The University of Toledo’s new research vessel with state-of-the-art technology will advance the Lake Erie Center’s environmental research into water quality, harmful algal blooms, invasive species and other issues impacting the Great Lakes region.The dedication ceremony for the new 28-foot research vessel will be Thursday, July 16, at 10:30 a.m. at the National Museum of the Great Lakes, 1701 Front St. UT President Sharon Gaber and Ohio Department of Higher Education Chancellor John Carey will join faculty and students from the Lake Erie Center at the event.
“The UT Lake Erie Center is a national leader in water quality research. The addition of this research vessel will afford our dedicated faculty members the opportunity to advance their work to address issues such as the harmful algae that impact regions like ours that depend on the health of the Great Lakes,” Gaber said. “Given our location on the shores of Lake Erie and the depth of our expertise, it is vital for the University to make this investment to further our knowledge and provide sustainable solutions for our community.”
The new vessel was custom-made by North River Boats/Almar Boats in Roseburg, Ore., to meet the research needs of the Lake Erie Center faculty and staff. The new boat is constructed of aluminum and is larger and sturdier than the existing 25-foot fiberglass boat the center named the Mayflier, which had been UT’s primary research vessel for more than 15 years and will continue to be used on the Maumee River and Lake Erie.
“We are excited to add this wonderful new boat as an instrumental tool in the research efforts of our Lake Erie Center faculty and students,” said Dr. Carol Stepien, director of the Lake Erie Center and Distinguished University Professor of Ecology. “As the community has become more aware of the water quality issues that impact the Maumee Bay region, it is increasingly important for their public university to be able to maintain and build upon its leadership in addressing those issues. The new research vessel will help us do that.”
With this vessel, the researchers will no longer be restricted to field research only on calm waters, allowing them to collect data in differing kinds of weather conditions for a more comprehensive understanding of the ecology of the lake, said Dr. Tom Bridgeman, associate professor of ecology in the Department of Environmental Sciences.
The research vessel also is equipped with more advanced equipment and instrumentation that will allow the researchers to deploy buoys, bottom dredges, and fish trawling gear to expand the kinds of studies they can conduct, he said.
“We’ve used the new boat to launch a buoy in Maumee Bay about seven miles from Toledo’s water intake to monitor the blue-green algae in western Lake Erie, which we wouldn’t have been able to do with the Mayflier,” Bridgeman said. “We are already using that technology to track the harmful algal blooms this summer and to collect water samples so that we can provide some of the first data on the blooms as they grow and expand eastward.”
UT is working with the city of Toledo, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and others to monitor the health of Lake Erie and provide timely communications to residents who rely on the lake for their drinking water.
Real-time data from The University of Toledo’s buoy and other instruments monitoring western Lake Erie are available at habs.glos.us with additional information on the UT buoy at wqdatalive.com/public/515. The city has an online Toledo water quality dashboard to communicate the quality of the drinking water at toledo.oh.gov/services/public-utilities/water-treatment/water-quality.
The UT Lake Erie Center’s new vessel also has an enclosed cabin to protect the crew from the elements and additional enhanced safety gear that includes radar and a spotlight and power anchor windlass, all of which will allow for a longer research season and evening sampling if needed.
For more information on the UT Lake Erie Center, visit utoledo.edu/nsm/lec.