounted for. Beyond this, our Indices of Biotic Integrity include metrics that are robust to fluctuating water levels, to the degree that this is possible.

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    Mauri PElto

    Guest
    May 22, 2012 | 08:46 a.m.

    I am delighted to see such an ambitious project. Be careful to not spend too much time on temporally poor sampling, such as the bird work. Any thoughts of collecting shallow sediment cores, would not need many. They could well show impacts from nutrient pollution, invasive plants etc. Having grown up on the shores of Lake Michigan with wetlands adjacent to the property one aspect not mentioned is the frequent multi foot changes in water level in many of the lakes which impacts the wetlands.

  • Icon for: Matthew Cooper

    Matthew Cooper

    Presenter
    May 22, 2012 | 03:46 p.m.

    Hi,
    Thanks for the tip on the bird sampling. As for sediment sampling, a number of our basin-wide partners are collecting sediments for seedbank analysis, nutrient-limitation (enzymes), and sediment composition. These are interesting spin-off projects but a challenge with sediment work along the coast is that sediments in many of our wetlands are constantly being re-worked by hydrology which complicates the picture. As for water levels, this is a very important aspect of all ecological research along the Great Lakes coast. Our sampling is stratified by vegetation zones, which migrate up and down-slope with water levels, so some of the variability due to water level fluctuations is accounted for. Beyond this, our Indices of Biotic Integrity rely on metrics that are robust to fluctuating water levels, to the degree that this is possible.

  • Icon for: Alan Rabideau

    Alan Rabideau

    Faculty
    May 23, 2012 | 08:06 p.m.

    Very important project and nice video! Are you attempting to measure trends in wetland areal extent, or only the characteristics of current wetlands?

  • May 23, 2012 | 10:44 p.m.

    What a great project!

  • Icon for: Matthew Cooper

    Matthew Cooper

    Presenter
    May 23, 2012 | 10:51 p.m.

    Hi Dr. Rabideau, Thanks for the question. We are not measuring extent explicitly, except when we find wetlands to be much different (larger or smaller) than what our records indicate (our records are polygons from NWI or other sources). There is a related project funded by EPA to develop a new GIS database of current wetland extent using improved remote sensing technology. Current data on areal extent are quite poor in many areas around the lakes. This new layer will provide an important benchmark that future assessments on areal extent can be compared.

  • Icon for: Kristin Hager

    Kristin Hager

    Partner
    May 25, 2012 | 09:48 a.m.

    HI Matt,
    Very nice video and excellent poster presentation, making the science accessible to general audiences. This is such important work. Terrific job!

  • Icon for: Matthew Cooper

    Matthew Cooper

    Presenter
    May 29, 2012 | 10:31 a.m.

    Thanks so much!

  • Icon for: Stacey Blersch

    Stacey Blersch

    Trainee
    May 25, 2012 | 12:28 p.m.

    Great project. It states one of your objectives is to provide restoration targets? How are you going about this? Do you envision your dadta being used to measure the benefits of these potential alternatives?

  • Icon for: Matthew Cooper

    Matthew Cooper

    Presenter
    May 29, 2012 | 10:39 a.m.

    Hi Stacey,
    Thanks for your interest! One of the challenges for agencies and NGOs who are doing the on-the-ground restoration work is to set restoration targets so that stakeholders have reasonable expectations and to determine whether the project was successful. Our program provides data to these organization that shows what the ‘best’ and ‘worst’ wetlands look like within the region where the restoration work is being proposed or conducted. From this, the organization can set their goals. Our program also allows restoration success to be tracked into the future to see if the objectives have been met. This second phase (tracking the success of restoration efforts) will most likely be the responsibility of the agencies/organizations who did the restoration but we provide the monitoring system (sampling techniques, IBI metrics, etc.) that they can use so that the health of their site can be compared to wetlands in the same region.

  • Further posting is closed as the competition has ended.

Icon for: Matthew Cooper

MATTHEW COOPER

University of Notre Dame
Years in Grad School: 3
Community
Choice

Taking the pulse of Great Lakes coastal wetlands: scientists tackle an epic monitoring challenge

Coastal wetlands represent a critical component of the Great Lakes ecosystem, yet many of these systems have been destroyed or severely degraded over the past 200 years. To aid restoration and conservation of these unique habitats, we are implementing a basin-wide monitoring and assessment program involving a consortium of wetland scientists from 9 universities as well as state and provincial agencies. Fish, invertebrate, bird, amphibian, and plant communities along with chemical and physical variables will be assessed in over 1,000 coastal wetland complexes throughout the Great Lakes over a five year period (2011-2015). The overarching goal of the project is to provide policymakers and resource managers scientifically-sound information on the ecological status of Great Lakes coastal wetlands. In the first year of the project (2011) we sampled 152 coastal wetlands and have engaged with resource managers in a number of different states as well as Ontario who are using the project outputs in various ways. As the project continues and our database grows, we anticipate many new and important applications for conservation and management of these vital Great Lakes ecosystems.